The Walking Dead’s Executive Producer Gale Ann Hurd talks new locations, new characters and fresh challenges.
You guys are now shooting Episode 303. How are things on set?
They’ve been great…We shut down the town [we’re shooting in], and we had a couple hundred fans surrounding the town. And they stuck around not able to see anything, so I have to give them full credit for their persistence.
This season is the longest yet, at 16 episodes. What kind of challenges does a longer season present?
It’s really a marathon this year. The advantage is we have had some cooler weather in May and we’ll be going into cooler weather again in October. The challenge is maintaining the same intense level of storytelling that our audience expects of us, and we certainly plan to deliver on that.
There are so many new locations and characters this season, what are you most excited about?
I will say that I loved the farm, but it is good to be off the farm. And the contrast between our [two main sets] this season is so great…We’re setting up this first community that is functioning in a post-zombie apocalypse. We get to see not only the advantages of putting civilization back on its feet again but also the dark forces at work in what may seem like a Utopia.
A lot of this season is filmed on an air-conditioned soundstage. Are you relieved to be inside or do you miss the outdoor shoots?
We were shooting in the woods again a few days ago, which I’m sure will always be a component of our series. And we encountered the ticks and the chiggers and the wildlife again, so they reminded us of many of our travails last season. Plus we were hit by a deluge of a rainstorm and we had to evacuate that set… But the air-conditioned stages are very much enjoyed by cast and crew alike. [Laughs]
This is your third season of The Walking Dead. What’s the secret to keeping the show feeling fresh and scary?
It’s really important to focus on making the story as richly character-driven as possible because the scares and the sense of jeopardy only come with identifying with those characters when they’re in jeopardy.
There are many new human threats this season, which you’ve always warned about, but what about the zombies. What new tricks can we expect from them?
Obviously we have the absolute best makeup effects team on the planet, led by Greg Nicotero… And every year he ups his game. So we’re not just seeing the same old thing. This season, we’re going to have puppeted animatronic zombies and that’s something that we haven’t seen before.
Have the zombie extras improved their technique over three seasons?
[The zombies] get better and better. Now they’ve had three years of zombie college and they’re about to go to graduate school… Our Walkers all have a history that the performer brings to the table, which is, “Okay where was I bitten, what part of my body has been affected, and how long have I been in the zombie state?” And that determines whether one arm isn’t working or if they were bitten on the neck, maybe their head hangs over to one side.
Next month will be your third visit to Comic-Con to give fans a look at The Walking Dead. What can fans expect?
We like to bring a special reel for the fans at Comic-Con so they can see a special sneak peak of Season 3 before everyone else. It’s sort of a reward for waiting in line to getting it into the hall. And we’ll be bringing a larger contingent of our cast and crew than ever this year. And also because we began shooting a lot earlier this year, the reel will contain a lot more footage than it has in the past.
We’ve heard that you’re working on a pirate TV show. Any similarities between pirates and zombies?
The thing about pirates is they’re a little easier to kill, but at the same time they won’t stop at anything either. They’re all out, all the time, and they’re not easily dissuaded once they’ve got their eye on the prize.
But who would win a battle between the two?
I think it would depend on how many zombies there were and how quickly [the pirates] figure out that you have to destroy the brain or they’ll keep on coming.
The Walking Dead season 3 will premiere on FX UK in the Autumn.
“There’s a lot more fighting, self-doubt and not many people make it out alive” - The Walking Dead’s leading man Andrew Lincoln reveals what we can expect from the remainder of season 2. Hear what else he had to say here:
The Walking Dead continues on Fridays at 10pm, only on FX.
Living in Atlanta and slaughtering zombies has become a new way of life for The Walking Dead’s leading man Andrew Lincoln. He chats to the Metro about his “mad life”:
How does it feel to be back home after six months filming in Georgia?
It’s great to be home and to catch up with family and mates. But we got back at the end of November and I immediately contracted some sort of horrible consumption-like illness. I thought it was a zombie virus but it turned out to be a Dickensian disease that lasted all of Christmas and January.
You must need a rest after fending off all those zombies again. Are you getting the chance to put your feet up?
We have just moved house to a place in the countryside, so I am pretty busy planting trees and trying to keep chickens and ducks alive. It’s not going very well so far.
Was it a culture shock to film in the Deep South and get the accent right?
I have this mad sort of life now where I get on a plane, then I get off at the other end and I’m given a new phone – it’s called a cell phone – and I speak in a different dialect, and they give me different currency, and I shoot zombies for a living.
Did you take your wife and your two young children out to Georgia with you?
Yes. I really wouldn’t be able to do it without them being there with me. When we are there, we live in Atlanta, which is a really amazing city, and we have made some incredibly good friends there. I think that is one of the big advantages of being an actor – getting the chance to go to places you would never have gone to otherwise.
Have your children developed southern accents yet?
Yes, they have a bit but we try to slap it out of them. I’m kidding, we don’t. We thought our son’s first words were going to be in American but he’s very slow and lazy and hasn’t started talking yet. My daughter started saying ‘water’ and ‘daughter’ and ‘brother’ with an American accent; her Rs became really American. But since we’ve come back, she’s started at a new school that’s a bit like Hogwarts, and they all keep asking her why she’s talking so strangely.
I understand there were other challenges involved in filming down there, such as the wildlife?
Yes, Steve Yeun, who plays Glenn, got a tick on his dick and Jon Bernthal, who plays Shane, got eaten alive by chiggers [mites]. Seriously, he was eaten alive. Forget zombies. These evil, weevily things burrow into your skin and then eat you from the inside. No horror movie has ever created anything as evil as that. I don’t think they like British blood, though – I didn’t get bitten once. I think I must carry such terrible diseases that the American insects don’t want to eat me.
The Brits seem to be taking over US television; you’re in The Walking Dead, and now your This Life co-star Jack Davenport is in Smash. Do you compare notes?
Jack is a great friend of mine and has been an enormous help and support. There’s also Stephen Mangan, one of my closest and dearest friends, who is doing Episodes, and Shaun Parkes, who is in The River. It’s amazing that these are all really close friends of mine who all doing really well over there. We have this batphone going between us Brits in America. We all call each other up, asking: ‘Did they say that to you? Is this normal? Is this what they do?’ And one of us will say: ‘Yes, it’s normal. You have to work 20 hours a day. That’s what they do here.’
What sort of reception have you received in the US?
We have all been very fortunate that America has been so welcoming to us. I’m not sure we are the same in return in this country. Someone said a really wise thing to me about the cultural difference: in America, you start off in credit; in England, you start off in debit, and that is just so true.
For Halloween, did you raid the wardrobe department and dress up as one of the zombies?
I was gutted about Halloween because we were filming late. But you can now buy these really dodgy Rick Grimes all-in-one outfits in the shops, with a tiny little sheriff’s hat and a plastic gun. My wife, Gael, was insistent that I should put one on and go up and down our street in it. Next year, I’m going to make the whole cast wear them and we can all go trick-or-treating together.
What do you miss the most about England when you are away?
My cat and my surfboard. There aren’t very many waves in Atlanta.
Read the full interview in today’s Metro or online.
Last week we put your questions to The Walking Dead’s Andrew Lincoln, aka the main man himself Rick Grimes. Want to hear what he had to say? We’ll be releasing his answers every Friday before The Walking Dead airs on FX.
First up, he reveals the best thing about playing the lead role on The Walking Dead and the first thing he did when he found out he got the role as Rick.
Andrew Lincoln reveals more about the return of season 2, his character’s conflicts, and why he has “the coolest job in town”. Check out what else he had to say when he met Digital Spy:
On The Walking Dead set, Clark Johnson was directing episode nine in a saloon bar and the episode has a Western feel. Do you feel like a Wild West gunslinger sometimes on set? Is that a fantasy come true?
“Every morning that I go to work and put on my cowboy boots and sheriff’s hat, it’s very hard not to feel like Yul Brynner in The Magnificent Seven. Whenever I’m not killing zombies you can always find me outside my trailer with Norman (Reedus), Steven (Yeun) and Jon Bernthal firing my BB gun… So, in short, yes this is a dream come true and the coolest job in town. It’s great to play a character with an itchy trigger finger.”
Clark Johnson said American actors need to “step up” as there are now so many successful Brits on US shows beating them at their own game, for example Damian Lewis, Ioan Gruffudd, Jack Davenport. How does it feel to be spear-heading that group?
“Clark is not only a brilliant director, but an equally talented actor so that is high praise. But I’m not sure anyone needs to ‘step up’, certainly not anyone I’ve had the privilege of working with in America. Just to have the opportunity to play an American in America is a dream come true for me. The list of other British actors all happen to be people I know and like, and they all have built great careers for themselves in Hollywood. I think slip-streaming rather than spear-heading would be more appropriate.”
Events between Rick and Shane would test the deepest of friendships. Do you and Jon Bernthal keep out of each other’s way in the run-up to any confrontation scenes? Who’d win in a fight between you two?
“We don’t keep out of each other’s way, we actively keep in each other’s way. It’s like Rocky crossed with The Wrestler, with a dash of Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’. And I know he would say otherwise, but Jon would probably just scrape it… on points.”
How important has The Walking Dead been in establishing you internationally as a dramatic lead?
“I think my wife has always been aware, whatever country we have been in, of my dramatic leading man status; a little too dramatic she would probably say.”
Break it down for us, are you mostly approached by fans because of The Walking Dead now or because of This Life or Love Actually? How do those fans differ?
“OK… If they are in the first decade or the last decade of their life, it’s pretty much a shoe in Love Actually. If they are going grey and dying their hair it’s This Life. If they are dressing younger than their age and have a twinkle in their eye, it’s Teachers. And if they come from Paraguay… it’s The Walking Dead!”
Were you eager to return home to the UK after shooting season two in Georgia? What had you missed from back home? And work-wise, what’s your next project outside of the show?
“I was eager to return to see family and friends of course. I missed my cat and my surf boards. My next project outside of the show is the school run.”
Where is Rick headed as the season moves on to the next one? How strong is his leadership?
“I am very excited about where we are going next with Rick and the group! Another pivotal event happens in the penultimate episode of this season which is going to have a profound effect on Rick and his nearest and dearest. This could spin him off in any number of directions and I look forward to seeing where the writing team take the show.”
The Hollywood Reporter caught up with Kirkman to discuss last week’s big “Secrets” episode and what’s ahead for tomorrow’s “powder keg” of a mid-season finale.
“We’ve got Rick now aware of the affair, we’ve got a barn full of zombies living two feet away from our group, our group living on a farm where they’ve been told they’re not welcome to stay there for any amount of time,” he says. “It’s definitely going to be a pretty exciting episode.”
Rick now knows about Shane and Lori. Lori and Rick tell Shane as much?
It’s a big revelation that Rick now knows about the affair. Whether or not he’s going to be confronting Shane immediately or whether that’s going to continue to be bubbling below the surface, we’ll find out.
Rick also learns of Lori’s pregnancy and seems surprised by the news. Is it safe to say that Lori’s pregnancy isn’t what Jenner whispered to Rick before the CDC exploded?
If it was, I would imagine that Rick would have brought that up and wouldn’t have seemed surprised. I can say it’s pretty safe to say that that’s not what he said. I guess we’re ruling that possibility out as much as I hate to. That is pretty much not what Jenner whispered.
During that same conversation with Lori, Rick says “he can’t live like this” when the two are discussing potentially raising a baby amid a zombie apocalypse where a loud cry could put in danger. Could we see the pair branch off from the group and venture out on their own?
Yes. Anything can happen, that’s really the appeal of this show. You’re living without the safety net of civilization so all bets are off. We’ve seen that in Shane’s behavior and a lot of things with Daryl (Norman Reedus). The fact that this is a group that is living together and surviving together to a certain extent, you can be lulled into thinking that that is the status quo of the show. Moving forward, we’re going to be doing things that will be reminding the audience that this is definitely a television show where anything goes and not to take anything for granted. These characters could do anything at any time. Rick and Lori splitting off for the betterment of their children and safety of their family is definitely a possibility.
The Shane and Andrea (Laurie Holden) pairing is a total game-changer. How will that change the group dynamic?
These two characters have been on the outside of the group in their own way since the very beginning of this season. It was a lot of fun to watch these two characters go about their day completely unaware that they’re on a collision course into each other, which finally happened in this episode. I really enjoyed seeing Laurie Holden come into her own and use her guns, which is something from the comic book series that we haven’t seen yet.
Is this going to be a one-time fling or will Shane and Andrea be a pairing that evolves?
They’re definitely in close quarters and they seem to have some kind of affection for each other. We could definitely see this blossom into a relationship but let’s not discount Shane’s emotional connection to Lori and the situation with that baby. There’s a lot of wrenches that could be thrown into a lot of the story lines that are currently going on and this is one of them.
At what point will Andrea learn of Shane’s history with Lori?
There’s a definite possibily that she already knows, based on her overhearing the conversation between Shane and Lori in the premiere when they were outside the church. She hasn’t necessarily revealed that she has that information but I would think that she’s already aware of it and we’ll probably see that popping up in the next episode or so.
How will Andrea and Shane’s dirty deed affect her relationship with Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn)?
A lot of people are looking at that like it’s a romantic relationship because that’s what eventually happens in the comic book series. It could also be looked at like a father-daughter relationship to a certain extent and it hasn’t quite really blossomed into anything that will become a romance. It’s definitely going to throw a wrench into what ever it is they have between each other just because of Dale continually butting heads with Shane. I think that is going to come to a head in the second part of the season that starts next year.
Will Dale keep his confrontation with Shane and the threats made against him to himself or will he take the red flags to Rick?
Dale is the wise old sage of the group, so I think he knows exactly what needs to be done in the situation. Whether he’s going to be overt about it and go directly to Rick or whether he’s going to be a little smarter about it and bide his time and try to figure out what the best move for the group is remains to be seen. He has a plan and there’s definitely going to be something that comes from that.
Dale and Glenn (Steven Yeun) have figured everything out about the barn. Will Rick’s impending confrontation with Hershel lead to what pushes the group out of the farm?
That confrontation is going to happen sooner rather than later. Whether or not it’s going to lead to them having to leave the farm … fans who are chomping at the bit to find out what’s going to happen when this comes to a head aren’t going to be waiting very much longer.
At this point, does finding Sophia (Madison Lintz) really matter? Is this still important to the group?
It’s definitely still important to Carol (Melissa McBride). We’ve followed this story line to the point where everyone in the audience has had ample time to look at all angles to this. At some point, you were probably agreeing with Rick and now you’ve gotten to the point where you’re kind of agreeing with Shane. Everyone in the group has at least considered the fact that this girl is more than likely not out there. The fact that they haven’t given up really just tells you more about their character. It should be somewhat shocking that Daryl has thrown himself into this search for Sophia as much as he has. These characters are good people; they’re trying to be good people and anytime a child is lost someone is going to be searching for that child until they find them. You don’t ever really give up and go, “Oh, I guess we’ll never find out what happened.” It’s definitely not something they’re going to be giving up on. There will be a resolution to that story line coming up at some point.
Speaking of Daryl, is there a chance we’ll see Merle again in a way other than a hallucination?
There’s definitely a chance. We still don’t know what happened to him after he cut his hand off, we don’t know where he went, we don’t know if he survived and if he survived, for how long. We don’t know anything about him. We would never leave something like that hanging indefinitely. That’s going to be something coming up at some point in the show.
Chandler Riggs, aka The Walking Dead’s Carl Grimes, reveals his favourite season 2 moments and hints at Carl’s first walker encounter.
Earlier this season, your character spent a bunch of time injured.
It was my birthday on set, the day that Carl got injured.
Some birthday gift! Was it a challenge to remain still like that?
It kind of was. After each take I’d go over and eat a bunch of sugary snacks. I’d sit there trying so hard not to break out and yell! It was actually a lot of fun sitting in a bed for those episodes.
What was your favourite moment from being on set this season?
Definitely my birthday. They got me a cake that said “Don’t Open Dead Inside,” which had fingers coming out of it. We also had these zombie-head cake pops that were made from red velvet cake, so it looked like blood when you took a bite. It was pretty cool.
Did you watch the whole season last year after you filmed it?
I did! I watched every single episode.
Do your parents like the show?
They love it. And my mom loves it because of the love triangle thing. I think it’s more enjoyable [than frightening]. For me the opportunity to work with all these actors is just amazing.
Are there any actors you didn’t have a scene with in Season 1 that you’d like to work with this season?
Daryl Dixon. There’s the scene coming up in which I ask him if I can shoot the crossbow — and he tells Carl go pester his father. That scene was really cool for me, because that was the first time Carl has ever spoken to Daryl. There’s another scene later on with a walker too, that was fun.
What are some of your favorite TV shows?
Phinneas & Ferb, although I know that’s kind of childish. And for movies? I really liked Super 8. If Steven Spielberg is an executive producer of anything, you know that it’s going to be amazing!
Are you more into thriller movies now that you’ve been on the show?
It’s something I’ve always been in to. My dad was on Zombieland and I love that movie. So yeah I think I like the horror genre!
Carl is always trying to use the gun — and he eventually get his hands on one this season. Were you excited to tote around these grown-up weapons?
This is funny: I think Georgia law says I can shoot any gun that I want when I’m 8. But I can’t touch anything that will fire a projectile on set. You have to be 14 to do it on set I think. So the gun I was carrying around was actually a cap gun. It was originally painted orange so we spray-painted it black. The knife is real too, though it is dull. One time on set, I actually pinched myself with the saw part of the blade — and my hand was gushing blood in the middle of the take! So when I lifted my shirt, I did it with one hand so I didn’t get blood all over the gun and my shirt — and make the wardrobe department angry.
Do you have a lot of zombie-memorabilia in your house?
I do. At home I have lot of pictures from The Walking Dead, and some stuff from comic books. At comic conventions people will give me a lot of autographed stuff, so a lot of those are on my wall.
What do you do to kill time on set?
Play with my kendama. You know the ball and cup game? It’s like that except the ball is very small and it’s got two cups. I’ve gotten pretty good at it.