The Walking Dead showrunner on creating the horror house from hell
Warning: This article contains spoilers for "On the Inside," Sunday's episode of The Walking Dead.
The Walking Dead paid homage to its roots on Sunday's "On the Inside," as Connie (Lauren Ridloff) and Virgil (Kevin Carroll) found themselves trapped inside a house of horror infested with a group of devolved, feral humans out for blood. From the eerie music to the close-up shot of a knife piercing the wall just inches from Connie's face, the episode (directed by horror legend Greg Nicotero) felt like a throwback to some of the great haunted house movies of the past.
And if that wasn't enough for you, the episode also contained another brutal storyline in which Daryl (Norman Reedus) had to torture and cut off the finger of one of his own allies to gain trust with Pope (Ritchie Coster) and the Reapers. We spoke with showrunner Angela Kang to get the inside scoop on this double shot of terror.
ENTERTAINMENT WEKELY: Tell me about this classic haunted house story you decided to tell here with Connie and Virgil.
ANGELA KANG: As we were working on the season and knew we had this Reaper storyline, we knew that we were working on the Commonwealth, and because Lauren Ridloff had gone off to do The Eternals, we weren't going to be able to use her for the beginning part of the [filming] block. So that's how we wrote the story. We were like, "We want to have a big entrance." And then, of course, the pandemic slid everything around, but some of our scheduling had to hold because we were already so far down the line. But we were like, "How do we give her just a really cool reentry story?" And we were like, "Let's put her and Virgil into some kind of a fun horror movie for an episode." So we just started thinking about what feels unlike either the Commonwealth story or the Reapers story.
So we started talking about, "What are the types of people out there in the world who are even more far gone than anything we've seen before?" And I don't really remember who came up with this, but as the [writers'] room started talking, we were like, "Wouldn't it be interesting to see people that have been out there so long that they've just gone feral?" So that's how we came up with this crazy idea, and we started developing it from there. And then, of course, Greg Nicotero helped us refine what the look and the movement of this group was. It was truly just a really fun collaborative process.
You dropped all the audio out for some of Connie's scenes, which you have done before, to simulate what it is like for her being deaf. What made you want to do that here?
We didn't have it scripted or anything, and when we first did it, it was all with sound. I think even in Greg's original cut, he played it with all the sound and that version was really, really scary too. But in postproduction we started playing with it, and some of the scenes really just lent themselves to being in Connie's perspective, because there's a certain horror that comes with that in that she's got to be that much more aware, using her sense of sight and touch and all that. And so it felt right in the cut to just go more into her POV because we would do that sometimes with other characters in different ways. It felt organically like it worked for what we were trying to show about what she had been through in the aftermath of getting lost.
So let's get into Daryl torturing one of his allies here to sell himself to Pope and the Reapers. Tell me about the discussions you all had in terms of how far he would go, which turns out to be pretty damn far.
We always talked about the story as, "Daryl knows he has to do a job. The best thing he can do is utilize this connection he has to go undercover. It's an undercover cop story, and he's put in a horrific position." But we also felt it was important that the other character understood the horrific position just as well, and that he, in fact, is playing into the script. He is encouraging Daryl to make the moves because he's courageous in that way too. I hope that this comes across.
Yeah, that's the way I read it.
You never know. Once all the footage comes over, is the story as clear as we want it to be? But in our minds, Frost (Glenn Stanton) is like a hero in a war, and Daryl is trying to do the least he can get away with when they're both in a terrible situation and they've got a gun at their backs. They've got three people in that room ready to do God knows what to both of them. And I think, in Daryl's mind, it's like, "If I can just get a tiny piece of information that's not even totally right, that will give us a chance to warn Maggie (Lauren Cohan), but maybe we both get out of this alive." And I really think both of them, they're going for it. And Frost is like, "If I got to lose the tip of a finger to get that done, so be it." And so that was what we were trying to go for in the story, because Daryl, of course, does not want to actually kill this person who is on his team.
You have this moment later between Daryl and Leah, where he says, "Hey, this Carver guy is right. I don't give a crap about anybody, but I'm here for you now. I won't make the same mistake. This Pope guy scares me, but if you trust him, I'll trust you." How much of what he's saying there is true?
Very little. Here's this person he once cared about, but I don't think he's got a lot of trust in her. He hopes there's a little bit of that sweet person still in her. He doesn't know if she's trapped in a situation as well, or what hold these guys have over her, but he doesn't really trust anybody in this whole thing. He's just trying to make sure his people get out of there alive, so he's going to say whatever it takes to make that happen.
Does he hope there's some small shred of humanity that can help at some point? Yes. But is he certain that's the case? No. So I think what he's saying that's true is that hope seems scary. There's a certain percentage of truth, but the rest of it is he's going to say whatever he needs to make sure his people are okay.
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AMC's zombie thriller, based on the classic comic book serial created by Robert Kirkman.