‘The Walking Dead’ Boss on the Rick Grimes Movies, the Series Finale & the Expanded Universe
This is an excerpt from TV Guide Magazine’s The Walking Dead Universe Special Collector’s Issue, which is available for international pre-order online now at TheWalkingDeadMag.com and will be available nationwide on newsstands now.
Want to hear some Walking Dead universe secrets? Well, chief content officer Scott M. Gimple—who knows all after being promoted in 2018 from TWD showrunner to overseer of the franchise—isn’t giving anything away! But during his tenure, the 50-year-old New Jersey native has made some big announcements: the YA limited series The Walking Dead: World Beyond (which joined the flagship and Fear the Walking Dead in 2020), two more series in development plus a set of feature-length films.
“I’m trying to tie it all together—be a helpful Sherpa,” Gimple says. “[My job is] helping the showrunners tell their stories in their voice. I didn’t have that as much [while running TWD], and I like being there for them.” He was especially there for those creative talents—Dead’s Angela Kang, Fear’s Ian Goldberg and Andrew Chambliss and Beyond’s Matt Negrete—this winter, when all three series were in production concurrently for the first time ever following pandemic delays.
Here, Gimple gets (at least a tiny bit) candid.
The final season of Dead will air in three parts, ending in 2022. How far along is that very last episode?
Scott M. Gimple: Angela and the writers have laid out their plan. Production-wise, it’s a long way away, and the story evolves as you tell it. I love what they’ve laid out. It’s a huge order to wrap up the story after 11 seasons, and I think we’ve met the challenge.
Are there plans to bring back any major characters for the final segment of Season 11, such as Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) or—
No, who are you talking to? Yeah, I know; I’m inscrutable.
Where are you in terms of the Rick-centered feature films?
We’re working on the script and we’re in a little R&D in a lot of different areas. Over the last year, we’ve used the time to explore and heighten, and optimize.
One big Dead question mark that involves Rick is the Civic Republic Military (CRM). They’re a massive enemy on World Beyond, but a group of Fear’s survivors were just rescued by their helicopter in the finale—the same kind of copter that abducted Rick. What gives?
The CRM is one connective aspect of the universe, but it’s not going to be the only connective aspect. The way that I’ve been really encouraging us to go about that is making it significant to the characters on the individual shows, to serve their stories. You do get little morsels of the backstory of the CRM. And on Fear, that event definitely illuminates something within the CRM, but it’s very, very specific to character situations on that show. It isn’t to facilitate some deep-cut CRM story.
There are two spinoffs coming: the anthology series Tales of the Walking Dead and an untitled show starring longtime TWD cast members Melissa McBride (Carol) and Norman Reedus (Daryl). Do you know which is first?
It’s a little bit of a race. We’re a relatively small operation, so we juggle a lot. And there could be some dark horse candidates from other things that might jump ahead.
The current trio of series have mostly shied away from the science behind the outbreak, but could that be on the table for Tales or other shows?
I think we can get a little deeper into some of the people who are asking questions about it [with Tales]. There are different places in the universe, even beyond Tales, that might be touching upon that. In World Beyond, there is a science aspect to the next season that gets into walker behavior and people who are studying them in precise ways.
How do you keep the various walker encounters fresh?
It’s something we think about a lot—finding that line where we’re being inventive and keeping it interesting, and keeping it scary. On World Beyond, we had an incredibly messed-up situation that had to do with an emotional tie to a person who became a walker. Then we have straight-up nuclear walkers [on Fear], and there’s some pretty crazy things on Walking Dead coming up. That’s one of the harder things to manage: allowing [each show] to do different things and yet have us all within the same universe. The traffic cop portion of this can be super tricky.
When you think of Dead’s most iconic moments, what tops your list?
The pilot is the blueprint of everything that is great in The Walking Dead. I still watch it a bunch just to take inspiration and try to meet that level of quality. Rick saying “I’m sorry this happened to you” to the Bicycle Girl [Melissa Cowan] is everything. That moment just sticks with you.
When do we get a Walking Dead theme park?
That’s quite a dream. We’ve come close in certain ways with an attraction at Universal [Studios Hollywood]. You never know. I think the food would be super weird—lots of ketchup, stringy meats…like, sell a turkey leg, but with a little shoe on it.
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