The Walking Dead returns to AMC on February 9th with the back half of season four. As our excitement mounts, we spoke with producer Gale Anne Hurd. We spoke about what new challenges our characters will face and what troubles puberty during the zombie apocalypse will cause to Carl. As is normally the case, she won’t give even the slightest hint of a spoiler, but did give us a general feel for what is coming up.
Is it weird having the season split up like this?
We love it! I mean, it’s brutal on us the way it is brutal on fans, to be off-the-air for a few months. But at the same time it gives us the opportunity to tell a story that is complete, essentially, in eight episodes, and have a big midseason finale, then have the opportunity to start up again with a midseason premiere and see our characters thrust into entirely new and more difficult circumstances.
Does it almost feel like you are shooting two separate seasons?
No, because we shoot continuously. We start in May and we shoot straight through. The production doesn’t take a break in between. Even thought our eighth episode aired in early December and we are picking up again now, we had no break between the eighth and ninth episode this season.
Now that the prison is overrun with zombies and our characters have split up in the run to safety, what are some of the new challenges they are going to face?
Some of the challenges will include the great loss they have endured. The loss of Hershel has a huge impact. The loss of the prison, which they turned into a safe haven, where they felt like they could lead normal lives and start civilization again. They were able to joke for a change. They were able to have love and romance - but not for long! Nothing good lasts long in the zombie apocalypse. And they are split up now. So now they have the challenge of, “How do they find each other?” Or do some of the people who were loners to begin with choose to become loners again? Those are the challenges that this new half of the season poses. Some of which we will answer! They are going to have to face some tough decision making. They are going to have to decide whether to risk forming bonds with other people again. Also, the dynamics tend to change. We certainly saw that with Carol in the beginning of the season. She started out a victim in the first season, and she literally became this warrior, surreptitiously training the kids. If she hadn’t, Tyreese probably would have been dead. One of the little girls would not have been able to shoot someone who was about to kill him.
Are we going to see Carol again by the end of the season?
Gosh, I hope so!
Carl has been aging over the course of the series, and he is definitely coming into his own - or at least trying to. Is Rick ever going to be able to come to terms with that?
It’s tough being a parent to begin with, but parenting in a zombie apocalypse is truly the most difficult task of all. Everyone approaches it in a different way. When your offspring is becoming a teenager, when they are already having separation issues, in the sense that they don’t want to listen to your parenting advice anymore. They believe they have all the answers. You can imagine the kind of difficulties Rick is facing right now.
Difficulties that I imagine Carl is having, too. He’s trying to find himself, and he is in a different situation than he expected to be in.
Yes. Because of his upbringing, because he is an only child, he hasn’t really bonded with other kids his age. Other people have, but Carl has been thrust into a role of responsibility very, very young. Sometimes he has handled it well, and sometimes not well at all. What he has been through, I don’t wish on anyone. Having to kill his surrogate father, Shane. Then having to kill his mother. And now, wondering who is the parent and who is the child between him and Rick. Who is more capable of making those difficult decisions?
Do you think Carl will end up taking control over his father? Do you think he has that strength?
I think Carl has that strength, but at the same time, deep inside there is a longing to be able to be a child who can look up to a parent. I think that is the central conflict he has - that all children have.
I know that you can’t give us any spoilers, but what are some things that we should be on the lookout for in the upcoming eight episodes?
Well, it has been announced that we will have some characters from the comic books joining our show, and we are really excited. I can’t say quite when they will join, but we are excited to welcome the characters of Abraham, Eugene, and Rosita. They are quite different than other characters who have joined the show, so that is exciting. Their sensibilities and missions in life are quite different. We’ll see how they interact with anyone they might encounter. As always, the growing number of zombies remains a tremendous threat because they are on their own, exposed, and vulnerable because they are no longer behind the walls of the prison. There are also people, perhaps, just as evil as the Governor out there.
So we are going to get a new evil?
I can’t go into exactly what form it takes, but as the show has always proven, there is no such thing as “smooth sailing.”