‘Walking Dead': How COVID-19 Delays Changed AMC’s Plans for Final 2 Seasons

Showrunner Angela Kang describes the arduous process to finish the Season 10 finale: “It had to happen in dribs and drabs”

“The Walking Dead” was this close to finishing Season 10 before the coronavirus pandemic forced Hollywood to shut down and sent everyone into quarantine. But finally, on Sunday, the AMC zombie hit will air the conclusion to Season 10, before taking another hiatus.

“We were deep into post-production on it when everything shut down. And we literally couldn’t finish it, because there were post processes that we couldn’t do in person when everybody was sent home,” showrunner Angela Kang told TheWrap. “It had to happen in dribs and drabs.”

After production was shut down in March, Kang said it was months before they could restart anything because they have VFX vendors around the world that were also going into lockdown, some much more strict than the United States.

“It relies on all this machinery that processes and renders graphics that people just don’t have that capability at home. So it was many months. I think there’s some fans who kind of thought like, ‘Oh, they finished it, and it’s just like, they’re just waiting to torture us.’ I’m like, no, it really wasn’t finished! We have people in Sweden that can’t finish the VFX, and so it’s really taken until just recently to  finish the very last pass on sound.”

But COVID-19 did more than just make it incredibly difficult to finish Season 10, it forced the show to rethink its own endgame, which will come after the conclusion to Season 11 in 2022. This summer, AMC added six bonus episodes to Season 10, pushing the full count to 22 episodes, though those will not air until sometime next year.

Kang still describes Sunday’s episode as “what was intended to be the conclusion of that arc,” with the extra six to serve as a bridge to their Season 11 plans. “We want to be as safe as humanly possible going back to film. We are following every union rule and more, but it really means that we had to take a hard look at the creative, and what we’d intended to do as our Season 11 premiere — which we still hope to do — but we won’t be able to shoot it right away.”

But rather than go potentially a year, or more, between “Walking Dead” episodes, Kang and the writers’ room found a way to film new episodes that will be easier complete amid all the COVID-19 restrictions.

“We rethought what sort of a continuation of this story that we can tell that that comes right off at the end of what was our planned finale, and then leads seamlessly into Season 11,” she said. “We’ve been doing a deep dive into some of these characters. And, you know, telling these stories that are just sort of tailor-made for the time that we’re in, in terms of production realities.”

As for the timeline of the six additional episodes, Kang said they’re currently in pre-production and will be shooting them soon. “There’s been a massive, like months-long, ramp-up for safety,” she said. “We’re doing it with, literally military position. We have a former military infectious diseases specialist on the ground with us and an epidemiologist and all of that.”