Spoilers ahead if you’re not caught up with The Walking Dead, the show’s latest episode, or all of this morning’s related news.
AMC’s The Walking Dead has enjoyed record-setting numbers over its nine seasons while finding success in a spin-off series, Fear the Walking Dead. That is just the beginning for the franchise as far as Chief Content Officer Scott M. Gimple and AMC’s programming president David Madden are concerned. So while the flagship series will continue to sail into the foreseeable future, big things are coming for the franchise overall.
The first big thing was the announcement that Andrew Lincoln‘s Rick Grimes, the face of the franchise up to this point, will continue his journey in a trilogy of films following his departure from the series itself. Gimple and Madden teased a bit about just where they are in the planning and production of these films, but also talked about the greater Walking Dead universe beyond that. It seems like just about anything is on the table at this point–prequels, sequels, spin-offs, more character-centric movies, guest stars, etc.–but here’s what we know so far.
First up, here’s what Gimple had to say about the Rick-focused features to come, the story they’re aiming to tell, and the model they’re basing the approach on, all in a chat with EW:
It is really important for the audience to know that we are going to be continuing to tell the story of Rick Grimes in these AMC Studios original films. We don’t want this thing to be like, “Oh, well, he’ll be back on the show any moment now.” We are telling Rick’s story in another medium, and it’s going to be these AMC Studios original films. They’re going to be on AMC, most probably. They’re centered around Rick Grimes. We’re going to tell the story of what happens after that helicopter flight, and these are going to be big, epic entertainments. Each are quality films. That’s what’s been happening in the industry. We’ve seen Netflix make these, basically, studio films for people to watch in their homes, and we’re going to be doing the same sort of thing here.
We are talking about a trilogy for this Rick Grimes story. It doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the only Rick Grimes stories we’re ever going to tell, and also they’re probably not going to be the only movies that we tell. The Rick Grimes story, of course, is the biggest thing that we’re doing right off the bat, but we’re going to be doing a number of different Walking Dead things over the next few years. A universe of stuff. We’re not going to release it all at once. We’re going to be putting things out over the years for maximum effect. We don’t want to overwhelm folks with it.
In a separate chat with THR, Gimple commented further on the character of Rick and the plans to offer a diverse array of content in the years to come:
“Rick Grimes is an amazing character and Andy has done an amazing performance. There were story ideas brewing that, as the years went on, seemed very compatible with continuing to tell the Rick story in another format that would allow him time with his family … It is about who he is and who he’s going to be — and certainly how he deals with the situation he’s in. We know Rick Grimes, he would want to be home.”
“There is more story to tell and we’ll be telling it … The story of Rick will go on in films. Right now, we’re working on three but there’s flexibility in that … Over the next several years, we’re going to be doing specials, new series are quite a possibility, high-quality digital content and then some content that defies description at the moment. We’re going to dig into the past and see old characters. We’re going to introduce new characters and new situations.
Fans are understandably anxious and excited for the arrival of the Rick Grimes movies, so Gimple shared a brief look at their production timeline (via EW):
I am extremely hard at work on the first one right now, and most likely filming next year, though I’m freaking out about deadlines right now, so I’m not going to tell you exactly when because it will only make me pass out. But it really is going to be sooner than later. On the flip side, these are not going to be made on television schedules. This is going to be on feature schedules, and they’re going to be big, so they’re going to take a minute to make.
Some familiar faces have already been confirmed as appearing in the first film at least. Alongside Rick, you can expect Jadis (Pollyanna McIntosh)(via EW):
She is on that helicopter, so that would be a yes.
Gimple also talked about the plan to move past the trilogy of films into other arenas (via EW):
But we’re going to see all sorts of different Walking Dead projects in all sorts of ways with old standbys, with new voices, which is really important to me. And they’re all going to be very different and distinct from the shows. We have this one show amazing show that is showing the beginning of its civilization, and we have this other show with these folks who are trying to make up for the things that they did. We’re going to be having different entertainments, different narratives within The Walking Dead. Different tone, different characters. We’re also going to see old characters — review some content with old favorites. We get to revisit them and see stories of their past that we might not have shared before.
Since The Walking Dead can now expand across space and time and revisit just about anyone, anywhere, and anywhen that the creative team wants, expect them to mine older material and characters’ stories a bit (via EW):
We’re going to see the past, we’re going to see old characters. We’re going to move into the future with new characters. We’re doing films, we’re doing specials. We’re going to be looking at new series. And even just different expressions of series — not necessarily 16 episodes. We might be doing some mini-series. We’re looking at different ways to tell stories. It’s very important that these be distinct from the other two shows or they really won’t be worth doing. We want to answer questions that the audience had all along. We want to see just different parts of the world. We really want to expand out the breadth of what The Walking Dead can be.
Other characters from the franchise may appear, but the first picture will be told from Rick’s point of view and explore what Gimple called the “vast mythology” behind the other mysterious community looking for “A or B”-type people, as seen in the most recent episode (via THR):
That serves the overall story to this next story we have for Rick … We are going to be introducing a new corner of the world in The Walking Dead and it has its own history, its own rules and its own situations going on. And those absolutely will feed other stories in the universe in an ancillary way. There are aspects of the movie that could result in other content but not utterly directly; we’re not looking at it like it’s a backdoor pilot; these are going to feel more like features.”
Also speaking with THR was AMC programming president David Madden, who offered up his outlook on the continuing franchise, saying, “We look at this as a very long-term proposition,” with the Rick-centric movie being like a “large, big scope movie that will feel like a major motion picture.” The anticipated running time for those movies will be around two hours, with a feature film-level budget. Madden continued:
“We’re trying to expand into as many different places as the show fits. 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.”
For more on The Walking Dead, check out our recent write-ups:
- ‘The Walking Dead’: New Trailer Teases the Evolution of Talkin’ Walkers in Upcoming Episodes
- Norman Reedus, Melissa McBride Sign New ‘Walking Dead’ Franchise Deals; Danai Gurira in Negotiations
- ‘The Walking Dead’: Andrew Lincoln on His Final Episode and Rick Grimes’ Future
- Scott Gimple and Angela Kang on Where ‘The Walking Dead’ Universe Goes from Here
- Andrew Lincoln to Return for Multiple ‘The Walking Dead’ Movies on AMC