On Set With ‘TWD: World Beyond’ Cast: A Brave New World With Big Answers
The Dead universe is expanding — and answering big questions — with its third series, The Walking Dead: World Beyond, which focuses on hopeful teenagers coming of age in a harsh world.
In the adventurous tale, which feels like a callback to the ’80s flick Stand by Me amid the zombie apocalypse, sisters Iris (Aliyah Royale) and Hope (Alexa Mansour), resourceful classmate Elton (Nicolas Cantu) and loner Silas (Hal Cumpston), self-dubbed “The Endlings,” decide to leave their cushy Nebraskan compound of 9,671 survivors for a life-changing adventure. Though they’ve been safely sequestered in the fully functional Midwestern community (called “The University”) since the outbreak went down a decade earlier, a combo of curiosity and an important quest gives them the push they need to venture out beyond the walls.
“Being in a place like [their community] makes them wonder what’s out there,” Cantu notes from the show’s set outside Richmond, Virginia.
Unlike the first Dead spinoff, Fear the Walking Dead, which opened at the crisis’ onset, this new entry is set in roughly the same timeline as the flagship, The Walking Dead — still cable’s most-watched series, with more than 3 million viewers. Beyond was originally supposed to air back in April 2020 but was pushed until October due to the coronavirus.
The Endlings’ mission is to track down Iris and Hope’s scientist father, who is off furthering his research in a remote, off-the-books location with the Civic Republic Military (CRM) — another thing this new series has in common with its predecessor. The suspicious group represented by three interlocking rings is the same as the folks who kidnapped Dead‘s longtime leader Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) in Season 9. But more on that later. It’s an alarming message from their father that spurs Iris and Hope to attempt a cross-country rescue. And despite their shared motivations, Mansour notes that the siblings couldn’t be more opposite: “Iris is the one studying until 4 in the morning, while Hope gets drunk in a locker room,” she says with a laugh.
At its heart, the relatable series is about the bond between sisters, and while Hope is causing trouble, breaking rules, and coping with a serious repercussion from her past, Iris is looking to find a version of herself that’s isn’t obsessed with her grade point average. “She realizes that maybe it’s time to start doing things for herself and not just everyone else,” Royale says. “When she makes that switch, it is a rollercoaster of events.”
As young adults figuring out who they are, how will they handle being truly on their own, not to mention killing an enemy they’ve only learned about in schoolbooks? “There’s a moment when everything you’ve prepared for comes at you in reality,” Royale says. “Obviously, they know what to expect, do, not to do — that all goes so far out the window [once they’re] outside the community.”
Luckily, Elton and Silas tag along, and eventually adults Felix (Younger‘s Nico Tortorella) — the girls’ unofficial guardian — and Huck (Annet Mahendru) catch up, too. They’re security officers, so stopping the empties (local lingo for walkers/zombies) should be easier, but there are threats among the living too. Julia Ormond (Witches of East End) plays charming but secretive Lt. Col. Elizabeth Kublek, CRM leader and a visitor to the Nebraska colony, who will play a role in future chaos.
But does all of these ties to CRM mean we’re about to learn more about what happened to Rick? Quite possibly. “Those three [interlocked] rings on the side of the black helicopter that took him away,” says showrunner Matt Negrete, “are part of a big aspect to this world.” Considering Beyond has a limited run of two seasons, we shouldn’t have to wait long for clues. After the set visit TV Insider attended, Dead boss and Beyond co-creator Scott M. Gimple hopped on the phone, adding, “we’re going to be exploring [CRM], maybe not the exact side of that group that maybe Rick is with, but we will be exploring CRM.”
For now, it’s all about these new, youthful additions to the Dead universe. Gimple teases: “They’re defining who they’re going to be, whether they’re heroes, villains — and by the end of the first season, they’re very, very different.”
But first, before any of that, the Endlings must learn to live among the dead. Royale adds: “They think they’re ready to get down and dirty with these things, but they are not!” Check out the trailer below to watch the group take on some of their first empties.
The Walking Dead: World Beyond, Series Premiere, Sunday, Oct. 4, 10/9c, AMC