Rosemary Rodriguez reveals Walking Dead directing decision she lost

Behind the scenes: The Walking Dead 707. Photo credit: Rosemary Rodriguez
Behind the scenes: The Walking Dead 707. Photo credit: Rosemary Rodriguez /

Rosemary Rodriguez reveals her idea for Negan’s wives on The Walking Dead

When Undead Walking talked to Rosemary Rodriguez about her experiences directing The Walking Dead season 7 episode “Sing Me a Song,” I wanted to ask her about the scenes with Negan’s wives and how she approached the sensitive topic of depicting the harem.

In the episode – as in the comics – when Carl stows away on a truck of offerings being sent to the Saviours, Negan takes him in and gives him a tour of his home and empire. He takes total glee in presenting his harem of “wives” to pubescent Carl, encouraging Carl to ogle as much as his heart desires and ensuring he sees the power he holds over this collection of ladies in waiting.

It’s an iconic scene, but one with comes with baggage due to the issues of sexual relationships under duress, and depicting sexuality in a scene with a minor. Rodriguez confirmed she was aware of the controversy around the topic:

"“Yes, I was aware of that line, and that that was an issue. But that was definitely a line, trying to ride that line.”"

She further went on to explain how the scene had caused a disagreement between her and the producers/network, over what Negan’s wives would wear in the scene.

"“Part of the conversation, for me – which I didn’t quite win, to be honest with you – was what they were going to be wearing.”"

Rodriguez explained that she had envisaged a scene which closer resembled that of the illustration in the comics, with Negan’s wives dressed in sexy lingerie. She felt it would be a bigger moment for Carl to see such OTT sexiness on display.

This, of course, would be a huge deviation from the norm for a show whose cast is invariable wearing utilitarian clothes with several layers of dirt and gore over the top, and that’s why Rodriquez was drawn to that contrast.

"“I really wanted a reaction from him (Carl) in seeing women in really sexy… like seeing them, their cleavage, really being a little bit more explicit. Particularly for the show, because it’s so out there and not what we do.”"

Her vision for the scene is an illustration of her style of directing, which has made her so successful, and showed her attitude towards the kinds of topics that others might skirt around.

"“Because I like extremes and because I’m not really afraid to dive into whatever it is, even if it’s politically incorrect or evil or dark, I just want to go as far as we can.”"

However, in the end the producers, including show-runner at the time Scott Gimple, chose the more understated little black dresses for the women in Negan’s harem, which Rodriguez described as almost a uniform.

In the end, despite the scene not quite fitting her vision, she understood why the choice was made.

"“I think Scott and everybody were trying to adhere to the bigger picture, and being aware of the fans and what was going to happen.”"

There is no doubt it is a constant battle for the writers, directors and producers of The Walking Dead  to walk a balance between being true to the original comic material, whilst understanding how very different the medium of television is, both visually and in terms of impact. Compromises, sadly, always have to be made to take into consideration things which may never be an issue in print media.

In the end the scene in “Sing Me a Song” is still powerful and gives us a real visual shock that we can feel along with Carl. Here is an adolescent who is surrounded by women in grubby jeans and boots all the time, confronted with high heels and black mini dresses. It’s a visual feast for him, and Rodriguez still manages to convey that effectively, despite the fact the visuals are something not shocking to most TV viewers.

The producers perhaps felt as though the “uniform” gives us a vision of Negan’s need to control the women, in taking away much of their individualities, and gives us a hint of the idea that he’s truly trying to create ident-i-kit wives to replace his deceased Lucille.

Exclusive: Behind the scenes photos from The Walking Dead 707. light. Related Story

It’s a fascinating insight to hear of these battles, big and small, that go on in the creative process behind every scene, and how much even seemingly insignificant choices – such as costume – can have a huge impact on the feel and message conveyed.