'Walking Dead' executive producer Gale Anne Hurd talks about making AMC's new, no-holds-barred zombie show
Image Credit: John M. Heller/Getty ImagesHad a killer cyborg come back from the future and prevented the birth of producer Gale Anne Hurd, then the history of movies over the last 30 years may well have been very different. For one thing, we might not be familiar with the concept of killer robots coming back from the future to prevent people being born, given that Hurd was responsible for shepherding the first ” target=”_blank”>Terminator movie to box-office success back in 1984. Since then, Hurd’s credits have included such sci-fi epics as “>Aliens, ” target=”_blank”>The Abyss, and both Hulk movies. For the past year, Hurd’s attention has been directed at the small screen and Shawshank Redemption director Frank Darabont’s adaptation of Robert Kirkman’s Walking Dead comic. The show — which is exec produced by Hurd, Darabont, and Kirkman, amongst others — debuts this Halloween as part of the AMC’s annual Fearfest extravaganza.
Judging by the two episodes EW has seen, the show is every bit as gore-drenched as its source material, which tracks a band of folks as they try to survive in a world overrun by “walkers” without losing their own humanity. “Let’s face it, the zombie’s modus operandi is to kill and consume people, so we do have to have some of that,” says Hurd of her latest project, which stars Love Actually actor Andrew Lincoln. “And the humans are in a position where they need to dispatch zombies, and that can be with shovels, guns, axes. You name it. But it’s really pretty interesting, because every show has kind of a different take. The second one has a lot of action, But the third one actually has a lot of character development, and we spend a lot less time with zombie attacks.”
One notable aspect of the adaptation is how slowly Darabont — who directed the pilot — is making his way through Kirkman’s still ongoing saga. While not short of zombie mayhem, the first two episodes really just cover the events featured in the first two issues of Kirkman’s comic. Which means that, if the TV show proves a success, Hurd and Darabont will not run short of zombie adventures any time soon—the comic version of The Walking Dead has already reached issue #78. “And Robert’s said that he has at least 250 issues in mind,” explains Hurd. “So I think we’re in good shape.”
After the jump, the producer talks more about The Walking Dead—and what exactly she intends to do, come the inevitable zombie apocalypse.
Image Credit: TWD Productions/AMCEntertainment Weekly: Frank Darabont told me that he originally developed the show five years ago for NBC…
Gale Anne Hurd: Right. Can you imagine that version? [Laughs] Saner heads prevailed.
When did you get involved in the project?
A year and a half ago. Maybe two years. We pitched AMC a year ago. It was a very fast process. I was initially unaware of AMC’s horror-genre programming. When I first spoke with the creative execs I said, “Look, I know this is completely left field, but what about doing The Walking Dead as a TV series?” I already had my little pitch of what the Walking Dead was and how it’s a series of graphic novels and how it’s the perfect underpinning for a television series. They said, “You mean Robert Kirkman’s Walking Dead?” And honestly, there was complete silence on my side of the phone. It was then that I did a lot more research [on AMC]. I had watched some of their Fearfest programming before. But I didn’t think of AMC for Fearfest. I thought of AMC for Mad Men and Breaking Bad.
The first five minutes of the pilot is both catnip for zombie fans and acts as a warning to everyone else….
That there’s no-holds-barred? Well, it is a zombie TV series. And it’s not on NBC!
What was the toughest practical part of the shoot?
Enduring the heat and the humidity of shooting almost exclusively outside and in the daytime in Atlanta. I think they broke a record this summer of number of days over 95 degrees. That’s just brutal.
How much guidance did you give the people playing zombies?
We actually had “zombie school.” We wanted to make sure our zombies were consistent with Frank’s vision. So we showed them a compilation of video clips of movements that would be appropriate in our world, as well as a list of rules about our zombies. In other words, they are not Usain Bolt super-sprinters. You’re no longer alive, so to speak, so your organs and your limbs aren’t going to be working quite as well as they did when you were alive.
Do you know yet whether AMC is going to commission a second season?
They have not given us an official green light. I think it’s going to be dependent on how well the first two episodes do. But we’re hopeful.
So come the inevitable zombie apocalypse, what will be your first move?
I’ve decided that I’m going to track down the character that Norman Reedus plays, Daryl. He’s got the skill-set people will need in the coming zombie apocalypse. He’s very good with a crossbow. He’s a very good hunter and he keeps the survivors’ camp alive with his hunting skills.
You wait forever for a zombie TV show to come around and then two come at once…
Did you know the woman who plays the host-turned-zombie really is the host of Big Brother in the U.K.?
You’re kidding! See, I didn’t know that. I knew it was a Big Brother send-up, with everybody locked in. But I didn’t know she was actually the host.
What are you doing next?
Hopefully another season of this. And I’ve got a slate of projects that [have a] blinking green light, so I don’t want to jinx them.
Talking about green, is there any movement on another Hulk movie?
Well, he’s appearing in the Avengers, so I think the folks at Marvel are going to see how that goes.
One, last, totally geeky Walking Dead question: Are we going to see the Governor at some point?
You know, the Governor is one of everyone’s favorite characters. I think that the ones that [we would most like to feature] are the Governor and Michonne. Ultimately it’s a collaboration with the AMC folks. We hope that they are as enthusiastic as were are.
You can check out a trailer for The Walking Dead below.