As part of Comic-Con International in San Diego, the cast and crew of AMC’s “The Walking Dead” spoke with Comic Book Resources and members of the press about the show, beginning with the dynamics of the core group of survivors going into season two.
“The group is going to be pulling apart in different ways; different people are going to be coming into conflict,” said “Walking Dead” creator and Executive Producer Robert Kirkman, adding, “We’re going to see them reach their breaking point this season.”
Actor Jeffrey DeMunn told reporters that unlike his fellow Walking Dead” star Steven Yuen, who plays Glenn on the show, DeMunn did not read the comics to get into his role as Dale, nor does he read far ahead in the scripts.
“I do not know what happens to Dale, because I do not want to,” said DeMunn. “I just read what we’re doing when we’re doing it that week.”
“As a group we collectively realized that, even though the show follows the same vein and tells the same story, it serves its own purpose as well,” added Yuen, saying that much of the cast stopped reading the comic book in order to keep the twists and turns of the story a secret.
The Korean-American actor then delved into his character on the show, touching on the fact that this season introduces Maggie Greene, a character who, in the comics, becomes Glenn’s serious girlfriend.
“Glenn lived to serve, he lived to have a role and to leave a mark on the world…but now, I love the idea that someone who didn’t have anything to live for until now has so much more to live for,” said Yuen, speaking about Glenn’s upcoming relationship.
Turning to the actual walking dead that populate the world, Kirkman told reporters that while the TV show gives a vague medical explanation of the zombie plague, something the comics never do, this was done in order to give the audiences of both mediums a new and interesting twist and surprise readers of the comic who watched the show.
“I wholeheartedly accept that the television show and the comic book series are completely different things because I like to have two products that people can enjoy — that generate profits!” laughed Kirkman. He also stated that there were no big battles in the writer’s room over what to include from the comics and that his being in the writer’s room helps keep the show on track, though Kirkman reiterated that at this point the show and the comic were fairly separate.
“I’m on volume fifteen of the comic…the Rick Grimes that is alive in the comic book series is completely different from the Rick Grimes that’s alive in the television show,” said Kirkman, adding that there is almost no crossover between the two in his mind.
Kirkman then told those assembled that there were things in the comic he regretted doing and did not want to repeat in the show — chief among these being the maiming of Rick Grimes.
“One thing I’m adamant about is that I don’t think we should cut Rick’s hand off,” said Kirkman, adding that he does not ever regret killing characters as he recognizes the value that adds to the story. When it comes to Rick’s missing hand, however, “When I’m writing the comic book I don’t think about what I’m doing, I go ‘Oh it’d be really cool if they cut his hand off right now, that’d be pretty shocking!’ I do it, and then I write five issues later, ‘Rick opens a can of peas,'” laughed Kirkman. “I didn’t even think that through!”
Kirkman also confirmed that they have a fully staffed writers room and will not be relying on freelance writers as rumored last year.
“It’s a full writing staff, I don’t know where this freelance thing got started,” said Kirkman. The writers for this season will be Scott Gimple, Evan Reilly and Angela Kang on staff with David Leslie Johnson writing some freelance episodes and Glenn Mazzara as the head writer, along with Executive Producer Frank Darabont and Kirkman himself writing episodes.
Executive Producer Gale Anne Hurd then told reporters that for this season, the writers invited the actors into the writer’s room to talk about their specific characters and develop them with the actors. Touching on this, actors Laurie Holden and Norman Reedus dove into describing their own characters, Laurie saying that Andrea “does not want to be there” and Reedus postulating that his character Daryl had a life of hard knocks.
“You have to figure, you have Merle as a big brother, so I’m sure he constantly bullied you and humiliated you and you probably were always on the low end of the totem pole,” said Reedus. “Now, I [as Daryl] have to deal with these people who left my brother to die, and [the question of,] is my brother still alive — and it becomes about, would he be pissed, where am I going to go?”
The two actors also touched on the emotional exhaustion of filming the drama, with Holden saying that to her mind, Andrea is still feeling the loss of her sister Amy.
“I can’t foresee her heart breaking like that again, because Amy was the love of her life. She was the only family she had left,” said Holden, adding, “Do I think she’s still going to be tested? Absolutely.”
Acknowledging Andrea’s role as a tough, gun-slinging warrior in the comic, Holden added that this season sees Andrea taking on a more “badass” role, but not all at once.
“It’s been very organic, the steps Andrea makes. She doesn’t go from bereft suicidal woman to badass warrior overnight, like it was a dream sequence and I wake up and I go, ‘I’m strong today!'” laughed Holden.
Like Yuen and DeMunn, Reedus and Holden said they didn’t want to read too far ahead in the comic book series, as they didn’t want to spoil anything. Hurd, on the other hand, stated that she reads every single issue as they come out.
“I buy them, they don’t even send them to me for free!” said Hurd as Holden and Reedus gasped at the news. Hurd added that she didn’t mind, as “We go to support our local comic book store.”
With a laugh she pointed to the buttons on her lanyard saying, “I’m a fan first! I’ve got my ‘Nerd’ and ‘Geek’ [buttons] and I am!”
Actors Andrew Lincoln, Jon Bernthal and Sarah Wayne Callies, who play Rick Grimes, Laurie Grimes and Shane Walsh respectively, would not tell whether this season will see Laurie and Shane’s affair go public, though Callies did share why she thought her character had the affair in the first place.
“First of all, it’s worth reiterating she thought she was a widow. That’s significant to me, because Laurie may be many things but I don’t think she’s an adulteress,” said Callies. “I don’t think this was about romance, I think it’s about, ‘Let’s take a moment, or several moments, for something that is creating life, not destroying it.'”
“It is much more complicated,” added Lincoln. “There are no right decisions — there can’t be, in this world.”
Callies also mentioned season one’s scene where Shane comes on to Laurie as part of the challenges that lie ahead for Laurie.
“The rec room scene adds a whole new layer as I can’t even tell [Rick] that happened,” added Callies.
Callies and Lincoln also said that being role models for Carl, played by child actor Chandler Riggs, is of primary concern for their characters as parents.
“I certainly feel my character feels that he’s not doing enough, he feels like he’s failing as a father. How can you not feel like you’re doing that when he’s seeing atrocities and there’s no safety?” said Lincoln.
Bernthal added that one of the themes they tackle in season two is the biggest question of all: is survival in this new world even worth it?
“What are we living for? What’s the point? We’re trying to do all these different things to get to the next point, but what is that next point?” said Bernthal. “Slowly, I think a lot of these characters are…finding out that to be human in this new world really doesn’t work.”
Things lightened up when Executive Producer Frank Darabont and Make-Up Artist and Consulting Producer Greg Nicotero began bantering over the best ways to kill zombies, explaining that they brought the writers into Nicotero’s workshop to help spark story ideas. This lead to Darabont creating the zombie in the first episode of season one, a girl zombie torso slowly crawling across the ground.
“One of the greatest compliments I ever received from [Darabont] was literally shooting that scene that day and him going, ‘That’s the greatest zombie I’ve ever seen!'” said Nicotero.
“And it still is!” added Darabont.
Darabont briefly touched on the show’s grueling hours for the writers and production staff before announcing that Nicotero will be directing an episode this season. As to the sudden surge of zombie related shows and pilots appearing on TV, Darabont attributed it directly to the success of “The Walking Dead.”
“Suddenly all the assholes who said no to our show saw our numbers and said, ‘I need a zombie show!'” joked Darabont. The producer admitted as a caveat to this that he did enjoy Max Brook’s “World War Z.”
This brought the talk back to zombies as the two explained what they looked for when casting a zombie for the show.
“We tend to go for the more physically gaunt, the more slender…gaunt makes you think corpselike, but it also gives [Nicotero] and his artists the opportunity to build out,” when doing the makeup, said Darabont.
Nicotero also said that big eyes were a plus as they could make it look closer to the comic book zombies.
As for the actual process of casting the zombies, Nicotero that they had a “zombie school” in Atlanta where they auditioned actors for the zombie roles. Darabont and Nicotero then said they actually graded the actors from one to five in their notes and cast the zombies off of that. Laughing, Nicotero admitted the audition process for zombies basically boiled down to actors doing their best zombie walk.
“It was awesome! We would literally say, ‘Line up along that wall and when I say action, let’s see what you do.’ I had one person turn and face the corner and stay there, I had one guy go out of the room, I had people knocking tables over — I mean it was always very interesting to see,” said Nicotero.
“I joke that there are two types of people in the world: there’s the person who got a hairbrush and sang in front of the mirror, and then there’s the person who did their zombie walk,” the Make-Up Artist added.
Darabont then told reporters there were a couple of characters he couldn’t wait to write past season two.
“I have to confess, I am very anxious to get to — it’s like waiting for dessert — I’m very anxious to get to the Governor and very anxious to get to Michonne,” said Darabont.
Kirkman also revealed that this season would definitely see Hershel Greene, Maggie and Otis Greene making an appearance from the comics.
Bringing the talk with reporters to a close, Darabont stated that while he was sure the writers, if needed, could quickly bang out an ending to wrap up the show they did not have an end point in mind.
“I say, let’s go on forever,” said Darabont. “A good zombie just keeps on walking!”
“The Walking Dead” season two premieres October 16 at 9PM on AMC