Cue the zombie chorus line: Tales of the Walking Dead has a musical episode written

·8 min read

A lot of attention is being lavished on Walking Dead spin-offs with Maggie and Negan in New York, and Daryl in France, and Rick and Michonne in God knows where. But perhaps the most intriguing new entry in The Walking Dead universe launches this Sunday when Tales of the Walking Dead is unleashed on AMC.

An anthology series featuring separate close-ended hourlong stories in the zombie apocalypse, the six-episode first season of Tales features an impressive roster of newcomers to the franchise, including Terry Crews, Olivia Munn, Parker Posey, Jillian Bell, Anthony Edwards, Danny Ramirez, and more.

Tales of the Walking Dead
Tales of the Walking Dead

Curtis Bonds Baker/AMC Olivia Munn and Terry Crews on 'Tales of the Walking Dead'

But the faces are not the only things that are new. The anthology series also throws good portions of the Walking Dead rulebook out the window, especially when it comes to tone and format. Want some comedy? Tales has it! Curious to see other supernatural elements at play? Stay tuned!

Lest you not believe that the new series was willing to take some serious risks, showrunner Channing Powell reveals one idea that truly swung for the fences. "We did come up with a musical episode, that just for production reasons was going to be a little bit too difficult to film."

Hold on, did she just say musical episode? Because I think she did. And Powell's revelation falls in line with a statement from Powell's co-creator on the show, Scott M. Gimple, who said on Talking Dead back in 2020 that "We may be doing different formats and possibility utilizing animation, music, different mediums. We want to surprise people every week with what they will be getting."

If visions of singing zombies or a chorus line of flesh-eaters with top hats and tails are suddenly dancing in your head, we have good news for you: The aforementioned musical episode was not just a random thought that was pitched and discarded. "It's written!" says Powell. "We have a whole script for it."

So why didn't the show set down some cameras and film this genre-bending masterpiece? Because the spin-off's tight season 1 production schedule left no room for the other necessary elements like recording the songs and what we have to assume is show-stopping choreography.

However, not unlike the walkers combing the post-apocalyptic wasteland, the idea of a Tales of the Waking Dead musical episode is far from dead. "Should we get a season 2 or 3, I'm going to push for that one if I can," says Powell. "It lives in my heart and in my mind."

And now it lives in ours as well. Powell also spoke to EW about crafting this new corner of the Walking Dead universe, complete with an Easter egg for superfans with eagle eyes.

Tales of the Walking Dead
Tales of the Walking Dead

Curtis Bonds Baker/AMC Jillian Bell and Parker Posey on 'Tales of the Walking Dead'

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What's it like creating stories for Tales of the Walking Dead that have a beginning, middle and end in 45 minutes as opposed stories that span over 45 seasons?

CHANNING POWELL: It's definitely its own challenge. I actually really liked it because it felt like I could really dig in and create some of these characters myself, which I hadn't really had a chance to do working for the franchise before. And it did seem that in order for us to focus on the characters, we had to whittle down the amount of characters in an episode to really focus on telling those stories.

So you'll see that a lot of the stories gravitate toward a coupling or a pairing of characters and how they have to react off each other in the walker apocalypse and reveal things about each other in the walker apocalypse. And it just felt like with the coupling, it felt more intimate and a little bit more accessible than jumping into a big ensemble piece that felt like we couldn't give an ensemble enough time to really evolve and charm the audience as much as we wanted to.

How nice was it to work on this anthology format where you weren't as bound to certain rules that you all have with the other shows in terms of tone in some of the episodes?

I really loved it. I have written for The Walking Dead and Fear the Walking Dead for a very long time, so I'm very familiar with the tone. I was entrenched on it for a very long time. So being able to push the boundaries outside of it felt exciting and new to me. And also, I knew that there were going to be other spinoffs going into this one. And I thought if people really want traditional Walking Dead, they can either watch the flagship show, Fear the Walking Dead, or really any of the other spinoffs. But if they're craving something new and something different, this was really the opportunity to pursue it.

So we tried as much as we could to push the boundaries of this world. And some of them are going to be not what the audience is expecting of The Walking Dead. And then there are hopefully a few that are a little more in tone and in line with what they would expect. So there's a little bit for everybody.

When you only had to bring people in for one episode, did that help you land folks like Olivia Munn and Terry Crews in terms of saying, "Hey, it's not a big commitment here. We're talking 10 days."

Yes, I think so. We had high goals going in. I didn't actually think that we would get some of these people. I didn't think Parker Posey would want to do a walker apocalypse episode, but it was 10 days. And I think that was much more appealing to them. And for somebody like Terry, who was such a huge fan of the show, he's got all these other projects going on. He could fit it in between everything else.

And then once we had these bigger names sign on, I think it generated a lot of interest in a way that we weren't expecting. And we're so grateful for it. We didn't want to cast just to cast. We wanted to cast the best people. But I think the caliber of people we got brought more interest from other people and more interest from audiences, hopefully.

Samantha Morton as Dee - Tales of the Walking Dead
Samantha Morton as Dee - Tales of the Walking Dead

Curtis Bonds Baker/AMC Samantha Morton as Dee in 'Tales of the Walking Dead'

When the show was first announced, it felt like it was going to be more of a mix of stories with characters we already knew and stories with new characters, but five of the six installments ended up being focused on new characters, along with a new Alpha flashback installment. Why weren't there more episodes looking at folks we had already met?

We are hoping to get more seasons, so we are hoping to explore other characters within the franchise. But we also knew that this was really our chance to go outside of the box as much as possible.

I knew of a few of the spinoffs going into it, so I knew that audiences would be getting answers on some of those characters they still had questions on or wanting to see again. And this really felt like if we want to do something new, this was our chance because we aren't beholden to a certain timeline or a certain location or a certain story. And so we have a tie-in one episode and then we have one episode about an existing character, but otherwise we really wanted to explore all the new stuff that we could potentially explore.

What do you mean when you say, a "tie-in"?

It's very subtle. It references something that you really do have to be a fan of the show and remember it well to pick it up. It's a visual clue that connects to another episode. But you don't have to have seen The Walking Dead episode to watch this Tales of the Walking Dead episode. Or if you have seen The Walking Dead episode, it's just an extra little flavor that you'll pick up from this Tales episode.

I love the opening title sequence. Tell me how you all approached that in terms of showcasing all the episode themes but also spotlighting each one for each episode?

I love that opening sequence as well. I've been so used to working for the flagship show and in this Western tonality and vibe and color. My mandate was to do something a little bit more colorful and vibrant. And we looked at a couple companies. And this one had presented what to me looked like book covers in a bookcase of different book covers next to each other that somehow all differed and yet felt cohesive at the same time. So I just visually gravitated toward it.

And then each one melds into a specific image or tone of what the actual episode you're about to watch is. But we wanted to give you that sort of flavor at the beginning of the titles, really make it feel like it was something different in The Walking Dead world. And then give you a little hint of what the episode was, just to set your palate for the opening of the episode.

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