Undead alive: New stories expand the 'Walking Dead' world

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Sarah Passingham / TV Media
Jillian Bell and Parker Posey in "Tales of the Walking Dead"

Jillian Bell and Parker Posey in "Tales of the Walking Dead"

Anyone who has ever tuned in to any of the series in The Walking Dead franchise knows that the 'Walkers' outnumber the living by a lot. With hordes of undead Walkers roaming an apocalyptic world, looking for uninfected humans to feed on, there are plenty of stories of survival left to tell. AMC introduces a brand-new chapter to the franchise Sunday, Aug. 14, when "Tales of the Walking Dead" premieres its very first episode.

This new series builds up individual worlds within the Walking Dead universe by adopting an episodic anthology structure. "Tales of the Walking Dead" uses each of its six one-hour episodes to tell a solitary character story from the zombie outbreak. This unique iteration of the franchise stars Parker Posey ("Lost in Space"), Jillian Bell ("Roar"), Daniella Pineda ("Jurassic World Dominion," 2022) and Danny Ramirez ("Top Gun: Maverick," 2022) as people fighting to survive in a world newly filled with bloodthirsty, creeping monsters.

If you've missed the wave of "The Walking Dead," its spinoff series "Fear the Walking Dead" and "The Walking Dead: World Beyond," and the fan-theory discussion after show, "Talking Dead," the franchise's story begins with a globe-spanning event that awakens the dead with a singular, uncontrollable urge to seek out fresh flesh at any cost. Every strain of zombie is a bit different from the others, and while the Walkers — as they are called in this universe — aren't especially fast, they are persistent. Walkers are attracted to audible signs of human life and will travel miles to follow sounds like gunshots, fortress construction and even noisy foraging.

Fans of the franchise will recognize a certain controversial existing character in the mix with all of the new survivors of "Tales of the Walking Dead."

The villainous Alpha, portrayed by "Harlots" actress Samantha Morton, appeared in Seasons 9 and 10 of "The Walking Dead" as the leader of one of the most frightening sects of those evading the roaming walkers, The Whisperers. Clothed in the skins of Walkers (ick!) in order to shuffle among them undetected, the group antagonized the series' heroes and eventually waged war over the Hilltop sanctuary.

While more recognizable with a shaved head — practical for donning rotting skin suits — and face paint, in promotional stills released by AMC in June it appears that "Tales of the Walking Dead" will be filling in the gaps of her story from before her Alpha days, when she was known as Dee, a woman who almost looks at peace on the waterfront.

There are also some pretty big names joining the cast of "Tales of the Walking Dead," each revealed in character via those promotional photos. "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" actor Terry Crews and "The Newsroom" star Olivia Munn hit the road in a motorcycle and sidecar as Joe and Evie, while "Hacks" actress Poppy Liu's character, Amy, keeps an eye out in the forest.

Daniella Pineda and Danny Ramirez in "Tales of the Walking Dead"

Daniella Pineda and Danny Ramirez in "Tales of the Walking Dead"

Proud of their fresh new take on the mega-popular zombie franchise, Dan McDermott, president of original programming for AMC Networks and AMC Studios, said the following in a statement: "We see so much potential for a wide range of rich and compelling storytelling in this world and the episodic anthology format of 'Tales of the Walking Dead' will give us the flexibility to entertain existing fans and also offer an entry point for new viewers."

McDermott also nodded to the proven success of episodic anthology shows, such as "Black Mirror" and the recent revival of TV classic "The Twilight Zone."

Behind the scenes of "Tales of the Walking Dead" is one key team member who has been part of keeping the franchise on track for years. Writer and producer Channing Powell, who has worked on "The Walking Dead" and "Fear the Walking Dead," steps into the showrunner role for this new series.

Powell shared his excitement for the upcoming show in a statement, saying he "started as a fan of 'The Walking Dead' and have ended up as a showrunner of what will hopefully be one of its most unique spinoffs."

With the franchise's source material being the comic book series of the same name created by Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore, the team behind "Tales of the Walking Dead" welcomed fans of all the various series (book and TV) recently at the San Diego Comic-Con. While there, AMC debuted a trailer for the series, which flashes between Posey's comically tone-deaf Blair trying to spin the outbreak as a media-created overreaction to the gruesome horror of Walkers stalking through neighborhoods and attacking the living.

In a panel discussion at SDCC, Scott M. Gimple, chief content officer of the Walking Dead Universe, shared that "Tales of the Walking Dead" was created essentially by fans for fans, saying that "all the questions from fans" about the franchise drove AMC to develop a series that would "evolve" the characters viewers couldn't get enough of. He also hinted the new series would introduce "brand-new things" that are must-sees for both diehard fans and the uninitiated.

Settle in for some high-stakes, life-or-death thrills when AMC premieres its brand-new series, "Tales of the Walking Dead," Sunday, Aug. 14.