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SYFY WIRE The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead wasn't supposed to end with Season 11, says Jeffrey Dean Morgan

By Josh Weiss

Last fall, AMC made the shocking announcement that The Walking Dead would come to an end after its eleventh season. The final 24 episodes are now in production, with the network planning to air them between late 2021 and 2022. The story is then spinning out into a 2023 series about the undead road adventures of Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) and Carol Peletier (Melissa McBride).

During a recent interview with Colldier, however, veteran cast member Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Negan) stated that the original plan did not involve letting the flagship program totally decompose after Season 11. In fact, the decision apparently came as a huge shock to the entire crew — from actors to producers. It definitely wasn't from a lack of stories to tell (after all, Robert Kirkman's comic of the same name ended its 16-year run in 2019, and they could certainly spend a few more seasons telling that final major arc if they were so inclined), so where did the decision come from and why?

“The news, when we got it in the middle of the pandemic, was a complete surprise, not only to me and the rest of the actors, but to everybody involved in the show from production," Morgan recalled. "Scott Gimple and Angela Kang had no idea either. It came from nowhere and there was such a huge pivot. I think they had Season 11 all mapped out, where they were going to go, and suddenly it became, ‘We also have to close the story, in a way.’ It took everybody by surprise, so it was a massive pivot. And then, they threw in the six tacked-on episodes to Season 10, and instead of doing 16, we’re going to do 24 more. There was a lot of stuff to wrap our heads around."

Due to the lengthy production shutdown caused by the 2020 health crisis, AMC added six standalone episodes to the penultimate season (these entries were shot under strict COVID-19 health safety guidelines). The final bonus episode (titled "Heres Negan") airs on AMC this coming Sunday, April 4. Fear the Walking Dead will return April 11 to start airing the latter half of its sixth season.

Kang, who currently showruns The Walking Dead, will eventually run things on the currently-untitled Daryl/Caron spinoff. In addition to his duties as the IP's brand manager, Gimple is developing Tales of the Walking Dead, an anthology of stories centered around different characters we've met throughout the franchise. Oh, and there are also those Rick Grimes movies still in the works, too.