November 25, 2018 at 10:04 PM EST
Gene Page/AMC

In that super awkward reunion with Carol, Michonne said how it was a broken world out there and “we’ve got to take care of our own now” rather than come together again as a group. Does this incident with the Whisperers change that philosophy or just cause her to double down on this isolationist stance?
This will definitely be a part of the story going forward, the way that Michonne approaches this problem but also the gradual evolution at Alexandria in general. There may be some surprising ways that the people there take it. Michonne, as a result of things that have happened in the past, has definitely adopted a really strict isolationist stance. In a lot of ways it has worked for Alexandria. Alexandria’s thriving. It’s safe. Most of their people have survived over the many years. But it has come at a really deep personal cost, particularly with these other characters and these other communities that are people that they love and care about.

But in conversations that I had with Danai that were really interesting as we were putting out these scripts and the story was unfolding — we just talked about the fact that Michonne, she loves people, but it doesn’t necessarily change the way she handles her business. One of the ways that Michonne’s been able to compartmentalize things is like, “Okay, I have this love and care for these people, but yet there’s just certain things that need to be taken care of and I have to separate my personal emotions from what I think is best for the survival of my community as a whole and my two children.”

So that’s kind of the place that she’s at, but obviously the Whisperers story as it keeps rolling and things happen, she may have to shift, because things come up in ways that you don’t think that they’re going to, and have effects that you don’t think that they’re going to.

You have this period of six years. You have these questions out there in terms of what happened between these communities. What are the X’s on Michonne and Daryl’s backs?  How are you going to reveal the answers to these questions? Will these just be done in terms of information will be dispensed, are you gonna play with some flashbacks in that six-year gap?
We’ll definitely be telling the story of what happened there, and what’s kind of exciting about a six-year jump is that there is the opportunity to go back and tell some of those stories. So we’ll see some of what has happened. But it’s a deep, emotional story for Michonne, and for Daryl too. So I’m excited for people to experience that. It’s something that certainly has had an effect on Michonne in a deep and particular way. So that’s something that we wanna tell people what that’s about at some point.

So then moving ahead with what happened to Jesus, does that mean Tara’s going to be leading the Hilltop when we pick things back up?
Yeah, we’ll see that Tara really has to step into a role of more leadership. She sort of has been handling a lot of things, because Jesus in a lot of ways didn’t really take to being the leader of Hilltop. He doesn’t like the bureaucracy of it. He’s a guy who kind of likes being out there in the world and his heart’s in the right place. He certainly cares about Hilltop, but he’s a little bit of an absent leader in some ways. Tara, we see, has been handling a lot of the day-to-day anyway. So that’s one of the aspects of the story that we’ll be exploring going forward.

When are we going to get to Oceanside?
I don’t know! Oceanside is out there. There are all these communities that have disbanded that are there. We haven’t told much Oceanside stuff this year, but there may be stuff in Oceanside someday.

So if the first eight episodes of season 9 were about establishing this new world and what became of these communities after the war with the Saviors, what are these next eight episodes about?
We’ve seen what the post-Negan world is, but in the world of the Whisperers, they have a particular philosophy and it’s a philosophy that really is at huge odds with that of our people who have been trying to rebuild something like a civilization that we know and remember. That’s really a theme that we’re exploring the entire season, just in different little chunks. We’ve seen when our people are at odds, when they’re working together, and now we see sort of like the opposition argument in some ways.

So we’ll really get to dive into what that philosophy of the Whisperers is, the way that they go about things. They’re not really a group that is big talk and no action. They stick to what they believe in, to sort of terrifying ends. So it’s a really interesting time for our characters, having to come up against a group that just does not think or behave anything like any other group they have ever come across before. Just think of what it takes to put a skin-mask on your face and walk around with zombies. That takes a very particular type of person.

We get to have some really great new characters with our actors Samantha Morton and Ryan Hurst that I’m excited for people to see. We’ll also just do some other stuff in the half-season that we’ve never done before on the show that I’m excited about. So that’s what we’ve got coming up.

Also make sure to check out our interview with the man who played Jesus, Tom Payne. And for more Walking Dead intel, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

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