10:45am PT by Lesley Goldberg
Inside 'The Walking Dead's' Biggest Season Yet
The Walking Dead producers have heard the concerns about the show's pace now that Rick and his rag-tag group have arrived in Alexandria — and they've come armed for season six to prove that the zombie drama won't be slowing down anytime soon.
Instead, season six — which kicks off Sunday at 9 p.m. on AMC — is poised to be its biggest yet and will feature a series-high 18 series regulars. Rick (leading man Andrew Lincoln) and his crew of survivors are poised to take on the ill-prepared residents of Alexandria (including a faction unhappy to see their way of life changed), an amplified walker threat as well as the mysterious group of Wolves. The latter represents the season's biggest wild card as they could be new to The Walking Dead universe or a remix of a group from Robert Kirkman's comic series on which the AMC series is based.
"A lot of what we're dealing with this season is at its core about transformation. Every season has been about people changing and evolving over time and what happens to them and who they become. But this season, more than any other, has three separate groups that have been living in this world for a long time who have changed and evolved at different rates, and in different ways, and they're all co-existing in a way."
Kirkman tells The Hollywood Reporter of Rick's pack, the Alexandria residents and the Wolves. "Seeing these groups coexist in the way that they do shows what kind of transformations can occur here."
Season six will also focus on the transformation taking place within Rick's pack now that fan-favorite Morgan (Lennie James) has reunited with the group and will be a series regular. The two characters have a history of saving one another — Morgan with Rick in the series' pilot and Rick later, during "Clear."
"We'll see how they've evolved separately and how they've both gotten to the places where they are and what they lived through and what they've become," Kirkman says. "Seeing those two things at odds is going to be big driving force of the season. … When we find them in season six, the question is: Is Morgan going to help Rick or is Rick going to help Morgan?"
So while Rick has drama at home with the survivors within the walled confines of Alexandria, the threat from the outside with walkers and the Wolves won't be any less relentless.
"[The threat of the survivors, walkers and Wolves] are somewhat equal, which makes for an extremely intense season," Kirkman says. "The Walkers have a bigger presence this season than they've ever had. As a threat, the walkers have fallen into the background a bit and become more manageable as the seasons have progressed. That is going to be changing in a big way this season. If you're a fan of the old zombies, season six is for you."
Kirkman stopped short of confirming if the Wolves could be connected to another community that may be near Alexandria, should the AMC series were to follow the comics. Comic fans know the character of Jesus moved to Alexandria from the nearby farming community dubbed the Hilltop Colony, which was under the control of Negan's dastardly Saviors. So does the arrival of Jesus (aka Paul Monroe) — who will be introduced in season six and played by Tom Payne — finally signal the arrival of the villain that makes David Morrissey's The Governor look like a fluffy bunny?
"If you are reading the comic book series, it would appear as we progress through season six that maybe we're marching toward a Negan appearance," Kirkman says. "Nothing is set in stone and we've proven that adapting the comic series is something that we've taken liberties with from time to time. I wouldn't be too sure of what you're going to be seeing going forward."
As for how the Walking Dead team will handle juggling a sprawling cast of 18 — in addition to new arrivals including Merritt Wever's Denise, Corey Hawkins' Heath and more — Kirkman says "every character will get their moment to shine."
"Season six — more than the past few seasons — will definitely feature our group working together and coexisting as a group a bit more than we've seen in the past," he says. "We'll see them all together as a big group, which is exciting. There's definitely a lot of characters but we've got a lot to do with all these characters and it's all fitting in pretty nicely. And there's definitely more characters to come."
What are you looking forward to seeing in season six? Sound off in the comments section, below, and stay tuned to THR's Live Feed on Sunday after the episode for more from Kirkman.