'This isn't a one-night stand,' says the showrunner about the love connection
Credit: Gene Page/AMC

[SPOILER ALERT: Read on only if you have already watched Sunday’s “The Next World” episode of The Walking Dead.]

Yes, that just happened. The biggest shocker of Sunday night’s episode of The Walking Dead was not the introduction of a pivotal new character (Jesus from The Walking Dead comic). Nor was it the surprise return of a fan favorite (Deanna, now in zombie form). Instead, it was an intimate moment on the couch between Rick and Michonne that became even more intimate once they locked lips and…well, took things from there.

We connected with showrunner Scott M. Gimple to get his take on this surprising development and more. (Also make sure to check out our on-the-set report about the return and final departure of Tovah Feldshuh’s Deanna, a well as our interview with the man who plays Jesus, Tom Payne. And for more Walking Dead scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.)

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: First off, point of clarification, sir: Exactly how much time has passed between last week’s episode and this one?

SCOTT M. GIMPLE: I shan’t answer that definitively, as what’s in the show is the show. But at some point, it’s said that weeks have passed.

It’s always fun when you are able to introduce a big character from the comic book, which you did here with Jesus, who looks a lot like his comic book counterpart.

Yeah, Jesus is the character from the comic books. He’s introduced a little bit differently than he was in the comics, but he is very much the character from the comics, and moving into the next episode — because we see him at the end in Alexandria — we’re going to start down that road where we’re seeing more and more moments of Jesus from the book.

And what about the actor playing him, Tom Payne? What did you you guys see in him to cast him in that role?

The thing I love about Jesus in the book is he’s the guy who seems to give everybody a chance. He’s not a guy who walks around with a chip on his shoulder. He has a certain friendliness towards everyone. He’s extremely formidable if you don’t give that respect and friendship back in kind, but Tom, when he came in, had that sort of tough grace, that confidence that both made him formidable, but also made him not need to display that toughness at all. It’s a quiet confidence. It’s a gentle confidence. It’s a type of charm, and I very much saw that in Tom.

We’re very, very thrilled with what he’s done with the character. It’s a very subtle sort of wryness that he has, and calibrating and finding that wryness was very hard because there’s a lot of really terrific actors that came in, really great guys. But it’s just a very, very specific thing, and Tom crushed it.

Okay, let’s get into the Richonne thing. We know Rick and Andrea start a relationship in the comics around that time and obviously Andrea is not around anymore in the TV version, but is that storyline with Andrea from the comic — which also starts while talking on a couch — what inspired this love connection between Rick and Michonne here?

The Andrea story from the comics has been broken up and given to several different characters. This is one of those instances.

Credit: Gene Page/AMC

Once you knew you wanted them to get together, how did you come upon doing it in this way, with them talking about their day on the couch, touching hands with the mints, and then just going for it? Obviously this is a huge moment, so I’m guessing you may have come up with different ideas, and wanted to make sure it all came together perfectly.

It was all about finding an everyday context. It was all about having these two characters come to realize that their intimacy and bond extended beyond friendship. Alexandria, in the state it’s currently in, gave them the moment to come to that realization. And that’s a super clinical, mathematical analysis of romance. So I’ll say this: These are two people who have found kindred spirits in each other, strength, respect, support, loyalty. But the world has been screaming in their faces and clawing at them for a good part of their acquaintance. For all they’ve been through, when the world stopped screaming and clawing for them, they realized what they had.

Rick’s love interests have really not fared that well at all. Are you setting things up for something terrible to happen to Michonne, sir?

Can’t we enjoy this, Dalton?

Okay, then what’s up with Jesus’ terrible timing? When two people are naked in bed, is that really the best time to barge in and “talk”?

Once you’re in the room, you’re committed. For details, see the “Reagan” episode of New Girl.

RELATED NEWS: Behind the scenes of EW’s Walking Dead covers

Finally, what can you say about how this relationship is going to play going forward? I’m assuming this is not just a one-night stand.

These are two people who have suddenly realized — pretty much at exactly the same time, on that couch — what they already had together and who they already were to each other. This isn’t a one-night stand. And what they have was already there, before they even kissed.

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The Walking Dead

AMC's zombie thriller, based on the classic comic book serial created by Robert Kirkman.

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