It’s sad watching people die on The Walking Dead. But when some characters die off, new ones emerge and take their place. So while we mourn the most recent loss of Hershel, we can at least look forward to the appearance of three familiar faces from the comic book on which the show is based. (Faces like Abraham, as played by Michael Cudlitz — see photo above.) We chatted with Walking Dead exec producer Robert Kirkman to get the scoop on the newbies as well as everything else we need to know heading into the last eight episodes of season 4, which kick off this Sunday on AMC. (Click through both pages to read the entire interview. And also make sure to check out our midseason preview Q&As with Norman Reedus, Danai Gurira, and Andrew Lincoln.)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I’ve spoken with a lot of the cast recently and everyone has talked about how the final eight episodes are tonally different from the first eight. Can you talk about that a bit and how they may feel a bit different?
ROBERT KIRKMAN: It’s all of our characters scattered to the winds. Everybody’s separated and so we’re actually doing a lot of really intense, character focusing episodes. So because they’re separated there will be episodes that focus on different people. There will be episodes that focus on different groups at a time when they’re in their worst situation yet. We’re really going to really drill down into them and get to know them much more than we’ve gotten to know them before. I think after the end of these eight episodes you’re going to be acutely aware of who these people are and I think they’re going to be some really shocking revelations about what makes people tick and who they really are at their core.
EW: This has always been a show about a big group. Why the decision to separate them?
KIRKMAN: Well, the prison is a cataclysm. And you can’t really honor the gravity of that situation without disrupting your characters in a big way. And what the show has been about — in some part at least for the last two seasons — is you need people to survive. The best thing is to do is to get a group of people and try to work together and that’s the way you can get by, and now we’re taking that away from these people. Now they’re separated, they’re on their own, and things are much more deadly than they’ve ever been and it’s really them coming out of losing their prison, and seeing what the Governor has done to them, putting them through their paces. To some extent this is their darkest period that these characters have gone through yet.
EW: Tying into that darkest period – tell me about the aftershocks of Hershel’s execution. What’s that going to do to everyone?
KIRKMAN: It’s a huge deal for them. Hershel touched each and every one of those characters, that’s why it’s such an important death. These guys are shaken to their core trying to deal with this loss and they don’t have time to deal with it because things are out there trying to eat them. That’s what The Walking Dead is about, so they don’t really get a minute to reflect on that or deal with their emotions. We’ll see these characters are absolutely wrecked from seeing that and experiencing that but there are so many things that are put upon them or that they’re going to have to deal with. It’s really just this barrage of terrible things we’re going to have to see our characters overcome or not and that’s really the fun of it.
EW: Okay, where’s Baby Judith?
KIRKMAN: All I know is that there’s a bloody car seat so things aren’t looking too good.
EW: How about Lilly and Tara. Will we see them or anyone from the Governor’s storyline again, or is that chapter complete?
KIRKMAN: There are some people in that mix that we didn’t see die that could theoretically pop up at some point in the future.
EW: We know we’re going to see new characters in the back eight, a few big ones from the comics — Abraham and Rosita and Eugene. What can you tell us about them and how similar or different they will be to the original comic iterations?
KIRKMAN: These characters are going to be extremely similar to who they were in the comics and I’m really excited about that. The visuals and costuming for them has been absolutely amazing. These people really do look like they were torn out of the comic page, it’s pretty startling. But I will say people excited for the introduction of these characters won’t have to wait very long. I don’t want to reveal exactly when they’ll be introduced, but it won’t be too terribly late in the season so get your hopes up. They really are going to add a very interesting and very compelling dynamic to the show. I think they’re going to bring in elements to the show that we’ve never really explored before and I think that’s exciting and something that’s going to change the game to a certain extent. I’m always very excited at how much this show evolves over time and changes season to season and these three characters are agent that very much changes the story and very much changes the direction of the show to a certain extent.