Get ready for a little Valentine's Day present from the folks at The Walking Dead. When the series resumes its sixth season on AMC on Sunday, you can expect a bloody thinning of the survivor herd, promises executive producer Gale Anne Hurd.
“At this point, you can't even fit [the cast] in the same frame,” said Hurd. “I wouldn't say that we're 'Red Wedding' it, but it's a dangerous world, and there are so many dangers that they're facing from within. We've seen some indications that not everyone in Alexandria necessarily is with the program. Now we've introduced the specter of Negan, and obviously we still have the walkers out there ... and it's not as if the Wolves have been terminated, either. So, the stakes are greater and graver than ever.”
During the first half of Season 6, the survivors battled a massive herd of walkers that eventually breached the walls of Alexandria. Deanna got bitten, Rick's gang was separated, and Rick employed the “smear yourself with walker guts” trick from Season 1 to avoid becoming walker chow. When the second half returns, we'll learn who's going to survive those dangers.
“Rick has assumed his Ricktatorship...his 'My way or the highway' mantel. He has seen the value of Alexandria and he wants to save it. He wants it to last...with a different person in charge.”
One major battle ahead involves Carol and Morgan and what started between them in the first part of the season over whether or not to kill one of the Wolves that Morgan captured. Morgan had been holding him in a basement in an attempt to convince the evildoer to give up his heinous ways, only to have him escape while Morgan and Carol were fighting.
“Our characters, especially Morgan and Carol, have endured a lot. They've endured such great heartbreak. And they've both found different ways to survive. And they're in interesting places right now with Morgan having eschewed violence, having gone from truly, 'If it moves kill it, whether it's human or walker,' as we saw in Season 4, to Carol. Without her, our group would have died at Terminus. She can't understand where Morgan is coming from,” said Hurd.
“And our characters are constantly grappling with that. They are constantly grappling with, 'Can you maintain your humanity?'”
That humanity will be challenged even further by the arrival of Negan, who will be played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan, at the end of the season.
“We're really excited. We have such a strong cast and to add Jeffrey Dean Morgan...” said Hurd. Morgan (as in Jeffrey Dean), who has played a variety of strong movie and recurring television roles over the years – including starring in Watchmen, playing Sam and Dean's dad on Supernatural, embodying Izzie Stevens' fiancé and ghost on Grey's Anatomy, and taking on the sexy mysterious investigator on The Good Wife – seems perfect for the role as one of the most dangerous characters The Walking Dead survivors are likely to run into.
“The thing about Negan, if you don't read the comic books, he's completely charming...He's the kind of leader who, in a sense, is predictable and unpredictable at the same time. He's definitely in charge and he charms you right before he kills you, but in a different way than the Governor. He really knows what it is he's doing. Whereas I think the Governor was a bit deluded as to, was he a good guy or not a good guy. We got to see an interesting side of the Governor with his daughter, Penny.
“Negan's not going to have a Penny. He's got a very strong relationship with his baseball bat, very close and personal...Negan has named his bat Lucille, that's wrapped with barbed wire.”
“When you think about a world in chaos and you think about world filled with terror, that's when leaders like this emerge. They are strong and what you get is protection,” she said.
Yes, and occasionally they are psychopaths.
“Very frequently, they're psychopaths,” said Hurd with a laugh. “They're the ones that have complete belief in themselves as leaders. It's almost like they were divinely chosen.”
In the comics, Negan kills Glenn with Lucille, something that's been debated furiously considering Glenn's non-death on the TV series earlier this season.
When it comes to Glenn's going MIA, “everyone says this is a trick or some kind of stunt, but actually the discussion that happened was, how do we put our viewers in the shoes of the characters back in Alexandria?” said Hurd. “You can't find your iPhone app GPS to locate somebody. It is truly communication person to person. And that was the only way to do it. We got to experience that through Maggie, who was, like, 'I believe he's alive.' Other people felt if he's been gone this long and he said he'd be back or he must not have made it. And as audience members, we had to endure that same bit of time not knowing.”
So, will Glenn die this season? Considering Walking Dead has been notorious for switching up major deaths and events when it comes to its source material, Hurd promises no one's really safe.
As the season progresses, what you can expect, according to Hurd, is that things will and won't be exactly like the comic book series. “There couldn't be anyone more pleased than Scott Gimple, our fearless leader, who was a fan of the comic book before he became associated with the show, that we have the comic book as a guide. It's not a blueprint, but it's definitely a guide as to the characters that we're following. It's not always the same character that meets their end as in the comic books,” she said.
“In the comic books, Andrea has been alive for a long time. There is no Daryl in the comic books. And we do try to bring frames to life. Like the fight between Pete and Rick. There's a frame of them busting through the window. Those are the Easter eggs for the comic book fans.”
Here's the first four minutes of The Walking Dead, which returns to AMC on Sunday, Feb. 14 at 9 p.m. ET.