World Beyond Is Like The Walking Dead ‘With A Bunch Of Carls’
Ten years ago, AMC’s monster hit The Walking Dead brought viewers a nightmarish vision of what the world might look like shortly after the complete breakdown of society.
We were introduced to this new reality alongside sheriff’s deputy Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), who awakens from a coma and must very quickly adjust to the idea of living through the zombie apocalypse.
What follows is an endurance test of resourcefulness and morality, with Rick and his ever shifting group fighting for survival while clinging to some semblance of humanity. Good people are forced to make terrible decisions, and darker impulses rise to the surface.
You can watch the trailer for The Walking Dead: World Beyond below:
With spinoff The Walking Dead: World Beyond, we are brought back into this ravaged world 10 years on, and the story begins very differently.
The action kicks of in The Campus Colony, an apparently thriving post-apocalyptic community established at Nebraska State University in Omaha.
A far cry from the makeshift mini-societies we’ve previously seen in The Walking Dead universe, The Campus Colony is initially presented as the very picture of civilisation and progress.
Kids attend classes and develop an appreciation for art and science. Citizens wear clean, non blooded clothes and hold annual celebrations and memorials. There is time to attend therapy sessions, practice karate and speak to UNILAD about living with zombies.
However, beyond the walls of the picturesque campus is the desolate hellscape The Walking Dead fans know all too well. A land where viscous living corpses – known in this show as ’empties’ – roam wild and ravenous.
It is within an all too delicate pocket of safety that we meet the very first generation to grow up within this collapsed and diminished world, with the action focused primarily on a plucky group of teenagers.
As Nicolas Cantu, who plays Elton on the show, puts it, ‘It’s like watching The Walking Dead with a bunch of Carls’.
Cantu, who looks to Carl as a touchstone of ‘relatability’ in the franchise, plays Elton as ‘a very analytical and curious 14-year-old’ with a ‘positive, nihilistic outlook on the world’. However, beneath the surface, his fears are much deeper than he initially lets on.
Cantu explains that, although Elton is all too ready to head out on an adventure with his pals, he is also acutely aware of the dangers ahead of them, as well as the wider probability that humans as a species might well be completely extinct within the next few years.
Cantu told UNILAD:
I think as much as Elton puts on this front of being okay with this statistic that the human race might not last that long, I think that deep down he’s worried about it.
Your species coming to a close because of walkers roaming the Earth is a scary, scary thought so I think his biggest fear is that the human race as a whole is going to go extinct like the dinosaurs.
It’s at this seemingly bleak end time point that our protagonists are growing up, testing their boundaries and finding out who they really are. Alexa Mansour – who plays the tellingly named Hope on the show – explained that ‘everyone has different perspectives’ on the grave situation they face.
Some of us want to believe that things are going to get better, but my character though, she really doesn’t care. Might as well have fun, and enjoy my life while I’m here because we’re all pretty much screwed.
As can be expected from a show about young people surviving in a world dominated by the dead, there are strong underlying themes of trauma, with the characters having endured devastating losses at a very young age.
Seeing her mother die continues to haunt Hope and, although she puts on a ‘tough exterior’, Mansour explained that she’s actually ‘sweet and soft’ inside:
She loves her friends and her family, but at the same time, she’s just kind of like, ‘we’re all doomed either way. I might as well have a good time and not even think about it’.
I think her biggest fear would be losing her sister. Because she puts her own life on the line to make sure that her sister is okay. And Iris would do the same thing for Hope I think. Losing the last of her family, I think that’s her biggest fear.
Despite having endured such harrowing childhoods, the teens have no real clue about what awaits them beyond the campus walls. In Mansour’s words, ‘they don’t realise how bad it is outside’.
Like most teens, Mansour notes they are often not really considering the consequences of their actions, acting on the ‘spur of the moment’ in ways we wouldn’t necessarily see from older, more cautious survivors.
Despite the overtly gory, explicit horror of the show, this is very much a coming-of-age story, with showrunner Matt Negrete having been inspired by life affirming films such as Stand By Me.
Negrete – who penned some of the most iconic episodes of The Walking Dead – said:
I just really love the idea of taking this core group of characters and sending them out into the world on this adventure. It’s an adventure in which they learn about the world and how it works and about life, but it’s also what they learn about each other and what they learn about themselves.
The idea that by the end of this, they’re just changed and they’re different and they’re not the same person they were when they started off on this journey, that was really the appealing thing for me about this show when I first approached it.
The core characters, Negrete explained, have grown up learning of the world beyond through books, research and teachings. However, they haven’t really lived through it and developed those crucial survival skills out in the crumbling wilderness.
This creates an interesting dynamic, and offers a fresher perspective to previous tooth-and-nail survival stories. Previous protagonists have had to learn by fighting for their lives, but these kids have been educated in relative safety.
Negrete told UNILAD:
It’s one thing to learn about how to kill a walker – or an ’empty’ as we call it on this show – and actually do it.
Those are two very different things and so they’re not going into this world blind, but they still have a lot to learn, and I think that’s the exciting thing about this.
This is something which has clearly influenced the cast members’ understanding of their characters, with Cantu remarking that the show is as much about ‘finding yourself’ as it is about finding food or shelter.
Cantu, who watched Stand By Me in preparation for his role, said:
As a teenager growing up in this broken world, you’re still trying to be who you want to be, and be who you aspire to be and try and become something greater. I mean, that’s just the human instinct, you know? Self improvement.
For Julia Ormond, who plays the imposing Lieutenant Colonel Elizabeth Kublek, this isn’t just a coming of age story for the younger characters.
The more seasoned survivors also undergo changes in their perspectives, finding things out about themselves under the most drastic circumstances imaginable.
It shifts, the coming of age story of the kids shifts all of the characters, because I think there is something about the parents being very preoccupied or focused on the survival of their kids.
And I think this is where the kids take over and grow up, and have more agency in the world they’re going to create coming out of it.
The Walking Dead has always explored the nuances of leadership; the qualities which make a good leader, and the factors which cause that leadership to slip.
Elizabeth is a much different leader to Rick, coming across as rather cool headed and mysterious. From the get go, we’re not quite sure whether to trust her, or what exactly it is she’s hiding. But despite this, there are still parallels.
Ormond told UNILAD:
When I sort of look back on Rick’s struggles, it does kind of come back to how was it impacted by their parenting, by their ability to parent.
And I do think there’s something very different about Elizabeth, and very different about the philosophy that drives her. She’s very committed too. She’s primarily a military leader, so there’s a military vibe to what she’s doing.
She’s very committed to what is the best course of action and choice to make on behalf of the community. And that a truer expression of equality is that everyone is equal, and I don’t get to put my child first.
Those are colours that you see different people start to express or start to have an awareness that, we may see, everybody’s enemy has an enemy.
So we think that we’re choosing to be the good guys, and we see them as the bad guys, but which is it? And I think those are themes that are sort of percolating throughout the series. And I think the CRM, this world that Elizabeth comes from, will explore that more.
Fans will no doubt be looking to see if we get any answers to some as of yet unexplained plot points of The Walking Dead, particularly regarding the black helicopter which whisked Rick away in season nine. The helicopter bore three rings, sparking much fan speculation.
Scott Gimple, the showrunner from season four to season eight, referred to the shadowy organisation as the ‘CRM’ during a Comic-Con panel, and it has since been revealed that the organisation’s military – which will feature prominently in World Beyond – is known as the ‘Civic Republic Military’.
We’re going to learn a lot more about that organisation in the show. Our characters are from this community, part of this alliance. One of them is the city of Portland and one of them is this mysterious city called the Civic Republic
The Civic Republic is obviously part of that organisation that took Rick. And so, we’re going to learn more about that, and sort of peel back the layers of who these people are and what they want, and what their ultimate goal is.
So there’s a lot to sort of unpack in this show that I think will be very relevant to what we’ve set up on The Walking Dead. Stay tuned for some of those answers.
Viewers will see how members of the Campus Colony have valiantly tried to bring about a sense of normality, preserving aspects of life which were important in the time before. However, as cautioned by Cantu, ‘we’re not the only ones out there’.
Speaking about the looming presence of the CRM, Cantu said:
There’s different societies that are trying to build themselves back up and of course we’ve got the CRM. You can kind of see them as a mega society, even though we don’t know where they are, we don’t really know what their motives are.
We know that they are a big looming threat that is better off that anybody else, and they’re just trying to keep it to themselves. Who knows what’s up with that? They’re a big mystery in our show.
The world depicted in the show may be a precarious one, but there is also a fair bit of hope amongst the decay and the ugliness.
The young adventurers are likeable, courageous and keenly intelligent. We want to root for them and imagine there’s a better life that can be built from the rubble. That they represent a beginning rather than an end.
The ultimate goal of our characters is they want to fight for a future. They believe in a future. And that’s what’s at stake for them. So, in that sense, I think it is a very hopeful show.
Ormond agreed with this assessment, remarking:
Part of what makes it hopeful is the mounting despair that they challenge and that they go against – so the two colours kind of come together.
Of course, the show couldn’t have come at a stranger time. As with so many TV projects, the premiere was postponed due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, with premiere set to air during an uncertain new age.
The panic buying, shortages and confusion which marked the beginning of the pandemic bear uncanny parallels to the opening scenes of so many post-apocalyptic TV shows. But even for a seasoned zombie series writer like Negrete, there were surprises.
I never realised the importance of toilet paper, and how quickly that would go when things went to hell. So that was like my big education from this.
It really was interesting for me how kind of gradually it happened. We were hearing rumours about things and oh, ‘the government might be saying this but no-one’s actually saying this yet officially and it might have to close down’.
And the way it gradually built, and it was this mystery of how big and how terrible is this going to be? That was the thing that really resonated with me.
Reflecting on parallels between the show and reality, Ormond added:
We’ve shown kind of a global lack of preparedness, for something that was, quite frankly, at some point inevitable and certainly for people who work on diseases and pandemics.
We’ve seen SARS emerge before, and so part of it is how adaptable can we be? I think that’s what you are constantly looking out through The Walking Dead, Fear The Walking Dead and The Walking Dead: World Beyond is how does somebody’s ability or bandwidth to adapt help them.
What is it that sort of no longer serves us? I think what makes it dangerous as a world is that sometimes the thing that serves people to survive is particularly dangerous for other people.
The younger cast members hope viewers might take away a new perspective during this particularly prescient time, with Cantu noting that the show has ‘a big theme of hope and finding the light in the dark’.
When this whole Covid thing started, going to the supermarket was an absolute nightmare. You couldn’t get toilet paper, paper towels, we had a food shortage where I lived. It was madness. I kind of hope people watch the show and think, ‘okay, well I’m acting crazy’.
We can’t be so selfish. We’re all in this together, and we have to work together as a community to actually make things better or we’re all going to be like raging animals that are fighting over everything.
The seriousness of our current situation aside, the cast appear to have had a brilliant time on set. Cantu has described it as ‘one of my favourite sets I’ve ever been on’, while Ormond admitted to having ‘really enjoyed’ her first zombie killing.
I’m a long-time fan of The Walking Dead, but can’t help but wonder some of the grislier scenes would have felt a little too intense or real at times.
Prior to landing her role, huge horror fan Mansour had already gotten pretty used to being chased by actors in gruesome makeup through partaking in Halloween horror nights in LA.
On set, Mansour noted, the actors who played the ’empties’ were her friends, and felt much less scary once she’d spot them hanging around between takes, eating granola bars. However, even she couldn’t help but feel a little unnerved at times.
There’s definitely moments when it’s like two in the morning and you’re filming all night and your mind decides to play games on you and you start to freak out a little bit.
With the first few autumn leaves blustering about outside, there are few better new shows to sink your teeth into in the run up to Halloween that this. A good night light is strongly recommended.
The premiere of The Walking Dead: World Beyond will air Sunday, October 4 on AMC in the US. Zombie fans in the UK can catch watch the first episode now and new episodes each Friday on Amazon Prime Video.
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CreditsAmazon Prime Video UK/YouTube
Amazon Prime Video UK/YouTube