SPOILER ALERT: This article contains details of tonight’s debut of the anthology series Tales of the Walking Dead
“Well, we were hoping to make six little movies,” the showrunner and long-time TWD writer says of the six-episode first season of the anthology season that debuted on AMC tonight. “We kind of came into it thinking, okay, we’re creating six different pilots, and they can all have a different tone,” Powell adds of the Scott Gimple co-created latest iteration of the ever-expanding TWD universe.
Debuting last week on streamer AMC+ and on AMC proper tonight, Tales started off just over a year after the zombie apocalypse had befallen the planet. The first episode saw Newsroom alum Terry Crews and Olivia Munn reunited as lonely survivalist Joe and the free-spirited, but ass-kicking Evie. In classic buddy movie mode, both are pulled out of their comfort zones and on the dangerous road in search of love, to put it mildly. To say things go off track for the duo in the Ron Underwood-directed and Maya Goldsmith and Ben Sokolowski-penned episode is a distinct understatement.
What is not an understatement is how pumped mega-fan Crews is to join the TWD universe. “It’s a true universe, and a big part of it is like, hey, Terry, you’re going to be the Hulk in this thing, you know what I mean?” declares the genre leaping America’s Got Talent host “I’m like, whoa!”
With more Tales to come starring the likes of Parker Posey, TWD vet Samantha Morton, Danny Ramirez, and Anthony Edwards, Powell and Crews spoke with me about where tonight’s debut could lead, both tactically and strategically, The executive producer and actor also talked about the expanding TWD universe and the end of TWD itself, and what that could mean for Tales.
DEADLINE: So, it sure looks like this isn’t the end for Joe and Evie, by a long stretch. Will we see more of the two of them in the evolving Walking Dead universe?
POWELL: I am, you know, I’m not opposed to it. That was the intention. I really liked their chemistry together. I thought if it works out between them and we get a second, third, or fourth season, or you know, people love these characters, I’d love to keep the door open to explore more of their story together.
DEADLINE: Is Season 1 a launch pad, literally and figuratively from your perspective?
POWELL: Well, we were hoping to make six little movies. We kind of came into it thinking, okay, we’re creating six different pilots, and they can all have a different tone.
CREWS: That’s exactly it. It’s almost like six movies, but this is the thing for me and what I love, and the fact that I don’t die.
It’s the fact that they did a brilliant job of establishing me in the world, and we all know, if you ever watch Walking Dead, that if anything ends hopeful, all of a sudden there’s going to be a twist. So, I have to say like I would jump back I mean in a millisecond, if I could come back in any of these spinoffs, in any of these franchises, Joe will be right there because this is the thing.
DEADLINE: How do you mean?
CREWS: We both know that Joe and Evie are headed into a much darker time. It’s only 402 days after the apocalypse, you know? The world has not gone completely crazy yet. The thing about the dead walking, that’s not the worst of your problems, you know what I mean? It’s really about the people. Who is going to betray you, you know? And I think this catfish episode, when he finally meets Sandra, it’s just the beginning of the betrayal, and I think that they’re both a little too trusting, way too hopeful, even at the end. They’re like, hey, we did it. And man, there are really, really dark times ahead, and that’s what I’m waiting to really portray, and I think this whole episode does a beautiful job of establishing us, and now it’s time to put us in the fire, you know what I mean?
DEADLINE: Is there room for that in the growing TWD universe with the Daryl Dixon spinoff, Fear, the Negan and Maggie spinoff, and more?
POWELL: Well, the anthology stretches across the entire timeline of the flagship show and then goes beyond it. I’m not going to say specifically what year we go into, but the hope that is we imply that we’re some years into the future in one of these episodes, and we’re not hindered by [the] timeline at all. We’re in different places than where the flagship show takes place or where any of the spinoffs take place. So, we can tell isolated stories in different timelines there, but everything we have introduced, we are keeping in mind, you know, for the universe. We had to abide by the universe rules at the same time. So, even if it’s not within the timeline of the show, it’s still within the universe rules of the entire franchise.
CREWS: I love that approach because there’s backstories to different characters that we can relate to. I love the way how, even in the beginning they had Morgan in the first episode of TWD, and then he back literally a few seasons later and played a much bigger role. We could do the same thing, and I love that everything’s not linear, you know? We could go back and maybe I was with Tyreese and Sasha. Maybe I was running around with, you know, T-Dog and somehow we got separated. I just think there’s ways to tell the new narrative by going back into things that maybe me and Evie did, and then bring us up into that world,
DEADLINE: Channing, they question everyone wants to know is crossovers on the menu as more Walking Dead shows start to debut?
POWELL: You know, I would have to leave that to Mr. Gimple. He’s the master of the universe at the moment. So, he would know all about that. I only know in terms of Tales right now what’s happening
DEADLINE: Were crossovers, or the potential of them, something you discussed in developing TOTWD?
POWELL: I had to go to Scott and clear story ideas with him and make sure we weren’t crisscrossing with any of the other spinoffs because, at this point, I don’t know what’s going to happen with some of those stories. So, I’m sure Scott is, you know, entertaining the idea in the back of his mind, but I don’t know the specific plans — if there are any.
DEADLINE: You mentioned further seasons, further episodes beyond this initial six. How will a second or a third season unfold? Would it be a similar format? Would we see similar characters? Would we see repeat characters?
POWELL: That’s really, that’s interesting. We don’t have a full plan yet because we obviously don’t [have] a second season green-lit yet. But I will say, we have story ideas in motion. We have ideas that we wanted to do for this season, but we just had to narrow it down to six. So, we’ve got a couple [of] story ideas lingering that I’m really hoping we get to shoot.
Also, I think we’re wanting to see what the fan reaction is because we do go outside of The Walking Dead box a little bit, and I think fans are so used to a specific tone and a specific storyline with The Walking Dead. This was really one of the only opportunities to get a little bit crazy and eccentric with it, you know? So, let’s see how they react.
DEADLINE: Terry, on the screen your career has had a bit of everything in it at this point Starring in the iconic Idiocracy, the Expendables franchise and Deadpool 2 on the big screen, Brooklyn Nine-Nine on the small screen, and hosting America’s Got Talent obviously, to name a few. But, I have to say, there seems to be a lot of you in Joe, the more vulnerable side …
CREWS: Oh, that’s real. That’s real, man. You got to understand, I had a lot of pain, a lot of anger, a lot of…I mean I had, you know, I had become a persona instead of being a real person. You become Terry Crews the character, and inside you’re hollow, you know.
I look at Flint, Michigan, growing up there.
Like, I had friends who ended up on crack — who became like zombies. People were stealing. There was murder. You know, Flint, Michigan was the murder capital per capita in the United States for almost 10 years straight, and there was blood in the streets, man. It was crazy, and it was the most wonderful city right before that. It was beautiful. General Motors was the number one corporation in the world, and then it was over overnight. You have to understand, Dominic. My high school’s not standing anymore. Like, all the places that I went as a kid, it’s fields. It’s gone, and I mean disappeared.
You can only imagine in America, but I knew this as a kid. I said I got to get out of here, and Joe had the same mentality.
DEADLINE: How do you mean Terry?
CREWS: He saw the world. He knew this was going to happen, and he was right, but the problem is that no man is an island. I mean, we’re all social creatures, and this is the thing. Even with me, I realized that if I didn’t open up and if I didn’t get help, I was going to die, you know? I was going to basically disappear, and I went to therapy. When I finally found out how to open up and how to kind of get in touch with who I was and my feelings and the whole thing, it was a world changer, man. This is what Evie does for Joe because she’s just nonrealistic, you know? He’s like I’m being real and this is what it is, you know? She sees more.
DEADLINE: In terms of seeing more, Channing, of the six Tales episode, most of them deal with new characters like Terry’s Joe and Oliva’s Evie, new scenarios, Yet, we also have this Alpha backstory with Samantha Morton, which is remarkable in many levels. I don’t want to give away any spoilers because obviously, it’s down the line, but why was that the story or the character from the already established Walking Dead universe that you decided to pluck and put into the anthology?
POWELL: We entertained a couple [of] stories dealing with flagship show characters. This one happened to be something that I had put a lot of thought into previous to beginning Tales oddly enough.
DEADLINE: Oh, really?
POWELL: Yeah, it was already in my head. There was something that really appealed to me about Alpha personally. I just love a great villain. I love a great villain that’s a woman and a mother, and you know, I’m a mother. Most of the time, I write about the apocalypse or watch anything on the apocalypse, I’m thinking, how would I handle this with my children? What would I do? Would, you know, would I ever become Alpha? So, it was really interesting to explore my own motherhood through hers.
DEADLINE: Terry, you were onstage with Samantha, with Channing, and others at Comic-Con last month in the huge Hall, H for Tales. Clearly, this is not your first rodeo, but what has it been like joining the Walking Dead universe?
CREWS: Well, I’m probably the number one fan of The Walking Dead franchise. I mean, it’s as big as Marvel. This is giant. The world is immense.
It’s a true universe, and a big part of it is like, hey, Terry, you’re going to be the Hulk in this thing, you know what I mean? I’m like whoa! I get to be in this world after watching for so many years all these characters that I’ve loved for so long. I mean from the beginning, dude. So, you’re talking about from Rick and Michonne and T-Dog, and you know, Michael Rooker, who played Merle early on, was the first guy who taught me how to act. My first movie was called The 6th Day, and it was with Mike Rooker, who literally was the guy that told me how to stand and how to look and do my thing. I just go, now I’m part of this universe. It’s incredible.
DEADLINE: Channing, to that, as Tales begins, Walking Dead the original show is soon to premiere its final episodes. Terry talked about going to the universe, but you’ve been a part of it for a while, writing for the flagship show and FearTWD. Where are you at now that the flagship show is about to finally end?
POWELL: Oh, man. I mean, I owe that show most of my life. So, it’s so bittersweet, you know?
I think it’s been such an amazing powerhouse. It’s done so many good things for so many people. I’m so grateful to it.
I cannot be more respectful or in awe of it, but I also think that the story has probably come to its own conclusion in a good way. I think it’s time for some of these spinoffs to happen and for some of these characters to get a little bit more screentime. It’s just such a huge ensemble show. I think it’ll be really interesting to see a little bit more of these character-specific stories branching out from it.