THE WALKING DEAD - Season 3 San Diego Comic-Con art | ©2012 AMC/Frank Ockenfels

THE WALKING DEAD - Season 3 San Diego Comic-Con art | ©2012 AMC/Frank Ockenfels

With Season 3 of THE WALKING DEAD debuting tonight on AMC, ASSIGNMENT X spoke with executive producer and showrunner Glen Mazarra who took the time to look back on the events of Season 2 and where the show is heading in Season 3 as our ragtag group of survivors headed by Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) finally make it to the Prison to find safe haven from the “walkers” (aka the living dead).

Two big fan favorite characters from the Robert Kirkman/Tony Moore/Charlie Adlard created comic will also be joining Season 3 including the villainous The Governor (David Morrissey) and warrior Michonne (Danai Gurira).

Here’s what Mazarra had to say.

ASSIGNMENT X: What can we expect from Season 3?

GLEN MAZARRA: Things get very exciting in the new season. We do see our group significantly changed after the events of season 2. We see how they have been forced to survive together and how they’re dependent on Rick where he’s calling the shots. He’s not open to debating every move as they have in the past. And we’re getting to the meat of Robert Kirkman’s comic book. Michonne, The Governor, The Prison  – it’s all there. It’s exciting, fast-paced and dangerous yet it’s heart-breaking, character based and poignant. It’s exactly what we want to be doing and I consider myself lucky to be involved.

AX: How are you approaching the prison?

MAZARRA: The prison is a character. It’s a haunted house. There are malevolent spirits in that prison. Not all the prison is secure. Not all the prison is safe and that will be very interesting for our characters who will have to constantly keep the walkers at bay from within and without. The tension is very high. The feeling is that of a group of survivors are under siege.

AX: Have you amped up the zombie action?

MAZARRA: We have some unprecedented zombie action in the first two episodes. We’ve pushed ourselves and come up with original zombie material that’s never been done in zombie films. We’re interested and excited to add to zombie lore. It’s fresh territory for me as a writer.

AX: How will you ensure THE WALKING DEAD can sustain itself for many more seasons.

MAZARRA: Hopefully this is long running and it’s a show that goes seven years and hopefully spins off into WALKING DEAD: L.A. and that kind of stuff. We can go anywhere with that. If you look at our episodes, every episode is different. Some are going to have zombies, some won’t have a lot. What I’m looking at is the bigger picture.

THE WALKING DEAD - Season 3 - "Seed"| ©2012 AMC/Gene Page

THE WALKING DEAD - Season 3 - "Seed"| ©2012 AMC/Gene Page

AX: So you’re not going to do THE X-FILES thing and never reveal “what happened to Mulder’s sister kind-of-thing.”

MAZARRA: No. I know there are shows in which people feel they’re not satisfied and they don’t give their answers. We’re not interested in confusing our audience. For example. Sophia steps out of the barn, and you have that answer. What’s important about that story is that Rick, the guy everyone thinks is the weak leader, is the only guy who can step forward to put her down. And the scene continues, where our characters take action. That’s what’s important about the show. It’s not about the revelation. It’s not about revealing the origins about the zombie cure. I think it’s great, but there is no cure, and if there is no cure, and we don’t know if there is a cure, or where it comes from, how do people live with that knowledge? That’s interesting. We can write that or mine that for a long time.

AX: How different was the first half of Season 2 from the second for you?

MAZARRA: I think the episodes that were Season 2.0 had been about the search for Sophia and it gave greater meaning to their lives. There was some hope. “If we can find Sophia, there is hope in the world.” They pinned their hopes on finding her. Then that hope is dashed. In the second half of the season, they realize that they’ve been acting under false pretenses and they’ve had their blinders on. They also faced that the farm is not safe. They also forgot about the outside world, so the world becomes more of a horror show. There is no safe place to go. It becomes more demanding and the decisions become greater.

AX: What other mandates do you have THE WALKING DEAD?

MAZARRA: I think we do a better job at our endings. We really want people to know what’s going to come next and be interested in coming next. That’s something when I worked on THE SHIELD and working with Shawn Ryan-  he is a master at crafting a very satisfying ending. That’s something that’s very important to me. There is a model for this show in which everyone has a storyline and you interweave the storylines and you come to a good ending with your main characters and those stories don’t necessarily interconnect. Many TV shows use that model. That’s not the case here. Our protagonist is this entire group. We want every episode to have a beginning, middle and end. We want that ending to be a great pay-off. I can’t imagine what comes next. There are no cheap thrills or cliffhangers or leaving people frustrated.

Andrew Lincoln is Rick Grimes in THE WALKING DEAD - Season 3 - Episode 1 | ©2012 AMC/Gene Page

Andrew Lincoln is Rick Grimes in THE WALKING DEAD - Season 3 - Episode 1 | ©2012 AMC/Gene Page

AX: What are some of the other trappings of horror series that you’re trying to avoid.

MAZARRA: How does a show like us stay fresh? I think of the things that trips up genre shows is when you start playing with the time stream and go back and forth in time. Things become confusing. I’m hesitant to do flashbacks, because I think flashbacks take you out of the immediate horror moment. Except fro the SAW franchise, most horror movies don’t use flashbacks. So that’s something to keep it scary. It’s important for us to stay in the present. We’ve done some flashbacks, and people are interested in flashbacks. Again, it’s keeping the show simple from a storytelling point and complicated from a character standpoint. What I’m interested in is doing my vision for the show, but I can change all that tomorrow.

AX: THE WALKING DEAD faced the departure of showrunner Frank Darabont early in the season last year, did that change anything for you when you had to take over?

MAZARRA: I’ve been on many shows and I’ve dealt with showrunner replacement. I was replaced as showrunner on CRASH. It’s painful and a shock to the crew and the cast because they care about you. What’s interesting for this show, it’s the first show I’m on that people were watching. THE SHIELD was a great show, but we did not touch the ratings we have here on THE WALKING DEAD. It has been interesting. It has been a spotlight. What I did while I was working on the first part of the season. I didn’t engage a lot. I didn’t go online, I didn’t do a lot of interviews. I just focused on making those episodes as good as possible. I knew what we were building to, and I knew that would be a satisfying conclusion. Then I heard some of the criticism that the show was slow in parts. That’s surprising. We never felt that when we were doing it, because we knew what the end was. And maybe it plays differently when you’re experiencing it in installments because we all had the whole thing in our head, but it’s something we take seriously. We love our fans. We pay a lot of attention to our fans. We want them to have the best experience. We’re taking care that stuff doesn’t get spoiled and we know that most of our fans love what we’re doing. They really are so dedicated. When I first became showrunner, I felt that I had an obligation to my fellow writers, directors, cast, crew, AMC to step up and become showrunner. That was a perilous decision, however, now, I feel an obligation to our fans.

AX: What will sixteen episodes mean for THE WALKING DEAD in Season 3? Will it make your budget tighter since you’re doing more episodes?

MAZARRA: Every show has a budget and this show’s budget is comparable to every other budget I’ve worked with. This is a healthy budget. I have not suffered any budget cuts and I have never asked for something and have been told we can’t afford it. I’m very fortunate. I’ve been on shows where I’ve been nickeled and dimed by the studios. AMC has stepped up and realizes this is lighting in a bottle and they want the show to succeed. I don’t have any budgetary restraints on the show.

AX: Can you talk about the broad strokes of Season 3 and beyond?

MAZARRA: There’s a lot of great material moving forward and there is a lot of great material from the comic book. Your mining material that could easily crowd out our existing material. You introduce new characters and they could easily take over from our existing characters. Every single episode is a balancing act. We have to make sure the show is always frightening and we don’t go overboard with zombies. If we have zombie attacks, some people write, “it’s just like a zombie-of-the-week.” If we don’t have zombies, people say the show “has no f****** zombies.” You can’t win. It’s a balance of making sure that we stay true to our characters and keep expanding the world and show. That’s why it’s better to have a long-term plan for the show. I don’t feel like I have to get to everything in every episode, but over the course of the season it will feel like an event.

AX: Do you keep reading the comics?

MAZARRA: Yes, I’ve read the comics and I reread the comics. And all of our writers are fans and read the comics. I love what Robert has done with the comics. And he’s in the writers room every day. He works on scripts, writes scripts and he co-wrote the [Season 2] finale. He’s a fully invested writer and executive producer on the show. He’s been on our set and all over the place. And he’s got a full time career doing comics. I don’t know when he sleeps.

AX: Do you have an end game in place?

MAZARRA: I do think I have a plan in mind where it ends, what it all means. A lot of that is thematic and conceptual, but I wouldn’t say this is what gets shot. This is how I work. I come up with emotional feeling I want people to take away each season and probably the series. I have that in mind. As far as story goes, we certainly have concepts of bringing us into Season 4 and I even have concepts I haven’t shared with anybody about Season 5. I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself, but I think about this stuff constantly.

AX: Any final thoughts?

MAZARRA: I would love for people to enjoy the show. I think the show stands on it’s own. I believe, the most interesting part of this show is what’s on screen – the stories we’re telling and the horror of it all – I think that’s what makes the show fun and exiting.

Related: TV Review: THE WALKING DEAD – Season 2 - ”Seed” – Season Premiere

Related: Exclusive Interview with Gale Anne Hurd on THE WALKING DEAD – Season 3

AGREE? DISAGREE? LET YOUR VOICE BE HEARD – COMMENT BELOW

Related: Blu-ray Review of THE WALKING DEAD – THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON

Related: First Look image of THE WALKING DEAD – Season 3

Related Link: Exclusive Interview with THE WALKING DEAD creator Robert Kirkman on WALKING DEAD Season 3

Related LinkTV Review: THE WALKING DEAD – Season 2 – “Beside the Dying Fire” – Season Finale

Related Link: Exclusive Interivew with THE WALKING DEAD creator Robert Kirkman and executive producer David Alpert

Related Link: Exclusive Interview: The Actors of THE WALKING DEAD – Melissa Suzanne McBride, Norman Reedus and Steven Yuen

Related Link: Five Things From THE WALKING DEAD comic We Want To See On the TV Show

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