Angela Kang, The Walking Dead's showrunner who says it was a dream come true to join the show in Season 2, talks to amc.com about why Rosita died, setting up the spin-offs, and writing stories about people coming to grips with grief and loss.
Q: Out of all the major characters, why was Rosita the one that had to die?
A: Because Christian Serratos and I had a conversation and she said, "I think that the right endpoint for Rosita is that she dies in service of making sure that her child lives." That's something that felt important to Christian. I wasn’t going to kill her at first, but I understood what her point of view was. We continued to talk, and it was just a really good dialogue between us. I think Christian gives this beautiful performance in the finale. I cried when she was doing the scene with Eugene where he figures out that she's been bitten, and I think both of them did such a beautiful, beautiful job. I think Christian is an incredible actor and she really brought it. For those fans that are heartbroken about this character's death, I hope they know this was something that the whole Walking Dead family were in agreement on. It's not something that was imposed upon anybody.
Q: What were the challenges when it came to wrapping up the series, especially when it came to giving a satisfying ending to all of the characters?
A: There are so many challenges, and a lot of them were out of our control. It was really challenging to shoot during Covid, and people are probably sick of hearing that, but it made everything different. It was a longer season than usual. There were more challenges just in that way. We were crunched for time in a way that we've never been before. But in terms of the story challenges, I think when you have a cast that's as large as this one, you're just trying to figure out how do we balance the way that we tell the story and we land people. I think the tactic that we took — this is what we felt worked — is that rather than making the finale about every single person having an equally tiny and probably unsatisfying version of a story, we tried to dole out story throughout the block so that some people are really having their moment to shine a little bit before the finale. We're still seeing that there's a landing point for them and moments of great heroism for them in the finale. So the finale is a little more focused on certain storylines because it felt like organically that was going to be easier to hook into emotionally. But we did think a lot about each person and what was important in terms of a story to tell for them this season. That was something that we tried to track throughout the season as we were working on the story.
Q: What can you reveal about these new variant walkers that we first saw in Episode 19? And are they related to the walkers we see at the very end of The Walking Dead: World Beyond?
A: Yeah, so these walkers in The Walking Dead Universe, we based them a little bit on walkers that we actually saw all the way back in the first season. There’s a scene where you see in the background there's some walkers that start to climb a chain link fence. And we know that one of the most iconic moments is Morgan's walker-fied wife turning the doorknob. And the little girl with the bunny that she seemed to pick up. There was a question of "do they have a consciousness?" Over time, pretty quickly, it moved away from that. But at the time, there were conversations about where else could the walkers go? It felt to me like it made sense in our world that there are things that our people don't know yet. The world is wide and so if you happened to be in this one, small region of Georgia at this one moment in time maybe you saw some of these walkers that did these things, and then they were on the road and never saw them since.
We explored the idea of lurkers, which we've seen sporadically, at the very beginning of the season, but we really made it one of the featured moments of our season to have a bunch of walkers that were sitting there in almost this dormant state. So we know that we have those. We know that the majority of walkers are what we call roamers; they just roam from place to place. We really like the idea of showing that, depending on where you are regionally, you may have different experiences with walkers. They are in a different part of the country now. But even for the Commonwealth, they haven't really experienced this variant, and everybody is used to the rules. That was the genesis of dealing with these walkers. They are part of the mythology, but we decided to do a deep dive into what these walkers could do if they're en masse, which we've never seen before. The World Beyond ending piece was definitely an intentional thing that was worked out as a piece of the Universe. So, again, sometimes there are some variations in what we're seeing from place to place.
Q: Can we talk about Carol? I feel like she’s the MVP of the survivors in so many ways, but how do you guys view her?
A: I think Carol, of all the survivors, has probably come the furthest over time. She started with so little skill for the apocalypse because she'd never really had the opportunity to blossom into the person she could be in life. She was in an abusive marriage. She was focusing on trying to be a great mother and get through her days, and that's a lot. During the apocalypse, she has had to face incredible tragedy. Incredible tragedy. Beyond what anybody should have to deal with. But it just goes to show the strength that she has always had as a person, that in spite of everything that's happened and the incredible losses she's faced, she still gets up every day and tries to put one foot in front of the other and do things to help the people that she loves. I think that’s an incredible testament to her will and to who she is as a character.
That’s one of the things that as a writer really inspires me. I know that a lot of our fandom really love Carol because there’s just a very grounded sense with her. She's not a superhero; she's a normal person who’s strong and forces herself to be strong even when she would rather give up. I think every person has been there at some point in their life. So yeah, she’s learned all the skills! She's really smart. We see her as a character that, if she'd had opportunities in her life, she would have been in such a different place. We think she's one of those people that’s so gifted mentally [that] she's playing 4-D chess in her mind all the time. She never had the opportunities in life before the apocalypse to use those skills really. Now she uses them and has become a leader, an incredible friend, and an incredible mother-like figure to many even if she doesn't have children anymore. She's a character we just adore.
Q: And she cuts her hair at the very end of the series. Why was that?
A: She’s back to short hair! Melissa [McBride] felt like it was time to do something new with the hair, [to] show she's in yet another era of her life. It's not as short as it was at the beginning of things. It's not the longer hair that she had. It's just something else. Carol is a person who’s constantly evolving, so I think that that felt right.
Q: When did you know that there would be spin-offs for Daryl, Maggie & Negan, and Rick & Michonne and how did that affect your plan for the series endgame?
A: We knew that the Daryl spinoff was going to happen essentially when we embarked on the season. The plans changed multiple times over the course of the season, for the spin-off as well as the series, just because it was a really odd time in our global history. The Maggie and Negan spin-off came about somewhere during the course of making the season. The Rick and Michonne spin-off was a late addition. The way that the spin-offs interacted with our storytelling is that we knew these are characters that live, and we're going to try to close a chapter of their story here, but we have to leave a door open for the next story to come. That said, the attitude in general was like, "Let's tell our story now and then the spin-offs will essentially take the handoff and go where they go." For Maggie and Negan, I always had a very clear idea of where that was going to land for a very long time — that predated the work on the spin-off. The stories were going where they were already going by the time some of these were taking shape.
Q: I noticed how a lot of Judith's storyline evoked Rick and Michonne. When she gives the hat to RJ, when she has that conversation with Carol and Daryl about Michonne, and when she says, "Daddy?" after she gets shot. Was all that setting up something for the Rick and Michonne spin-off?
A: In some ways, yes. I think it was more about keeping the idea of Rick and Michonne always alive. But that also felt true to the fact that this is a child, and she knows her mother is out there. Although a lot of time has passed in airtime, not that much time has actually passed in terms of story days from the time that her mother went off. As far as Judith knows, Mom is out there, and Mom is going to come back because she said she would, and she believes her. I think part of what we were thinking about is that, for Judith, Mom and Dad are still top of mind and she's carrying this secret through most of the series. She knows that Mom went to look for Dad and she was really scared that other people she loved would leave her too because of that. That all felt like things that organically tied to her story, but for the sake of the spin-off, it's also helpful to evoke some of those moments as well.
Q: You've been with The Walking Dead since Season 2, and you became the showrunner in Season 9. Can you express what this show has meant to you?
A: I started on this show because I loved it, and I felt so fortunate that I got a job on this show. It was my number one dream job that I wanted to try to get at the time, so it was literally a dream come true. The show has lasted longer than any of us ever thought. My child has grown up on this show. He was born when I was on the show. So this has been an entire era of my life and it has changed my life. It has meant so much to me. The fans have meant so much to me. The people I've worked with have meant so much to me. It's been really special to get to write stories about human beings who are just trying to push forward through grief and loss. The show is always going to occupy such a huge part of my heart.
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