THE WALKING DEAD Showrunner Glen Mazzara Talks Continuing with a Faster Pace in Season 3, Fidelity to the Source Material, Character Deaths and More

     July 30, 2012


The second season of The Walking Dead truly felt like two separate shows.  The first half embracing a much more languid pace culminating in the discovery of a death long since thought known versus the second half’s uber-accelerated, major-character-culling end.  If the first half depicted the group’s somber loss of hope in this dystopian landscape, then the second half was the metaphorical retort of a middle finger.  Who needs ‘hope’ anyways?  Let’s shoot something in the head and feel better – at least for a moment or two.

At the Saturn Movie Awards, Glen Mazzara (Executive Producer/Showrunner of The Walking Dead), was on hand to pick up the award for Best Television Presentation.  While there, I had the opportunity to speak with Mazzara about the pace of the upcoming third season, more major character deaths and the ‘Prison’ storyline arc, among many other topics of conversation.  For the full interview, hit the jump.

robert-kirkman-glen-mazzara-the-walking-deadQuestion: The first half of the second season was slower – more character driven versus the second half, which was much more action driven.  Will this be the structure for the third season?

GLEN MAZZARA: No – we’re picking up where we left off.  The pace of the last two episodes is our jumping off point and I’ll even say we accelerate after that.

How do you maintain that acceleration?

MAZZARA: You have a lot of story.  I was a writer on The Shield and I think we packed a lot of story and we moved things up and didn’t really save or build things. Just kept the train moving.  We just have some really talented writers.  We also have great source material that we’ve been able to use as much as we want.  It’s packed.  I’m really happy with what we’re doing.

How important is fidelity to the source material?

MAZZARA: The comic book, and I’ve said it before, is a treasure trove.  It’s a grab bag.  We certainly have characters and story lines that we really want to do – but to get there in a TV series, you have to take your time.  Sometimes you can’t get right to it.  They’re two different mediums.  So we make it our own and really own the material.  I like to think of it as an alternate universe.

jon-bernthal-walking-dead-season-2One of the main impetuses on the show was Shane’s antagonistic arc.  How do you compensate for that loss in the new season?

MAZZARA: Robert’s got this great character named The Governor and we’ve cast David Morrissey to do that.   Trust me – he is a lot to handle.  Rick and the group are going to have their hands full.

How closely will you stick to the prison storyline – because (in the comic) a lot of major characters die?

MAZZARA: You’ll have to find out when you watch it – but there are certainly deaths coming out throughout the season and this is definitely a show where we take that stuff seriously.  I think we showed that in our last few episodes.  [Those] sort of hard-hitting emotional deaths are still going to be a part of the show for as long as it’ll be around.

How easy is it to get away with the graphic violence on the show?

the-walking-dead-season-two-finale-3MAZZARA: You know what – in TV and film, a little goes a long way.  I see the show as horror so a lot of the [violence] is suggested.  But it is violent.  It is gory.  I don’t see any need to up the gore.  Just to keep it as real and visceral as possible.

What was the transition like to go from a cop show (The Shield) to a horror show?

MAZZARA: Rick’s a cop too.  I lot of the show’s I do are low tech.  This is low tech.  There’s a bit of high adventure here.  There’s difficult emotional choices.  So actually this feels like a natural progression of everything I’ve been doing before this.

Has it surprised you how not only the country, but the world has embraced the show?*

the-walking-dead-season-two-finale-2MAZZARA: It has.  We just came back from Comic Con and it was fantastic.  We filled Hall H and fans were stopping us everywhere.  It was really incredibly rewarding to connect directly with the fans and see how much they care about the show.  I’m on Twitter now and people tweet me all the time and tell me how much they love it, how they can’t wait for the show to come back on, that they’re addicted to the show.  So that’s really rewarding.  As an artist, we’re all looking for that connection to an audience and when you find people as diehard as our fans are – it’s sort of like finding the holy grail.

It’s particularly surprising since horror isn’t usually topping the charts.

the-walking-dead-season-two-part-twoMAZZARA: No – but it’s interesting because there are very few horror shows, where you have a long running arc.  Most horror shows play as a sort of an anthology.  Buffy – a terrific show – had the-demon-of-the-week.  Twilight ZoneX Files – these things had an anthology approach. Our show is a long running drama with the same creatures every week.

How do you stop that from getting repetitive?

MAZZARA: You really have to do your job as a writer and push people to be as creative as possible.  What’s nice about the TV medium is you have such a connection to the characters that when somebody dies, the audience cries.  They really feel it. You really don’t cry when someone dies in a horror movie.

Yeah – often time you’re rooting for the killer.

MAZZARA: Right – those deaths don’t have the weight that they can in a TV show so that’s one of the great things about being able to do this as a show.

*Additional questions via Haleigh Foutch

The third season of The Walking Dead premieres October 14th, 2012