Reedus has however confirmed that he’ll share an “epic” scene with his old playmate Lincoln in episode 4 of the upcoming season, a sequence he claimed was the most challenging he’s ever had to film on The Walking Dead.
Daryl has, of course, had his fair share of emotionally intense moments. But by Reedus’s reckoning, an upcoming Rick and Daryl scene is even more emotional than, say, Beth’s death or the execution of zombie Merle.
“It was really well-written and we worked on it, and we really fine-tuned it and got it to a place where it became sort of effortless,” the star said. “It could’ve gone in so many different directions, but I think both of us are really proud of that.”
The Walking Dead has traditionally made rural landscapes its stomping grounds woods, farmyards, small towns but season nine is set to shake things up aesthetically, starting with a trip to Washington DC.
“Getting a chance to get into DC, I couldn’t help but think about the opening to [1985 zombie movie classic] Day of the Dead, where you’re seeing the desolate open city,” said executive producer and special effects guru Greg Nicotero.
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Above: The opening to Day of the Dead
Citing another film influence on the new season, Nicotero added: “We even did a shot that was reminiscent of the last shot of Planet of the Apes.” You maniacs!
AMCJackson Lee Davis
Though The Walking Dead will continue to push forward with the time jump, we’ll see the last remnants of old society continue to crumble.
With fuel running out and bullets hard to come by, our survivors will be relying more on hand-held weapons, and horses to get around.
“There are ways in which the world regresses, which is very interesting,” hinted Michonne actress Danai Gurira. “To step forward a bit was very refreshing. But we’re getting almost medieval at the same time as we’re moving forward.”
“Nature’s taking over, man-made structures are falling down and that provides challenges to our group,” said new showrunner Kang. “We see how intrepid they are, and how clever they are, in facing these challenges.”
With a sprawling cast of 20 series regulars, it can sometimes be difficult for The Walking Dead to give every character their due.
Kang has promised “great material” this season for the entire cast, but has also indicated that there’ll be a renewed focus on the show’s most enduring characters.
“These are relationships that the audience has invested in for many, many years and we really love writing for them,” she said. “You will see a lot more screen time for some of these relationships, with Daryl and Carol [Melissa McBride], Rick and Maggie [Lauren Cohan], Michonne and Rick you just want to dive deep into these relationships because there’s a lot of emotional weight to them.”
In addition to Andrew Lincoln departing the series, Lauren Cohan is also expected to exit The Walking Dead this year as Maggie Rhee. Could their feud instigated by Rick’s decision to save Negan last season end up costing them both their lives?
“We left on a pretty sharp note, a little tense,” Cohan said. “There’s a lot of conflict, but it’s conflict between people who love each other that are all working towards what should be a bigger, brighter, stronger future.”
But according to Cohan, that future “looks different for everybody, and that’s what we get to go into”.
“They’re not at each other’s throats, but they’re still not really down with the decisions that [each other has] made,” added Nicotero.
Absolution for the man who battered Glenn to death with a barbed-wire baseball bat?
Jeffrey Dean Morgan doesn’t think it’s out of the question now that Negan’s reign of terror is over and he’s being held prisoner by his nemesis Rick.
“I think there is redemption to be had for Negan whether or not we see that,” Morgan said.
“I think all the characters are going through some changes, and Negan is in that category. He’ll start the season in a position that you’ve never seen Negan before. And he’s going to have to learn to deal with it.”
Wild as it might sound, Lauren Cohan even thinks that Maggie might eventually forgive Negan for his brutal butchery. “I think it’s going to be interesting, because we all have ideas about what we would do in certain situations and who we want to be and the legacy we want to leave. And when it really comes down to it, what do you do? That’s what the season’s about.”
With promises of an overhaul under new showrunner Kang, Norman Reedus has described the next 16 episodes as “a very female-driven season” with stories being “told in a different way”.
“It’s less bravado and more real depth this year,” he promised. “It feels like we’re shooting a Western, with feeling.”
And with zombies, naturally.
The Walking Dead returns to AMC on Sunday, October 7 in the US. The series is available on FOX and NOW TV in the UK.
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Reviewed and Recommended by Erik Baquero