The Walking Dead Season Two: The Producers Speak

Expect a zombie kill like you’ve never seen before, promises Frank Darabont

Writer-director Frank Darabont and his producing partner Gale Anne Hurd were in the midst of shooting the second season of their smash-hit The Walking Dead in Atlanta last week, when they took a break to attend the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films’ 37th Annual Saturn Awards ceremony in Burbank, California, where The Walking Dead received the award for Best TV Presentation. SFX joined a small group of journalists and sat down with Darabont and Hurd after their win for an update…

SFX : Can you say how closely The Walking Dead will adhere to the comics in its second season? Will we see approximately the same ratio of all-new material to adapted material that we saw in the first season?

Darabont: “I think we’re kind of following the same… Yeah, if there is a ratio, a measurable ratio.”

Hurd: “By the way, at Robert Kirkman’s behest”

Darabont: “That’s right.”

Hurd: “It’s not just coming from those of us who didn’t create the material. It’s coming from the originator.”

Robert seems to like getting surprised by the new elements.

Hurd: “And he keeps telling us that he’s gonna be incorporating some storylines from the series in the graphic novels.”

Darabont: “That’s pretty cool.”

Would Michael Rooker’s character happen to be in one of those storylines?

Hurd: “You know what? You’ll have to ask Robert.”

Darabont: “Yeah, I have no idea what he’s got up his sleeve.”

Frank, are you directing any season two episodes?

Darabont: “I’m hoping to do the last one. Hoping to do the thirteenth episode. That remains entirely…” [Nods at Hurd]

Do you have to get her okay?

Darabont: “Yeah, if she lets me.” [Laughs.]

Hurd: “ It’s more about the exigencies of post-production. And the demands that they relate to.”

Darabont: “Yeah, post and getting the scripts done in time. And balancing everything against the post schedule, which is relentless. It’s one of those ‘Ooh, I’d hate to not do it.’ So I’m gonna try. I’m really gonna try. It would suck not to.”

As a big horror fan, is it tough to create a new zombie kill? Because you’re very aware of what’s been done already and how many classic kills we’ve seen.

Darabont: “Yes, absolutely. [Laughs.] But I’m telling you right now that we have in episode two as unique a scene as… It’s never been done before. If it has I’m going to jump off a cliff here. Because I’m certain it’s as unique as when they chopped up the zombie in episode two of the first season. It’s very unique.”

Hurd: “And Greg Nicotero and his KNB EFX team are back. In fact, Greg, we left him sweating in Atlanta this morning.”

Darabont: “Yeah, he took over second unit for me this morning when I got in the van to get to the airport and come here.”

Should we expect the same amount of gore this season? Or because the audience has embraced it are you comfortable with showing even more onscreen this time around?

Hurd: “We’re always comfortable with it. It’s Standards and Practices. And they’ve been pretty comfortable.”

Darabont: “Yeah. By the way, in the three-disc set that’s coming out – and I’m not stumping for people to go out and buy it – but [they’ve] done a fantastic documentary. It’s like an hour-long thing of the entire six episodes. A very behind-the-scenes, boots-on-the-ground documentary. My favourite line is when we were discussing the axe. Do you remember that? The one we were going to chop the zombie up with? And I said, ‘There’s no such thing as too big an axe.’ [Laughs.] That’s the philosophy of the show I’ve realised – there’s no such thing as too big an axe.”

You have a non-traditional writing staff this season – how does that affect the ability to create a season-long arc?

Hurd: “How is it non-traditional? We have a writers’ room.”

Well, online…

Hurd: [Laughs.] “Don’t believe everything you read”

Can you explain where that came from then, and what it meant?

Darabont: “Yeah, the big sensational headline last year was ‘Darabont Fires Entire Writing Staff!’ It sounded like I went in and slaughtered 12 people and threw their bodies in the dumpster. It’s not the case at all. There were two writers I didn’t invite back from last year, for reasons that I needn’t go into. No, we put together a really good, solid regular staff this year, and they’re doing inspired work. The only sense that it’s nontraditional is in the sense that I’m encouraging these folks – guys and gal – to really colour outside the lines and swing for the fences. And not just sort of hit the marks of television writing, but to try and do something really unique and different. They’re really rising to that challenge.”

Hurd: “We’re sort of following the British model, which is everyone breaks story together and then goes off and writes their episodes. So we actually had eight scripts written…”

Darabont: “Yeah, before we started filming we had eight scripts in place. Which is really nice. You can really see the arcs there and see the connective tissue that needs to happen, and make those things happen. When you have eight scripts in front of you it’s fantastic.”

Hurd: “We’re now breaking the back five”

Josepeh McCabe