On Friday (Oct. 7), Zap2it talked to co-executive producer Gale Anne Hurd about the impending return of AMC’s zombie-pocalypse drama “The Walking Dead.” On Sunday, Oct. 16, the show is back with twice the episodes (13 in all) and, based on the pilot we saw, just as much action, pathos and intensity as season 1. And, for some characters, perhaps even a little romance.
“I think Glenn [Steve Yeun] may find love among the zombies,” Hurd tells Zap2it when we ask about a storyline from the comic books.
Despite a management shakeup — showrunner Frank Darabont exited just a few days after promoting the show at Comic-Con in late July — Hurd says the mood on set is good.
“Everyone is completely committed to the show and their involvement in it,” she says. “Whenever there’s a change there’s an initial hiccup, but this is a show that is on very strong footing and it became ultimately a seamless transition.”
She also tells us that Darabont, who is still listed as an executive producer in the opening credits, isn’t completely incommunicado.
“He’s one of my closest friends,” says Hurd. “Frank is in touch with everyone that is close to him and I’m sure will remain so.”
Read the full Q&A below for more scoop about season 2 — including the youngest cast member’s access to weapons, more about that love connection and what character from the comic Hurd would play given the choice.
How far into production are you?
We are filming our 10th and 13th episodes right now.
How is season two different from season one aside from the number of episodes?
It’s because of the number of episodes that we have the opportunity to really explore our ensemble of characters. We also have a new setting, most of the series is based around a new character’s farm, Hershel Green (Scott Wilson) and his family who are characters from the underlying comic book, so it gives us a new home base.
In the comic book, one of Hershel’s daughters ends up getting close to Glenn. Is that something we’re going to see play out in the show?
I think there’s a good likelihood of that. I think Glenn may find love among the zombies.
Is there anything from the comic books that you’d really like to incorporate, but are hesitant to — like (COMIC SPOILER AHEAD!) Rick losing his hand?
Well we’ve already done that to a character. I don’t know that we need to have two characters who lose their hands. With the TV show, even with this very dark premise, I think you need to leaven it with some hope, with things like Glenn possibly finding someone to fall in love with, humor. So just to dwell on some of the darker things — there’s certainly a great deal of darkness in the show. No one is safe. Everyone is at risk. And as much from the human survivors as you are from the zombies.
A big part of the comic is that many of the characters we’re rooting for end up dead. Will the show go there?
The comic book is at almost 100 issues. Also, in the comic book Shane didn’t last more than a couple of issues. I don’t think that we’re going to hew as closely to the comic book except that there are settings and characters that we plan to incorporate, but we’ll continue to incorporate characters who don’t exist in the comic book, like Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) and Merle Dixon (Michael Rooker).
It’s a wonderful underlying property and we have the guidance of Robert Kirkman who created it, but even he wants to travel some different paths that haven’t been explored in the comic books.
The few times I’ve talked to Robert, I’m surprised at what an upbeat, funny guy he is because the comics are just so brutal and grim and unrelenting. So he must enjoy being able explore more of the story with the TV production.
When you’re creating a comic book you’re basically by yourself in a room without anyone to bounce ideas off and the wonderful thing about the writers’ room for a TV series is that you are able to share ideas, to bounce things off of people who may come at the story and characters from a different perspective, so that allows the TV series and the comic book to co-exist, but have separate identities.
How much attention do the writers/producers pay to the fans? “Lost” showrunners Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse have talked about being very sensitive to fan response and the blogosphere.
First of all, they also had many more episodes so they would be airing in plenty of time to do that kind of course correction. But by the time we start airing we will be working on our last couple of episodes and we’ve mapped out the entire season already, so we know where we’re going. At the same time, we’re certainly able to look and see what fans thought about the the first season. But at the same time, I think it’s important to have very strong creative direction that comes from the writers’ room and even the interactions with our cast members that are bringing the characters to life.
I wanted to ask about that because Norman Reedus mentioned to us that at the beginning of the season each cast member sat down with the writers to talk about where their characters were headed. So they really do have some input?
They do and I think that’s really important.
How’s the mood on set?
Everyone is completely committed to the show and their involvement in it. Whenever there’s a change there’s an initial hiccup, but this is a show that is on very strong footing and it became ultimately a seamless transition. It would be very different if a showrunner who had had no involvement in the show stepped up. But in this case, it was Glen Mazzara who had written our fifth episode last year and had been head writer under Frank for the entirety of season 2.
Are you still in touch with Frank?
Oh, of course. He’s one of my closest friends. Frank is in touch with everyone that is close to him and I’m sure will remain so.
In the first episode of the season we get to see Rick’s son carrying a weapon for the first time. Is that — kids with dangerous toys — something you were sensitive about?
My daughter has passed a weapons training course and that is of course part of the whole thing, that you don’t get to handle a weapon or carry a weapon unless you’ve been trained in it and I think that’s a very important point that we don’t gloss over in the series.
If you could play a character in the show — or from the comic books — who would it be?
You said that so quickly it makes me wonder why we haven’t seen her turn up in the cast…
Well, we’ve got a huge cast as it is and we introduce a number of new characters this season. We want to make sure we have a cast of a manageable enough size that we can service all of their stories and all their characters.