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The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live

The epic love story of two Walking Dead favourites drives harrowing new spinoff The Ones Who Live

After being separated for almost a decade, two soulmates are reunited in the never-ending zombie apocalypse. But, if love truly conquers all, is that not the end of the story? In the case of Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and Michonne (Danai Gurira), this is only a new beginning. “Their souls have been a little beaten up by the world, and a lot of time had passed,” says executive producer and showrunner Scott Gimple. “They had to find each other, but they also had to find themselves.”

The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live on AMC. Pictured: Michonne
Gene Page/AMC

The latest Walking Dead spinoff starts off by answering the question fans of the franchise have been asking since Rick seemingly sacrificed himself in the ninth season of the original series, only to be airlifted away in a mysterious helicopter. Where did Rick go that would possibly keep him away from the love of his life, and the family he left back in Alexandria?

The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live on AMC. Pictured: Lost alum Terry O’Quinn is Major General Beale, head of the Civic Republic Military (CRM).
Gene Page/AMC

The Civic Republic Military, that’s where. Once you’re made a part of the CRM — not unlike the Eagles’ Hotel California — you can never leave. Not that this stops Rick from trying. “In the first three or four minutes of the whole series, there is something truly horrific that happens that sets the tone for the rest of the show,” says Lincoln, whose character does everything in his power to return to Michonne. “This is a love story,” adds Lincoln. “It is essentially the DNA of the [original Walking Dead pilot] — a man in search of his family — and that DNA is very much in this story, but we wanted to make it a bit more operatic.”

The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live on AMC. Pictured: Andrew Lincoln’s Rick works with Pearl Thorne (Lesley-Ann Brandt) in the CRM.
Gene Page/AMC

The continuation of the epic love story between two warriors has been a long time coming. In the hands of Lincoln and Gurira as executive producers, the series finally started to take shape. “Danai was beating the drum for the love story,” says Lincoln. For Gurira, it was the hard-won relationship between Rick and Michonne that was worth making a return for. “The love story is what distinguishes it from many other renditions of this world, and it was very much something that we didn’t get to fully explore on the mothership. There’s just no space for it,” says Gurira. “This was really honing in on, when love is the driving force, when it’s the propelling thing in a show that’s making the plot move, what does that look like? The genre is anew. It’s an apocalyptic epic love narrative.”

The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live on AMC. Pictured: Michonne appeals to Elle (Erin Anderson), leader of a caravan of survivors.
Gene Page/AMC

Portraying Michonne has been a wild journey, in itself, for Gurira, but adding new responsibilities behind the scenes, as both writer and producer, has made the multihyphenate evolve in ways she never expected. “I feel like I’ve been able to let all my cylinders fire,” she says. “At first it was building a character. I got to go through such a great arc in this role, find so many parts of her, and end up as a leader and a mother. Then, stepping into a leadership role as an EP/co-creator taught me a great deal as well. I feel really empowered by the journey, as much as it had its rough moments. I feel like we created something we’re proud of, and I feel empowered because, after this, I’m like, ‘I can do anything. Bring it.’”

The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live on AMC. Pictured: zombie
Gene Page/AMC

If producing required adaptive skills, the gig was made easier for Lincoln by the fact that getting back into the character of Rick Grimes was no great challenge. “It was remarkably easy putting the cowboy boots back on,” he says. “In the writers’ room, there was a real intention to place Rick in an environment and in a mindset that he’d not been in before. He’d been pushed and pulled, stretched, pummelled and abused so much in the main series for so long that we thought, where can we place him? So, it was a new adventure, and that made it very, very exciting and appealing. My knees hurt a bit more, but apart from that, it was great to be the sheriff again.”

The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live on AMC. Pictured: Soldiers Donald Okafor (Craig Tate), Pearl Thorne (Lesley-Ann Brandt) and Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) have learned that joining the CRM is a life sentence.
Gene Page/AMC

Where these two end up, in relation to the sunset, this duo has been well trained not to reveal. What Gurira will say is that, as always, it is the journey that matters most. “There are a lot of things that happen that Michonne does not expect. There are ways that she has to pivot and adjust that she does not expect. The journey to find her man is not an easy one. We’ll see what happens,” teases Gurira. “What I like about the series, which is why I’m very protective about spoilers, is that there’s a ride that people are going to get to take, and I really, really want them to take that ride. Everyone in the cast ups the ante of these characters in a way that’s very unexpected, and no one’s going to see them coming. I just love that about the journey.”

The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live airs Sunday, March 24 on AMC

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