- Warning: There are spoilers ahead for season 11, episode 16 of “The Walking Dead,” “Acts of God.”
“The Walking Dead” may have wrapped filming on its finale episode on March 30, but there’s still plenty for showrunner Angela Kang to do to carry the apocalyptic drama’s final eight episodes across the finish line.
“It’s surreal. It’s the best way I can put it,” Kang told Insider over
of filming on the series being complete. “It definitely feels like the end of an era in some ways, but for a lot of us that are finishing out the show, I still have like six months of intensive post-work, and finishing work, and PR and marketing. That alone is a full-time job.”
When asked if that work also includes 2023’s untitled “Carol and Daryl” series that Kang will oversee next, she politely declined to answer, only offering that she’s “super focused” on finishing the flagship series and “very happy” that the universe continues to grow.
The cast has been working 17 to 18 months straight to bring the show’s final 30 episodes to air. Cast members, including Josh McDermitt and Ross Marquand, have told Insider about the show’s grueling work schedule for its extended 24-episode final season.
Kang, who started on the series as a writer on season two, admitted it’s been an “exhausting” journey, but one they loved.
After the series completed filming, the cast and crew celebrated with a big wrap part the first weekend of April in which Kang said no one wanted to acknowledge the series is actually ending after 12 years. “TWD” premiered on AMC on October 31, 2010.
“It doesn’t feel totally real yet,” Kang said of the show being over. “It was something that a lot of our cast was saying as they were wrapping going, ‘This doesn’t feel like it’s happening. Is this real? This feels so weird. It’s like a dream.'”
That makes sense.
Though filming is done, there are still eight episodes of “TWD” left to air. So the series isn’t really over, yet. Hopefully, when the time comes for the final premiere, the close-knit cast and crew will get to share a proper public farewell as was customary for the show’s first decade with packed rooms at conventions in San Diego and New York.
“Nobody’s saying goodbye. This is just, I’m gonna see you later,” Kang said. “We’re gonna know each other the rest of our lives. That’s kind of been the attitude.”
“So that’s been really lovely — but it’s definitely — it was very emotional. A lot of tears were shed. I cried like a baby many times,” Kang revealed, adding, “It was really beautiful to celebrate with the group. I’ll say that that was really wonderful. We ended on a high note, which was great.”
As the show enters its final hiatus, Insider spoke with Kang about ending (believe it or not) what is still one of cable TV’s most-watched shows, how the pandemic and other factors changed the upcoming series finale, star Norman Reedus’ influence on a major death scene on Sunday’s episode, her thoughts on the “Maggie and Negan” spinoff getting announced early (it wasn’t her call), and whether or not we’ll get resolutions to some open-ended storylines before the flagship series ends (in short, yes).
Angela Kang is ‘happy’ with ‘TWD’ finale and acknowledges the series’ ending could’ve been different if there wasn’t a pandemic and spinoffs.
Insider: I have to apologize because one of the last times we spoke, you mentioned that you knew how “The Walking Dead” ended and I realized I was so caught up in your response that I failed to ask the obvious question, which is, “Are you happy with the ending that you guys have for the show?”
And what I mean by that is, I don’t know if this is what you were originally working towards pre-COVID or if the ending you have now is the result of everything culminating into one final season, plus having to set up the “Carol and Daryl” spinoff, the Negan and Maggie spinoff, “Isle of the Dead,” and maybe a movie. Are you happy with the ending you have and do you feel like it satisfies fans who have been on this journey for 12 years?
Kang: I’ll say I am happy with the ending we have. I really hope it satisfies the fans that have been with us all these years. Everybody worked really hard on it. I think that anything that we do creatively is obviously affected by the circumstances around it because things aren’t made in a vacuum.
So if it wasn’t a pandemic, if it wasn’t a 24-episode season, if there weren’t spinoffs would we have ended it differently? Probably. But that doesn’t mean that what we have done within these circumstances, isn’t something that we aren’t proud of.
But that doesn’t mean that what we have done within these circumstances, isn’t something that we aren’t proud of. We are still proud of this and feel that there’s a lot for people to really love. So that’s my best hope. It’s interesting to think about the theoreticals because of course, you know, you change any one factor, and everything changes.
You could just go down a rabbit hole.
I have a quick question. Is there a chance that we may receive a 90-minute “Walking Dead” series finale or an extra-long farewell episode because you guys were filming that finale episode for almost all of March?
We were filming it for a while. [laughter] That remains to be seen. We’ll see what happens.
Kang didn’t know the Maggie and Negan spinoff was going to be announced while writing the finale season.
Do you wish that the Maggie/Negan spinoff, “Isle of the Dead,” maybe wasn’t announced until after the 11B finale? Were you surprised that was announced? I ask because I thought it took a little bit out of the big fight between Maggie and Leah, which was so good by the way on Sunday’s episode, but it would’ve felt like the stakes were a bit higher for Maggie’s safety if it wasn’t announced.
Yeah, you know, I can’t really comment on the movements of these kinds of things. I definitely, when we were writing the season and filming it, we did not know that it was going to be announced. So maybe things would’ve been handled a little differently, but, you know, that’s above my pay grade.
Norman Reedus weighed in on how Leah’s death scene should go down. Dialogue between Daryl and Leah was considered.
On Sunday’s finale, I was a little shocked that Daryl just shoots Leah right in the back of the head and she never even sees it coming or knows it’s him. They never share another interaction.
Did you ever consider having some dialogue between the two? Why was this the way to leave things? I thought maybe you had bigger plans for her to join up with the Civic Republic Military for some future showdown.
Oh, that’s interesting. With Leah, we went through many, many iterations of the story and I think we even had an iteration where Daryl and Leah had more of a conversation, but this is one of the cases where in collaboration with our actors, Norman, really was feeling like, “I don’t even think I’d have anything left to say to her. If I came in and just saw Maggie in danger, I would take her out at that point.”
So, in this case, we wanted to also respect the actor’s feelings about where he felt his character was at that point in the story. So, yeah, there could have been an iteration with more conversation, but I think this iteration makes sense, too. Sometimes there’s alternate at realities. It could be one thing and it could be another thing and this is the particular path we went down.
But I think for Daryl, the feeling was, he’d given her some big chances and he just was like, “Well, you know what? She’s too far gone.” She’s too far gone and Maggie’s in danger and I’m never gonna hesitate for a second because she’s my family.
How many chances can you give someone? The last words that he says to her hint that if he sees her again, he’ll kill her. And he’s a man of his word.
Yeah, that’s right.
There are creative pandemic limitations in every episode we’ve seen since filming during the pandemic began.
The last time we spoke, you said that there were some pandemic limitations making the 11A finale that made you guys get realistic and shrink down the scope of the episode a bit. Did you get everything that you wanted in the 11B finale or did you have to make some compromises at all again? I think this is a stronger finale than season 11, episode eight.
Oh, interesting. Thank you. I think, throughout the season, it’s really there are limitations in every episode.
It definitely got a little easier to deal with certain things as the season went on and the pandemic got a little bit better at times. But, there are just certain things that really, for safety reasons, we did differently the entire two years that we were working on all of this. We try to make it as invisible as possible. But I think that it’s kind of like at every level of production and writing and producing, it’s all there. It’s all just kind of in the fabric of what we were doing.
But I think we also, as writers, got better at navigating some of that over time because when we were first getting into it, all of it was new. We kept running into things going “Oh, we thought that that would be easier to pull off and it wasn’t.” These things are really difficult and expensive and hard to navigate. So maybe we do it this way instead. I think we got a little more used to it, but the limitations are definitely still there.
Kang is proud of the show’s diversity both on-screen and behind-the-scenes to make sure ‘TWD’ showed people from all backgrounds.
You’ve been on this ride since season two. When you look back at the legacy of “The Walking Dead,” what is one of the things this show has been able to do or maybe show on-screen that you’re most proud of?
A few things that stand out to me are putting women front and center as the leaders of so many communities, the show’s dedication to one of the most diverse casts on TV, and not being afraid to build a fictional world that’s reflective of the one around us. When you look at the diverse couples on the show [the majority are LGBTQ+ or interracial], I think it has really helped pave the way for other series. Can you speak to any of those or anything else that comes to mind?
That’s definitely been something I’m really proud of on the show. It’s something that we worked very hard on and very deliberately on. I’m proud that our legacy has been, that we’ve tried — and I can’t say that we’ve been perfect because we all have our … we make mistakes, we have regrets, we stumble, but we at least try.
I think, for us, it was important to try to show a world that feels like the world that we know and live in. We’ve had a diverse writing staff. We have a lot of women who are producers on our show in high positions. We always felt that the characters on our show, regardless of what their background is, should all have the opportunity to be heroes.
I think for a lot of us that work on the show, we’ve all talked with each other about watching TV and movies growing up and going, “I didn’t see anybody like myself,” and that sucks. So let’s try to put more people that might be reflective of communities that don’t get to see a lot of themselves on the screen. I think that that’s something that I’m really, really happy that we could do and that people supported that worked on the show.
Nobody ever like said, “Oh, do we wanna tone this down or whatever?” They’re just like, “Go for it. Go for it. Show whatever couples you want, show whatever people being leaders and being awesome that you want.” So that is something that I’m really, really happy I had the opportunity to do on this show.
The final 8 episodes of ‘TWD’ will offer some ‘resolution’ to open-ended story threads and Lance Hornsby has ‘memorable moments’ to come.
I’m being told that I have to wrap. Going into this final hiatus, can you tease anything for the next batch of episodes? What are you looking forward to people seeing — maybe something about Lance’s descent into this Harvey Dent/Two-Face character and will there be payoff for unresolved storylines?
Where’s Virgil? Where’s Luke? And, most importantly, will anyone ever learn that Michonne went searching for Rick?
I will say that there will be some resolution to some threads that are hanging out there. The tensions will continue to ramp up. There will be lots of twists and turns, which hopefully people will find fun and surprising.
Hornsby, I think has been a lot of fun for us to write for, but also the actor, Josh Hamilton, is just fantastic. He really has some memorable moments coming up, so I’m excited for people to see that.
For people who are feeling nostalgic — there’s definitely — we had some nostalgia writing, so there’s gonna be some stuff that’s a nod to some of the history of the show, which, hopefully people will like and we will dive into some of these characters and who they are now and how we are gonna kind of end them for the series. So I hope you will watch.
You can follow along with “TWD” universe coverage all season long here. This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.