Kang, who was officially awarded the show’s top spot in January, is now deep into work on Season 9. Speaking with Variety, Kang said that she has been toying with ways to make her mark on the series in her new role.
“I really love the section of story that we’re telling,” she said. “We’re playing with time. We’re playing with the style of the show a little bit. I think fans will enjoy the new look and feel that we have. Obviously the show has an established feel that we want to keep. We love these stories about survivors and how they’re making their way through the world. That said, we want to keep things fresh so I’ve had these great conversations with out DPs and our directors about amping up the look of the show. We’re doing some interesting things with sound this season too.”
“And because we’re jumping forward in time, there will be some exciting new things about the look of the show,” she continued. “The world is starting to break down and nature is taking over. It’s moved away from cars and bullets and is much more horses and hand weapons. It’s a fun evolution we’re playing with.”
Of course with that fun also comes pressure. It is no small task to step into a key role on the number one show on TV, with a global fanbase that is not shy about voicing its displeasure. But according to Kang, the pressure she feels boils down to her sense of duty to the fans.
“It’s really exciting to work on the show, so I try to think of it not as pressure but rather the responsibility to tell the best story we can tell,” she said. “I love these characters so much and I’m still a fan of the comics, which are coming out as we write the show….My role has changed and my responsibility has expanded, but we always go at it trying to make the best show possible.”
Kang is a “Walking Dead” veteran, having first joined the show as a story editor and later writer in Season 2, being upped to producer at the beginning of Season 3. She was promoted to co-executive producer at the outset of Season 5. Among the episodes of the show she has written is the Season 2 episode “Judge, Jury, Executioner,” the Season 4 episode “Still,” and the Season 7 episode “The Cell.” She also co-wrote the Season 4 finale, which was one of the highest-rated episodes in series history.
Yet despite all she has brought to the show and will bring to the show, Kang comes in at a time of uncertainty for “The Walking Dead.” On top of noticeable ratings declines over its past few seasons, there are reports that series star Andrew Lincoln is poised to exit the show after this season. Meanwhile, actress Lauren Cohan, who has been with the show since Season 2, will appear in just a handful of episodes this season due to her new starring role on the upcoming ABC drama “Whiskey Cavalier.”
All of those circumstances combined have had some fans wondering if there is an end game in sight. Kang, however, remains mum on the subject.
“I feel like that’s not really my place to comment on that,” she said. “I’m focused on making a great season this season and then we’ll go from there.”
One person Kang still goes to for advice is Scott Gimple. Gimple was previously the showrunner on “The Walking Dead” but was elevated to the newly-created role of chief content officer of the “Walking Dead” universe at the same time Kang was promoted to showrunner.
“Scott and I started on the show at the same time,” she said. “We’ve worked together as colleagues in the writers’ room, then he was my boss, and now he’s chief content officer. We have a great relationship. He and I are in contact, but he doesn’t handle the day-to-day of the show at all, so I have the leeway to make decisions. I come to him regularly and bounce things off of him. He’s been a great friend and mentor. We work in the same office building so we see each other and talk to each other.”
Kang’s love for the show is palpable. She says she had read all the “Walking Dead” comics before the possibility of a job on the show was ever an option.
“I had been on a show called ‘Terriers’ before this, and when that show wasn’t renewed my manager asked what I wanted to work on I said, ‘My number one dream job is “Walking Dead,”‘” she said.