'The Walking Dead' showrunner Scott M. Gimple reveals 'time is scrambled up a little bit' in season 5
We are now less than two weeks away from the season 5 premiere of The Walking Dead. Because last season ended on a cliffhanger, details have been scarce. But we cornered showrunner Scott M. Gimple and got him to spill some intel about the upcoming episodes — just check out that cagey quote of his in the headline for one example. Read on as we talk to the big man in charge of The Walking Dead and try to pull some answers out of him. Also, could there be cursing this season? (Click through both pages to read the entire interview.)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What are the big themes you’re going to be delving into in season 5?
SCOTT M. GIMPLE: Last season the characters were faced with the question in various ways of: Are they too far gone? Are they too far to be people anymore? Have they been through too much, seen too much, suffered too much? Could they go back to being real people? And I think the answer at the end of the season was no, they can’t go back to being regular people. They can still have relationships, and even feel happiness, but they are never again going to be the type of human beings that they were. And potentially anyone occupying this world is no longer what was constituted being a normal person before the apocalypse.
Now, this season is: Okay, they can’t go back. Who do they become? This season will define these characters. You know, last year it was is Rick the farmer or the gunslinger? Now, it’s like, okay, he’s definitely not the farmer, he’s the gunslinger. But what does that mean? Who is he going to be? What is his identity going to be at the end of the day if he can’t go back? It’s going to be an interesting journey for all of these characters. A lot of them had much better journeys to Terminus than others. Some of them actually came out ahead, some of them had incredible losses. This season, they all kind of wind up in the same place. Physically, that’s beginning, and emotionally, I think that’s going to catch up with each other.
Let’s talk about the people about Terminus, the speculation from the comics. You said at one point ‘If I didn’t read the comics, would I jump to cannibalism?’ That’s a totally fair point to make. But there were some clues in the finale as well as that teaser that indicated they indeed might be cannibals. That’s the chatter, mister.
I get it. I would have been part of the problem, that chatter. What do I say to that? It’s totally fair to go there. I probably would’ve gone there myself. But I would say, though there is stuff from the comics this season, there is also some stuff that is very much from the imagination of the writers, who include Robert Kirkman, that is not from the comics. It can be inspired by the comics, it can be totally different from the comics. Terminus simply wasn’t in the comics, and it’s its own thing. It might circle back to aspects of the comic, it might be more of a long road to other things in the comic.
What can fans take out of the season 5 trailer, because you have also insinuated that there is maybe a bit of misdirection at play in parts of that.
One aspect of the information you’ve seen in the trailer is that there is a lot of playing with time in this first half of season 5. Things you are seeing happening, some of those things are happening currently. Some things are happening — and I don’t just mean montage, I’m talking about in the season and I’m talking about in the trailer — but some time is condensed. And we did a little of that, I suppose, last year. A little bit with the Governor stuff. That was much more full flashback kind of stuff than I’m talking about. I don’t want to give the impression like ‘Oh yeah, they’re on a trip to Washington and it’s a crazy flashback. Everybody forgot that they knew each other!” No. But I will say that time is scrambled up a little bit in the season.
A lot of these people stuck in this train car are meeting for the first time. How are they going to mesh all together? Is there going to be infighting? In the comic, Abraham and Rick did not like each other at all when they first met.
Even when Abraham met Glenn, who is a decidedly affable guy, though at the moment maybe he wasn’t being super-affable, those guys were in fisticuffs in a minute-and-a-half. And on top of that, a big aspect to it is there’s Tara. Rick and Tara have met before the train car, but they were on opposite sides of the fence. And Tara was standing in close proximity to the Governor. That’s a big deal. There are some group dynamics that will be affected, and some things that might…well, they have to be worked out one way or another, whether it be Abraham or Rick, or Tara and Rick, and Rosita certainly has Abraham’s back. There’s the whole Eugene in it all. It’s not necessarily very happy. But I will say, the fact that Glenn and Maggie more or less vouch for all of them does bode well in that regard.
It looks like, at least for a little while, most of the group will be together, as opposed to the back half of last season, where they were all sort of splintered off. Is the show going to be a little different in this regard than the last eight episodes of season 4?
It will. It’s not going to be one thing as the back eight was last year. Obviously we wanted the story [in the last eight episodes] to focus on all of the individual character stories before they got all together. In this, it’s not going to be as uniform as “Oh, there are only going to be spotlight stories.” Obviously, we see it in the group. But it’s going to be a little bit of a mix between 4A and 4B, very much so. Because there are going to be some unbelievably spotlighty stories, but then there are going to be some big group stories. Then, even later in the season, there are going to be episodes that are sort of a mix of both, where it’s a lot of stories, but in separate groups. Yeah, it really does run the gamut.
How is the show different when the group is on the move, like it was in season 1, or the back half of last season, and maybe it seems for portions now on the journey to Washington, D.C.? How is it different from when they settle into a certain place for a while like the farm or the prison?
It’s very different. It’s a very dangerous world, and there are certain things that are difficult to portray on the road, even emotional things. Stability allows for a certain type of emotional growth, and instability just keeps you moving, and there are certain things that simply cannot be tended to. And it makes certain emotional issues, being on the road, more pronounced, and more intense, because it’s very difficult to serve them. But they’re still very present.
But from production, the writing, you bring the story and there are all sorts of challenges but also opportunities. I think it’s fun to do both. I think it’s interesting to do both, and this is a world that pretty much depends on both, You don’t get to stay in one place terribly long. But you do get to stay places for a bit. These characters are getting to a point where this is some worry from some of the characters that they might get sort of comfortable, just from moving across the landscape and not believe they can live a more stable and perhaps richer life.
Speaking about other storylines, what can you tell me about Beth?
I can say Beth is alive, for sure, I can say that. I’m really happy when people ask me where Beth is. I go, “There she is. She’s right there!” She’s is in a place, in a situation, that looks fairly intense to me. She does seem very much apart from our characters. Seems to be on her own path. And she takes quite a hit at the end, it seems.
Is she there against her will?
I’m just gonna shift into viewer mode. If she’s there voluntarily, it does not look like it’s fun. It doesn’t look like she’s having a good time. But in this world, we’re doing alright. People in that world don’t have a lot of choice. So it could be voluntary, but really, what is voluntary when the choice you have could be just going out in the world by yourself?
What about Rick? Talk about the man he’s become now.
Rick is completely integrated now. He still has that humanity that Hershel sort of helps him recapture, but he can very much bite a guy’s throat out. And he’ll need that. Something that’s interesting about this season, and the story, and the world going forward, is that anybody who’s around has to have a certain amount of power, and they have to be some kind of formidable. And I think Rick is sort of at the height of that. But what makes him that much more formidable is — I mean, there is a line from the trailer, which is “These people are my family, and if you hurt them in any way, I will kill you.” That’s kind of the mission statement there. He’s not yelling it. He says it very coolly, very certainly, and that’s who he is now. He doesn’t blink to protect people who he loves. He does not blink and he can get pretty scary pretty quick.
Anything on the relationship front? It’s basically been Glenn and Maggie. Anything else? In the comics, Rosie and Abraham are a thing and we saw a hint of that last season.
You will be seeing more of that this season. That is absolutely an element this season. People who like the comic will recognize it, and people who don’t like the comic, they won’t miss it. They will be like, “Whoa, okay, that is happening.”
We know you’re introducing Father Gabriel Stokes from the comic and that he’ll be played by Seth Gilliam. Any other newbies we’ll be seeing?
We are going to see a bunch of new characters, people of significance to the show, even during the first half of the season.
People both from and not from the comic books?
Yes. Some people from, a bunch of people not from. And yeah, they’re gonna be super significant. There’s that. Oh, and there might be a bleeped-out swear word.
There might be. I mean, it depends. I’m still working on it.
You shot it both ways — with and without the swear? — or you haven’t shot that yet?
We shot it both ways. So there is that possibility. Actually not bleeped, but the way we do it on AMC.
What’s that? Just dropping the audio?
Yes, that’s how we do it. So we might see that. And I will say, on the walker front, there are some unbelievable walkers this season.
Yeah, it looks like monster makeup guru Greg Nicotero is on his game.
Yeah, and they’ve just gotten more and more insane. He’s doing great work. Great, disgusting, horrible work.
For more ‘Walking Dead’ intel, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.