The Walking Dead has been renewed for Season 10. This is very much not surprising—despite a ratings slip over the past few seasons, The Walking Dead remains AMC’s flagship series and, across all of television, is still performing quite well. What is surprising is that dealmaking for one of the main castmembers is not yet complete, which means there’s a possibility that we’ve seen the last of Danai Gurira’s Michonne.
The Walking Dead Season 9 was a flex point for the long-running zombie drama, as Andrew Lincoln exited the show in grand fashion. Rick Grimes was not, in fact, killed off as many suspected, but instead was last seen boarding a helicopter to parts unknown. His story will continue in a trilogy of feature films that will air on AMC, written by longtime The Walking Dead showrunner Scott M. Gimple.
Lincoln’s exit paved the way for Norman Reedus (Daryl) to step up as #1 on the call sheet, and per THR Reedus has signed a “franchise/universe” deal alongside co-star Melissa McBride (Carol). Reedus will reportedly be making $350,000 per episode in a deal that could be worth anywhere from $50 million to $90 million when all is said and done, while McBride will score an estimated $20 million over three years.
But given the new existence of a feature film trilogy and an expanded “Walking Dead Universe”, these deals also cover appearances by Reedus and McBride in TWD content that is not the flagship series. That means that if, for some reason, Carol gets killed off in the TV show, the actress may continue working in another spinoff series, a miniseries, or one of the feature films that’s in development. What is dead may never die.
As for Gurira, THR reports that the Michonne actress 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.” This likely means Gurira wanted more flexibility and/or more money for her deal, and she and AMC have yet to come to an agreement. Whether they do or not remains to be seen. Usually these things have a way of working out, but there exists the possibility that Gurira walks away and Michonne is written off the show if a deal can’t be reached. That’s what happened with Lauren Cohan, who couldn’t reach a deal with AMC and instead opted for Maggie to be written off the show.
Whatever happens, clearly AMC has no plans to cancel The Walking Dead anytime soon, and the ratings surprisingly held quite steady in Season 9 after Lincoln’s departure. The aim, it appears, is for the show to be bigger than whatever actor or actress is at its core at any given time, and there exists a legion of fans who will stick with this one until the bitter end.