Having worked with James Cameron on his most famous thrillers, as well as numerous other genre films, Gale Anne Hurd is no stranger to difficult shooting conditions. But the veteran producer is tested like never before on the Walking Dead's hot-and-humid Georgia location shoot, where I join a group of other journos in speaking with her about the hit show's expanded sophomore season. Find out what Hurd had to say after the jump.
On how faithful the second season remains to the original comic:
Robert Kirkman, who created the comic book, has always been really clear that he doesn't want the fans to be that far ahead of the show, so that they can predict everything that's going to happen. Just like in the first season, there are sequences and shots that look like they have come out of the panels of the comic, but there are quite a few detours along the way, in addition to which that would be the case anyway, because we have new characters that were created for the TV series, like Daryl, played by Norman Reedus. Because of that there are always going to be detours following his character, and T-Dog and the others.
On bringing the horror traditionally found in films to TV:
Well the first thing is that we shoot on film. We shoot on Super 16. I know most shows now are on digital, but we found that that was the perfect medium for us, and I think that gives us that filmic quality. The other thing is we're primarily an exterior location show. We don't shoot on sets. We don't have necessarily standing sets the way most shows do, and sometimes you feel that when a show is on a set it feels like a set. We shoot on existing locations rather than within sets, even when we're interior. But most of our shooting is exterior. That has a big impact. In addition, we don't follow some of the traditional rules of how a scene is covered, where you do establishing and master shots.
On the most important thing in creating horror:
The most important thing is hiring Greg Nicotero, who is now, for our show, the Emmy-winning Greg Nicotero. The other thing that's key is AMC basically said, "Go for it. We don't want this to seem like it's always a cheat, that the minute something's about to happen we cugt away" – we have that because that's a technique that Hitchcock certainly proved in Psycho, but there are times with you absolutely do want to see what's going on onscreen. And they've embraced it, and our Standards and Practices are such that we have never gotten a note where we had to cut away from what we submitted to them.
On the divide between the survivors this year:
We set up some tension last year, the principal one of course is the triangle between Lori, Rick and Shane. And that's gonna be a central conflict of course this season. That's something that's growing… Then we have something that began at the end of last season. Andrea's not really too thrilled that Dale saved her from the CDC, because she had chosen to stay with Jenner and with Jackie. Then there are other tensions that you won't see coming that I can't divulge right now. [Laughs.]
On whether the show contains metaphors:
There are a lot of overarching things, because people keep asking why we feel that the show is resonating. One of the reasons is that we live in a world of dread, whether it's continuing wars that are going on, the global financial collapse, natural disasters that seem to be picking up pace – maybe that's always the case, but we're more aware of it now. We're aware of it because of social media. There are times when it would be hours or days before you heard about something, now if anything happens you hear about it immediately. Now I think there's that sense of impending doom – "When's it going to happen to me?" We're bombarded with those images. They're frightening, and there's a desire that we have – some of us – when you see a car wreck on the freeway to slow down and think, "Thank God that wasn't me." We're fascinated, but at the same time exploring that through the post-apocalyptic zombie world is much safer. I think that's one of the reasons why it connects with people. We understand that as a context, we're not specifically talking about how we can insert metaphors along the way.
On the other big challenges besides the heat:
We had a couple of new challenges this year, including ticks. We're now a cornucopia of information on how to remain tick free. There are also really nasty creatures here called chiggers. Chiggers make ticks look like… If you want to find out any more about chiggers, you can ask Jon Bernthal. He was… chiggered. The other challenges… Because now we're really out in rural Georgia, you have to watch out for the wildlife. One of our crewmembers was injured because a dear jumped out, and I think a couple of people actually hit dear. Because we're always driving, we're driving just at sunrise or we're driving at sunset, which is when they're most active. So who would have thought – watch out for the chiggers, watch out for the ticks, and watch out for the deer.
On the changes made between comic and TV show:
You have an opportunity in the TV series where – as you can see from the scene we're shooting – you can have a lot of dialogue. In a comic book, you're pretty much limited by the little bubbles. So you have a lot more opportunity to explore character, to do things that a comic book is not the perfect medium for. And to explore tangents. Last season it was Frank's idea to do the detour to the CDC. One of the thrusts of the comic book is maybe getting to Baltimore and finding out something from the National Institute of Health or some government facility. So Frank said, "Wait a minute, if you're in Atlanta, wouldn't you at least try there, because that's where any global pandemic would be analyzed?" Robert said, "You're absolutely right. That would be silly. I don't want fans who aren't familiar with the comic book going, ‘If they're in Atlanta, why didn't they try the CDC?'" With the years under its belt as a comic, you try to see it has an opportunity as a TV series to live and breathe and not as a panel by panel adaptation.