Earlier in the day, the throngs of people who flooded Room 6BCD were treated to a panel discussion and trailer for AMC’s upcoming series The Walking Dead, based on the comic book by Robert Kirkman. Following, I had the chance to sit down with writer/director/executive producer Frank Darabont, executive producer Gale Anne Hurd, special effects/makeup designer Greg Nicotero and stars Andrew Lincoln (Rick Grimes), Sarah Wayne Callies (Lori Grimes), Jon Bernthal (Shane Walsh), Laurie Holden (Andrea), and Emma Bell (Amy).
Their excitement for this project was evident, despite having travelled from shooting and low on sleep. The series is shooting in Atlanta (the first indication of the desire to stay true to the source material). They are about to go into shooting episode five of the first season’s six episodes. Hit the jump to hear what they had to say.
Laurie Holden and Emma Bell
Holden and Bell sat down with us first. They play sisters Amy and Andrea on the show and, oddly enough, the pair share the same birthday… and sense of humor. Holden says that just because a character dies in the comic book doesn’t mean that fans should expect that they necessary have to die… or could die later on in the story. Bell said that this gave the opportunity to build up the characters, especially her in particular. Holden embraces the opportunity examine her character, the relationship with her sister and generally her softer side before she starts to wear fatigues and carry a gun. Bell says that the time progression of events on the show is much akin to 24 and that these six episodes will represent about three to four days at camp.
Frank Darabont and Greg Nicotero
When asked about how he’s using the comic book as a guideline, Darabont said “In a loose sense I’m going to always follow what Kirkman’s done with brief detours to stop and smell the roses.” One detour will allow Darabont to delve deeper into the character of Morgan, someone protagonist Rick encounters early on, and show just why Morgan has stayed where he is because of painful emotions. He said that the first episode will follow Rick’s journey, which is our introduction into the world where the dead walk. They haven’t had any issues with standards and practices. In fact, Darabont said the only thing they really can’t do is have characters say “f-ck”. Nicotero chimed in to add that buttcrack was also off the table, but said the easy way around that is to just rip the zombies in half. Darabont let us know that a possibly re-timed black and white version of at least the pilot is something that fans can look forward to with an eventual DVD release. (The comic book is black-and-white.)
Gale Anne Hurd
Hurd said that this specific (and ultimately successful) incarnation of The Walking Dead stemmed from her and Darabont “tackling” Kirkman at last year’s San Diego Comic-Con. At that time, the pair promised Kirkman the show would see air within the next year and a half. Hurd hopes that the series will return for a second season with thirteen episodes and those have already been roughed out. She added to this that all the blog speculation about how the translation to screen will play out has been “dead wrong.” She has the utmost faith in AMC as they wanted the project, wanted to prove their commitment and truly sold that they would get it on the air. Hurd said that this is the right time for this sort of project because the cultural zeistgeist is littered with nearly Armageddon level human tragedy from Katrina to the Haitian earthquake to the oil flowing into the ocean — showing how ultimately precarious life on this planet as we know it is.
Andrew Lincoln, Sarah Wayne Callies, and Jon Bernthal
As a fan of the book and wanting to know how far into the series the six episodes would take us, I asked Lincoln and Bernthal just how at each other’s throats their characters are. They didn’t want to let anything slip, but said they’re not quite to the point of butting heads, but getting close. When asked if they were comfortable with this going ten seasons (Kirkman has said he doesn’t want his comic series to end and Darabont echoed that for the adaptation), Lincoln said that he doesn’t want it to end as they’ve just begun scratching the surface. In summing up the series for his character, Lincoln gave us a quote that he found best described Rick — “A hero is a man who does all he can.” Lincoln said it was the familial aspect to the series that drew him in. Bernthal said it was the elements of friendship because friendship is such a vital part of his own life. Callies said that it was how dark Lori’s motherhood gets. It is dark, ugly and scary.
If you haven’t had a chance, be sure to check out AMC’s page for The Walking Dead which includes a motion comic, Kirkman’s tour of set Darabont talking about the process and, I’m told the panel from today. The footage screened should be available just a couple days later.
I’ve been excited for this series since when I first started reading the comic book and seeing its potential for translation to the small screen. All indications point to a seriously entertaining time to be had when it airs on AMC in October.
For more Comic-Con coverage, click here.