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AMC’s undead will continue their walk into 2020.
The basic cable network has renewed The Walking Dead for a 10th season, showrunner Angela Kang announced Monday in a video on her verified Instagram feed. The news comes amid a wave of changes in the current ninth season, which returns for its second half on Sunday.
This season featured the departure of series lead Andrew Lincoln, whose character was sent off into a new franchise-building world consisting of three feature-length made for TV movies likely airing on AMC (and possibly another outlet). Showrunner turned Walking Dead chief content officer Scott M. Gimple will oversee the telepics. Gimple’s replacement, Kang, will continue on as showrunner for season 10.
With Lincoln’s exit from the flagship, Norman Reedus (who plays Daryl) becomes the new No. 1 on the call sheet after the actor — and co-star Melissa McBride (Carol) — inked what sources describe as “franchise/universe” deals. Those pacts cover three years of the Walking Dead franchise as a whole, meaning if their characters are written off the flagship and relocated to another property in the universe — or depart completely — they will continue to be paid.
Sources say Reedus — who also hosts and executive produces AMC’s unscripted motorcycle series Ride With Norman Reedus — will make $350,000 per episode on top of additional guarantees and advances in a deal that sources say could be worth anywhere from $50 million to $90 million. McBride’s deal, which is said to include a sizable pay bump, will see the actress score an estimated $20 million over three years. Danai Gurira, meanwhile, was in prolonged negotiations with AMC that were further complicated by her status as a breakout actress with hits under her belt including Black Panther. It’s unclear if she has signed a new deal to return. AMC did not immediately respond to The Hollywood Reporter‘s request for comment about Gurira’s status for season 10.
The new pacts are described as groundbreaking in that they stretch beyond traditional series/overall deals and allow both Reedus and McBride — who started as recurring on season one and have been regulars since season two when they made $8,500 per episode — to move freely among new projects in the Walking Dead universe. That expansion, which is being overseen by Gimple, started in November when AMC spun off Lincoln — whose Rick Grimes has been the focus of both the comic book source material and the series itself — to a trio of big-budget, feature-length movies to air on AMC. The pacts for Reedus and McBride allow both to move freely among the franchise as Gimple charts a course that includes revisiting characters who have come and gone with anything from new series, digital offshoots and miniseries, among others.
“We do look at this as a universe where we’re trying to expand into as many different places as the show fits,” AMC programming president David Madden told The Hollywood Reporter in November. “We think this is a franchise that could live across formats. So we want to do it carefully; we want to be strategic; we want to try to do it right. But there is a multiyear plan that could include additional series, digital content and specials.”
Gurira, meanwhile, officially joined the series in season three as iconic katana-wielding badass Michonne. As Lincoln segues to the TV movie side of The Walking Dead, Gurira’s Michonne — Rick’s love interest — becomes the heir-apparent leader on the flagship. Lincoln was No. 1 on the call sheet, followed by Reedus (the show’s new male lead), Lauren Cohan (whose Maggie also exited in November as the actress had her own salary standoff with AMC), Gurira and McBride.
“She has been very vocal about saying that she loves the show. We love Danai; we love that character. Right now, she’s got a lot of opportunities and she needs to weigh what she feels is best for her. But we certainly would want her on the show as long as she wants to be on it,” said Madden. “We really want her to stay. She is an incredibly valuable character and I’m really hoping she stays. Obviously, the lesson of Andy is that the show can survive anybody’s departure if need be but that’s not our goal. The goal is to have Danai continue on whatever basis she can make work, given the other things that she has going on in her life.”
Asked about how much longer she envisions herself on The Walking Dead, Gurira stopped short of providing a timeframe. “I can’t share that at this moment,” she told THR at the season nine premiere in late September.
The Walking Dead is the centerpiece of AMC’s scripted roster, which also includes the spinoff Fear the Walking Dead, Better Call Saul, Lodge 49, McMafia, Preacher, The Son, The Terror, Humans, Into the Badlands and the forthcoming NOS4A2. The latter drama, starring Zachary Quinto, is due later this year.
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