New 'Walking Dead' Showrunner Confirms Season 9 Time Jump

The Walking Dead Still Season 8 Episode 16 - Publicity - H 2018
Courtesy of AMC

During an AMC press event Wednesday, The Walking Dead's newest showrunner, Angela Kang, made her first public appearance since taking over the top job from Scott M. Gimple.

While Kang remained tight-lipped about the future of series stars Andrew Lincoln (Rick) and Lauren Cohan (Maggie), she did reveal one major detail to expect when the zombie drama returns in October.

"We're playing with time in the season, so we get to jump forward in the story," Kang said during a "Kick-Ass Women of AMC" panel. That comment confirmed that the AMC drama will follow the events of creator Robert Kirkman's comic book series in which the narrative jumps forward two years following the end of the all-out war arc between Rick and Negan. 

While Kang did not address the departure of series lead Lincoln — AMC has yet to comment on the star's pending exit — or just how Cohan's Maggie will be written out after the actress' salary standoff with the cable network, she painted a larger picture of her vision for The Walking Dead.

"We're working on a season that has a really fresh look and feel," she said. "We come in on some pretty fun stuff. I'm really focusing a lot on the core character relationships in the show that have kind of been long-lasting, as well as all of our wonderful series regulars."

Kang has been with The Walking Dead since season one, episode seven. In taking over for Gimple, she becomes the show's fourth overall showrunner. Frank Darabont launched the series and was replaced by Glen Mazzara, with Gimple ultimately taking over. For his part, Gimple was promoted to serve as chief content officer of all things The Walking Dead for AMC after creator Kirkman moved his overall deal to Amazon Studios.

Gimple, who also boarded spinoff Fear the Walking Dead this year, has larger plans to expand the franchise with new series.

Kang takes over the flagship series at an interesting time given both the time jump and the pending departures of fan favorites Lincoln and Cohan. The latter entered the broadcast pilot casting fray after a contract dispute with AMC. Her ABC drama, Whiskey Cavalier, was picked up to series for midseason with Cohan slated to appear in six episodes of the first half of season nine. Lincoln, meanwhile, sources say, has a similar exit strategy planned as AMC is working to finalize a $20 million annual deal to make Norman Reedus (Daryl) the new No. 1 on the show's call sheet. Both Lincoln's and Cohan's characters remain alive and well — and the focal points — in Kirkman's ongoing Walking Dead comic series.

Still, Kang expressed hope that season nine would lean into "great stories" with women on the series. "We're going to see some really great stories with the women in our show, particularly. And I think for people who are really invested in Michonne [Danai Gurira], Maggie or Carol [Melissa McBride], there's such great material for them. For people who are looking for that specifically, they will see some really incredible work from our women," she said.

Gimple, appearing on a "From Book to Screen" panel during AMC's press event Wednesday, reiterated his "remix" approach to the series and revealed that it was he, not Kirkman, who wanted to stray from the source material.  

"When we started, Robert and I argued a lot because I wanted to do the book just as the book and he actually wanted to do changes because he had already done it," Gimple said. "I wanted to see those moments that I saw in the book. And as I worked more and more on it, because I was so familiar with those moments, I knew that making those little twists to give the readers — it's actually doing right by the people who read the book and know what's coming."

Gimple, too, remained mum on all the changes coming to The Walking Dead and those that have already transpired on Fear (including the controversial decision to kill off Kim Dickens' lead, Madison). But he did indicate a larger desire to tell stories with a beginning, middle and end for the show's central characters.  

"Television is a different media than comics, even just from a practical point of view. There are main characters in the book that drift away for 17 issues. And that's weird in television. But that's something you can do. And also, I think if there's a character there, they need an alpha and an omega. They need a beginning, middle and end," he said. "Sometimes in the book, there are long stretches where characters don't have much to do or you don't see them. If there's a human being on your show, you need a beginning, middle and end. And you can find inspiration from the books. That's the No. 1 thing, I think."

The Walking Dead returns in October. A formal premiere date and trailer will be announced at San Diego Comic-Con.