The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live’s title refers to original Walking Dead hero Rick Grimes, played by Andrew Lincoln, and his lover, sword-wielding warrior woman Michonne, played by Danai Gurira. Gurira (an award-winning playwright when she’s not acting) and Lincoln co-created this Rick and Michonne spin-off, The Ones Who Live with showrunner/The Walking Dead Universe Chief Content Officer Scott M. Gimple. All three are executive producers on the series.

After The Walking Dead season (and series) finale, the long-running TV series left fans with unanswered questions. The Ones Who Live picks up six years after an explosion separated Rick and Michonne. After the time jump, Michonne has since found out Rick survived, and the two have been searching for one another. Rick, however, has been conscripted into the military group CRM, which defends one of the few remaining “normal” cities from the ever-present zombie Walkers, with a horde who appear on fire but still stumbling and biting onward in the opening sequence of the series premiere.

Gimple, Gurira and Lincoln, plus new Walking Dead cast members Lesley-Ann Brandt (Lucifer), Matthew August Jeffers, Terry O’Quinn (Lost, Castle Rock) and Craig Tate (Black as Night) are at the Winter 2024 Television Critics Association press conference to talk about The Ones Who Live, which premieres Sunday, Feb. 25, on AMC and AMC+.

Gimple relates that, in planning out the three most recent The Walking Dead spin-offs – The Ones Who Live, Dead City and Daryl Dixon– they were always intended to debut in the order they were presented. “We had been working on all of them at sort of different times. It was pretty apparent Dead City would be first. There were little things along the way, but for the most part, we got a pretty good idea.”

As for how Gurira, Gimple and Lincoln developed the project together, Gurira observes, “It was very easy because they’re like family to me, to argue and tussle.” This didn’t mean a lot of compromise. She quotes one of her teachers. “ ‘Collaboration is not cooperation.’”


“I’m actually the mediator in this marriage,” Lincoln offers.

“More like siblings,” Gurira asserts.

Was Gimple surprised by Gurira and Lincoln’s skill in structuring the series and writing teleplays? “Not really,” he replies with a laugh, “only because I know them, and we’ve been having some conversations for years. I wasn’t surprised by it, I was just so grateful for it.”

Gimple says that The Ones Who Live “is still horror. We definitely want moments of fear.” But other kinds of drama have always been part of The Walking Dead. Gimple points out that Robert Kirkman, creator of The Walking Dead graphic novels, “wrote, I believe the opening of one of the collections, it’s more survival horror than [traditional zombie] horror.”

For Gurira, love in the apocalypse was one of the main draws, “The idea of the epic love story aspect is what distinguishes it from many other renditions of this world, and it was very much something that we didn’t get to really explore a ton on the mothership. There’s just no space for it.” She describes The Ones Who Live as “an apocalyptic love narrative.”

Gimple feels the show also has aspects of a political thriller, “or some sort of historical epic. Because even the breakdown of the society is pretty defined and pretty important to this. And the city isn’t the CRM, the CRM isn’t the city. In fact, they have their own relationship, which is not adversarial, but it’s complex.”

For the new actors, The Ones Who Live still retains its gory, frightening patina. Brandt, who plays Rick’s fellow conscript Pearl, recalls her first night on set. “I see the Walkers for the first time, these iconic [monsters], and the extras are putting on their rubber masks, and other people are doing touch-ups, and I’m like, ‘Oh, shit. I’m on the set of The Walking Dead. This is cool!’ I did have a little fangirl moment there.”

Tate, who plays CRM officer Okufor, was twenty-one when the original Walking Dead premiered in 2010. “I’ll never forget the first character I think we all collectively fell in love with after Rick was Glen. You never forget that guy. It’s weird, because I started this journey of being an aspiring thespian right around when the show came out, and it was one of those full-circle moments that now, in my inaugural thirties, ‘Oh, crap, I’m on the show.’ And it seems surreal in perspective. But the excitement was there.”


Jeffers plays Michonne’s new ally, Nat. He had previously portrayed Lord Rivers opposite Gurira’s title turn in Shakespeare’s Richard III in 2023’s New York Shakespeare in the Park production. Gurira was so impressed with Jeffers that she created the Nat character for him, although he still had to audition. “I would be biking home, and I would bike past her car, where she’d be signing posters that were not Richard III posters, even though she killed that role. But yeah, I knew that Danai was big time, and I’m just so excited to work with her on The Walking Dead, and it made it a lot easier for me, having already established that working connection, that working relationship.”

Brandt notes that the writers shaped her character to her real background. What I loved was, they were like, ‘We could make her South African,’ which is where I’m from, Cape Town. Cape Town is a very specific accent, it’s not just any other African accent, so I was very grateful to Danai and Andy – Andy’s mum is South African – to bring a little bit of my own country to it. And that actually really informed me a lot about the character instantly.”


O’Quinn, who has portrayed a lot of military personnel in his time, explains what makes CRM commander Beale distinctive. “This fellow has a personal agenda. All of the military people I’ve played have followed the orders of someone. This guy gives the orders and decides how this is all going to go down. The difference is, this guy is the boss of bosses.”

Beale seems like he may be one of those human antagonists who are more dangerous than the Walkers. Gimple teases, “I think [having human adversaries] speaks to simply what people do to survive. And then, if there are people you care about, what you do to keep them safe. And if you look at the villains of The Walking Dead, love has played a part of their villainy. Look at Negan [played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan]. Love, or the loss of love, turned him into what he became. Or Shane [Rick’s former friend in the first two seasons of The Walking Dead, played by Jon Bernthal]. He engaged in certain acts that were completely vile, but he thought he could keep [the other characters] safe. And if you look at the CRM and what they are, it’s not a villainous mission. It’s how they’re going about that mission. That’s where you could have a lot of questions.”

What does Gimple hope people’s reaction will be to The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live? “I want them to feel things, I want them to be satisfied, I want them to enjoy it enough to poke their friends on the shoulder and say, ‘Hey, you should check this out.’ That would be the dream come true.”

The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live premieres Sunday, Feb. 25, on AMC and AMC+. Take a peek at The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live teaser trailer, and if you need a refresher on how we got here, check out our recap.

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