Andrew Lincoln and Danai Gurira were “complete equals” in crafting The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live

Showrunner Scott M. Gimple explains how Lincoln and Gurira were key to every part of the process of making the show.

2023 Winter TCA Portrait Studio
2023 Winter TCA Portrait Studio / Corey Nickols/GettyImages

This Sunday, The Walking Dead returns, again, with spinoff The Ones Who Live. The six-episode miniseries brings back together fan favorites Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes and Danai Gurira as Michonne for the first time in years for an epic romance set in the zombie apocalypse. Only this time, Lincoln and Gurira aren’t just returning as actors, they’re also key figures in crafting the series.

Along with former TWD showrunner and current TWD Universe creative head Scott M. Gimple, Lincoln and Gurira are Executive Producers and share a “created by” credit on the series. And the first episode credits the trio with a “story by” credit, as well as a teleplay by Gimple. Later in the series, Gurira, a renowned and award-winning playwright, wrote the season’s stand-out fourth episode on her own. So clearly, The Ones Who Live goes beyond an easy paycheck for Lincoln and Gurira, and into the territory of something they were deeply involved in crafting the scope of, as the show changed from three theatrical Rick Grimes movies into what viewers will see starting on Sunday, February 25.

When Bam Smack Pow talked to Gimple in advance of the series premiere, the showrunner emphasized how involved Lincoln and Gurira were, and how crucial they were to the process of making the show.

“Ultimately, it was the overall season that we brought together, the broad strokes of everything that happened, the twists and the turns and the structure,” Gimple said. “And then we went on to develop it with the writers. But initially, Andy and Danai and I met in conference rooms all across the country. In Atlanta, in New York. We met at my home in Los Angeles. And it was terrific.”

Danai Gurira, Andrew Lincoln
2024 TCA Winter Press Tour - BET+, Hallmark Media, And AMC Networks / JC Olivera/GettyImages

Initially joining The Walking Dead in Season 2 as a producer, he graduated to showrunner for the series from Seasons 4 through 8, before getting promoted to the overall Chief Creative Officer of The Walking Dead Universe. Though TWD has always been very collaborative, from the writers to the actors, to the effects artists crafting the zombies and beyond, Gimple found The Ones Who Live to be a step beyond even what they usually attempted when he was showrunning TWD.

“I went into [The Ones Who Live] very much with a different mindset,” Gimple recalled. “I was wholly in charge of the story when I ran The Walking Dead. And in this, I neither wanted to just pitch them things for them to say yes or no to, nor did I want to just say yes to everything that they had. I wanted to go in as complete equals on this and really do this together, maybe erring on the side of them a little more than me, just because I feel not only do they know these characters and the show so well, but they earned it. I mean, I didn't have to roll around in the dirt or get blood all over me all the time or tear my heart out on screen. So it was very much like working in a band, and I wasn't lead singer or lead guitarist. I was bassist.”

Even with Gimple as bassist, and Lincoln and Gurira as lead singer and lead guitarist (your pick which is which), there are plenty of other people who helped craft the series. None more so than directing duo Bert and Bertie, who are probably best known for their stand-out work on The Great, Lessons in Chemistry, Our Flag Means Death, Silo and Hawkeye, to name a few. Here, Bert and Bertie direct the first two episodes of The Ones Who Live, “Years” and “Gone,” setting the visual tone for the back four and serving as EPs on the show.

Andrew Lincoln, Danai Gurira
2023 Winter TCA Portrait Studio / Corey Nickols/GettyImages

To those names, Gimple added cinematographer Adrian Peng Correia, Director of Photography for episodes of GLOW, Love Life, Kevin Can F**k Himself, and others for helping make the transition from shooting on film to digital.

“We wanted this to echo the original series, but to be a wider view, in some ways, and also to have scope and slivers out of the corner of your eye,” Gimple said. “And then just it's a brand new world that both these characters find themselves in. So it was inventing the language of that world. And so much of it is the handoff between the real and the digital and finding ways to artfully do that as well. It was bringing them in to our hopes and dreams.”

Even with Bert, Bertie, and Correia on board, Gimple once again gave a shout out to Lincoln and Gurira as crucial to the visual aspect, as well.

“What was interesting is so often [it] has always been me talking to the directors on how I'm hoping to see this thing,” Gimple said, “but this was Andy and Danai, and again, those equal voices that really helped craft this thing. And they're working with them so intimately that it was an opportunity every day to further that conversation.”

The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live premieres Sunday, February 25 at 9/8c on AMC and AMC+.

dark. Next. The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live review: The one you’ve been waiting for. The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live review: The one you’ve been waiting for