A Young Perspective On The Apocalypse
The Walking Dead: World Beyond is coming back for a second season at some point and here’s its showrunner Matt Negrete offering a few clues as to what we can expect from AMC themselves…
Q: Focusing on the apocalypse from the perspective of the younger generation is a new idea in The Walking Dead universe. How did it come about?
A: When Scott Gimple first approached me about showrunning this new series – he had pitched the concept of exploring the apocalypse through a younger set of eyes – I just really responded to that idea because yeah, obviously we’ve had characters on The Walking Dead that were younger like Carl and Judith and Charlie on Fear the Walking Dead, but for me it was really about telling a story about not necessarily this generation that had grown up having to fight for their lives [but] is kind of the opposite. It was really a show where they come from this community that has these huge walls and they’re very much sheltered in that way, but intellectually they know how to kill empties, as we call them, and they know the rules of the world so it’s not brand new to them. It’s just brand new in terms of the world they’ve experienced. And, just being able to approach story through that lens and see the apocalypse through that very unique perspective, I just thought was too terrific to turn down.
Q: We’ve seen many instances in The Walking Dead Universe where people kill or are killed for the greater good. Can you talk about how this theme dovetails with the ending to Season 1?
A: Actually, it dovetails in a couple of ways. For Huck, we’ve revealed that she is an agent for the Civic Republic Military and we’ll learn more about them in Season 2 and their goals, but, as we’ve seen throughout the season, Huck is someone who believes in the greater good and sometimes we have to do bad things for a cause that is part of that greater good. And that’s what Hope represents to her. You know, she had to do some pretty duplicitous things to get Hope on her side and get Hope to work alongside her father and work with him to try to get to this better world, this better future. And so she was really approaching the season and this mission with that aspect in mind.
At the same time, there’s an issue of the greater good we got to explore with Hope. She is put in this position where she knows how wanted she is by the CRM and she knows that the CRM will stop at nothing to get what they want, and her family and her friends are all considered expendable – like she’s really the only one that they need and if other people have to die, people like Tony and for a while they thought even Percy was dead, so be it. And so, in order to keep her friends and family safe, we saw Hope basically sacrifice herself – not her life, but she turned herself in and went willingly with Huck to keep her friends safe. And so that’s a big sacrifice she makes, and it’s not necessarily for the greater good of the world but the greater good of the people that she cares about.
Q: What can you say about this helicopter story that ties together The Walking Dead: World Beyond, FEAR and The Walking Dead?
A: In my mind, what we’re doing is we’re basically presenting pieces of a larger puzzle. The cool thing about the series – I think it’s enabling a lot of the viewers to start assembling the pieces and seeing what sort of lays out once the pieces are put together. And one of the things that’s coming to light is the idea that this really is a very large organization. They have helicopters and these fuel depots and these supply drop locations all over the country, and some of their soldiers have interacted with members of FEAR obviously and they interacted with the character of Jadis [Anne] on Walking Dead who put Rick in one of their helicopters, and now you know through our series that they have some 200,000 people living inside the walls of the Civic Republic and we still don’t know where that is. But you do know, based on the information we got in Season 1, that the girls are headed towards New York and we know that their research facilities are located somewhere in Ithaca, New York, and so we’re getting more specifics and we’re filling in a lot of blanks as we go, and that’s the exciting thing for me, having been entrenched in Season 2 for awhile, is to put more of those puzzle pieces together to paint a bigger picture of what’s really going on here.
Q: Michael Cudlitz, who has of course directed three episodes of The Walking Dead, directed two episodes this season. How did that come about?
A: I loved working with Michael on Walking Dead. I was a writer on that show for six seasons and I was lucky to co-write the episode in which Abraham first appeared with Eugene and Rosita. And he’s always a pleasure to be around and was so insightful in terms of acting but also as he became a director. I watched these episodes that he had done and I thought they were terrific and, talking with other people who had worked with him as a director, they just couldn’t say enough nice things about him. And one of the things for me as the showrunner in this expanding universe is obviously I crave and desire new opinions and I want to bring in fresh voices, but at the same time I also value people with this built-in knowledge and respect for the universe and someone who I do have a shorthand with, and Michael was one of those people. He came in and he fundamentally has this amazing understanding of Robert Kirkman’s world and the world that Scott Gimple has expanded upon, and it’s just so great to have that shorthand and to be on the same page without even saying the words and he’s one of those people in general.
And I’ll just say too what a terrific actors’ director he is, for obvious reasons. The fact that he is a terrific actor has made him, I think, even a better director because he’s been on the other side now and he knows how to talk to actors and how to get a great performance out of them. And he worked with everyone so well in Episode 6, and I think that he and Annet Mahendru worked together so well in Episode 7 and I think the result is a really good episode that everyone’s proud of but also just an amazing performance from Annet.
Q: It was a great reveal to see that Iris is as much of a genius as Hope is. How did you go about establishing the characters of the two sisters throughout the season in order to make that moment resonate and make sense?
A: You know, it’s interesting – really, for me, the key takeaway in that last montage of Episode 110 was that it is sort of about the genius nature of them together, but it’s really about how they complement each other and how great they are in different ways.
What the CRM is responding to is specifically Hope’s mind. But for Iris what we kind of saw the rest of the season was that she exhibited these certain leadership qualities and she was a really great fighter and one could argue she’s probably a better fighter than Hope was in Season 1. And so it really is Iris sort of coming into her own and trusting her instincts and not willing to let anything stop her from doing what’s right and doing what she thinks is right. I think together it’s just they’re this lethal combination against anyone who’s going to try to take them down.
Q: What was it like having so many younger people on set?
A: There’s this amazing enthusiasm that I think the actors as a group have brought to it. There’s a sense of excitement and there’s also this raw naturalism I think they bring to their roles, where they’re not these seasoned actors who have been there and done that… I think, for pretty much all of this younger group, this is the biggest project they’ve worked on and a property that they grew up watching or were at least aware of, and I can see that they feel like there’s this mantle that they’re carrying and they’re taking it very seriously.
But at the same time what I love about them is they’re not afraid to have fun. Off camera, they’re really good friends, they’re joking around, but, as soon as the director yells action, they’re taking it very seriously. It’s great to see them grow as actors as well throughout the season and get to know their characters. And for me to be able to even field phone calls where they’re asking questions about decisions their characters are making or a certain line of dialogue, it just shows me that they’re giving this so much thought and they’re just so passionate and into what they’re doing. I think it’s that tremendous youthful spirit that is so infectious and I really think it spread throughout the crew, so there really is this overwhelming sense of positivity. Even if we have issues on set in terms of the weather’s bad or we’re running out of daylight, it’s just like we find a way to make it work and I think it’s just that positivity that they bring that is what really makes working with this group so special.
Q: How did your first experience as a showrunner go? And what have you learned for next season?
A: I’ve learned so much. I’ve been lucky to work for some really great showrunners, working for Scott Season 4 through Season 8 and then working under Angela Kang for Season 9. I think that was just great training for me, to watch how they ran things. They’re also showrunners who can be very collaborative, and being given more and more responsibility every year really prepared me for being a showrunner for this show. I think that the biggest challenge for probably any showrunner is just time and time management, and that was the one thing that for me has always been tricky.
I want to be involved in every aspect of it but there’s just no time, so really I think the trick of being a good showrunner is hiring people that you know that you can trust and that you can delegate to and you know are going to do a good job for you and keep the best interests of the show at heart and also people that see things your way but, as I said before, can offer a fresh perspective because I just don’t want to hire people that think like me. I want them to come up with ideas I never could have thought of, that are better than my ideas even. So it’s really keeping all that in mind, but ultimately I think it’s time management and also just not getting lost in the weeds and trying to figure out what are the most important decisions that need to be made on a given day that are going to affect the quality of the show and the direction of the show and really focusing on those and really delegating what you can. It’s a tough balance. I really think being a showrunner is a job for like three or four people. I don’t think any one person can do it alone.
Q: There are several cliffhangers in Episode 10. What can you tease about Season 2?
A: I’ll say that where we end Season 1, they’ve almost reached their destination. Hope is in the helicopter with Huck and Elizabeth heading towards the research facility. Iris and Felix have met up with Will and his mysterious group of people in the woods, and Percy and Elton are kind of alone still trying to make their way on foot towards New York, and then there’s Silas who was captured by some CRM soldiers. So we have these four different groups. We’re going to be following them throughout the course of Season 2, and I think the thing I’m most excited about Season 2 is the chance to establish some new worlds and we’re going to see some more aspects of the Civic Republic Military that may be surprising and so I think there’s a lot more world-building that we’re going to be doing. Where Season 1 was a road trip, pretty much I can say that Season 2 our characters are going to be a little more firmly planted into where they’re going to be and it’s a matter of how they can all find a way to come together, and with the CRM looming large over everything and being this huge obstacle in their path of trying to get Leo back and now Hope back. That’s going to be easier said than done. Our characters have their obstacles and the challenges that are set up for them in Season 2, so it’s really about watching them face it and see how it all lands.
Q: And I assume we’ll find out more about Dr. Bellshaw’s mysterious experiments?
A: Yeah, we will definitely be learning more about that and what the intentions are for those experiments. There’s a lot of mythology that we’ve kind of built up about this world and this organization and we’re going to be pulling back the curtain on a lot of aspects of it and, like I said, I think that people will be surprised by a lot of what is going to be revealed.