By Dalton Ross
November 08, 2020 at 11:18 PM EST
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The Walking Dead: World Beyond

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Warning: This article contains spoilers about Sunday’s episode of The Walking Dead: World Beyond titled “Shadow Puppets.”

Don’t believe everything you see. That was a lesson learned by our intrepid group on The Walking Dead: World Beyond during Sunday’s “Shadow Puppets” episode when they found themselves duped by a duo of grifters named Percy and Tony who tricked the teens (and Felix) with a scam to liberate them of their possessions.

But the con men proved to not be so bad after all when they returned to the scene of the crime to help Iris escape some hungry dumpster zombies. By the end, Percy and Tony had agreed to drive the Campus Colony contingent to their destination in New York, but first they were going to have to break into CRM territory to fill their tank with fuel.

We spoke to showrunner Matt Negrete about these new additions to the cast, Hope’s big secret, and what’s in store for the future, including some “shocking endings.”

Credit: AMC

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: My first question to you, Matt: Have you ever dabbled in ventriloquism?

MATT NEGRETE: You know what's funny? Kind of. As a kid, as a Christmas gift, I got this Emmett Kelly ventriloquist dummy. And I wasn't good at it. It was like this sad clown with the little kind of puppet mouth and you pulled the string. As a kid, I actually kind of enjoyed it. I was terrible at it. My lips moved relentlessly, but yeah, it's a funny question because I actually have.

Well, there you go. Now we know the inspiration for episode 106. So where did the idea come from to add these grifters into the mix not just for one episode as a sort of standalone story, but it seems for a bit longer at least?

The original inception of the two characters came from, early on, a brainstorming session that [co-creator] Scott Gimple and I had where, for reasons I think that we'll be getting into later in the season, we really wanted it to inject, at the halfway mark, a different sort of a vibe for the season. And it was really about what are these characters ultimately going to bring to our characters moving forward?

And something that we hadn't seen before was the idea of these post-apocalyptic sort of grifters, these con men. And it's not something we've really seen in The Walking Dead universe before. So, that's something that we've really liked about them. And we also loved the idea of, especially the older one, Tony, being kind of gregarious. And he can be serious when he needs to be, obviously. He's a survivor in the apocalypse. But at the same time, he's this fun-loving guy who likes to entertain and put on shows for people. But at the same time, deceiving people in a way that really, hopefully it doesn't hurt them. But he has some fun with it. There are definitely easier ways to steal from people in the apocalypse than what Tony and Percy do, but this is kind of their version of entertaining themselves in the apocalypse.

And how did Scott Adsit, who plays Tony, end up in the mix? Obviously, a huge comedic background at Second City and 30 Rock, among other things. How did he end up with you guys?

It's funny. He auditioned. I was going through these auditions. And his came up and I was like, “What the hell? Like, yes! I'll just stop right here. I don't need to see anybody else. Let's hire this guy immediately.” He was perfect. And the great thing about him is his amazing sense of comic timing and his charisma. And he just has this essence to him that you just want to keep watching him. And that's exactly what we wanted for the character. So, it was an utter no-brainer to say, let's bring him on as Tony.

How did you guys come up with a grift? This is a pretty complex scheme that Percy and Tony have come up with. So, how did you all come up with it?

I got to hand it to the writers. While they were coming up with a version of the grift, I was in Richmond on set. And so I just kind of tasked them with the assignment of: These are con men. Obviously, we want them to con our characters. What's something that's cool, that seems to be pretty clever, and in a way that can essentially inject a little bit of momentum to the season?

And then the writers came up with the idea of, they've got this truck. And we did want to have them tied potentially in some way to the CRM. And so they use the truck to that end. And the writers came up with it. And they pitched it to me and I thought it was great. I loved it.

How did you all actually do the shadow puppets at the start of the episode and then again later during the campfire entertainment? Are those actual shadow puppets or done with computers?

That was all done practically. There are maybe I think three shots that had some augmentation to it that were via effects. And that was just to kind of fill in some blanks in the show itself. But I would say that 95 percent of what was on screen was practical. And we went out to this gentleman Jim Napolitano that was put on our radar who loved shadow puppets. He was known in the shadow puppet world as being really great, and we went out to him and we kind of went back and forth.

Maya Goldsmith, who wrote the episode, was heavily involved in working with me and Jim and the art department as well in terms of coming up with a cool look for these puppets and how they would work practically. And the balance really was, there are some amazing, amazing shadow puppet shows I've seen online that you've seen in movies, but we wanted something to look very cool, but also seemed fairly realistic for just a couple of guys who were roaming the country in the post-apocalyptic world. This needed to seem like something that could pull off. And so we really wanted to be kind of elegant, but simplistic at the same time. And I'm really happy with how it came out.

What's also really cool is there are a couple of sets where you can actually see bugs that ended up in the shot that are attached to some of the shadows. And that wasn't planned. This was actually filmed at the campground and there were so many bugs everywhere, so some of them actually had cameos.

Hope has that moment where she thinks about telling Elton about his mother, but then thinks twice. How much longer is she going to carry this around?

We'll see fairly soon. She's not going to be able to keep it to herself. It's really eating her up.And what she's kind of doing in a way is torturing herself. She feels guilt for what she did. And she's trying to basically comfort Elton by showing an interest in Elton's mother, even though it's just making life harder for herself. So, we'll see. It won't be much longer before she at least comes clean this to someone. And I won't say who that is, but we'll know very soon.

Let’s talk about the post-credit scene. This scientist, Dr. Bellshaw, answers the phone. It seems like Elizabeth Kublek is on the other line. Why’s she calling her, Matt?

Yeah, it's a little vague, but it definitely seems like there is something in the works. We know that Dr. Bellshaw has this photo of herself and Leo and a few other scientists on her desk. We know that one of the scientists we saw in the last episode is now an empty that she seems to be running tests on. And here she pulls out this manuscript that's written by the girl's father that includes a note from Iris that says, "Hurry up and save the world because we basically want you back at home."

And yeah, then she gets this call from Elizabeth Kublek. We're basically tying some things together. All these elements and bits of this greater world are going to start coming together. And what I can say now is that something is afoot. And it seems like there's a plan in place that seems to have potentially something to do with the girl's father. So, there will be more to come for sure.

Let me ask about a few specific points of what she says here. She says, "It'll be taken care of by the time they arrive." First off, we know that that Kublek gave them this map, and said their dad was in New York. Is this scientist in New York?

We don't know that for sure, but I would not rule that out. This scientist could very well be in New York.

And when she says “by the time they arrive,” does “they” refer to Hope and Iris?

Oh, I can't answer that. But obviously she is expecting someone and Elizabeth is very, very interested in these someones.

Because I'm going to parse every word of this statement, she says, "Dr. Bennett will not be a problem.” Why will Dr. Bennett not be a problem?

We know that, last we heard, he was at this facility, presumably New York, trying to hopefully one day work on some science that could find the cure. And it seems like he's an asset to the CRM. So, it's a very good question you're asking why it might be a problem. It might be, is he causing some problems there? Has he already caused some problems? Is it that he is not on board with what they're planning? Or can't know? Or does he know? You know, there's a bunch of possibilities in that mix there, and more will be cleared up very soon.

Okay, what can you say about what's coming up next?

Coming up next, things are going to get very real, very fast coming off of episode six. In terms of our main group, we know that Percy and Tony have had some entanglements with the CRM and have one of their trucks. And they also have access to fuel. And they're going to need to get access to this fuel that belongs to the CRM in order to get to where they're going.

Really, what we're doing is we're promising some future entanglements with the CRM. And I think people are going to see that we're going to pay that off in a very interesting and surprising way very quickly. So, yeah, I will say, each episode coming up after episode 6, there will be some pretty shocking endings that are going to propel us into the subsequent episodes. And we're going to be shot out of a cannon pretty soon. So, things are going to get very real, very quickly.

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The Walking Dead: World Beyond

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