The Walking Dead Daryl and Carol Norman Reedus Melissa McBride
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The Walking Dead goes all in on Daryl and Carol as AMC’s zombie universe expands

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Nov 5, 2018, 12:44 PM EST

With Rick Grimes departing for his own Walking Dead movie trilogy and Maggie disappearing into the murk of an uncertain future, AMC’s undead series is changing like never before. But all the character shuffling comes just as the network is getting ready to expand on Robert Kirkman’s iconic comic franchise in a major way — and it looks as though Daryl and Carol are poised to be right in the thick of it.

THR reports that Norman Reedus (Daryl) and Melissa McBride (Carol) each has signed a three-year deal that not only clears them to continue appearing on the main series, but to pretty much turn up anywhere and everywhere in the larger TWD universe. The deals come just as AMC reveals more about its plans for a Rick Grimes spinoff movie trilogy, as well as other future projects that aim to show far more sides of the zombie apocalypse than the deep-south, survivors’-eye view perspective we’ve grown accustomed to over the past nine years.

The so-called "franchise/universe" deals clear the way for Daryl and Carol to go wherever the story takes them, even if it means crossing over into new movies and series while maintaining their ongoing roles in the main show. Danai Gurira (Michonne) is also reportedly in talks that would allow Michonne to make similar crossover appearances (this also means we could see even more crossover with Fear the Walking Dead next year).

“Our deals with Norman and Melissa allow us the flexibility to either move them or use them in more than one place, depending on what seems creatively right to Scott [Gimple, TWD content chief] and to his partners,” AMC’s David Madden told THR. “...We do look at this as a universe where we're trying to expand into as many different places as the show fits. We think this is a franchise that could live across formats,” including new series, streaming content, and standalone specials.

Gimple recently told Entertainment Weekly that Rick Grimes’ new movie trilogy is just the start of a major expansion on the world of The Walking Dead.

“The Rick Grimes story, of course, is the biggest thing that we’re doing right off the bat, but we’re going to be doing a number of different Walking Dead things over the next few years. A universe of stuff," he said.

“We’re going to see the past, we’re going to see old characters. We’re going to move into the future with new characters. We’re doing films, we’re doing specials. We’re going to be looking at new series. And even just different expressions of series — not necessarily 16 episodes…We want to answer questions that the audience had all along. We want to see just different parts of the world. We really want to expand out the breadth of what The Walking Dead can be.”

Less clear is what role, if any, Maggie (Lauren Cohan) may play in AMC’s ambitious plans — though that’s more a function of Cohan’s burgeoning acting career than of any story constraint. Cohan, who’s leaving her regular TWD gig to focus on her role in ABC’s new CIA drama Whiskey Cavalier, recently said she’s interested in bringing Maggie back for future stories — if she can find the time. And it sounds as though the creative wheels for how that might work are already turning in Gimple’s head.

“That is absolutely a possibility,” he said. “I will say that [showrunner] Angela [Kang] and I and others really want to see Maggie back on the show. We have a lot of story for her that we want to tackle and we’ve talked about different ways we can do it…It might be me shooting Lauren in between scenes of Whiskey Cavalier, of Maggie in a post-apocalyptic Prague [where Whiskey Cavalier is filming].”

Hey, we’ve always known the zombie plague wasn’t limited just to our shores, so why not? In this new reality where the demise of The Walking Dead’s biggest names is turning out to have been greatly exaggerated, maybe somewhere down the road we’ll even be treated to a screen reunion of survivors all-stars.