The Walking Dead showrunner reveals how they filled 6 extra episodes
Like many other shows, AMC's The Walking Dead had its schedule completely upended due to COVID. First, the season 10 finale that was supposed to air April 12, 2020 was delayed by six months due to the inability to remotely complete complicated special effects work in post-production. Then filming on season 11 (which was supposed to start airing in October of 2020) was delayed as well, pushing that season's airing off a year.
But with the delays and reconfiguration also came an opportunity, and that opportunity came in the form of six bonus episodes tacked onto the end of season 10, which begin Sunday, Feb. 28 on AMC. So are these six new episodes merely season 11 stories moved up earlier into season 10, or completely new bonus tales added into the mix?
According to showrunner Angela Kang, it is a little bit of both, or, as she likes to call it, a "combo platter." We asked Kang how they created this bonus batch of installments and how the show's COVID protocols impacted what we will see on screen.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So once the whole schedule got rejiggered and you all were going to do six extra episodes for season 10, how much of the story you were planning to tell in season 11 did you just move up to here and how much did you use the six episodes to fill in the blanks and tell stories that you maybe would not have told normally in season 11?
ANGELA KANG: So, we were kind of deep into season 11 at the point at which we were interrupted by the pandemic and sort of pivoted. So there are some pieces of story that we moved up, but there's a lot of it that really, we kind of did specifically for these episodes, so that we could kind of save what we had planned for a lot of season 11 as is. And then there's things like "Here's Negan" that fell somewhere in between.
We always knew that we wanted to do a version of [the standalone comic] "Here's Negan." We had not slotted it anywhere. And so, we thought, "Well, here's a really cool time to do it for these episodes coming up." So it's a combo platter of a variety of things. We had to move fast. And so, we just sort of had to make some decisions and start writing, so that we could film everything.
I've talked with your cast members about how things were different filming on set with the COVID protocols. What about in terms of how we see things on screen? Did you have to modify anything, in terms of like, "All right, listen, we're probably going to show some more smaller, more intimate stories, as opposed to giant massive set pieces"? How did you guys have to rethink the way you wrote the episodes in terms of filming in this environment?
I think since these were really the first up for us and we were filming on the early side compared to some productions, we really wanted to be very, very smart and responsible as producers and writers, on how to do this. And so, we absolutely had to kind of change just the way we wrote scenes and even what we were able to write, because so much of it was driven by what production felt we were able to responsibly do to start off.
As we get into season 11, we're filming right now, we're back to a much bigger scope-ier thing. Because we kind of figured out like, "All right, these protocols, as long as we do them this way, everybody's feeling comfortable." And we've kind of figured out where the stress points are, I guess, for the production.
But we had to really think about everything in terms of like, "All right, the way that we film action, we have to do it really differently now. We have to think about in every shot, if you're showing somebody really close to another person. First of all, do we have to do that? And secondly, how can we film that in a way that everybody involved feels like they are safe?"
And that also gets into your cast and crew testing, I assume.
A big part of it is people are tested constantly, but even beyond that we want to be very, very mindful of it. But it did change. We are used to writing a scene with 80 zombies, and everybody's swarming around. And that used to be a really easy thing to do. And we used to know, "Oh, it takes about this long to film. And if we do it this way, it's super fast." And we had to kind of rethink a lot of our assumptions about how long it takes to film a sequence.
And so, we had to size everything down to a level that even fit in a schedule. We were all learning like, well, what size is the right size? And that's something that we didn't have an answer to upfront. So we were very cautious to make sure that we could do it the right.
Did you have any setbacks or scares at any point or you're waiting for a test result to come back or anything where you had to pause production?
There's so much community spread everywhere, so there were definitely times when people tested positive. I'm knocking on wood, we haven't had any instances that it was spreading as a result of being at work. And in almost every instance where somebody tested positive, they never even made it to set. People were very, very responsible and we were very strict about like, if you have anything that's even resembling a symptom, just stay home.
I think there was a time when we paused filming, just to make sure that all of the testing was correct, as we were just making sure that we double checked everything, but there was never any sort of horrible scare. Thank goodness.
Again, I'm knocking on wood. To do any kind of work during this time, you just want to be really, really cautious and respectful of everybody. But overall, things went pretty smoothly for us. And we're working now, and I think our processes seem to be working. We run everything through an epidemiologist, who consults for the studio. And so, she told us, there are ways to work safely, even during a pandemic. And we've tried to do everything that we've been told, so that's important.