'The Walking Dead': Glen Mazzara on Shane, Tyreese, and the big finale
Image Credit: Gene Page/AMC[/caption]
It was a fall finale filled with intense action, a wildly anticipated reunion, the introduction of a new key player, the killing of humans and zombies alike, and a super secret blast from the past. (SPOILER ALERT: If you have yet to watch Sunday’s Walking Dead episode, I suggest you stop right now before all is revealed. Seriously. Look away!) So we went to the man in charge, Walking Dead showrunner Glen Mazzara, for answers to all the burning questions. In the following Q&A, Mazzara discusses the reason for adding comic book favorite Tyreese into the mix now, how they got Jon Bernthal to return as Shane, the shocking — and blinding! — fight between Michonne and the Governor, as well as the long-awaited reunion between Merle and Daryl Dixon. Plus, he tells us what to expect when the show picks back up again in February. It’s as essential download of information for any Walking Dead fan. (Click through all three pages to read the entire interview and see additional photos.)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Wow, I seriously don’t even know where to begin with everything that went down in this midseason finale. This had to be the most balls-to-the-wall hour of action you’ve ever done. I felt like I didn’t have a second to breath this entire episode.
GLEN MAZZARA: You’re not supposed to. I feel last week’s episode really amped it up and this is what we’ve been waiting for, these groups getting together. Remember how when Rick and company were on that farm they were the plague to Hershel and his family? Now, here’s Rick and the group acting as attackers to the town of Woodbury. They’re terrorists, as the Governor calls them. They just come in and, rightfully so, shoot it up to get Glenn and Maggie out. But to the town of Woodbury, they feel like they’re under attack. So it was kind of nice to muddy the line between who’s the good guy and who’s the bad guy because Rick and his crew definitely seem like the bad guys to the town of Woodbury.
EW: Let’s start with the introduction of Tyreese, a very popular character from the comics who joined up with the group at an earlier point in the comic books. Why bring him in and why now?
MAZZARA: We are really interested in expanding the world, and I think it’s interesting to introduce Tyreese, who is a good character, and to bring him in at a time when Rick does not want anybody to join the group. Rick s obviously losing his mind and just wants to shut off the world. Now we have these two camps clearly delineated: We have the prison group and we have Woodbury. Now let’s bring in Tyreese. Let’s bring in a third factor, and the story of Tyreese will be very, very interesting throughout the rest of the season. It will be very surprising to the audience and just throws another ball into the mix. So it is really about making the story as complicated and as surprising as possible.
EW: We’ve all been waiting for the big confrontation between Michonne and The Governor. Tell me about how you wanted to approach this stand-off when The Governor walks in and finds Michonne with his zombie daughter Penny.
MAZZARA: It’s the idea that The Governor is vulnerable — that he sees that girl as somehow still his daughter and sees Michonne as someone who has, in a way, taken his daughter hostage. And he says “please” and he puts his gun down. He’ll do anything to save that girl. Very different from the comic book. And it was also surprising to Michonne to see him vulnerable. That’s really the first time we’ve seen the Governor vulnerable. And we’ve always made sure to make that character as nuanced and textured and as complex as possible. And I think David Morrissey does a fantastic job of taking that character anywhere we want to go.
EW: He actually got me to pity him there for a minute. I genuinely felt sorry for the guy.
MAZZARA: In last week’s episode where he tells Maggie to take her shirt off — what was interesting about fan reaction to that is people were saying “Oh, he’s gone too far. We have to kill him.” Remember, in the comic book he is actually a rapist. We’re just perhaps setting that up, saying that character has that within him, because we do have a long term plan for this character. So to have one episode where you think, Wow, he is the arch villain, and then in the next episode for us to feel sympathetic to him, that he’s vulnerable and actually tearful about his own daughter is again just trying to make that character as complicated as possible and keep the audience on their toes.
Image Credit: Tina Rowden/AMC[/caption]
EW: Obviously, Michonne did a brutal number on him in the comic. How did you go about deciding which pieces of his body he would keep and lose here?
MAZZARA: We always knew he was going to lose his eye in this fight. And that’s a turning point. That’s reasonable. So he loses that eye and that was a good place to say, now it’s a much darker, more vengeful Governor that’s coming after them in the second half of the season. He’s not just going to forgive and forget. He now knows that prison is there and he’s bent on destroying those people and that is really the arc for the second half of the season.
EW: So, how does David Morrissey look with an eye-patch on?
MAZZARA: Actually, he looks good.
EW: He always looks good!
MAZZARA: Yeah, he always looks good. At one point, I will say, there is a scene coming up in the back half of the season where he has to drive, and he had the eye patch and we never thought about this, but he can’t see through the eye patch. So try driving with one eye! There’s no depth perception. He was asking me not to write any more driving scenes for him because he was afraid he was going to crash.
EW: Tell me about the scene with Jon Bernthal coming back to play Shane as a hallucination of Rick’s. Where did that inspiration come from and how did you pull it off?
MAZZARA: We wanted to amp up Rick’s hallucinations. We have this thing from the comic book in which he’s talking to Lori on the phone and it would not be realistic to suddenly have him back to square one and all of that was forgotten. So the idea that these hallucinations would escalate and become visual is interesting, I think. Especially under duress. Rick has a type of post-traumatic stress syndrome that he’s fighting there. So we kept that a secret and called Jon. And Jon was game to come back, and we were really looking forward to seeing the audience reaction when they see that because sometimes spoilers do get out, but we were bale to keep that one a secret. So I was happy with that.
EW: Can I just say, poor Oscar. I was actually starting to like that guy. And who gets his slippers now that he’s dead?
MAZZARA: That was a tough one. That actor [Vincent Ward] has done a great job, but we could not have the Governor get his ass kicked completely. He loses his daughter, he loses his eye, his town is shot up. We had to put some points in his column, so poor Oscar had to go.
EW: He’s like the poor Starfleet sap that always gets killed out on a mission with Kirk and Spock.
MAZZARA: Yeah, it was a little bit of that, but we had to do that. And then the big points in the column is the surprise cliffhanger ending that I guarantee I will receive many, many angry tweets from Daryl fans over the hiatus in which people are not going to like the fact that Daryl is in danger in the arena with his own brother.
EW: Obviously, having the Dixon brothers meet up for the first time is something fans have been waiting for two years now, so I’m sure a lot of thought went into how you wanted to present it every step of the way. Tell me how you arrived at this particular scenario of Daryl finding out via Glenn that his brother was behind this mess and then the two ending up facing off against the whole town together.
MAZZARA: I believe it was our co-executive producer Evan Reilly who came up with this idea that the two brothers were together at the end of the midseason finale — that scene that you saw. And I just loved it. I was so shocked by that and yet it felt completely plausible. So then when we were working on the script, we were trying to preserve the moment where Daryl finds that Merle is there but it didn’t feel real for Glenn or Maggie not to tell him, “This is Merle.” Those would be the first worlds out of Glenn’s mouth, so we just really felt we have to keep the show grounded, keep it real, and do what would really happen. So when we were working on that scene we had Glenn say it because that’s something that he would do. It would have felt contrived to not give that information. It just felt organic.
EW: Why does the Governor turn on Merle and announce him as a traitor?
MAZZARA: Well, Merle came back and said he killed Michonne. So he lied. And he’s also responsible for bringing these guys there by bringing Glenn and Maggie. That was not Merle’s job. Merle lied about Michonne and that cost the Governor his own daughter Penny. So that’s what that’s about.
Image Credit: Tina Rowden/AMC[/caption]
EW: The Governor has been spending the entire episode trying to keep Andrea from realizing it is her group of former friends that has infiltrated Woodbury, but then unmasks Daryl at the end. Why?
MAZZARA: He’s transformed. He’s not going to be duplicitous. He’s now focused on vengeance. On making people pay. And you’re either with him or you’re not. That’s where the Governor is. In a way, he’s rejecting the duplicity and the politics of what he’s been doing for the first half of the season. Now he’s starting down a much darker road. And the Governor we’ll see in the back half of the season is very formidable and is much darker. And we take him to some pretty scary places.
EW: Michonne is something of a loner and used to being on her own, but she basically asks into Rick’s group at the end. Why? Is it to finish off the Governor? Get Andrea back? Or has she finally found a team she can trust?
MAZZARA: That’s a great question. That’s something I spoke a lot to Danai about and also Andy when we were shooting this episode. There’s some altruism when she shows up at the prison and says, “Hey, they got your guys.” And she eventually puts together in that process that this is Andrea’s group. She doesn’t immediately know it, but she has that information. She withholds that information because she’s planning to use Rick and his group as entry back into Woodbury because she wants vengeance on the Governor for sending Merle after her. She’s there to kill the Governor. When she goes through that fight with the Governor, look at her life, and look at the state she’s in. What’s gong to happen to her? She’s clearly going to die and nobody’s gong to know or care. In a sense, she’s hit rock bottom. And the only way for her to heal herself is through connecting with another group.
Now she feels like Rick is a good guy and one of the things we’ll see is a relationship — not a romantic relationship necessarily — but a relationship, a friendship, a human connection with Rick throughout the back half of the season. They sort of need each other. They’ve been like two atoms being drawn to each other. So when she goes back there she feels that if she doesn’t join Rick’s group in some sense, she’ll just perish. She probably won’t survive out there. At some point some zombie or some bad guy will grab her and nobody will give a s—. She’s at rock bottom. She has nothing left. Look at that mess — the fish tanks with heads, and this guy’s crying and holding his eye, and the girl’s got a sword through her mouth. I don’t think you can really hit lower at that point. So she’s kind of scared in terms of, what has my life become? And she’s looking for a road back. And the only way to do that is by reaching out to Rick and that group.
EW: You know I can’t let you go until you give up some good teases for the second half of the season. What do you have in store for us, Glen?
MAZZARA: We’re on the road to war. Now that everything is set up, now people have to make choices. Andrea becomes the focal point. She’s the connective tissue. She has to make choices about how she’s going to deal with this. She’s caught between a rock and a hard place and she has to make choices to pick one side or the other or bring the groups together. We now have Merle, who obviously cannot live with Rick because Rick was the one who handcuffed him to the roof, and there’s Daryl. So in both groups, everything starts splitting apart. Everybody forms different alliances. Even the Glenn and Maggie relationship is put into disarray because of what transpired in Woodbury and what Glen thinks maybe happened and what actually did happen. Everybody’s traumatized at this point. Everybody’s at their weakest point, and now that have to start challenging each other and building each other up. And meanwhile, the two groups are gearing up for war. I’m very proud of the second half of the season. It’s just as intense as the first half. There’s one episode in the middle of the run that feels like a finale and has just as much as action as you’ve seen here in this. We are just charging straight ahead. It doesn’t slow down. It doesn’t get softer.
EW: And Rick and the Governor have not even shared a scene yet!
MAZZARA: That is correct! They have not even seen each other! They have only heard about each other. That is important to realize. And it’s still going to be a little while before they do. And I’m very proud of the episode in which they finally do encounter each other face to face.
For more on the ‘Walking Dead’ midseason finale, check out Dalton’s interview with star Andrew Lincoln, as well as Clark Collis’ interview with creator Robert Kirkman and Darren Franich’s episode recap. And for more ‘Walking Dead’ scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.