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‘The Walking Dead’ Boss on Negan, Maggie & Glenn’s Reunion, Rick’s ‘Biggest Threat’

Spoiler alert: Do not read until you’ve watched last night’s midseason finale of “The Walking Dead.”

The tense midseason finale of “The Walking Dead” saw the mega horde invade Alexandria, leaving the gang scrambling to fend off the walkers. Maggie narrowly escaped by crawling up a ladder, but was denied her long-anticipated reunion with Glenn, still outside the walls with Enid. Morgan and Carol faced off over his captive Wolf, who ultimately escaped with Denise as his hostage. Deanna succumbed to a zombie bite, but not before imparting some deathbed wisdom to Michonne. And Rick turned to that old “cover yourself in zombie guts” trick to lead a group through the horde — only to have Jessie’s son, Sam, start calling out for his mother in panic as the credits rolled.

What’s more: A sneak peek revealed that the Feb. 14 midseason premiere will namedrop Negan, the leader of the Saviors, played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan.

Executive producer Robert Kirkman talked to Variety about the midseason finale and what’s in store for the survivors.

What will Deanna’s death mean for the group? What does it mean for Rick?

I don’t want to spoil things too much, but I would say Deanna as a character is probably going to have far more reaching influence on the show itself and many of the characters in the show after her death than any other character thus far. Just because of not only the way she influences Maggie and Michonne, after having that final moment with her and all of the thoughts and practices and things that she’s instilled in Rick in her time with him. These three characters are going to be carrying this message forward, not even mentioning the plans for Alexandria and how they might rebuild there assuming they all survive the next episode.

There was that lovely moment between Michonne and Deanna. Why was it important for them to connect?

Michonne is a character who’s experienced a lot of pain. She lost her son. She’s closed herself off to the world. Deanna is a character who would most be able to open her up. To remind her it is possible to be human. She’s been in Alexandria now for a while but Michonne still hasn’t really taken a breath and decided there is a different way of life. There are things that have changed. Despite that fact that the walls are down and there are zombies, this is a place that represents life the way it was and the way people used to be. It is time for some of that to come back. That’s what Michonne is learning in that moment. Deanna is the only character that could have brought that out in her.

Deanna had such great plans for Alexandria. Is Alexandria done?

I hate saying definite things, but many characters in that midseason finale remarked on the fact that no, they’re not going to leave Alexandria. It is possible to rebuild after this. This is place that provides so much safety and security and had for such a long time before that it would be foolish to just give up on it at this point. When we come back with our midseason premiere, it will be far gone — we’ll have to see. But all of the characters recognize that this is a place of value. And that Alexandria could be a home for them for much longer than any of their homes thus far.

The post-credits sequence revealed that we’re going to finally meet Negan. Who is Negan? How will he be different onscreen from what fans know from the comics?

There are obviously certainly limitations to the broadcast on AMC, but we’re working around that stuff right now to figure out some cool ways to keep Negan’s vocabulary fairly intact, so I think fans are going to be pretty excited about that. Negan is the leader of the Saviors. He’s the new biggest threat, possibly the biggest ever threat that’s ever been introduced in the “Walking Dead.” We’ve announced that Jeffrey Dean Morgan is playing him, and he’s an absolutely amazing actor. He checks every box needed for Negan, which is he’s very personable. You like this guy. He’s very funny. But he’s also extremely intimidating. Very powerful. Just a very wide range of personality traits that Negan encompasses. It was very difficult to find somebody who did check all those boxes. But I’m very happy to do say Mr. Morgan does. Negan himself is a catalyst who fundamentally changes what we’re doing with “The Walking Dead” and how these characters exist and really messes a lot of things up for Rick in a lot of terrifying ways. There’s a lot of cool stuff in store for the “Walking Dead” fans when he debuts.

Who is the bigger threat, the Wolves or the Saviors? What are the differences in their ideologies? Are they a bigger threat to each other than they are to our group?

I would say the Wolves are crazy. And the Saviors are crazy smart. These guys have a system. They’re much more in control of themselves. They’re much less erratic. They’re a far bigger threat.

Denise has been taken hostage by the Wolf that Morgan captured. How much do we have to worry about her?

A lot. This is the “Walking Dead.” You should be worried about pretty much every character at this point. This season premiere is going to be a big episode in a long line of big episodes. Denise is definitely in peril. I can’t really say much about it, but the odds aren’t looking so great for her.

What about Sam? Calling out for Mom wasn’t the smartest idea.

That’s an extremely tense moment in that chain for those people trying to get through that horde of zombies. Ramping up all that more by having Sam call out definitely sets the stage for when we come back. And when we come back, we come back in that moment. It doesn’t stop from there. People will be really excited about what’s coming.

Morgan proved Carol’s concerns were justified when the Wolf escaped. Where does their dynamic go from here?

The next half of season six, Morgan and Carol, their continuing antagonistic relationship and their posturing against each other and trying to figure each other out and not really liking each other, their conflict is a big part of the next half of the season. The confrontation that starts in that basement does continue through the season and will come to a head. We’ll see the relationship changing and evolving and growing in cool and interesting ways.

Would Carol have killed Morgan?

Absolutely. She had no problem killing Lizzie. She would have killed Morgan in that moment. I think that’s why she was so angry and I think that’s why she was so scared. She didn’t want to. But she knew that she had to and she knew that she would.

Why did Carl cover for Ron?

I think Carl, he’s a very strong as a person. And so he wasn’t scared of Ron. To him, he would have been showing fear, he would have been showing weakness if he had in a sense tattled on Ron. He’s trying to be mature as a person, to show how capable he is. Like Rick, like Glenn, he’s seen good in Ron, he’s seen potential in Ron. He knows if Ron’s actions are to be revealed, that’ll completely ruin things for Ron. And he has hope that Ron can come through. Because I think he recognizes in a very mature way the pain that Ron is living through despite all the horrible things he’s doing. Carl’s lost his mother, Ron’s lost his father. I think he identifies with him to a certain extent.

Has Ron actually learned from Carl’s good deed, or is the resentment too strong?

We’ll have to see. Things with Nicholas didn’t exactly go well. There’s not a very good track record for Alexandrians that cross that line. I hold out hope that it works out.

We didn’t get to see Maggie and Glenn reunite. Any chance they will?

That’s a spoiler! Sure. We’ll see them reunite in some form, possibly in the midseason premiere. Let’s just hope it’s not one of them finding the other’s body.

Any regrets on how the Glenn storyline played out?

No, absolutely not. Having killed as many characters as we’ve killed, we’re in our sixth season, character deaths are a very big part of the show. The danger the characters are in is an ever-present force that really drives the show. You have to change things up. You have to do different things. As a show that delves into emotion the way that it does, our audience is very emotional about all of these characters. What we did with Glenn, making it appear that he was dead and carrying it over many episodes, I think it brought the audience into the show in a really interesting way. I think that viewers that saw Glenn die had the same uncertainty that Maggie had throughout those episodes. And to a certain extent still has. And you feel her pain in a way that’s a little more palpable than you would otherwise. As a storytelling experience, as something that brings that audience into the show more than we usually do, I think it worked really well. I’m really happy with how it turned out. People on the internet get frustrated about things. That’s to a certain extent always a good sign. That shows just how people are invested in the show. It’s great that people are still into it.

This half of a season played out over the course of a day or two. What’s your plan for next season?

More time passes. The next half of the season won’t just be a day. How much time passes will have to remain a mystery. Each half season we change up how we tell the story, and try some new and interesting things about the way we go about things. This next season is no different. There are some unexpected twists and turns along the way, some new storytelling devices that I think people will be into. It’s a different batch of episodes. It’s going to be just as cool if not cooler than what came before it.

We didn’t see all of the Alexandrians in the finale. Will we see them when we return?

Definitely, absolutely. This is the final test of the Alexandrians. The ones that do survive will come out of this stronger, much more prepared for this world and much more integrated into — now that Deanna’s gone — what is Rick’s group. Deanna’s message of “They’re your people now, Rick,” and Rick saying, “They really haven’t had time to do that.” He hasn’t really had time to make them “my people.” That’s what this event is doing. But they will be back and they will be integrated into Rick’s group as a result of this horrifying test that they’ve endured.

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