The world of The Walking Dead is expanding, and soon the zombie apocalypse will feature an all-new chapter that follows the first generation of survivors who've come of age in the apocalypse. The Walking Dead: World Beyond will be the third series adapted from the bestselling comic book series, and the first to explore what life in the apocalypse looks like for someone who's grown up in a place of relative safety given all the zombies shambling around.
During a Comic-Con@Home panel on Friday, the cast and creators of the new series revealed what we can expect, and when we'll finally be able to see what World Beyond brings to the franchise.
Even before the panel began, the main Walking Dead panel revealed that World Beyond will debut on AMC on Oct. 4, after the delayed season finale of The Walking Dead. So, with a countdown to the series' premiere finally in place, the people behind the show were free to tell us a little more about what we're going to see this fall. Before the panel could even begin, in the spirit of the impending premiere, moderator and Talking Dead host Chris Hardwick kicked things off by dropping a brand-new, rather ambitious trailer for the series. Check it out.
The footage shows us, in more detail than we've ever seen before, what life might be like in a world where some degree of safety has actually been achieved. So much of the main Walking Dead series is about various factions scrapping for territory, but in the 10-years-later setting of World Beyond, there's an organized governmental system, so much so that they even have holidays commemorating the loss of most of the world to the dead.
It's in this environment that the show introduces Hope (Alexa Mansour) and Iris (Aliyah Royale), two sisters who must venture out into the world beyond the safety of their home in an effort to help their father (Joe Holt). Plus, of course, there are all manner of creepy new walker designs, including one that's become an impromptu beehive.
After the trailer, Hardwick launched a discussion about the series featuring AMC's The Walking Dead franchise mastermind, Scott M. Gimple, World Beyond showrunner and executive producer Matt Negrete, and cast members Aliyah Royale, Alexa Mansour, Hal Cumpston, Nicholas Cantu, Nico Tortorella, Julia Ormond, and Joe Holt. Right away, the discussion turned to how the world of this series differs from the others, which led Gimple to highlight Hope and Iris' journey.
"These two sisters don't wake up from a coma, but they do wake up from maybe the way that they were looking at life. And they go out in the world and they discover a new world," Gimple said. "They start in a place of safety, and yet not a place of ignorance. They've been living in the apocalypse, but under pretty first-world conditions. So they leave that safety to do something heroic."
When asked about some of the trailer's specific worldbuilding details, including the event known as "Monument Day," Negrete dove deeper into the backstory of not just World Beyond, but the entire Walking Dead universe, by teasing flashbacks to a tragedy known as "The Night the Sky Fell."
"It's called The Night the Sky Fell because bad things are literally falling from the sky during this, and it really is a night that changes the fate of everyone involved who went through this. But at the same time, this is the last time our characters experience fear in that way, experienced the real world, because what they were doing during The Night the Sky Fell is going towards safety, and that's where they've spent their lives ever since for the most part," Negrete explained. "So, that's The Night the Sky Fell, and now where we pick up is 10 years later, and they reflect on that, and that day of reflection is called Monument Day. And it's really called that because they're talking about, they're thinking about, reflecting on the monuments of the past in terms of reflecting on who they were, who these people were, what they mean to them, but also what kind of monuments do they want to be for the future. So it really is this solemn day of reflection commemorating all the people they've lost from the past."
For Mansour and Royale, who play the sisters at the heart of what's described as a "cross-country" quest narrative in the first season, the contrasts between the characters and the dynamic that sets up for the show was evident from the beginning.
"I don't think that they could have picked a name further from the truth for Hope," Mansour said. "She's kinda coasting through, she's kinda living by like 'Whatever happens, happens.' She doesn't have hope for anything. If Iris' name had been Hope, I think that would have been more on point, but I think it's kind of cool, because she does gain hope throughout the show."
Royale echoed Mansour's comments about the contrast between the sisters, but added that the two operate very much as a unit, even if their outlooks are different.
"She feels responsible for not just herself, but the well-being of everyone around her, even a new stranger," she said. "The thing about Hope, though: Hope is Iris' hope. Iris cannot have the strength that she has or the tenacity or the courage if Hope isn't there by her side to say, 'Yeah, we can do this.' It's totally a double-team effort."
The corner of The Walking Dead universe explored by World Beyond presents a number of opportunities for Negrete and company to twist certain aspects of the outbreak and its aftermath in new ways. For example, Iris and Hope's father, Leo, is a scientist who leaves their community to teach other communities about what he's learned about the outbreak and how to potentially cure it, and other characters within the community focus specifically on teaching people how to defend themselves from what the show refers to as "empties," even though they've never actually physically confronted one. Then, of course, there's that mysterious organization with the black helicopters, the one glimpsed in other Walking Dead shows already. They're called CRM, and Gimple promised that World Beyond will be the show to watch if you want to know more about who and what they are.
"It's a huge part of the show. We find out a great deal about them," Gimple explained. "They are a very mysterious force, and their security and the community they keep secure are incredibly secretive, but regardless, we go into that community a little bit. We don't get a deep look at it, but we get some pretty tantalizing hints to it, and then we straight-up meet people from the CRM. We see Elizabeth [Ormond's character], we see other people. They're a constant presence in this story, they're a huge presence in this story, and it explains a lot towards what we've seen on the other shows, and it invites new questions. This is me not being coy. There's a lot we're going to learn."
While the premiere of World Beyond was delayed from its original spring release amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Negrete also used part of the panel to assure viewers that Season 1 is "in the can," and Season 2 is already on the horizon.
"We are in the midst of, the writers and I, working on Season 2 right now. We're in the thick of it, so half of my stress of this panel is making sure that I don't actually say something spoilery because my head is so immersed in Season 2 right now," Negrete said. "But yeah, we were lucky in that we were able to wrap up post-production right before, actually just right around the time everything shut down because of the COVID situation. So, yeah, Season 1 in the can and Season 2 in progress."
The Walking Dead: World Beyond premieres Oct. 4 on AMC.
Click here for SYFY WIRE's full coverage of Comic-Con@Home 2020.