The Walking Dead: World Beyond showrunner answers premiere burning questions
Warning: This article contains spoilers about Sunday's series debut of The Walking Dead: World Beyond, "Brave."
We got our first look at the latest scripted series in the Walking Dead universe when The Walking Dead: World Beyond debuted Sunday night on AMC, as we were introduced to an entirely new society surviving 10 years after the dawn of the zombie apocalypse.
In the premiere, we met sisters Iris (Aliyah Royale) and Hope (Alexa Mansour), whose father has been off helping the mysterious group known as the Civic Republic we have seen in other Walking Dead shows. And we met one of the leaders of that group in Lt. Col. Elizabeth Kublek (Julia Ormond). Is Kublek friend or foe? It's tough to say. On one hand, she provided the sisters with a coded map to help find their father. On the other hand, that could be a trap. And what's up with the final scene with human and undead bodies strewn about? Did Kublek and the CRM save the day or destroy it?
We went on our own quest to track down World Beyond showrunner Matt Negrete to get answers to these and other burning questions.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What exactly is the relationship between the Civic Republic and these places of Portland, Omaha, and the Campus Colony? What is the arrangement?
MATT NEGRETE: Yeah, the one big thing I think, which is the takeaway of the pilot, is these people, it seems like they can't be trusted. There's a lot of mystery surrounding them. They don't tell these other communities where they're from, and they don't let communication in or out, and we know that their dad is with them currently. There's a question of, it seems like he's in danger. They got these messages from their father that are very clearly distress messages. So all signs point to these may not be the most straightforward, up-and-up group of people.
So what is the arrangement in terms of what is Portland and what is Omaha getting from the Civic Republic, and what are they providing in return to the Civic Republic? Is this a barter system, or what is the arrangement?
It's really about connectivity. It's that Omaha's in the middle of the country. We know that Portland is on the West Coast obviously, and we don't know where the Civic Republic is located. That's a question that will linger for a bit, but really, it's about, as anyone who's a fan of Survivor knows, there's strength in alliances, and that's pretty much what this is.
It is a barter system. They do get supplies from each other, but you also get intel. There is a sense that there is strength in numbers, to a degree. The Civic Republic, as we will come to find out, they have very specific goals. They think very, very big-picture in a lot of ways. It's a question for them of, how do these other communities fit in with those big pictures? That's something that we'll be exploring as the season and the series goes on.
There's a scene at the Monument Day where Iris is making a speech and then turns to Elizabeth and says, "I don't trust you. I don't know who you are. I don't' know what you're doing." And Elizabeth responds: "You will. Your father does. Some day you'll understand." Should Iris trust her?
I don't know if she should. I think that you need to be transparent with your goals and your motives to earn people's trust. That's just my opinion. I think Iris probably would share that same opinion, especially when her father's life is at stake and she wants answers. She wants to be able to communicate with her father to know he's okay. It appears he's not.
She doesn't even feel like she would be able to confront Elizabeth at this point and get answers. Even if she wanted to, she can't because communication isn't supposed to be allowed in or out. So her dad's breaking the rules. So Iris essentially can't even go to Elizabeth with that question. So she ends up taking it upon herself and her sister and this core group of characters to leave and to get answers on their own. So I would say not until Elizabeth is more upfront with who Civic Republic is and what they want and how they get what they want, should Iris trust her.
Well, it's interesting because Elizabeth clearly has an interest in these two sisters. Is she playing a game here that we don't quite know yet?
I don't know. She talks very, very openly, honestly about what it means to be brave in this life, to the two girls. She gives them this map that sets them on their course. I think that there is a part of Elizabeth that feels for these two sisters. I think that family is something that is probably very important to Elizabeth and she was that age as well.
For whatever you think of her, whether you trust her or not, I do think Elizabeth is someone who is capable of a degree of empathy. She is someone who maybe sees a bit of herself in Iris and Hope. Her organization does have their father, and because of their rules, they can't communicate with him. She can't say one way or the other exactly where he is or what his condition is. So, yeah, it's an open question mark. But they've made that decision, so at least they know where they're going. They know he's in New York somewhere, so at least that's something,
Well, maybe this is connected. I have a theory that I'm going to run by you. We're going to see how you react to this.
Here's my theory. I don't think the dad sent the message about his safety not being assured. Something doesn't add up here. He said not to tell Felix. Later, Elizabeth's given them a coded map to where he is. So I definitely think there's something fishy going on here and something beyond the surface we haven't seen yet. It's not as simple as him just sending the message. What do you have to say to that, Matt?
I will say that the Civic Republic is… They're definitely up to something. We have that last shot of Elizabeth walking through the campus. It looks destroyed by Darth Vader. She doesn't come across well in that scene. She says something very, very cryptic to a solider to the effect of "Did you find her?" They haven't. She says, "Good." But who is her? That's a question that will linger for a bit, but we'll be getting answers soon to your questions. We'll see if that theory holds water or not.
You brought up the last scene. What else can you tell me about that? Obviously, there's been some sort of massacre. A brick wall's been knocked down, there are painted walkers everywhere. What else can you say about what exactly has happened there?
I will say it seems like one of two things. There's obviously been some devastation. There are painted walkers inside the walls and we see the walls haven't held. It looks like a herd maybe has gone through, but for whatever reason, the walkers got in. There are piles of bodies where some are walkers, some are human, and the CRM — it looks like they're trying to clean up.
We see some bodies in the back of the truck. It's just a question of what led up to that? Was it that the CRM swooped in to try to save the day after a herd came in? Or is it something a little more nefarious than that? It's possible the second one might be more likely, but again, those are all questions that we'll be answering in time.
We learned that Iris is really haunted by this guilt over feeling that she's responsible for her mother's death. But we later see the flashbacks of what really happened and how this woman panicked and shot her mom. Then we also see then that woman getting shot. So how much information does everyone really know about what actually happened in that scene?
As we'll find out, Hope hasn't told her sister. They're very close in so many ways, but this is an event that has defined Hope. As we see in the pilot, she has a very negative view of humanity. She says this line to Huck that essentially people turn. It's just what happens. I think that she has very little faith in humanity because of what happened that night.
Here is this woman who happened to be pregnant, that her father and mother wanted to save, but couldn't get to her in time. It turns out this woman survived, but she only survived to then turn on her mother and shoot her. Then that prompted Hope to pick up the gun and shoot this woman. So it really was this horrific tragedy that happened that night, that essentially turned into this moment of humanity wasted and people turning on each other. That really is something that stuck with her to this day, and that's really defined who she is.
How much does Iris know about that confrontation?
She doesn't know anything. There is a moment when you can see before they decided to leave, that Hope is playing with her Jupiter bead necklace that belonged to that woman. She pauses and she's tempted to say something, but she doesn't say anything to Iris. So Iris doesn't know. So that's a secret to Iris. As we find out a couple of scenes later, that woman was Elton's mom. He doesn't know that. Hope doesn't know that the woman she shot was Elton's mom. So that's going to be a bit of a ticking time bomb, going into the future episodes.
You set up from the very beginning that Hope is this more reckless, fly by the seat of your pants getting into a little bit of danger and a little bit of trouble type. But yet then you have Iris be the one to really spearhead this mission to go on this rescue for their dad. Why have Iris be the one to really then flip the script of who you think is going to make that decision?
Yeah, that really is Iris' journey for the first episode. We introduce her as this is a goody-goody class president who's making signs and greeting the CRM. She's all in on this alliance. It's through a series of events within the pilot, which include these messages that they get from their father, that really forces her to question her belief in them, but also who she is as a leader within this community.
I think the mark of any great leader is someone who questions the norms and thinks about them in a different way. I think she's asking herself, what is she able to live with? What is she not able to live with? Has she been living for this future blindly without really thinking about what's important to her personally? What she's realized by the end of the episode is that what's important to her is family. It is her father. So it is ironic that she's the one pushing Hope to go out when Hope has been the one actively hating on the CRM the entire episode.
In pretty much the very first scene you hear people talking we learn that Silas did something very bad back in Omaha. Any info you can share or tease in terms of what that thing is?
Yeah, it's something very dark. One of the girls gossiping about him in that first scene with him talks about he should be in jail for what he did. So I will say it's something that's very dark and violent, and it's this dark cloud that hangs over Silas. We kept episode 3 centered a bit on Silas, and we're building to an episode that really will be able to illustrate exactly what happened. It'll be an episode largely told in flashback, and we're going to find out what happened in that episode. I just have to say, it's such a great episode. Hal Crumpston, who plays Silas, does such a great job in it that I can't wait for people to see that reveal when that episode airs.
Before you go, I just want to say I love the fact that you have the sick people have bars over their doors so they can't eat people if they die and turn, because I've been saying that for a while. If I were in the zombie apocalypse, everyone would sleep behind a barred door. You never know what's going to happen in the middle of the night!
Why would you ever sleep in a room with a door open? You just want to close it, just in case. You never know. Yeah. It's funny. We actually called those death doors. That's what the art department called them. "All right, we've got a death door coming in" and it was great. We ended up cutting it for time, but we also developed this safety system at the university, which is essentially a safety net that you push a button and it's basically the equivalent of "break glass in case of emergency." But what you do is you push the button, and a net drops and it blocks off the hallway. So if there's some walker incursion, or if someone ends up turning, you can just press a button and a net will fall down from the ceiling and cordon off the hallway or the building or what have you.