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The basic-cable network said Wednesday that the previously announced 11th season of the zombie drama will be its last — and will be supersized to 24 episodes, up from its traditional 16 — to stretch over two years. Paired with the six previously announced episodes that were tacked on to season 10, there are 30 remaining episodes of the flagship Walking Dead series from creator Robert Kirkman that will air through late 2022.
Additionally, AMC continues to expand its larger Walking Dead world and has handed out a straight-to-series order for a drama following fan-favorites Norman Reedus (Daryl) and Melissa McBride (Carol). The untitled series — the franchise’s third spinoff — is scheduled to launch in 2023, after the flagship completes its run. What’s more, Walking Dead chief content officer Scott M. Gimple is also developing a scripted anthology series, Tales of the Walking Dead, that will feature individual episodes or arcs featuring new or existing characters, backstories or other stand-alone stories.
Should Tales move forward, it would join spinoffs Fear the Walking Dead (which returns for its sixth season Oct. 11) and two-season limited series The Walking Dead: World Beyond (bowing Oct. 4) as well as the Reedus-McBride entry, with the latter overseen by flagship showrunner Angela Kang. A trilogy of films built around former leading man Andrew Lincoln (Rick) are also in the works via Universal Pictures.
“It’s been 10 years ‘gone bye’; what lies ahead are two more to come and stories and stories to tell beyond that,” Gimple said, in a nod to the pilot. “What’s clear is that this show has been about the living, made by a passionate cast, team of writer-producers, producers and crew, bringing to life the vision put forth by Robert Kirkman in his brilliant comic — and supported by the best fans in the world. We have a lot of thrilling story left to tell on TWD, and then, this end will be a beginning of more Walking Dead — brand new stories and characters, familiar faces and places, new voices and new mythologies. This will be a grand finale that will lead to new premieres. Evolution is upon us. The Walking Dead lives.”
News that The Walking Dead will wrap its run arrives little over a year after Kirkman, in a surprise move, wrapped his Skybound comics series that serves as inspiration for the AMC series. Since AMC launched The Walking Dead on Halloween in 2010, the show has become a ratings behemoth and made history as the highest-rated series in the history of cable TV. The flagship series ranks as the first cable series to become the No. 1 show across all of television, including broadcast, and held that distinction for five years in a row. While early seasons continued to grow as the series became a global sensation — it memorably launched day-and-date around the world — the flagship’s ratings have softened considerably in recent years as TWD has weathered a string of high-profile cast departures, including Lincoln, Danai Gurira (Michonne) and Steven Yeun (Glenn), among others. The season nine finale, for example, was the show’s lowest-rated ever. It wasn’t until this year that The Walking Dead lost its position as the most-watched series on basic cable (it was bested by Paramount Network’s Kevin Costner drama Yellowstone).
“I look forward to digging in with our brilliant writers, producers, directors, cast and crew to bring this epic final chapter of Robert Kirkman’s story to life for our fans over the next two years,” said Kang, who has been with the series since 2011 and was elevated to showrunner in season nine. “The Walking Dead flagship series has been my creative home for a decade and so it’s bittersweet to bring it to an end, but I could not be more excited to be working with Scott Gimple and AMC to develop a new series for Daryl and Carol. Working with Norman Reedus and Melissa McBride has been a highlight of my career and I’m thrilled that we get to keep telling stories together.”
Reedus and McBride, who both started with the series in season one, inked groundbreaking “franchise/universe” deals with AMC in late 2018. Those multiple-year pacts, the first of its kind for AMC, included sizable pay raises for both stars and covered three years of the franchise as a whole, meaning if their characters are written off of the flagship and relocated to another property in the Walking Dead franchise — i.e. their new spinoff — they would continue to get paid. At the time, sources said Reedus — who also hosts and exec produces AMC’s unscripted motorcycle series Ride With Norman Reedus — would make $350,000 per episode on top of additional guarantees and advances in a deal that could be worth anywhere from $50 million to $90 million. “This show changed my life and career and everyone involved has truly been a family for me over the last decade. I’m thankful for AMC’s love and support and know there’s so much more story to tell and so much more to bring the best fans in the world,” Reedus said. “Daryl’s relationship with Carol has always been my favorite relationship on the show (sorry, Rick). I love the way these characters interact and relate to each other on so many levels and can’t wait to see where their ride goes from here.”
McBride’s deal, which also included a sizable pay bump, saw the actress score an estimated $20 million over three years. The pacts are described as groundbreaking in that they stretch beyond traditional series/overall deals and allow both Reedus and McBride — who started as recurring in 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 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. “I’ve always enjoyed working so closely with Norman throughout these many seasons. In playing Carol, and as a viewer of the show, I’ve also long been intrigued with ‘Daryl and Carol,’ and by what so early on between them, even then, felt somehow bound,” McBride said. “Their shared history is long, and each’s own personal fight to survive, even longer — the more obvious aspect of what has kept them close and loyal. But there is also a rather mysterious aspect to their fondness for one another that I enjoy, and their playfulness when the world permits. I’m very curious! Angela has a way of shaking things up in great and unexpected ways. She’s like a kid playing with the dimmer switch! I’m very excited!”
“The Walking Dead made television history, and is one of those rare creative works that has given life to an entire content universe that is still in the early stages of growing and entertaining both new and established fans,” said Ed Carroll, chief operating officer of AMC Networks. “We can’t wait to bring viewers this expanded final season of The Walking Dead over the next two years, and launch the fourth series in the history of the franchise, focused on the beloved Daryl and Carol characters, with the incredibly talented Norman Reedus, Melissa McBride, Angela Kang and Scott M. Gimple. There really is so much ‘walking’ ahead, in a number of very exciting directions, for this extraordinary creative universe we call The Walking Dead.”
The decision to wrap up its signature hit arrives as Carroll has taken on oversight of the cable group on an interim basis following the July 30 announcement that AMC Networks Entertainment Group and AMC Studios president Sarah Barnett was stepping down. The exec, who also oversaw BBC America, officially exited the company this week. Barnett previously took over for David Madden, who inherited AMC from Charlie Collier, with the latter having promoted Gimple to turn The Walking Dead into the massive TV franchise that it is today.
Created by Kirkman, The Walking Dead is a multi-billion-dollar franchise when considering that there are two different lines of merchandising, covering both the TV series and the comics. That means two editions of things ranging from board games, toys and apparel, among other things. The series has also been the source of legal disputes over profits between AMC and original showrunner Frank Darabont, Kirkman and fellow exec producers including Gale Anne Hurd, David Alpert, Charles Eglee and Glen Mazzara. The cable network scored a huge win in July when a judge ruled that the company correctly interpreted contracts on the key issue of licensing fees for the series in the dispute between Kirkman and fellow EPs. The Darabont and CAA suit, meanwhile, is scheduled to go to trial next year, potentially ending what’s already been a seven-year battle.
AMC’s scripted roster currently includes the three Walking Dead shows, the upcoming sixth and final season of Breaking Bad prequel Better Call Saul, 61st Street and National Anthem, The Terror and Dispatches From Elsewhere, with the latter two awaiting word on their futures.
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William Jackson Harper