Walking Dead Spinoff's Showrunner Talks Possible Crossovers, Prequel-y Premise: 'We Don't Go Full-Zombie'

The Walking Dead Spinoff Premiere Date

AMC has yet to announce a premiere date for its upcoming Walking Dead spinoff (beyond “Summer 2015”), but we have the next best thing: scoop directly from the show’s boss!

For the first time, Fear The Walking Dead showrunner Dave Erickson is opening up about the anticipated offshoot’s central conceit, distinct tone and “fresher” breed of zombie. Erickson also weighs in on the much-maligned title and the possibility of Rick, Carol & Co. making a cameo in the Los Angeles-set series.

TVLINE | For the record, what’s the spinoff’s basic premise? 
We’re covering the period of time when Rick was in his coma, so we’re getting to see things go sideways in a way that he did not. And we’re telling our story through the filter of this highly dysfunctional blended family [led by Gang Related‘s Cliff Curtis and Deadwood‘s Kim Dickens]. It’s about the shark you don’t see. It’s the education of our characters as to what is going on and how the world is unraveling and what is happening to people.

TVLINE | How will it differ tonally from the original series?
It’ll differ in so many ways… [It’s about] the anxiety and anticipation. We don’t go, for lack of a better term, full-zombie. There’s a bit more of a slow-burn to the story. We don’t get to a point where we’re actually in a full-blown apocalypse until much later in the show. [Fellow EP] Robert [Kirkman] wanted to really dwell on what it’s like to [commit] a violent act — especially in our world, because it’s so early, and our walkers are fresher and far more human. It’s [emotionally] difficult to kill them, even when somebody’s coming after you… In terms of emotional tension, when we put one of our characters through a moment where they have to commit some brutality to defend themselves or others, they’ll suffer for it.

TVLINE | I imagine they’re not even sure what’s wrong with them…
Right. They’re ticking off the things that this could be: Is this person on something? Are they mentally ill? Is it a virus? They’re trying to grasp exactly what they’re confronting. The last place any of the characters want to go is to the place where the audience is waiting for them — which is that these people are not alive anymore. And they have to work through it. Eventually, they’ll come to realize what Rick came to realize in the [Walking Dead] pilot: these people are not people anymore.

TVLINE | Will there be any major differences between Fear‘s zombies and Walking Dead‘s zombies? Will yours be faster?
I wish like hell they were faster. [Laughs] When Rick comes out of his coma, four or five weeks in, you’re already dealing with walkers who have decayed and atrophied to a place where they look like monsters. A lot of our work is focusing on [giving the zombies] a corpse-like quality. Blood is no longer flowing, we’re playing with some effects for the eyes… Since we’re not dealing with the level of decay [as many of the zombies on TWD], I do think there’s a possibility for greater strength. So some of those scenes may be more physical. But as far as behavior and movement, that part is going to be the same.

TVLINE | Does the show’s Los Angeles setting preclude any crossovers with the original Walking Dead cast?
Never say never, but there are no plans right now. The geography is an obstacle, and frankly somewhere down the road it will become an even greater obstacle.

TVLINE | Since it’s taking place in the early days of the outbreak, will we get a glimpse of the effort to contain it on a government level? 
We will not. One of the things I loved about the original [series], and one of the things we’re going to maintain here, is we’re going to see through the eyes of the family the aftermath of the decisions that were made on the command level. We’ll never tell a story from the CDC’s perspective, or from FEMA’s perspective. It will never be World War Z.

TVLINE | When the title was announced many people — myself included — were hoping it was a joke. What is your honest opinion of the title?
It was important to maintain elements of the original title and have that connection. And we didn’t want to do The Walking Dead: Los Angeles. I think it’s a solid, straight-up title. I also think Fear will become the shorthand.

TVLINE | Will these first six episodes feel like a miniseries?
It’s written as a six-hour movie and that’s the feel we want to have. That said, we’re building to a place of emotional fracture for our characters and getting to a place where we will definitely be setting up the emotional conflicts that we want to either heal or continue to fracture over the course of Season 2. We’ll be ready from an emotional standpoint to launch into the next season, [but[ it’ll also be a satisfying ending.

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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22 Comments
  1. Simon says:

    I think focusing on the early days of the zombie apocalypse would not only be extremely depressing but also a tad boring. I know, I know, TWD is about the characters not the story. But still, I’m not sure this was the best spinoff idea. I think focusing on some part of the world were civilization somehow survived the zombies would have been more fun (and different). I will still watch and hold my judgement until then, but I have reservations

    • Tim says:

      I agree! Boring as in Season 2 boring!

    • Rich says:

      I would’ve liked to see a place where the humans “won” and what kind of new culture and mores built up around the survivors (the ritual “braining” knife everyone has over the mantle), but I trust Kirkman & co. enough to have a wait and see attitude on the new series.

      • Pat says:

        I’ll give it a go, but when/if they start in will all the teenage angst crap, I’m done.

        The idea of a place surviving would have been great. Prequels are stupid in a way, as we know what happens. This not so much as it is new characters, so they can die, unlike if it was a prequel with known characters.

    • Tony Byrer says:

      I think it’ll be riveting. The characters will go through several stages of acceptance– denial, disbelief, anguish, and so on. I’d imagine their attitudes will be, “There’s no way this can be happening!” Watching the world fall apart through their eyes will be fascinating. I can’t wait!

  2. Joey Padron says:

    good interview with the showrunner. it will be interesting how different a zombie look on the show from The Walking Dead. hope they’ll release first trailer for the show soon.

    • g says:

      seeing as how you’re already looking forward to checking out the show, wouldn’t you rather NOT see a trailer so as to just enjoy every scene of the show without knowing what’s coming up ?

      these days a lot of shows/ movies are kind of spoiled by the trailers that give away too much.

  3. thedmod says:

    “There’s a bit more of a slow-burn to the story”

    If the story is slower than The Walking Dead we are really in for a borefest. The pacing of the original series is torturous as times, I can’t imagine what this is going to be like…

  4. Guest says:

    Bring it on! Very much looking forward to the prequel, which takes place while Rick Grimes is in his coma… *happy dance*

  5. wrstlgirl says:

    Very excited for this. So it’s a slow burn, big deal. Not everything has to be blood, guts and gore. I want to see some real story telling. I loved season 2 of TWD. It was better than that Woodbury crap in season 3. Now that was torture, LOL!!!

    • Yeah I totally agree! I love the idea of seeing how people reacted when it first started! And I loved season 2, because it gave us a chance to get to know the characters more! I feel its allot better to have some calmness between the horrible moments, I don’t want it to be just none stop blood and guts, like some cheap zombie film! A TV show needs a bit of normal drama in it, or it doesn’t work for very long! And though we hear allot of people saying that would be boring, I hear allot more people saying they prefer it that way, rather then none stop killing!

  6. Allen says:

    I would rather them show what happens after or whats happening in another country. A prequel just seems like a waste of time because we know what happens to the world in TWD

    • Mad Hobbit says:

      I hate prequels,for example we knew skywalker would become Darth Vader, so no matter what happens we know the world mostly ends.here is a question what if they do(which I doubt) find a way to survive better in the world,and its something that if they knew how to do it in TWD will it not be a bit of a pain.LA has a lot of ships in the docks, if you could get the crew, leave port. I am curious (but they never will say) what the navy did. I had a friend who was on a sub, they are out for 2 months then back for one. I could see that this might be more gang related. as gangs have lots of drugs and guns in LA

  7. Missy says:

    How does this show get worse the more I hear about it?

    I can’t even figure out what’s supposed to be compelling about it…
    I’ve read that Kirkman was not happy with himself when he included the CDC in TWD but, to start a new show, with people that are at the beginning of the outbreak and NOT have the government play even a minor role is ridiculous. We’re supposed to believe that this group isn’t going to want answers from the higher ups? Because I don’t. And we’re supposed to believe that this sort of early days idea ISN’T going to be like a 6hour long version of the TWD pilot?

    It should of been just another group in the current situation, a group that maybe has manage to survive without destroying other groups like Rock and Co. have over the years.

  8. dj says:

    We want zombies

  9. A Fan of TV says:

    More like Walking Dead 2 will become the shorthand. Easiest and most straightforward.

    And I hate that he says “…aftermath of decisions on the command level.” He’s inferring he’s at least dreamed up all of that outbreak back story to help him formulate the plots for both shows, but it will never be shared. I’m so interested in that, I’m annoyed that he says he’ll ‘never’ tell that story and yet he actually tries to claim there would be crossover potential between two series, in a post-apocalyptic world with little power with both shows on opposite sides of the US. He never says never about that, but says never about telling what is in my opinion a really compelling angle to the overall mythology of The Walking Dead? More and more, this second show feels like a mistake – it’s too much of a maybe-not-so-great thing.

    • g says:

      you do realize airplanes and helicopters can still fly right ??
      and more so the concept of electricity doesn’t disappear after the apocalypse and even in Alexandria they’ve got electricity via solar panels – which in Los Angeles or anywhere else for that matter can be found on the roofs of some (usually wealthy) homes.

      if the survivors on this show can hook up with a pilot at some point – they could easily decide to fly to the East Coast (for some reason) and then hook up with original cast in Alexandria or wherever they end up down the road.

      and yeah the idea to see what the government did/ would do is intriguing of course but that’s already been done by other movies including the recent WWZ and eventual sequel. so it’s easy to just imagine what that story would be like in the world of TWD.
      and in the end that story is kind of already told with the last CDC doctor being the sole survivor and literally just giving up any hope and taking his own life and blowing up the CDC – that is the end of the story you’re desiring to see.

      basically the story is …. the government and people in charge made all the wrong decisions and horribly failed society in every way imaginable.

      • Mad Hobbit says:

        don’t forget GPS still work and you can find food and tech , I do wonder how and why the power may go off, I also wish they would find and keep one of those survivilists or at least some ex seal.

  10. Lostie says:

    Premiere date will be Sun, Aug 30th…6 weeks prior to Premeire of TWD on Oct 11th

  11. Randi says:

    I had heard that the initial shooting in Los Angeles that you were going to be filming in BC is that correct

  12. g says:

    Alternate show titles:
    The Walking Dead: Save All the HOT Girls
    The Walking Dead: Come On Baby … it’s the end of the world

    The Walking Dead: Necrophiliac’s Dreams Come True
    The Walking Dead: Burn Hollywood Burn
    HOLY CRAP There’s Dead MF’ers Walking Around !!!