Based on Robert Kirkman’s ongoing graphic novel series THE WALKING DEAD, AMC’s series about a small band of survivors trying to survive in a world overrun by zombies is now in production on its third season.
Executive producer Gale Anne Hurd spoke to ASSIGNMENT X about THE WALKING DEAD Season 3 in this exclusive interview.
Hurd is a genre veteran, having produced and co-written the original TERMINATOR and served as a producer on ALIENS, ALIEN NATION, THE ABYSS, THE RELIC, CLOCKSTOPPERS and THE INCREDIBLE HULK, as well as acclaimed non-genre fare like THE WATERDANCE and the documentary CHOCTAW CODE TALKERS. Even with this resume, Hurd considers THE WALKING DEAD to be one of the highlights of her career.
ASSIGNMENT X: Is the WALKING DEAD series continuing to follow the comics pretty closely, or is it starting to diverge?
HURD: We’ve always diverged. We have certain landmarks, certain characters, second season was Hershel and the farm, but there are a number of characters that are not in the comics. What actually happened on the farm did not happen in the comics. So what we say is that we follow the signposts, rather than taking the highway that is the comic books, we take a different road. This season, there’s a very significant location, the prison, as well as the characters of the Governor [played by David Morrissey] and Michonne [played by Danai Gurira], but just because you’ve read the comic books doesn’t mean you’ll know exactly how the story and the characters will unravel or be depicted.
AX: Is the whole third season taking place at the prison, or are they getting out of there at some point
HURD: I can’t talk about that [laughs].
AX: Can you talk about where you’re shooting the prison scenes? Is it all soundstages, or did you find a real empty prison?
HURD: We have created it on the studio lot where we film. We did look [for an out-of-service prison], but we were able to create our own, which is better – it works perfectly for how we scripted it.
AX: Does that mean that you’re more soundstage-bound this year than you have been in past?
HURD: No, because the only difference is, now we are able to build the sets instead of shooting on location. There were a couple of rooms in Hershel’s farmhouse that were sets, but the rest was shot on location, because it worked well there.
AX: So does that make the show a little bit easier to produce this season?
HURD: I don’t think this show is ever going to win the Award of being the Easiest to Produce, because [the characters] don’t stay inside very long. It’s still a show that has [exteriors], but at least we’re not out seven or eight days of the episode.
AX: But building the sets rather than adapting an existing, non-soundstage structure gives you a little more control?
AX: To back up a little, how did you become involved with THE WALKING DEAD?
HURD: After reading the comic book, I loved the story and I thought it was a perfect story that could be told on the small screen. I checked out the rights and found out that Frank Darabont had been involved in an earlier iteration of the show. He had tried to set it up at NBC. He’s a really close friend of mine and he said, “Look, I wrote a pilot, it was a busted pilot, it was sent everywhere, no one wants it.” And I said, “Well, do you mind if I try?” [laughs] He said, “Look, if you want to do that, fantastic, we’ll partner.” And I knew that one of the executives at AMC was looking for a show that they could debut during their incredibly successful block of fall programming, which is where they air classic horror and genre films. I knew we were in good shape when I called and said, “Listen, we have a project I’d like to bring in, it’s based on the graphic novel THE WALKING DEAD,” and the response was, “Robert Kirkman’s THE WALKING DEAD?” I knew we were in business.
AX: You produced ADVENTURE INCORPORATED in the 2002-2003 season, but apart from that, the only television you’ve done prior to WALKING DEAD is telefilms – no other series. Was that because you didn’t want to do television, or because you were just caught up in the feature world?
HURD: I was caught up in the feature world.
AX: How did you find the WALKING DEAD cast? Laurie Holden, who plays Andrea, and Jeffrey DeMunn, who played Dale, are sort of Frank Darabont regulars, but many of the actors were not well-known, at least in the U.S., before the series began airing.
HURD: We have terrific casting directors, Sharon Bialy and Sherry Thomas, and we sent out the casting breakdowns, not only in theU.S., we sent it out to theU.K. as well, and we cast everyone initially with auditions. Andy [Lincoln’s audition for Rick] was done in theU.K. and posted on the website. And believe it or not, Jon Bernthal, a little nontraditional, [because] he wasn’t playing the lead – we actually cast the role of Shane first. We knew he was our Shane. He read with all the possible candidates for Rick. And the same with Sarah Wayne Callies [as Lori]. But everyone auditioned.
AX: Are you worried about Chandler Riggs, who plays young Carl, aging quicker than the story is going?
HURD: I was just on set yesterday and Chandler is not that much different than he was last season. I mean, at some point, sure, he’s going to have a growth spurt, but all kids do. He’s getting to the point where a growth spurt could happen for his character.
AX: Frank Darabont was the original WALKING DEAD show runner. AMC asked him to leave after the first season. WALKING DEAD comic book creator Robert Kirkman has always been on the show’s writing staff, but did his involvement increase after Darabont’s departure, or was Kirkman always as involved as he is now?
HURD: He was as involved, before and after. He obviously was part of the writing staff, [current fellow show runner] Glen [Mazzara] was on the writing staff, and when Frank departed, everyone had to step up.
AX: Are you writing at all on THE WALKING DEAD?
HURD: No. I do lots of notes [laughs].
AX: You co-wrote TERMINATOR way back when. Do you not write now because you don’t want to do that any more, or because …?
HURD: I am not good at that kind of multi-tasking. I know some people are, but in order to write] I need total quiet and no distractions.
AX: So you don’t want to write while as the producer, you’re worrying about, there was a hurricane that flooded the road and how do we get our equipment over the hill, things like that.
HURD: Yes, exactly. We’ve got a mini-movie every eight days. And you have to prep it, you have to cast it, you have the dailies, you have to read the scripts that are coming in. This morning, I was over with Glen Mazzara, we were looking at visual effects, we were listening to music cues, so it’s [continuous].
AX: Has AMC come to you about anything and said, “We want more of this, less of that, how about this,” or do they just say, “Go for it”?
HURD: They want to make sure that it remains a character-driven show, that it’s not a show [just about horror].
AX: Do you miss any of the characters and/or actors who have passed from the story?
HURD: Oh, absolutely. We always get together. I had dinner with everyone before we started the new season, with the actors [who played characters] who were killed off last season, and everyone stays in touch. There’s a wall in our production office called “The Grateful Dead,” with photos [of the departed characters].
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Related Link: ASSIGNMENT X’s complete Season 1 episode guide
Article Source: Assignment X
Article: Exclusive Interview with Gale Anne Hurd on THE WALKING DEAD – Season 3