There are "endless" stories to be told in AMC's Walking Dead Universe, says chief Sarah Barnett, who is backing the expansion of the franchise now under the creative charge of chief content officer Scott Gimple. When spinoff The Walking Dead: World Beyond premieres on the network in the spring, joining The Walking Dead and Fear the Walking Dead, AMC will for the first time air an unprecedented 42 Sundays of original zombie premieres throughout 2020. Because Barnett has declared the network won't be "imitating anyone, even ourselves," other projects set in this universe won't mimic the flagship series, now in its tenth season, with future spinoffs or limited series taking place in the same world through different formats or "different creative forms."
"I really don’t see a contradiction between committing to a strategy of not imitating ourselves and exploring a franchise opportunity or a universe opportunity we have with every bit as high a bar for creativity as we bring to anything else," Barnett told The Los Angeles Times, pointing to the three television series and the franchise's upcoming first feature film set at Universal, penned and produced by franchise architect Gimple.
"We’re plotting a lot more ambition for this, and for us, the high bar is, I think there are endless stories to be told in this universe," Barnett added. "There is a huge, un-snobby, high-taste-threshold fandom for this show that tell us they want to hear more stories. What we won’t do is make a weak version of The Walking Dead. We won’t imitate that. What we will do is look at a number of different formats and a number of different creative forms with a number of new and existing writers."
The key to prolonging the life of the Dead franchise lies with making each extension of that franchise "as different from one another as possible," Gimple previously told Marketplace.
"We have to take risks. That’s serving the audience, if you’re taking risks," he said. "Are we pushing harder, are we trying to make these shows as different from one another as possible? Are we trying to make these movies different from the shows? Are we offering the audience the very reason to have a universe, which is a varied slate of stories?"
World Beyond will skew younger with a more hopeful tone, while the upcoming sixth season of Fear will lean into more anthological storytelling to better separate it from the mothership series. Gimple is now developing specials, miniseries and other shorter length series, including one currently unidentified project that goes "full comedic."
In an October interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Gimple said he was working "very hard" to "bring in new voices" to TWD Universe.
"I love the way we tell stories on these shows, but I’m looking to have stories that are just very, very different approaches that don’t come from our minds," Gimple said, referring to showrunners and writer-producers Angela Kang (The Walking Dead), Andrew Chambliss and Ian Goldberg (Fear), and Gimple's World Beyond co-creator Matthew Negrete. "That we collaborate with them, that we keep them in the right lanes, but that are very, very different from what we’ve done with original voices, diverse voices that can bring new things to the world."
The Walking Dead Season 10 returns with new episodes Feb. 23 on AMC. For more TWD intel, follow the author @CameronBonomolo on Twitter.