The Walking Dead Universe has "lots of stories" left to tell entering into its second decade, says AMC Networks programming president Sarah Barnett, who adds future entries in the expanding franchise must be "creatively exceptional." AMC in 2020 will air an unprecedented 42 Sundays of zombie programming premieres: the mothership series, now midway through its tenth season, will premiere the back half of Season 10 and the first half of Season 11, with AMC readying the sixth season of spinoff Fear the Walking Dead and the 10-episode premiere season of second spinoff The Walking Dead: World Beyond.
"I think there are lots of stories to be told from this universe," Barnett told Variety of the franchise. "And I would say about that what I'd say about any of the development at AMC — which is that it has to be creatively exceptional."
Future shows have a high threshold to live up to: under showrunner Angela Kang, the mothership series has seen its highest-ever critical reception with Seasons 9 and 10. Barnett has "struck a wonderful balance of being supportive of what we've been doing well on behalf of the fans and also still challenging us to continue to grow," said Kang.
TWD chief content officer Scott Gimple, former five-season showrunner on the main series and co-creator of World Beyond, is now developing the franchise's first theatrical features — starring Andrew Lincoln's Rick Grimes — alongside comic book creator Robert Kirkman. Because of the changing television landscape, and the growing importance of streaming, Gimple will build out the shared universe with other projects not bound by traditional 16-episode season orders.
"Television is changing, and that's exciting, because we can tell stories in other formats than 16-episode seasons. I think we will continue to do that, and we have plans for that, but we also have plans for shorter length series," Gimple told The Hollywood Reporter in October. "For mini-series, for things that are like specials. And it's taking advantage of not only the different stories we can tell, but the different formats we can tell them in."
Expanding onto the big screen and continuing on the small screen with a diverse offering of content — each with a unique tone — is a means of exploring a variety stories all taking place in a world decimated by a zombie apocalypse. "Because this is such a big world with such different stories, it'd be silly not to do that," Gimple said.
He continued, "It also means not everything we put out is going to be connected to any of the existing shows. And further, some of it might not even need to go beyond a certain length. We do want to do these smaller things that are completely their own thing, and then do something else. Some stuff could be three episodes, some stuff could be six episodes, some stuff could be 12 or 16 [episodes]."