The Walking Dead Season 11 interview: Angela Kang on ending a zombie saga

PHOTO: AMC

The Walking Dead is ending.

It almost doesn’t feel real - especially since the show's supersized final season is set to run over two whole years with three separate blocks of episodes.

The zombie saga has spanned over 150 episodes and 11 seasons, introducing new characters and killing old ones off mercilessly in all that time.

In Season 9, it did the unspeakable and bid farewell to series lead Rick Grimes - but somehow, the show has shambled on with new stories that arguably have even higher stakes. Still, all good things must come to an end.

We talked to showrunner Angela Kang about reaching the endpoint of a TV series she’s worked on for years, and what fans might expect from this final season.

What are Negan and Maggie going to get up to? Who holds Eugene’s group captive? What will happen to longtime favourites like Carol and Daryl? Read on, and find out.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

This is The Walking Dead’s longest season yet - stretching over two years, three mini-arcs and 24 episodes. In terms of the story and its scope, what can fans expect to feel new and different this season?

Angela Kang: This is such a large, supersized season. But as with every season of The Walking Dead, we will constantly have rolling stories that are coming out of each little mini-arc.

We’re going to meet different groups of people that are unlike groups we've met before. That brings different kinds of challenges and opportunities for our people. Even just the ways that they're interacting with walkers are a little bit different.

So I think there's hopefully just lots of fun variety for fans who like different things to watch and enjoy.

I think I audibly gasped at the end of Season 10, when Negan gave Maggie a wicked smirk to cap off the finale. It looks like those tensions haven’t eased in Season 11 - so where are these characters headed next, and what stories does the show plan to explore through them?

Angela Kang: With these two, there's so little trust between them, for obvious reasons.

That gives us a really good chance to explore themes related to...you know, can somebody be rehabilitated? Can they find redemption after doing really dark things? What can bring people to the point of forgiveness, and is forgiveness even necessary? Is it something that can give them both peace? Or is it something that will really only benefit one person?

We really liked this idea of, can two enemies learn to work together in spite of their differences? So all of those things are just themes that we wanted to delve into and questions we asked ourselves as writers and creatives.

And you know, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Lauren Cohan really work incredibly well together. So we've just been excited to play with this dynamic over time, because there's definitely ups and downs in the journey along the way.

Characters like Carol and Daryl have been with the show since the start. How challenging is it to keep these characters and their dynamic feeling exciting and fresh, so many years later?

Angela Kang: It's always a challenge. Every year, we come into things and we go, “Well, where is everybody at? What do we want to explore with them? What’s new? If they are stuck in a certain dynamic, how are they? How much are they aware of it? What can we do with that?"

With Carol and Daryl, in particular, we've told stories that are sometimes about the two of them together. We had a lot of stories with the two of them together in season 10. And sometimes they are on their own parallel journeys before they come back together.

That’s kind of how we start off this season. Carol and Daryl are on their own journeys, and that allows them to explore different dynamics, but those two are always kind of pulled together.

So I think with a lot of our characters, it's sort of the same thing. Like there are times when they're locked with certain characters that they're close to. And other times they're trying to figure something out on their own or with somebody else.

We know that Season 11 consists of eight mini-arcs, but what separates these blocks of episodes from each other? Do they all tell one long story, or three distinct ones instead?

Angela Kang: I would say it's a little bit of both. There's definitely a story arc that is carrying across, but it takes more prominence at different times.

But then also within each block, there are storylines that kind of become the main story that we're following.

Without spoiling too much for the future, each arc is part of a whole, and there are also things that are unique to each arc as well.

I love how this series always manages to up the ante with the Walkers’ practical effects. What can we expect in terms of walker scares this season?

Angela Kang: What's been really interesting is that because of the COVID pandemic, we've had to kind of learn different ways of working with the walkers for safety.

But we're still always looking to do different things with the walkers. I think I can safely say that over the course of the story, there are some really cool walkers featured.

Some scares come from other directions, where we wanted to make this feel like its own horror movie.

Eugene’s group is facing an entirely different threat. What does this new group of armoured soldiers bring to the table this season?

Angela Kang: When Eugene’s group runs across them, they're just these almost like faceless, scary super soldiers.

And so I think they're just trying to figure out if this group is just purely bad guys or if they're good. We know they're incredibly organized.

And then our people will start to have different interactions with this group of soldiers over time, sometimes in ways that will just twist and turn upon itself. So it's really going to change over time.

The final season of a TV series you’ve been working on for something like 10 years is just on the brink of kicking off. What’s the feeling from the creative team right now? Are you already getting nostalgic for the show, or is it full pedal to the metal on production?

Angela Kang: It's a little bit of both. You know, most days, because we're right smack in the middle of making the show… We're still writing the scripts, we're still shooting the episodes, we're still editing the episodes.

We spend a lot of time just trying to get it ready in time to share with the fans.

But I find myself thinking a lot about the past and remembering past cast members and scenes that were just really important. I know for a lot of the longtime cast, it feels that way too.

There's so much in our production that just evokes nostalgia. We have pictures of all of the past cast members up on walls, and we have locations on our studio lot that are named after certain characters or certain events that happened there.

This is a show where people respect the history that came before, and we're all kind of sentimental people. It's definitely something that's always kind of brewing in the backdrop.

For now, we also just have to keep moving forward, making what we make, but I know that there are going to be lots of tears coming sometime soon.

New episodes of The Walking Dead Season 11 premiere weekly on AMC.

ALSO READ: The Walking Dead movie on hold due to Covid-19 but will be 'worth the wait'

This article was first published in hardwarezone.