This weekend is the season finale of The Walking Dead. Like many fans, I am looking forward to see how the season wraps up - but I am also dreading it because that means we won’t get any new episodes until October. To prepare myself, I spoke to producer Gale Anne Hurd about the character developments this season, that pesky showrunner business, and a sneak peek of the finale. [Editor’s note: this interview was conducted before last week’s episode, which had a very, very major character shift.]
This season of The Walking Dead has gotten much darker than previous seasons. I feel like this is due to the focus on human-on-human violence over zombie-on-human. Has the network been okay with that?
Absolutely. They approve the season before we even start writing it.
How much darker can the Governor really get?
Well, we are going to see in the next episode! If you’ve read the comic you know how dark he can get.
It’s been a while since I read the comics, but I seem to remember the Governor goes to some places that are pretty hard for television to deal with.
Yes. In the comic books, it is 2D. It is drawn. A TV series doesn’t just bring it to life, it brings it to life multi-dimensionally. The characters are real, played by actors. So there are things I think that are very appropriate for the comic book, but might be a bridge too far for television. That isn’t to say that we are holding back much.
From what I have seen this season, you certainly aren’t holding back much.
How do the actors deal with the intensity?
It’s a really close-knit group with the cast as well as the crew and producers. They are also very aware [of the character development.] They come into the writer’s room and talk about their character arcs, where they are going, and what they’d like to see. As you may have heard, Andy [Lincoln, who plays Rick] said, “Take me to the limit.” So we have certainly done that with his character.
Andrea has really been a huge force this season. She keeps getting stronger but at the same time, that strength is putting her in more danger this season.
Yeah. In the comic book, Andrea goes from strength to strength. We’ve challenged her a great deal more in the series. Laurie Holden has taken it all and made Andrea her own. As much as Andrea would like to keep the peace, what she won’t do is murder someone in cold blood to do so. There are ethical boundaries that she won’t cross.
Which is nice to see. It seems that the longer these characters survive in this world, the stronger that moral ambiguity becomes.
Right. And I think that her character thought she was capable of killing the Governor when he was vulnerable, but thinking you can do something, and being able to follow through on it are two very different things.
It looked like she would have shot the Governor in episode 314 had Milton not stepped in.
Yeah, but she knew a lot more, too. Every episode she finds out more. When she finds out that the peace meeting she had brokered, that the Governor had no intention of following through with, that is when she realized that he could really spell the end of her friends back at the prison.
Does the Governor have an end game? Is he looking to be the ruler of the new world?
The world within his sphere, yes. He doesn’t want any challenges - that is why he dispatched the National Guard. He is happy to have his henchmen, but he doesn’t want to share with another leader. He doesn’t want to risk that whatever Rick - or someone like Rick - may have could potentially entice people who had been following [the Governor] into following [Rick]. He’s never going to put himself into that position.
The Governor walks a fine line between being a dictator and being a cult leader.
Will we get any more backstory on the Governor?
I can’t tell you that!
How has the showrunner situation affected the show? Has it caused any tensions?
No, absolutely not. Scott Gimple, our new showrunner, has been part of the series since the second season. The cast has a great relationship with all of the writers. They understand that sometimes things don’t work out. Glen [Mazzara] was at the end of his contract. It has been mischaracterized that Glen was fired, and that is simply not the case.
Is there anything you want to clear up about that? Speculation always runs wild...
No, he was just out of contract. There was this whole thing about “Oh, he’s not coming back.” Well, all contracts in the business have different lengths that they run, and no, he was not fired.
The season finale is coming up, and obviously we don’t want any direct spoilers, but can you tease anything for us? Let’s get everyone salivating even more than they already are.
I think that the last episode is incredibly intense. Shocking things transpire. I think the audience as well as the characters on the show won’t be the same after.
Will everyone make it to season four?
On this show? I don’t think there are ever any guarantees.
Yeah, when Lori died earlier this season, that was a big shock to a lot of people. Did you get a lot of flak for that, or were audiences appreciative that you kept things realistic?
In the comic book, Lori dies not long after giving birth, so I don’t think that people who follow the comic book were all that surprised. But I think people were very surprised at the timing because it was the fourth episode. Not the season premiere, or the season finale, or the midseason finale.
Do you guys plan for midseason breaks, or is that more of a network construct?
No, we plan for it. We have to plan for everything, knowing there will be months between those episodes.
Does breaking it up like that make it more difficult for you guys?
No, it’s part of what we have come to expect after the first season.
Every week, The Walking Dead seems to break new ratings records. Does it still surprise you?
You certainly never expect it.
Have you guys already started breaking out stories for season four?
Oh yeah, that has been going on since February.
Anything you can tease?
Nope, can’t do that. Sorry!