You know how sometimes you lose track of a friend? And they start shacking up with a deranged post-apocalyptic dictator who tortures a couple of your other pals, and wants you dead, and dumps a van full of human flesh-hungry zombies on your doorstep? And then your friend comes round to visit and things get a little, well, aw-kward? Then you will have been unsurprised by the most recent episode of AMC’s undead show the Walking Dead.
Below, Walking Dead TV show executive producer — and Walking Dead comic writer — Robert Kirkman talks about the Rick-Andrea reunion, why Greg Nicotero is not just for the gory things in life, and, of course, Tom Waits.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: This episode was hardly incident-free. But it did seem to be the calm-before-the-storm that we thought last week’s show was going to be—until that climactic shoot-out.
ROBERT KIRKMAN: Yeah. It was a little bit of moving the chess pieces around the board, getting ready to get crazy. Things are going to get crazy pretty soon. There’s some big stuff coming.
Are you a good chess player?
Me? Like I am at everything, I’m pretty mediocre.
It was very strange seeing Rick regard Andrea with such suspicion.
That’s something we are doing to remind people of the fact that Andrea really has been away from them for a very long time. She was in the woods with Michonne for longer than she was with Rick and the other group. There was a lot of passage of time between seasons and she’s been in Woodbury for a while. So because of that time passage everyone is kind of on edge. I don’t think Andrea really knows what to expect from Rick and vice versa.
What was going through Andrea’s head as she stood over the Governor with the knife?
Well, I don’t want to give too much away because there’s some stuff coming up. I think that she was definitely considering it or she wouldn’t have been there. You know, I think killing someone that close up, a human being, with a knife, that’s one thing that is still sort of a bridge too far for [many] people in this universe. It’s important to note that these people are killing zombies left and right all day long and some of them are crossing over that line to killing people. But I don’t think Andrea has quite gotten there just yet.
That scene seemed to have obvious cliffhanger potential. Were you tempted to end the show with Andrea standing over the Governor?
There’s always that kind of temptation to leave things are a little big more cliffhangery. I know that I do that quite a bit in the comic. But I think it’s enough that she was there, that that scene happened. You don’t want to come back next week following up a bit of business from that episode. It’s something that we do in the comics but I don’t know that it works quite as well on the TV show, to open an episode with previous business that may or not fit thematically with what’s going on in the episode. I think when people see episode 12 — which is a really cool, almost vignette side story episode that I don’t want to give too much away about — they’ll see that kind of thing wouldn’t have carried over very well.
Next: “I love there’s something in the mix to remind people this show is insane.”
It was interesting that the show’s resident makeup wizard Greg Nicotero directed this episode given that it was one of the more effects-light shows.
This is a good example of why Greg Nicotero has become one of our go-to directors. He ended up doing three episodes this season. He’s just a fantastic director. It’s not like it’s, “Oh, this is a special effects, zombie-filled episode, let’s make sure Greg does it.” He really is a skilled director, one of our strongest directors on the show, and I think this episode is a very clear example of that.
On the other hand, if you’re going to have a sequence in which someone de-jaws a zombie I guess there are worse people you could have behind the camera.
Yeah. I’ve heard from a few people in the production that that was the first time they had to look away from a TV screen while they were watching a show.
It was spectacularly unpleasant, which I guess I mean as a compliment.
[Laughs] You know, it’s always fun to put that stuff in. I mean that, I think, is the dessert of the show. I love that we have this episode of political maneuvering with Andrea back at the prison and it’s basically a character-based episode and then there’s something like this just kind of thrown into the mix to remind people that this show is insane.
It was fascinating to hear the Tyreese-led group describing the situation in the prison and the personnel they encountered there in such unpleasant terms.
[Laughs] And somewhat accurate terms too. We had a lot of fun with that. These are characters that we’ve known and loved for so long and we’ve seen them go through all these horrible things — [but] if you do take just a slice of them and look at them for what they are at this moment you can kind of see how Tyreese would come to that conclusion. They had a pretty bad encounter with those people.
While it’s fun dramatically to have an out-and-out villain like the Governor I think this episode reminded us is that you don’t need him around necessarily for these two groups to be at each other’s throats.
Exactly. The Governor is manipulating things and pushing things forward but it is very easy to have a conflict between humans in this world, you know. Everything’s heightened — there’s a lot of dire situations going around.
Are we going to learn more about Martinez at any point?
He definitely shows up a bit in the Governor novel series so I would highly recommend people go out and buy those to find out more about that character — and he appears in the comic books. But I think Jose Pablo Cantillo, the actor playing him, is fantastic and there’s definitely a lot more to come with Martinez.
We learned this week that there are only around 25 people who can fight in Woodbury. Do you think the Governor is now regretting having killed quite so many people previously?
[Laughs] Yeah, yeah. Now he’s looking at the head in fish tanks — well, he’s not looking at heads in fish tanks any more — but if he could he’d probably be saying, “Yeah, these guys would maybe have been a little useful.”
For a moment I thought the Governor was really going to make that older woman in the housecoat join the fighting ranks.
I think that she would probably be a pretty good fighter. And you could conceal things in the coat. You never know.
Who’s the Tom Waits fan?
I think everyone in the production is a Tom Waits fan. But I would say the biggest fan among us is probably Glen Mazzara. That guy only listens to Bob Dylan and Tom Waits.
I heard about it but I didn’t see the footage. Yeah, that seems pretty funny to me. I hope it didn’t cause any mass panic or anything.
It’s kind of your fault, though.
[Laughs] I take no responsibility in that.
“…said Robert Kirkman on the advice of his lawyers.”
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