'The Walking Dead' producer Gale Anne Hurd on 'the most ambitious episodes we've ever done'
The Walking Dead season 5 premiere is now a mere week away. We already provided a One-Minute Refresher to get you all caught up on everything that happened last season. Now, executive producer Gale Anne Hurd spills some intel on what to expect coming up when the show returns on Oct. 12.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Okay, Gale, what can you say about the overall story or theme we’re looking at this season, or at least during the first eight episodes?
GALE ANNE HURD: Well, certainly what we’re seeing is that Rick Grimes is accepting the mantle of leadership in a way that is unlike he’s ever done in previous seasons. And that tends to have a ripple effect, with his relationships across the board in this show. We’re also embarking on the most ambitious episodes we’ve ever done in terms of not only the action set pieces, but also the level of emotional weight that’s brought to bear on the characters.
We know about Abraham and Eugene’s mission to get to Washington, D.C. to stop the zombie plague. Having a goal like that is something we haven’t really seen since season 1, since they were going to the CDC. It’s a sort of different show when you have the group on the move, isn’t it?
We’ve been on the move before, obviously. There’ve constantly been seeking out a safe haven. And then the first season, even though it wasn’t in the comic book, they did go to the CDC, they were in Atlanta anyway, so that made a great deal of sense. But now with Eugene potentially holding the key to what the crisis is all about and potentially solving it, now they have goal that’s larger than themself, and even more ambitious.
What’s it like to have what seems like most of the group back together after a bit of a spell with smaller stories where everyone was broken up?
I think that the show thrives on the group dynamic, whether it’s smaller or larger groups. In this case, we have them both up against some pretty dire circumstances, both with the zombie threat as well as with who can you trust? You saw some of the action set pieces, which are unlike anything we’ve done.
I know we’re going to go back inside the city, where you guys haven’t really been since season 1. Tell me about that.
The show has spent a lot of time in primarily rural settings. But you’re never going to find the cure to the zombie apocalypse in the sticks. Now with them embarking on a mission, they have to reenter what we call the City of the Dead. There are many cities of the dead that they’ll have to encounter to complete their mission. So not only does it make it more difficult because the number of walkers, but also there are more hiding places in which their human antagonists can lurk. So however stiff and difficult the stakes have been up until this season, now they’ve been raised even further.
I love that we are getting some urban threats back. It’s going to give the show a look and feel that you guys have had before, but not for a long time.
Yeah, it was also fun to tease what’s happened to Beth.
Let’s get into that. There’s this situation where she seems to be separated from the group ever since she was driven off in that car. What can you say about the predicament that she appears to be in?
Well, she’s on her own now, The good news is that she has a huge desire, unlike she did when we first met her, to live, to survive, and to rejoin the group. But that may not be what the people she’s encountered have in store for her. Clearly, she’s got her hands full, as you can tell from the very last shot of the promo. She’s in a place where it’s not all sweetness and light.
What can you tell me about Gareth? What makes him dangerous, and what sort of role is he going to play?
Obviously, we made Andrew J. Wast a recurring player this season. His role as Gareth is essentially the leader of Terminus, and to be bolted into that position when you’re as young as he is shows that not only is he a very adept survivor, but he’s someone that has engendered the trust of people much older than he is. So clearly he’s perceived as someone who can keep them safe, who can be tough, but also someone who is going to protect the interest of the original Terminus survivors. And that means that he may easily come into conflict with Rick, who’s reassumed the mantle of our group of survivors. As well as the rest of our original team, given that they’re all very adept at survival now, too, and they’re not going to put the needs and desires of another group in front of their own. So how they’ll coexist I’m sure is going to be the crux of the drama.
And the coexist point is interesting because to this point, Rick hasn’t met some of these people. We know him and Abraham, in the comic book, when they meet, it’s very bumpy at first. And we saw in the trailer, there’s Rick and Tara, who we saw on the other side of the fence right before Hershel was beheaded. So is there gonna be some conflict within that own group?
Absolutely. Tara, knowingly or unknowingly, was part of the Governor’s group. That won’t, I’m sure, sit too well with our survivors. Especially since Hershel lost his head as a result of the Governor. And Abraham is used to being a leader himself. He has a goal, he doesn’t want anyone to stand in his way, and he has a vision of how it needs to be carried out. And I don’t see Rick being subservient to anyone. If he feels that a different approach is in the best interest of his core group, he’s certainly, I think, very unlikely to defer to Abraham.
Obviously Glenn and Maggie have been the romantic couple we’ve seen for the past few years, but obviously Abraham and Rosita have a romantic history in the comics, and we’ve seen some of the other characters maybe that could be hooking up. Are we gonna see a little more romance this season, Gale?
There is always love within the zombie apocalypse. In conditions like that is where people are thrown together and they live for the moment, and I think that’s especially true for people in romantic relationships. Look how intense Tyreese and Karen were. You realize that you may not have a lot of time together, and I’m sure that’s really brought to bear with all of our survivors once they get reunited.
Since Maggie and Glenn have just been essentially reunited, I think that’s going to be a very key component of the season, because they know what its like to be separated. They could have imagined, although they didn’t want to, a world without the other one in it. I think this season is where we’re going to plumb the depths of what it means to have to sacrifice, to the extent our characters do, to survive, and hopefully to find a cure. There’s a sacrifice that is certainly the equal to anything we’ve seen in the previous four seasons. But also hope, to the degree we’ve never seen before.
Check out our ‘Walking Dead: One-Minute Refresher ‘below. And for more ‘Walking Dead’ scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.