A new The Walking Dead spinoff is coming June 18, 2023 at 10/9c on AMC and AMC+: it will center on Negan and Maggie and will be called The Walking Dead: Dead City.
The Walking Dead: Dead City Episode 1 “Old Acquaintances”: Synopsis
Maggie and Negan travel to Manhattan; a marshal named Armstrong follows Negan.
It’s a sunny October morning on slip 5 of New Jersey’s Hoboken Ferry Terminal, and the crew of The Walking Dead: Dead City is battling a horde of invaders more frightening than any zombie.
Two unsuspecting members of the camera department munching on breakfast burritos by the craft services table jump and scream as an intruder from the offending party advances on their position. “HOLY S—!” one of them yells, morsels of eggs and salsa spilling out of his mouth.
And then… laughter. These are not the first crew members to be panic-stricken by a stray rat today. And they will not be the last. Chuckles one on-looker at their terror, “You know, we do work on a zombie show.” But something even scarier is happening 25 feet up in the air.
Series stars Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Lauren Cohan are preparing to execute a stunt that has the duo walking across a very narrow beam for an impeding showdown on an elevated platform.
While the actors playing Negan and Maggie are secured into harnesses to ensure their safety, that doesn’t make the journey across any less harrowing when they look down at the sliver of beam separating them from a fall above unforgiving concrete, not to mention scores of hungry zombies.
Morgan is first to make the traverse, and he wants to make sure the event is captured at every angle for posterity.
“Have Barry shoot me going across the beam,” he bellows, referring to the hand-held camera operator. “Nobody’s going to believe I did this!”
As cameras begin rolling, Morgan hits the beam at a breakneck speed, laughing nervously after completing the crossing in mere seconds. “F— me, I almost fell!” As for his Usain Bolt-like pace, the actor figured that the less time he was up on that beam, the better. “It’s going slow where I start to freak out,” he explains to episode director Gandja Monteiro.
Freaking out also describes the current state of Lauren Cohan.
“I can’t do it, I can’t do it. I can’t do it,” repeats the actress to seemingly no one and everyone. But while Cohan may have an issue with heights, she has an even bigger issue with not getting the job done. And after playing a farmer’s daughter turned post-apocalyptic badass for over a decade, she knows a little something about overcoming fear.
Cohan could easily call for her trusty stunt double D.J. to perform the task for her, and certain angles would be used so that nobody who watches the scene would ever be the wiser.
But the crossing has now become a point of pride, and after taking a minute to calm herself down and then psyche herself up, Cohan hops over the railing and motors across the beam — the cameras catching every second of the action. “F— yeah!” she exclaims after arriving on the platform and hugging her scene partner in celebration.
Looking back later on the crossing, Cohan sees it as a defining moment. “Literally, my feet would not move,” she recalls of freezing in place. “I started crying, definitely was hyperventilating.” So what changed and got her over that beam? “I just thought, if you let this take you down — no pun intended — what’s the next thing that you’re going to be afraid of that you don’t do?”
The dangerous crossing is also symbolic of the tightrope walk with little margin for error that Cohan, Morgan, and the entire Walking Dead franchise is taking with its new spin-off strategy.
Can AMC recapture the magic of the original series by breaking it off into several different shows with different stars in different cities? Don’t look down, but we’re about to find out.
“Every day I was looking for familiar faces,” says Morgan. “Because it’s the same world, right? And so to be in that world and not have Norman or the same camera guys — It was just odd.”
But the new setting, new crew, and new castmates also invigorated the pair — who both serve as Dead City executive producers — after so many years battling chiggers and tics down in rural Georgia.
“I had that feeling of excitement that you get when you’re going somewhere new and going to be with new people,” says Cohan. “And even though there’s familiarity with the characters, everything else became fresh and totally a new thing. It felt like a whole new job.”
The job this time — on screen, at least — is to save Maggie’s son Hershel, who has been abducted and brought to Manhattan. For Maggie, saving him means getting help once again from the man who brutally murdered her husband — and she gets that help in the form of some good ol’ fashioned quid pro quo.
It seems Negan has gotten himself into a bit of trouble — SHOCKER! — and Maggie can help him escape… if he’ll aid her in getting Hershel back.
“She kind of blackmails him into helping,” laughs Morgan. “She knows that he’s a wanted man, so she’s like, ‘Look, I can help you get away. They’re on your tail and we can get out of here. You help me save Herschel, and then I won’t turn you in.’ So it’s maybe not starting off on the greatest foot.”
While their final episode together on The Walking Dead displayed a truce of sorts emerging between the dysfunctional duo — with Negan finally apologizing for what he did to Glenn (Steven Yeun), and Maggie inviting him to settle down in the community with them, Dead City aims to show that some wounds can never be fully healed.
“If you were to lose a loved one the way Maggie has, or to be the cause of the loss of a loved one the way Negan was, I think that’s going to ripple throughout your whole life,” says showrunner Eli Jorné. “I don’t know that you ever forget that, or ‘get over it.'”
“How do you behave when you are literally forced to walk into the mouth of the dragon that killed your family?” asks Cohan. “It’s not even remotely close to forgiveness, but it is finally really tackling the unavoidable issue of grief, and the fact that these characters have been through these crazy traumas and nobody processes anything.”
That lack of processing may help explain why neither Maggie nor Negan has been doing so hot since we last saw them.
Dead City picks up roughly two years after the end of The Walking Dead, and Cohan hints that her character “is definitely in many ways gone a couple steps back by the time we see her, because you hope to avoid something and get on with your life, and I just don’t think you can move forward without facing it.”
As for Maggie’s former tormentor, Jorné teases that, “When we meet Negan, he’s in a bit of a down-and-out state. I don’t know that he’s found his perfect little happy ending with a bow on it.” What that means for his wife Annie (Medina Senghore), last seen pregnant with Negan’s child remains unclear, but it certainly doesn’t bode well. As Morgan notes: “He’s not with his family, so some s— has happened.”
Negan’s problems have also attracted some unwanted attention in the form of a lawman on his tail. Friday Night Lights’ Gaius Charles plays Perlie Armstrong, a marshal for a federation of city-states in Virginia known as New Babylon.
“He’s a man on a mission, and he has really strong code,” says Jorné. “Whether we agree with that code or not remains to be seen.” Charles’ take on that aforementioned code? “I try to give people a chance, which you’ll see. But if they don’t take that chance, then I lay the law down, and you’ll see some of that too.”
Like Maggie and Negan, Armstrong has his own trauma and ghosts from the past that visit him from time to time. “One of the reasons why I cling to this law-and-order mentality is because it helps to protect me from some of those issues that I haven’t dealt with,” explains Charles. “But, of course, this being The Walking Dead, I eventually will.”
On the opposite side of law and order is another new threat known simply as the Croat. Played by Željko Ivanek, the Croat is an unwelcome blast from Negan’s past.
“He is an underling of Negan’s from back in the day,” reveals Morgan, “But he has taken the evil to places where not even Negan in his heyday has gone.”
Which all bears the question: Is there anyone not coming after Negan on this show? Laughs Morgan, “Negan has born this monster in Željko’s character, and he’s got Armstrong on his six, and then he is dealing with Maggie, who probably wants to kill him about 93 percent of the time. So, you know, he’s in a tough spot when the series kicks off.”
Of course, all of this will now be taking place in the backdrop of the concrete jungle that is Manhattan, which will give the new series (that filmed in both New York and New Jersey) a very different look from its predecessor.
“Manhattan is the ground zero of the virus,” Cohan explains. The government bombed all the bridges and access to and from the island. People were basically just left there to die, so those that are still alive are pretty bitter about it.”
And into that brave and bitter new world step Maggie and Negan.
“There are many different factions in the city,” says Cohan. “And they live very differently and have had to arm themselves in a way that allows them to make it work.”
But the biggest question of all is… how long will their stay in the Big Apple last?
Even with the current writers’ strike, and even though Dead City has yet to be officially picked up for season 2, the show is currently in pre-production for a follow-up season of Manhattan madness. But’s it’s not just Dead City’s future at stake; there is also the entire fate of a franchise to consider. A rough start out of the gate could dampen enthusiasm for the other follow-up series. However, cast, crew, and network are all confident that the first entry in The Walking Dead 2.0 universe will set the tone and template for this next phase of the overarching story, and act as a bridge — or, say, a beam — to this new era.
Morgan’s Negan and Cohan’s Maggie will share the screen again in The Walking Dead: Dead City, also set for a June premiere.
“Dead City is going to pick up a couple years after we last saw the gang with the Walking Dead. Maggie tracks Negan down, she needs his help — at least that’s the story she’s giving him,” Morgan teased. “We find ourselves in need of going to Manhattan and I think New York City as their backdrop in this world is going to be really special.”
With a trailer for the project already revealed, fans have speculated how the relationship between Negan and Maggie might evolve.
“They’re not getting married, you know what I mean?” Morgan said with a laugh. “I’ll give that away. It’s tenuous at best. They’re needing each other for a very specific reason. So, Negan has gone back probably a few steps in that redemption arc out of necessity and his survival instincts. It’s going to be a rough road, but going down 5th Avenue is not that bad a road to go down.”
For her part, Cohan describes the premise as, “not typical teammates and not a typical adventure.”
“Adventure is probably a little bit misleading,” she clarified. “I think that people are very excited and very curious about why these two would be together on a journey, and that’s all going to be delved into in a really interesting, conflict-ridden way, which is always fun to play.”
Jeffrey Dean Morgan confirmed production is underway on the Walking Dead spin-off series The Walking Dead: Dead City. The actor, who plays Negan, shared a photo of the pilot script to Instagram with the caption, “Here we go. Xxjd… and a shelf full of sonics.”
Premiering in 2023, the new series The Walking Dead: Dead City will follow the unlikely pair – played by Lauren Cohan and Jeffrey Dean Morgan – into what AMC calls “a post-apocalyptic Manhattan long ago cut off from the mainland.
“The crumbling city,” AMC adds, “is filled with the dead and denizens who have made New York City their own world full of anarchy, danger, beauty and terror.”
The Walking Dead: Dead City is the fifth spinoff of the original AMC drama based on Robert Kirkman’s comic-book series. Previous spinoffs include Fear the Walking Dead, The Walking Dead: World Beyond and the in-the-works Tales of the Walking Dead and an as-yet-untitled Daryl/Carol spinoff.
While the spinoffs all stand alone, Jeffrey and Lauren teased that it might not be long before their characters Negan and Maggie stumble across some familiar faces again.
“I think the door is open because we are all on the same timeline,” Jeffrey revealed to E! News. “They are existing at the same time. So I think there is the opportunity to bring a character from this show, a character from that show, and do something else that can continue.”
Lauren agreed, saying “there’s hope of a collision” between all of the different shows.
While Jeffrey now says “everyone is very excited about the respective spinoffs and what can come next,” he wasn’t always so sure how Dead City—which will follow Maggie and Negan as they travel “into a post-apocalyptic Manhattan long ago cut off from the mainland,” according to the network—would even work in the first place.
“When the idea was first pitched, I thought it was as crazy as you probably did,” he said. “How do you put these two characters together? There was a lot of talk about spinoffs and how they would do it. They were talking to Lauren and I about doing our own.”
Jeffrey continued, “One day, [The Walking Dead Universe chief content officer] Scott [Gimple] said, ‘Hey, we’ve got this idea and it’s the two of you.’ I remember I talked to Lauren the next day on set and we were both eyebrows raised going, ‘How the f–k does that work?'”
How the f–k that works, Lauren argued, is by not running away from the existential nature of Negan and Maggie’s relationship.
“It’s a good territory for us to get into as actors, but our audience is going to want to see it,” she said. “It is so much left on the table. If you’re tethered to somebody you have every reason to never want to deal with and want to hate and you have to, for me it just brings up the biggest questions you can have in life.”
As for when those questions will be addressed? Jeffrey insisted fans won’t have to wait long.
“I think those are all going to be answered in the first year,” he said. “I think they’re going to be answered, really, in the first couple episodes. It’s really interesting. It’s really interesting storytelling.”
Jeffrey credited Lauren with making the transition to a spinoff a seamless one, but warned that not everything can stay rosy for long.
“A lot of it felt the same. We had an intimacy from just being around each other for the last seven years,” he said. “But at the same time, we got to do all this new stuff and dive into dark places that you really need to trust your partner. Make no mistake, we really are partners in this, on screen and off, and yet she might kill me at any moment. Or maybe me her. Who knows?”
Jeffrey Dean Morgan on almost walking away from The Walking Dead: Dead City
What was surprising to the man playing Negan was the fact that he even wanted to do the show in the first place. “If you had told me that a year ago that I would be doing it, I would’ve said, ‘There’s no way. I’m going to end this and walk away.'” says Morgan. “The new adventure awaits doing something else.'”
So what changed? The actor pauses and considers: “I think that The Walking Dead ending and walking away from it would’ve been a noble thing for us all to do. But the story was so good and so worth telling that it simply came down to, I couldn’t say no. And I felt invigorated and wanted to continue it.”
Eli Jorné has been tapped to executive-produce the six-episode Season 1 along with Cohan and Morgan.
Lauren Cohan and Jeffrey Dean Morgan reaction to the news
Jorné “has created something incredibly special,” said Cohan. She added “I cannot wait for the fans to see what we have in store for Maggie and Negan.” For his part, Morgan exclaimed, “Walkers in an urban setting has always been such a cool image, but 5th Avenue, [the] Empire State Building, [the] Statue of Liberty? The greatest city in the world?!? The backdrop is amazing,” he continued, “but it’s the story that Eli Jorné cooked up that is even better. Buckle up, folks, Isle of the Dead is going to reinvent the Walking Dead Universe.”
The six-episode series will launch on AMC and AMC+ in 2023.
Gaius Charles is set as a lead opposite Lauren Cohan and Jeffrey Dean Morgan in Isle of the Dead, AMC’s upcoming New York City-set The Walking Dead spinoff series.
Charles will play Izaak. He’s confident, ruthless, and unyielding in the pursuit of what he believes is justice, with the force of his will and his menace. Izaak enjoys his work and intersperses humor with the terror he incites. This is a family man, devoted to building a safe world for his wife and daughters. His journey unearths a loss he is haunted by. He has patience and resilience and walks rather than runs from his mistakes.
“Negan is a bit of a screwup,” laughs Morgan. “He’s just that guy that you want to smack. He’s a punchable guy, and I understand that, being the guy that says the stuff that comes out of his mouth. I want to punch him sometimes!”
“I think time apart probably will make it worse. Negan has an opportunity to kind of fall into some old habits, because it’s all a survival mechanism for him, especially if he’s not with the group. The group kind of tamed him in a lot of ways, and to fit in, he had to stop being who he was. And I think away from this group, he is likely to fall into some old traps and old behaviors.”
“Look, it’s an apocalypse,” says Morgan. “We know how Negan has survived. We have seen him in his progression on how he’s survived and what he does to adapt, and I think he will always be adaptable in any situation. But away from people, he doesn’t do well.”
“As uneasy of an alliance it is that Maggie and Negan have, I think Negan being out of Maggie’s line of sight for a couple years is still never going to make what happened for her go away. I don’t know if us getting along in any way is going to last. I don’t know if it can.”
We know that he’s going to run off to New York City,. It’s him and Maggie, and there’s not a lot of people with him. So, if I do the math on this, he’s going to be in trouble. It’s going to be a bad combination for him.
Lauren Cohan talks Maggie in New York
All things considered, Maggie Rhee ended in a pretty good place at the conclusion of The Walking Dead. She saved her son. She saved the Commonwealth, she (kind of) forgave Negan for brutally murdering her husband. And she was back at the Hilltop.
Of course, nothing stays good for very long in the world of The Walking Dead, and it seems the good times will no longer be rolling when things pick back up in April on AMC’s Maggie and Negan spin-off, The Walking Dead: Dead City. That’s according to Maggie herself, Lauren Cohan.
“We end up picking up in New York at the bottom of a really unexpected mountain,” Cohan tells EW, “where maybe things have gone well for a period of time, but we’re back at this challenge, just like these challenges that always seem to keep cropping up.”
Dead City will pick up a few years after the conclusion of the mothership series, and the question remains as to what happened in those unseen years that ultimately leads the dysfunctional duo north to New York City. Whatever it is, it’s not good.
“Nothing is through rose-colored glasses,” says Cohan of the journey. “Because the thing that comes up, it’s like, okay, so we overcame this obstacle of the Commonwealth and these things, that doesn’t mean life is easy just because you quashed one enemy. And the enemy is this moving target. It’s also the enemy within.”
While Cohan will not reveal the specific event or incident that gets her and Negan back together in the Big Apple, she does mention the word “parenting” a few times in our chat, and also reveals that, “When we go into the new show, Maggie’s greatest weakness is definitely exploited.”
Could that mean her son Hershel’s safety is at risk? Then again, parenting is a pretty big deal, and Cohan also notes that “Sometimes it’s not the big things that are the hard things, it’s the little things. And those little things become very, very big things because they are our own blind spots, and they are our own greatest weakness.”
Bottom line: Who knows what the hell she’s talking about. But it’s clear that the cease fire between Maggie and Negan that we saw on The Walking Dead finale may have… well, ceased.
Jeffrey Dean Morgan told EW that Negan will be reverting to some of his old ways after being separated from the group.
Cohan teases that “It’s going to be really, really hard for her to continue, even with the best intentions she had of letting Negan have his territory and her getting on with her life and finding the hope and trying to build this future.”
It also sounds like the new, unfamiliar territory of a zombie-infested New York City will not help matters either: “She has to go through this new terrain of going into New York City. That’s going to be really difficult and physically challenging.”
Translation: Nothing is going to be easy for Maggie. But if there is one thing we have learned about the character after she lost her mother… and her stepmother… and her stepbrother… and her father… and her sister… and her husband… and too many friends to mention, it’s that she possesses an incredible resilience in the face of unthinkable adversity.
“It feels really important to me now with how we move forward with the story,” says Cohan, “Because the reality of a life of extreme friction and challenge is that you need to keep moving forward.”
New Cast Members for The Walking Dead: Dead City Announced!
- Jonathan Higginbotham as Tommaso
- Željko Ivanek as The Croat
- Mahina Napoleon as Ginny
- Karina Ortiz as Amaia
Teaser & more
Television Critics Awards portraits
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