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On Monday, AMC formally announced that it has picked up what is now the third series in the zombie drama’s larger world with a 10-episode order for an untitled drama co-created by Gimple and longtime flagship writer Matt Negrete. The latter, who has been a writer and producer on The Walking Dead for the past five seasons, will serve as showrunner. Coincidentally, Negrete and Gimple collaborated on the season nine episode (“What Comes After”) that served as the last one for series star Andrew Lincoln, who will reprise his role as embattled former sheriff Rick Grimes in three TV movies for AMC. It’s unclear if the new spinoff will be connected to those movies. It’s unclear if any characters from either The Walking Dead or spinoff Fear the Walking Dead will have a role in the third series. Stars and fan favorites Norman Reedus (Daryl) and Melissa McBride (Carol) have “franchise deals” that allow them to move freely between all corners of the universe, for example.
“I’m beyond excited to be a part of this new show set in The Walking Dead universe,” Negrete said. “Writing and producing for the original series has been the job of a lifetime and I’m honored to be working with Scott and all the fine Dead folks at AMC in this new capacity. I can’t wait for the fans of the franchise to see what we’ve been cooking up!”
Few details were immediately available about the third series other than that it will feature two young female protagonists and focus on the first generation to come of age in the apocalypse as viewers know it. Production will begin in the summer in Virginia for a 2020 premiere on AMC. The Lord of the Flies-like series will feature a new corner of the world. Here’s AMC’s formal description: “Some will become heroes. Some will become villains. In the end, all of them will be changed forever. Grown-up and cemented in their identities, both good and bad.” The order arrives as the original series introduced (and, spoiler alert, killed off) several younger characters in season nine.
“Showing audiences an unseen pocket of The Walking Dead universe steeped in a new mythology is a very cool way to celebrate a Decade of the Dead on TV and over 15 years of [creator] Robert Kirkman’s brilliant comic,” Gimple said. “Matt Negrete is one of the best writer-producers in TWD’s long history — I’m thrilled to be working beside him to tell stories unlike we’ve seen before, taking our first step into an even larger world.”
The news comes a week after The Walking Dead closed out its ninth season with its smallest-ever finale. Despite weathering a string of series lows in its ninth season many critics have praised new showrunner Angela Kang’s creative take. That is no small feat given that TWD said farewell to Lincoln, the central comic character who remains the focal point of Kirkman’s ongoing comics and parted ways with fan-favorite Lauren Cohan (Maggie) following a salary standoff gone bad. (She remains open to returning and previously told THR that there have been conversations about a spinoff featuring Maggie, who remains alive in the world of the show.)
The untitled Negrete series is the first new series to stem from Gimple’s March 2018 promotion to chief content officer, a role he was given after Kirkman moved his overall deal from AMC to Amazon. Gimple and Kang wrote Lincoln out of the flagship drama so the actor could spend more time with his family at home in England. Gimple will reteam with Lincoln for three TV movies that will air on AMC and could potentially serve as backdoor pilots for other series. Production on those is set to begin in 2019 though its unclear just where they will be filmed. TWD is filmed in Atlanta, while spinoff Fear the Walking Dead has used locations in L.A., Canada, Baja and Texas. Overall, there are now three scripted series and three planned stand-alone movies in the world of TWD as franchises increasingly become valuable to broadcast, cable and streaming platforms alike.
“We’re thrilled that the Dead will keep walking into a new corner of the post-apocalyptic world, a corner that will present stories and characters unlike any that The Walking Dead has dramatized thus far, and that is bound to excite one of the most passionate fan bases in television,” said David Madden, president of programming for AMC Networks and AMC Studios. “Scott has been an invaluable leader for the universe since taking on the role of chief content officer, with a distinct and innovative vision for the franchise. Likewise, we’re excited to have Matt, who has been a crucial part of The Walking Dead family for over five years and penned many memorable episodes of TWD, at the helm of this original series.”
At the time of Lincoln’s departure from TWD, Gimple, Madden and AMC indicated he was taking a multiplatform approach to expanding one of TV’s most valuable properties. Spinoffs, digital series and movies were among those plans. “We’re trying to expand into as many different places as the show fits,” Madden said in November. “We think this is a franchise that could live across formats. We want to do it carefully, be strategic and do it right. There is a multiple-year plan that could include additional series, digital content and specials. We’re looking to broaden this into a universe where the movies that Andy will be in are the highest-profile things that we do.” Gimple noted the key to that expansion was avoiding overlap. “We don’t want to see people doing the same thing, with the same motivations or people with the same lives; it needs to be differentiated from each other in the types of stories that they’re telling, themes and the tones we’re exploring,” Gimple said at the time, noting he’s also looking for the “next generation” of storytellers to be part of the expansion. “A variety of locations is absolutely critical to this. Seeing other parts of the world and making sure that we’re not trying to do the same thing that Michonne [Danai Gurira], Maggie and Carol and everybody have been doing. We want to tell different stories but in different corners of the world. That’s the exciting thing about it: There is so much possibility with that, and so much of this comes from the audience asking questions over these past eight-plus years.”
Since its launch a decade ago, The Walking Dead has become a global phenomenon. The tale of survival amid the apocalypse was, at one point, the biggest series on all of television — averaging an envious 10.7 rating among the advertiser-coveted adults 18-49 demographic and 21.5 million viewers (with seven days of DVR). While season nine has hit a string of series lows, Walking Dead still ranks among the top five shows on TV in the demo (excluding sports). Season nine averaged 4.95 million viewers and a 1.9 in adults 18-49 in Nielsen’s same-day ratings, down 37 percent in viewers and 44 percent in the demo versus the comparable season eight numbers.
With the flagship showing signs of age and breakout star Gurira already confirmed to have a reduced role in season 10 before exiting altogether, launching a new series to join lesser-watched spinoff Fear the Walking Dead has become increasingly important. That series, which is on its second showrunner with Andrew Chambliss and Ian Goldberg taking over for co-creator Dave Erickson, returns in June for its fifth season. Season four averaged 2.3 million total viewers last year. The Walking Dead and Fear the Walking Dead rank as the No. 1 and No. 4 cable dramas among adults 18-49 with three days of DVR returns.
“On the heels of an incredible ninth season of The Walking Dead and as we approach an anticipated new season of Fear the Walking Dead on June 2, this is an exciting moment for the Dead franchise, which continues to thrive in a highly competitive environment,” said Sarah Barnett, president of the entertainment networks group at AMC Networks. “We are thankful to be working with some of the best creatives in the business to expand this universe in new and exciting ways for our fans.”
The third Walking Dead series was announced during an AMC press day Monday in New York, where sibling network IFC announced a renewal for comedy Documentary Now, while BBC America announced a large commitment to wildlife content, including network transformation every Saturday for a year. AMC also set premiere dates for The Terror: Infamy (Aug. 12 at 9 p.m.) and season two of Lodge 49 (Aug. 12 at 10 p.m.).
Negrete is repped by UTA and attorney Marc Rindner. Gimple is with UTA and Ziffren Brittenham.
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