The Walking Dead showrunner on the introduction of Princess
Warning: This article contains spoilers about Sunday’s episode The Walking Dead titled “Look at the Flowers.”
In these dark times, we could always use a splash of color to liven things up. That applies to what’s happening right now in our world and it certainly applies to the world of The Walking Dead. So enter Princess! The fan favorite from the comic book made her TV debut on Sunday’s “Look at the Flowers” episode, and it was in big, bright, dramatic fashion.
As Eugene, Yumiko, and Ezekiel made their way to Charleston, West Virginia to meet Eugene’s radio buddy Stephanie, they came across a series of oddly costumed zombies fixed in place, and later they met the architect of that plan, the highly excitable — and machine gun toting — Princess (played by Paolo Lazaro).
That wasn’t the only big event of the episode. We also saw Carol being haunted by the recently beheaded Alpha, Beta discovering that head and retreating to an old hotel where he spun one of his old records from a past life before adding part of Alpha’s face onto his zombie mask, and Negan and Daryl having to find an uneasy truce. We spoke to showrunner Angela Kang about all that and more, including the recent announcement that the show’s season 10 finale has been postponed indefinitely due to COVID-19.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Before we get into this latest episode, AMC announced last week that you all were going to have to postpone your season finale because even though it was filmed last November there was still post-production visual effects work and what not that needed to be completed. Obviously, there are bigger problems in the world out there, but still, from a professional standpoint as we’re all trying to carry on in that capacity as much as possible, I’m sure that was very disappointing for you.
ANGELA KANG: I think it's disappointing for all of us that work on the show. Everybody works so hard, our post production team, all of our vendors who are partners with us, everybody was really kind of racing against the clock. But as everything was unfolding worldwide, we have people around the world that work on our VFX and so people were having to start moving things remotely. But there's just certain parts of the post-process that are very difficult to move remotely, and everything that moves remotely works slower because it's like rendering these giant effects. If you don't know that technical language, it's like once they finish the stuff, the machines basically work on it to spit out a beautiful version of it, which we drop into the show.
Everything just takes longer. And there's certain processes that couldn't be moved before California shutdown for business. And it just couldn't be done. And it's people's health and safety are first and foremost on our minds as well during all of this. So we will at some point air this amazing finale, but also, I really love how episode 15 came out. People did amazing work on it. It will feel like there's kind of an epic, wonderful end to it. And even that one kind of came in really under the wire.
When we spoke a while back you mentioned that the season finale was going to be pretty epic and have a cliffhanger, but your penultimate episodes for every season often have been just as epic as the finales, and big huge things have happened in those episodes. And so you sort of just alluded to that a little bit. When your next episode ends, how's it going to feel, because obviously it wasn't intended as a finale and big stuff may happen, but how's it going to feel in terms of knowing that we're going to be waiting for that next and last chapter?
As you said, a lot of times our penultimate is a big episode as well, and that's the case here. There are huge stakes for everybody that's involved, and so it will feel like there's some danger for people at the end of it. And then I'm just really excited for people to come back, and once we're able to finish out what we're doing on the finale, for everybody to see that too. But hopefully it'll be a really exciting kind of end to the season with these last couple episodes.
Speaking of exciting, let's talk about this episode. A lot of different stories happening here in this last episode, titled “Look at the Flowers.” Obviously, that’s a pretty loaded title in terms of what those words mean in the Walking Dead universe, with Carol having said them to Lizzie before blowing her head off. Why go with that title?
It felt like it was the right title. Our writer, Channing Powell, had this great pitch that she worked on with the room about where Carol is at after she got her wish of seeing Alpha dead? She kind of orchestrated this whole thing with Negan, but along the way a lot of things happened and she's not feeling good about everything, and it felt like it kind of worked with the way that Alpha has just wormed her way into Carol's brain even after death. And there's this darkness that's in Carol as she's remembering these horrific moments that she's been through, and these are the thoughts that are spinning around. And I think with any story that is so focused around revenge, there's a lot of ugly emotions that go along with that and so that's where we find our heroine now.
She does go back to Alexandria after having her subconscious battle with Alpha. And Daryl does wait for her out in the wild. And then they have a moment at the gate, but don’t say a word. So where are these two now after everything?
We’ve really been building the story with these two so that we're tracking the emotions of this story through Daryl and Carol. They have one of the longest standing relationships and they're in complicated places. They don't know yet Connie's fate, if she has survived or if she hasn't. I think for Daryl, he's always happy to see his friend Carol and to know that she's okay. But there's a lot that has been revealed about what he knew and didn't know and that's complicated.
For Carol, she's just in a space where she went through this very intense emotional experience. And so they have one of those friendships where they don't always need to talk to each other, but at the same time, things are certainly different from where they started at the beginning of the season where they were joking about being best friends and really palling around. Everything has taken its toll on both of them.
Yeah, it's been a little uncomfortable at times. And while we're tracking uncomfortable relationships, let's talk about Daryl and Negan, because Negan tweaks him a little bit and has a bit of fun before saving Daryl by gunning down the Whisperers who think he's the new Alpha. But at the same time, they are working together, and he did do this big move that may or may not help his side. Is there a bit of thawing on Daryl's part by the end here at all in terms of how he feels about Negan?
I think there's a little bit of a thaw, but I don't think he really loves this guy yet. I don't know that he totally trusts him. He was very aware that Negan was having maybe a bit too much fun once he got the gun back from the Whisperers, and Negan is complicated, and Negan killed people that mattered a lot to Daryl. For Daryl, the loss of Glenn and Abraham was huge for him, and all these people that died in that war, and I don't think that that's something that's easily left behind.
For viewers who'll remember back to season 9, he was the one that was really all in with Maggie on executing this plan of maybe taking him out. And so, for Daryl, all of it is a complicated relationship, but Daryl’s a pretty pragmatic guy and he sees this guy — he did do some stuff that was good, and so I don't think that that's lost on Daryl. But at the same time, is he ready to call this guy his best friend? I don't think so.
Let’s go through the Beta portion of the story. Or should I call him Half Moon?
Half Moon was just the name of the album, and I can't remember who came up with it. I think it was a little bit influenced by the image of him sort of in shadows. And I was looking back at old album covers of Garth Brooks and there's some really great stuff where he was really in shadow. I think he was the artist who had the alter ego for a second.
Yeah, Chris Gaines! Nice call. So, we were thinking about all of that stuff, and in the comic books he's basketball player. But as we were constructing it here, we were like, “Does [actor Ryan Hurst] really feel like a basketball player? Maybe more of a football player, but is that the way we want to go?” And Ryan had this idea of, "Oh, maybe he was this musician," and we thought that that was really cool. And I think the aspect of it that was kind of important is he was this famous guy and he had this dark side that kind of came out in the apocalypse. So we worked on this backstory and then just thought it'd be really fun to have this musical figure and we were sort of looking for reference and that was what we were pulling on. And just the idea that even before the apocalypse there was a part of him that he kind of kept hidden at times.
And there's a song that played earlier in the season that Magna was listening to, and Emily Kinney actually wrote the song, our alum who played Beth. And that was Ryan Hurst singing that song, and that's the song that recurs now, so we had a little bit of fun kind of burying all of that kind of in the show and even in Fear.
Right, with the record cover that we saw in Fear. What does it signify when he adds part of Alpha’s face onto his zombie mask there at the end with that big collection of walkers he drew in with the record? What does that mean in terms of him moving forward?
The thing that we talked about a lot with Beta is that he truly is a Beta. He loved having the Alpha being the head of it all. He's a big strong guy, he's a smart guy, he's a brutal guy, but Alpha really was his leader because he respected her and it wasn't ever like, "Oh, I could just take her out and be the Alpha." He was content being the Beta and he found honor in doing that role for her because he really believed in her and her mission and the things that she helped him through.
And so we wanted to tell the story of: What happens to somebody like that when that charismatic leader is gone? We were just thinking for Beta, he wants to carry on the name of Alpha and he's uncomfortable just calling himself the Alpha. He wants to be the Beta, but he wants to carry her with him. So in his own kind of twisted way, this is his way of reminding everybody that even as he's Alpha, he can never replace the Alpha, but he is channeling the Alpha, and when that pitch kind of came up from Channing, I was like, “Oh, that's great. It's a really great visual way of representing everything we're trying to say about who he is as a leader.”
It’s interesting how you have people like Beta and Carol that are going through these big emotional journeys in this episode. And then you have some folks on an actual physical journey. Eugene, Yumiko and Ezekiel are making their way to Charleston. and they meet a very loudly dressed stranger with a machine gun who has seemingly dressed up walkers in crazy costumes for amusement. Comic book fans will recognize this character as the ebullient personality known as Princess. What can you tell us about her and bringing her to the screen?
Yeah, for comic book readers, they know that this is Princess. She's a really fun character, and here's this person who has been stuck in this city and she has forged her own path in life to try to deal with everything that's happened. And I'll say that she is in obviously some sort of strange confrontation with our people, and we'll learn a lot more about her in the episode to follow. And she becomes an important catalyst for some of the things that are to happen. But we love this actress we cast, Paolo Lazaro. She's wonderful. Just folded right in with the cast, is incredibly funny, but has a great dark sense of humor. And so I'm excited for people to see what she brings to this mix going forward.
How worried should we be about Ezekiel here, whom we caw coughing and struggling a little too much for my taste?
Ezekiel is sick, and I don't want to downplay the seriousness of that for anybody who is a cancer survivor out there or has a loved one that is. I lost a parent to cancer when I was a teenager, and we felt that we have to play some of the reality of when you are in a situation like in an apocalypse without access to medication and stuff, it's going to be a struggle. But Ezekiel is a really strong and positive character and so he's doing his best to fight his way through it. And so it's a story that will just continue to unfold.
As we mentioned, the next episode wasn't planned to be the final Walking Dead episode for a while, but it will be. What else can you tell us about what to expect next week?
We will see what our people have been doing in the aftermath of the Hilltop war now that some of the truth has come out. You'll see our clever folks and their plans to finish out this conflict. And we'll also see this group on their own journey with Ezekiel, Yumiko, Eugene and as they figure out how to deal with this new character that they've met, and they've got their own adventures. But it all crashes towards this epic conflict now that Beta has taken leadership of the Whisperers. What does that mean for our people now? And so it'll be exciting. I hope people will tune in and watch it.