AMC's hit zombie series is getting a new showrunner, and this is one regime change that fans should be excited about. On Saturday, Jan. 13, AMC announced Angela Kang will be The Walking Dead's Season 9 showrunner. Kang takes over for Scott M. Gimple, who will now serve as the chief content officer for all things The Walking Dead. As fans of the series know, this isn't the first time Rick and company have been handed over to a new head writer — in fact, Kang is the fourth person to hold the job — but it does mark the first time that The Walking Dead's behind-the-scenes staff wasn't led by a man.
In a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, president of AMC Charlie Collier said,
"This is an enormously important day for the entire 'The Walking Dead' television universe. We are proud to acknowledge Angela’s significant contribution to the series and to set a clear path forward for a ninth season under her direction."
According to Deadline,The Walking Dead's ratings have slipped in recent years, but the show remains the highest rated series among the 18-49 demographic. The genre series is a certified juggernaut, and the centerpiece of AMC's lineup. It also happens to be a hit with men and women, despite themes that some might classify as more masculine — like zombies, survivalist storytelling, and horror. The ratings have proven time and again that women love The Walking Dead just as much as men do. In fact, a large part of the show's appeal is its tough-as-nails female characters like Carol, Michonne, and Maggie.
Whether fans realize it or not, Kang has been instrumental in crafting the journeys of the female and male characters since 2011 when she joined The Walking Dead's writing staff. During that time, Kang has written key episodes of the series including Season 2's "Judge, Jury, Executioner," Season 4's "Still," and Season 5's "Coda." Kang knows this show in and out, because she's been there almost since the day it began. She's earned this role, and when she steps into her new job as showrunner, she'll also be making the TV landscape more diverse in a significant way.
In a 2016 report on the diversity of network TV showrunners, Variety found that just 4 percent of shows have non-white female creators. In fact, women of color were the most underrepresented group of people in terms of leadership within the world of television. That fact hasn't changed much in 2018, but Kang's promotion is a positive step forward.
Not only is Kang a woman, she's also Asian-American, and voices like hers are constantly underrepresented on TV. That's not to say her tenure as The Walking Dead showrunner will be, or should be, solely about increasing the series' diversity — despite having a white, male lead, the zombie series' cast has always been more inclusive than many genre shows. Still, having Kang take the reigns of one of TV's biggest hits sends a strong message about behind-the-scenes equality. And Kang's excitement about being in charge of Season 9 is infectious.
"I am beyond thrilled to be stepping into this new role with The Walking Dead," Kang said in a statement to THR. She continued:
"Working on this series and having the opportunity to adapt Robert Kirkman’s amazing comic has been a fangirl dream come true for me. I'm excited to continue working with Scott and the wonderfully supportive folks at AMC, and can't wait to share the next chapter of the story with our fans next fall."
There's no denying that behind the scenes, The Walking Dead has long been a boy's club, and as Variety points out, shows with white, male showrunners tend to hire more white men as writers, which leads to more white men on screen and fewer speaking parts for women and people of color. The only way to change the system is to start by hiring more people with diverse backgrounds to create series in the first place. While Kang is taking over a series that is well-established, the constantly evolving nature of The Walking Dead should afford her the opportunity to push the show forward in terms of behind-the-scenes representation through the hiring of women and people of color for writing and directing roles.
When it comes to shaking up Hollywood's system, there's no better place to start than at the top, and in the world of TV, you can't get much higher on the food chain than The Walking Dead. Season 9 officially marks a new era for the show as one of its best writers takes charge — and Kang's tenure might just signal the beginning of a new era for TV as a whole if other networks follow AMC's lead.