The Walking Dead 301
Credit: Gene Page/AMC

Twenty-eight seconds. That’s how long it took Andrew Lincoln’s Rick Grimes to make the first zombie kill in tonight’s season 3 premiere of AMC’s undead epic The Walking Dead. And it only took one more second for IronE Singleton’s T-Dog to make another.

Written by showrunner Glen Mazzara, “Seed” saw Rick and crew mowing down a horde of slavering ghouls as they attempted to take over the prison that seems likely to be one of the main locations of this third run of shows.

Although around half a year of onscreen time has passed since we last saw our post-apocalyptic heroes, the episode was very much of a piece with the action-packed shows that concluded the previous season. “Going back and doing quieter stories with less zombies just didn’t seem like the right move,” explains Robert Kirkman, writer of the Walking Dead comic and an executive producer on the show. “So we decided to plow ahead and make things a little more high octane.”

Below, Kirkman talks more about the episode, whether Daryl and Carol really are “screwing around” — and lunching on owls. Woo-hoo!

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Why did you decide to jump ahead time-wise?

ROBERT KIRKMAN: Well, part of that was the realities of filming in Georgia on the schedule that we film on. There was a lot of discussions about doing splinter units and shooting different episodes in January, so that we could do the change in seasons. But from a story point of view I always think it’s kind of cool to have gaps. I think once you see quite how awesome Carl is this season and how he’s grown over the winter and that we’re able to do different things with that character that we weren’t able to do before — I think that it really justifies that time jump.

Carl also seems to be two feet taller, which I guess might have been a continuity problem if season 3 had started immediately after season 2.

I don’t think it was quite two feet, you jerk. But the actor [Chandler Riggs] grew a natural amount of inches in the time between seasons and we’re definitely applying that to the show, which I think is cool.

Have any of the writers ever tasted owl?

[Laughs] We had owl for lunch at the writers’ room. It wasn’t so bad, I’ll be honest. [Note: We are 99 percent sure Kirkman is joking. Well, 98 percent, anyway.]

There was a scene between Daryl and Carol in which she asked him he if he wanted to “screw around.” I wasn’t sure whether we were supposed to think that is something they might have started doing in the interim, or whether she was just joking.

I think that was kind of a playful way of hinting that they have a very close relationship, but neither one [is] all that necessarily interested in an intimate relationship at this point. I mean, it was kind of a nod to that but also a way of showing that neither of these two characters take that seriously.

Why is Andrea ill? Or is it just some combination of malnutrition and depression and so forth?

I think maybe she had the flu. I don’t think it’s really important what she had. The whole purpose of that was to show that she and Michonne had bonded a great deal since we last saw them. One of the interesting things that we’ve been playing with his season is that, if you do the math, Michonne and Andrea have actually been together longer than Andrea was with the group. So she’s actually grown a stronger bond with Michonne than she ever did with Rick and the others. Aside from maybe Dale who… is dead! Maybe if they meet up at any point in this season we’ll see that distance come into play.

Watching the show, I was struck by the fact — and actually I like this a lot — that you are not pandering to new viewers at all. You’re just not in the business of holding the hands of people who might not have previously encountered the zombie genre.

I think that’s a luxury we have in this day and age of DVDs and online viewing and DVRs and video on demand. It’s not necessarily an atmosphere where you have to continue to remind people [what’s happening]. And we feel like that would be a disservice to the viewers that have been dedicated to the show from the beginning. And other people can hopefully buy the DVDs!

What was it like walking around the prison set, which was once just something that existed in your mind?

You know, there are things in there that Charlie Adlard drew in the comic book that I don’t know that he actually referenced. There’s some weird tables and stuff which he just drew and the designers on the show were like, “Alright, we’ll make that.” And seeing stuff like that exist [in] real life, stuff that actually was in the comic book that I remember seeing on the page, is absolutely bizarre. Knowing that a giant corporation is hiring (production designer) Grace Walker, who [worked] on the Road Warrior and tons of other movies, to take the prison from the comic book and spend millions of dollars to build one in real life that I can now walk around inside of whenever I feel like buying a ticket to Georgia — I’m living a charmed life, let’s just say that.

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The Walking Dead

AMC's zombie thriller, based on the classic comic book serial created by Robert Kirkman.

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