One of the pure joys of my weekend at San Diego Comic Con was the hour I got to know several cast members and producers of AMC’s hit show, “The Walking Dead.” For a show that graphically and tragically depicts the test of humanity during the zombie apocalypse, I have never seen a cast that were more like family, especially one that just completed their first season. We got almost 15 minutes each with four groups of actors and producers. The first ones we got for the day, Executive Producer Gale Anne Hurd, Laurie Holden (Andrea) and Norman Reedus (Daryl Dixon).
It should be noted the press room was very noisy and several members of the press were too far away for their questions to be heard clearly on the recording. I’m just not going to be able to share the exact question, just the context of the question. I was able to get clear recordings of the answers though, and these quotes give us so much information about this show and the tight knit camaraderie on the set.
What are we to expect from Andrea in season two, especially after the tragic loss of her sister?
Holden: “Last time you saw Andrea I was a bereft suicidal woman who wanted to die in the CDC. As we start season two she’s just a gal who’s trying to find her way. She’s still dealing with the loss of her sister. She’s determined to be strong and she doesn’t want to be a victim. If she’s stuck in this world that she didn’t choose, she’s going to survive. You will see a big change in her, in her spirit, and the woman that you saw and the woman that she becomes, there’s definitely a journey.”
It took a long time for The Walking Dead to be adapted for television. How did each one of them get involved with the project?
Hurd: “The first thing was the comic book. I was attracted to the comic book, I read it, I thought this would be great for a TV series. After that I worried about the rights and what I found was Frank Darabont had actually been involved. He’s an old and dear friend, one of my husband’s closest friends. It was perfect because he was really frustrated, he’d taken it out before. He brought this pilot to NBC, I don’t know if I could see the show on NBC but that’s a different story. And he said ‘We’ve taken it out there’s no interest.’ As they know, don’t say no to me, I will make it happen. At the same time we’d been having discussions with AMC and they said they wanted a genre show. It turned out to be a perfect marriage with a network that makes “Mad Men” to now making zombies.
Holden: “I worked with Frank on two other collaborations, the Majestic and The Mist, and he’s also a dear friend of mine. I knew this was a passion project of his for a while. Though I didn’t know anything about it, I just knew it was this zombie thing he was involved with. And I heard over the years the struggle, the frustration as it is when you’re trying to get a project off the ground. It finally got greenlit and he called me up and he said ‘I’d really would love you to pick up the graphic novel and take a look at it. I think you’re perfect for the role of Andrea. There wasn’t anything to read in the pilot so I picked up “” one and I didn’t know what to expect. I think I expected light, fluffy zombie. I couldn’t believe how dark it was, how character driven, and how incredible the story telling was and I just fell in love with the world. There wasn’t even a script written yet with my character. Just based on the graphic novel and Gale Anne Hurd and Frank Darabont you just know that you’re signing up for something fantastic.”
Reedus: “I was in Los Angeles doing pilot season and if you know anything about pilot season it’s Hell on earth. I hadn’t really done pilot season before. I was given a lot of pilots to read and literally this one was a shining light in a dark room compared to everything else. I read it and I was like ‘This is amazing.’ I really wanted to try to get in on it. I actually read Merle’s part and I don’t know what happened with that but I read for that on tape in New York and they had me read it again. Then my character Frank created so I’m not in the Comic book. I knew it was going to be amazing just reading the script and then finding out who was involved was the cherry on the sundae. I campaigned for one part and then a new one opened up to me.”
Hurd: “Robert Kirkman’s sick, demented mind is why we’re all here.”
How did Laurie feel about Andrea’s sister being killed off and having to say goodbye to the actress (Emma Bell) that played her? (It should be noted not far in the corner Emma Bell was right there watching the action. She waved at us during the question.).
Laurie: “I knew it was coming. We’re honoring the source material a lot, we’re also deviating the source material. That was something we all knew. It was awful. The challenging about our show is we are a cast that genuinely cares about one another. We’re very harmonious. I fell in love with this little girl that played my sister and we had a wonderful on screen and off screen relationship. I wish she was with us until the very end but it was part of the storytelling. I think the problem was everybody fell in love with Emma Bell and didn’t want her to leave and it was like ‘ugh’ they’d already written it.
The cast has a very unique relationship with the writing team too. What is that process like?
Hurd: “All of the actors, the ones who were cast in LA, come into the writer’s room and meet with him, with Glen Mazzara, Robert Kirkman, Even Reilly, Scott Gimple, Angela Kang, and they talked about their characters.”
Holden: “It was the most amazing opportunity. I’ve never had that opportunity ever. What actors do? Where they opened up the writer’s room and really wanted to get into our heads with our points of view. For example, they sat down and talked to me about what I was going through emotionally and thinking at the end of season one. Why I decided to leave the CDC, my character’s point of view. They really respected and honored what all of us said. Of course they have their own gorgeous ideas. These writers are powerhouse. The female writer, Angela, turned in a script that I’m so excited I can’t even see straight.”
It’s been wonderful because there are certain story points, we have an arc to fulfill, but they’re also listening to us and they had a chance to hear our voices. When these scripts come I’m not kidding you it’s so effortless to learn the lines because they’ve so tapped into our voices, like way that we speak and the rhythms and our points of view. It’s the greatest job in the world.”
Reedus: “It really is harmonious on the set. All of us know each other’s characters and we’ve become our characters. What she’s feeling about where she thinks her character should go is correct. It fits nicely, our ideas, their ideas, and the writing when you read it does flow very easily from our mouths.”
Hurd: “It’s not just the cast and the writers. Our crew is so dedicated, they all came back in yesterday. They’re working as long hours as you can imagine. In the heat, in the humidity, they don’t get to go into an air conditioned trailer at any point and they are as excited as if you or me came in.”
Have they ever had the crap scared from them on the set from the makeup?
Reedus: “It’s also the casting of the zombies. The makeup is so intense but there’s this sadness. They’re not just scary there’s this emotional sadness that you get lost in for sure.”
Holden: “It’s like a human being trapped in a sickness.”
Reedus: “Then you cut their head off.”
(This was my question) How do they feel about all the gore on the show?
Reedus: “It’s fun. I feel like I’m a nine year old kid. I run around and shoot zombies and play in guts and it’s kind of rad.”
Holden: “I kind of feel like a boy. It’s the strangest thing to go to work and work really hard and get bruises. Sometimes you get really hurt. You walk away and you’re like ‘Yeah, that was a really good day.’ It’s like a good day at the office. It’s almost like if you didn’t get those bruises fighting the zombies than you didn’t really earn it.”
After that, it was a table switch. Coming up next, Robert Kirkman, Steven Yeun, and Jeffrey DeMunn.