By the time season 2 of The Walking Dead wrapped up — after the deaths of Dale and Shane, and the appearance of comic book favorite Michonne and the prison — fans were whipped into a frenzy and acting like zombies themselves with the insatiable hunger for more, more, MORE! But during the season’s first batch of episodes in the fall of 2011, it was a bit of a different story, with some viewers grumbling about the slow pacing as the survivors hung around on the farm and searched for lost Sophia. (The payoff, of course, was that a zombified Sophia would eventually be found locked in the barn.) With season 3 of the show (premiering Oct. 14) just around the corner, I asked the cast and producers how they felt about the criticism from a year ago of there being too much chatter and not enough splatter. Here’s what they told me.
NORMAN REEDUS (Daryl Dixon)
“People are going say whatever they’re going to say anyway. If we killed a zillion zombies last season everyone would say, ‘There’s no storyline, they don’t talk enough.’ So f— ‘em! I’ve been trying to get into Game of Thrones. I can’t tell if it’s the future or the past, but those motherf—ers talk the whole time. Do I gotta bitch about it, or am I going to watch it and enjoy? I’m going to watch it and enjoy. People are going say whatever they say. You have to talk to tell a story. It’s not a cartoon. The pace this season is definitely amped up. We’re just talking faster.”
STEVEN YEUN (Glenn)
“You take it personal in a way because this is something that you’ve worked hard at — and as a group, as a collective, you feel like you put your blood, sweat and tears into this. But at the same time, you realize that the arts are subjective. You accept what they give you, and then subsequently laugh when they say, ‘I can’t wait for the next season.’ And you’re very thrilled and happy about that. We know how this plays out by virtue of us filming this. So for me, it was always just like: Wait for it; wait for it. There’s a plan; we’re all here. There’s a solid checks and balances system of not letting something go too far one way. It’s a beautiful group dynamic, and I think it’s a testament to the cast and crew and writers and producers; everybody has their gear that they work. We get it, we’re not perfect, and obviously, last season wasn’t perfect. But you tweak, you stay consistent as well. You hope that people come back and watch.”
SARAH WAYNE CALLIES (Lori Grimes)
“When it comes to a criticism of the pacing and stuff, I think when the show attains a certain level of visibility there’s going to be negative reviews, there’s going to be criticism, there’s going to be controversy. I think in a show like this, quite frankly, if we don’t engender a certain level of criticism and controversy, we’re probably not taking enough risks. I don’t know that I’d be comfortable if it were a show that everybody universally felt positively about. We shoot children in the face. I think the pace of the first half of the second season was a huge creative risk because it slowed down to the pace of a stage play instead of the pace of a horror movie. And I think that risk, in my mind, was absolutely worth it. The first season was so fast and so short. You got a chance to really invest in those characters and really explore them. I think that’s Frank’s genius as a writer — he’s not about what happens as much, in my opinion, as he is about who’s making it happen and why. Who cares about what happens to these people if we don’t know them deeply and intimately? I think those episodes were so important, and they’re also the springboard.”
ANDREW LINCOLN (Rick Grimes)
“I don’t watch the show, and I don’t read reviews. I stay out of the equation. All I knew is, I always had a sense that they wanted to play it out as a big movie. They always wanted to say that it’s a big story we’re telling and if you stick with it you will be rewarded. That was always Frank’s intention and Glen’s too. I shot it, so I was like, ‘I know what’s coming.’ I remember doing a lot of press for Spain, and Spain was going, ‘More Zombie.’ And I was like, ‘Please believe me, there is more zombie killing coming.’ Of course we want to get the balance right. We’re still learning what works and what doesn’t work. You can please some of the people some of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time. You can’t please all the people all the time. That’s just taste, and that’s cool. What I keep saying to people is that there is a very vocal, very extreme group of people that want a certain thing from this show. And they will watch this show. They will because it is extreme — more extreme than any f—ing thing I’ve ever been on. And the stuff we’re doing this season is out of the ballpark — it’s crazy what we’re doing this season.”
LAURIE HOLDEN (Andrea)
“It’s not a Glen Mazarra – Frank Darabont thing. It’s storytelling, and I think that, first of all, you can’t please everybody — there’s always going to be a hater. But it needed to develop slowly in the beginning for the story — to get to know the characters, to really set up the conflict so you could go quickly and just have this tornado of action. But it can’t be like that all the time. I think it all ended up the way that it was supposed to.”
ROBERT KIRKMAN (Exec producer)
“I know that we’re all very proud of season 2, and we’re very happy with how it turned out. I think that once you see it all as a whole, you see how the first half — that some people said was slow — kind of built to a cool moment and really facilitated what happened in the later faster paced episodes.”
GALE ANNE HURD (Exec producer)
“It’s got to put it in perspective. The number of people who complain are so minor; it’s a small group that we tend to blow it out of proportion. If they were that unhappy, they would have tuned out. They would not have been around —since we had a split season — come February when we started up again. I think it’s everyone’s right to be able to complain, but for the most part we would not have had the investment in the characters — many of whom ended up not making it to the end of the season — if we hadn’t spent that time the first half of the season building up the character dynamic and getting to know them better.”
To see an insane time-lapse video of a human-to-zombie transformation in under 90 seconds, check out the video below. And for more ‘Walking Dead’ news, follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss.