9:37am PT by Lesley Goldberg
It's Official: 'Walking Dead' Companion Series Nabs Pilot Order
It's official: AMC is moving forward with its companion series to mega-hit The Walking Dead.
The network on Friday announced it has ordered a pilot episode of the project from Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman and producers Gale Anne Hurd and Dave Alpert. As previously announced, Dave Erickson, who co-created and co-wrote the pilot with Kirkman, will serve as exec producer and showrunner.
The pilot will begin production in late 2014, with few details about the location and casting released just yet. In a release, AMC touted that the premise — kept closely under wraps — would focus on what's going on in the zombie apocalypse in other parts of the world.
"There are many corners of The Walking Dead universe that remain unseen in the shadows. Being given the opportunity to shine a light into those corners and see what lurks out there is an absolute thrill. I know the fans are anxious to hear what Dave and I have been cooking up for this new universe of The Walking Dead, and I'm happy to be one step closer to sharing it with them,” Kirkman said. The exec producer, who also is writing the pilot for his exorcism comic adaptation Outcast for Cinemax, previously joked to THR that he'd love to see "space dragons" at the center of the companion series. Other producers and stars, including Andrew Lincoln, expressed interest about seeing what's going on in other parts of the world and what caused the outbreak when polled by THR about what they'd like to see the series explore.
AMC first announced it was developing the project in September 2013. The drama will tell a brand-new story and the cabler, which owns the series, said at the time that it would feature a new cast of characters and also be based on Kirkman's long-running Image/Skybound comic series. It would join AMC's Chris Hardwick-hosted talk show Talking Dead, should the drama move forward.
"Almost from the beginning of The Walking Dead on AMC, fans have been curious about what is going on in the zombie apocalypse in other parts of the world. In fact, beyond requests for zombie cameos, it’s the question I get asked the most,” AMC president Charlie Collier said in announcing the news Friday. “Obviously, we all take our stewardship of the original franchise incredibly seriously and we, along with Robert, Gale, David and now Dave, are all proceeding with extreme care in order to ensure that we are offering fans something truly compelling, engaging and distinct. We’re thrilled to be taking this next step with these remarkable partners."
The decision to move forward with the Walking Dead companion series comes as the flagship series enters its fifth season having achieved mega-hit status. Season four of the drama, when factoring in seven days of delayed viewing, averaged a whopping 18.4 million total viewers and 12.2 million among the advertiser-coveted adults 18-49 demographic — the latter representing the biggest haul among scripted dramas on all of TV.
The project also arrives as AMC has been hard-pressed to deliver another out-of-the-box hit a la the now concluded Emmy darlings Breaking Bad and Mad Men. With the latter set to end its run next year, AMC's roster of scripted fare includes only Saturday staple Hell on Wheels, and ratings underperformers Halt & Catch Fire and Turn. The cabler next will launch Better Call Saul, a Breaking Bad prequel, in February (that's already been renewed for a second season) and has straight-to-series martial-arts drama Badlands set for late 2015 or early 2016. AMC will not bow an original series for the remainder of 2014.
On the pilot side, AMC has dramas Knifeman, Galyntine and White City as well as comedy We Hate Paul Revere in the works. Beyond that, the network has high hopes for developing controversial comic Preacher.
In addition to both Walking Dead shows, Kirkman also has his Image comic Thief of Thieves in development at AMC with Alpert attached. Kirkman, who oversees Image Comics imprint Skybound as CEO, will also executive produce an adaptation of David Schulner's comic Clone for Syfy.