The Walking Dead showrunner previews the newcomers on the way

Andrew Lincoln’s time on The Walking Dead is growing ever shorter. And Lauren Cohan will soon be off the show for at indeterminate amount of time as well while filming Whiskey Cavalier for ABC. But as always with The Walking Dead, as some characters leave, others arrive. And there will be quite a few arriving later this season.

Not only will we meet another entire group of survivors, but the next iconic group of antagonists from the comic book, the Whisperers, will be making their presence felt as well. We spoke to showrunner Anegla Kang to get some insight on what to expect from both these groups, and how they will differ from their comic book origins.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: In the comic books there is a new group that shows up right after the time-jump, led by a woman named with Magna, and we saw in the season 9 trailer they are on the way here as well. What can you say about adapting them for the screen?
ANGELA KANG: It’s been really fun for us to work on this new group that comes in. Magna and Yumiko are fan favorites. And then we really were into the idea of having an interesting group that’s with them. Luke, Connie, and Kelly. Those are all characters in the comic book. It’s our sort of take on them. And what’s been great is obviously [Walking Dead comic creator Robert Kirkman] is so generous about how we adapt his comics. None of these characters are literal to the way they are in the comic book, but they’re still true to the spirit of these characters. And we really like the idea of having a group that felt kind of different from the other groups that we’ve seen come up on the show.

Different how?
One of the things is they feel quite international. Nadia Hilker, who plays Magna, she’s of German and Middle Eastern descent, and she has a little bit of an accent because she grew up in Germany. Eleanor Matsuura, who plays Yumiko, she’s of Japanese descent but she grew up in the U.K., so she has a British accent. Dan Fogler is Luke, and he’s sort of a different type than the Luke in the comics, and he brings great comedic chops and warmth and fun to the role.

And then we cast the wonderful Lauren Ridloff, who was on Broadway in Children of a Lesser God. She’s a deaf actress. And then Angel Theory as Kelly, she also has hearing loss, and so both of them sign with each other. And we thought it’d be really great to have a group that knows how to communicate in a different way. All of these characters in some ways know some ASL, and they sign to each other. They’re just so tight. They have leaned on each other.

That’s been really fun for us from the writing side, to have this different grouping of characters. It’s almost if you followed a parallel story of The Walking Dead, that this could be another group you could have followed because they’ve been through a lot of the same kinds of difficulties that our characters have, but they have found each other. They found themselves on the road much longer than our characters have, and so they have some different skills, and they’re tough. They’re tough and they love each other. And these actors are really sweet. Our cast who was already on the show absolutely has embraced them, and loves them, and so it’s been really fun for everyone to have this new energy on set.

I was able to watch the cast meet Lauren for the first time and that was very cool. Let’s talk about another big group — obviously, we saw in the trailer that the Whisperers and their leader, Alpha, are coming. It looks like they’re going be introduced very similarly to how they are in the comic, judging by what you showed. What does their presence here mean for this coalition of communities? And how exciting is it bringing a group that you know comic book readers are really pumped to see?
There will definitely be some pieces that will be very familiar to people who are readers of the comics in terms of the introduction of the Whisperers and that story. But there will also be some surprises in the way that it plays out. We definitely have all been looking forward to adapting this storyline. I think it’s such a fascinating brilliant storyline in the comic book, and we just want to do justice to it because it’s something that fans have been really looking forward to.

We’ve cast the amazing Samantha Morton as Alpha, and just couldn’t be more excited to show off her work in the season. And we’ve just been doing a lot of work on how to play the mysterious elements of that story, and to hopefully reveal things in the show in a way that’s satisfying as it was to those of us that were reading the comic books in real time as they were coming out. I hope people will tune in for it ’cause it’s definitely one of the more fun things that we’ve worked on.

For more Walking Dead intel, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

Related Links:

  • Goodbye, Andy! Walking Dead actors past and present write tributes to Andrew Lincoln
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  • Steven Yeun talks candidly about race, casting, and a career that is heating up

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