Interview: ‘The Walking Dead’ Executive Producer Gale Anne Hurd

As scores of fans around the country are bracing themselves for the Season 3 Finale of the AMC hit series The Walking Dead this Sunday, here’s a little something to “whet their appetites.” I recently had the opportunity and pleasure to engage in a one-on-one phone conversation with Gale Anne Hurd, one of the show’s Executive Producers, who has also been responsible for some of the great sci-fi productions of the modern age, like The Terminator franchise, Aliens, and The Abyss, among others. Hurd had lots to say about the apocalyptic zombie-riddled soaper and the phenomenon that is The Walking Dead, as well as teasing a little about Sunday’s finale, and even offering up some fun personal tidbits about what makes her sci-fi moxie tick.

Geeks of Doom: Well, the last episode of The Walking Dead was obviously a shocker, and I know the season 3 finale is coming up on Sunday, so in the throes of all of this, are you still surprised at what a phenomenon this is, do you ever get used to this?

Gale Anne Hurd: No, you can’t get used to it. [laughs] And why would you want to? We just have the best fans in the world and we do our best to keep them engaged, and sadly, sometimes we have to break their hearts and our hearts.

Geeks of Doom: What’s the biggest challenge each week in keeping the show fresh and unpredictable, which you have been able to do? It’s been amazing to think with the narrative that it is that the show surprises, jolts, and shocks everybody each week.

Gale Anne Hurd: Well, I think the most important thing is to make sure that all of the events and the plot points develop from character. We strive really hard to do that, to make sure that the plot isn’t in charge, that everything that happens is motivated by character, and that the consequences of some of these devastating events affect the surviving characters.

[Gale Anne Hurd at The Walking Dead panel at 2012 New York Comic-Con. Image by Dave3 for Geeks of Doom.

Geeks of Doom: We covered you at some Comic-Con’s last year [at Walking Dead panels] and a big theme of some of those panels was that Carl, who of course was really young when the show started, has now taken on a more adult role. Obviously he had to grow up really fast considering the circumstances and it was kind of alluded that him and Beth would possibly start up a relationship. Is that kind of a plot point that might be seen in the future?

Gale Anne Hurd: You know, I can’t talk about plot points [laughs]. I think, other than Maggie and Glenn obviously, we’ve seen their romance develop, we’ve seen it challenged, obviously in the last episode we saw it take another step in its development, but a lot of those decisions come as we are writing the episodes of the season, we don’t really forecast them that far in advance.

Geeks of Doom: So, it’s kind of like that the characters write themselves in a way.

Gale Anne Hurd: Honestly, it is.

Geeks of Doom: Since the show has been on AMC, and obviously you are able to push the envelope with the violence and a lot of the narrative with that, do you ever get tempted to kind of want to make a theatrical release or do something that presents everything really in an uncensored light?

Gale Anne Hurd: The truth is, we are as uncensored as we want to be at this point, and it’s a full-time job working on the television series and I think at this point the idea of a feature film is off in the distance in the future. I am not going to rule anything out, but it’s not our focus right now.

Geeks of Doom: Would it be maybe something that would wrap up the entire series? Is that something to possibly be hinted at?

Gale Anne Hurd: You know, I don’t know, it’s something that we would maybe discuss with AMC as well. We would have to have those discussions.

Maggie and Glenn…we’ve seen their romance develop, we’ve seen it challenged, obviously in the last episode we saw it take another step in its development…

Geeks of Doom: On last Sunday’s episode and pretty much this season, there have been homages to Dawn of the Dead obviously with the archetypical zombie who had made an appearance. Has George Romero ever expressed interest or vice versa to come aboard, making an involvement?

Gale Anne Hurd: No. He’s got his own universe and he said he’s very happy having these parallel tracks. But the crossover is Greg Nicotero who of course started his career working on George Romero films.

Geeks of Doom: How about Tom Savini, has he ever wanted to be involved? Obviously, the makeup is stellar and flawless on the program, but has there ever been a thought about having Tom also come in?

Gale Anne Hurd: We’ve got Greg, he’s been with us since the beginning and he’s got this fantastic company with KNB Effects, so we are really well taken care of in that department. Plus, Greg is now directing and his team is stepping up to support him.

Geeks of Doom: Obviously the comic book is still strong, and a lot of the comic book is different than the series, so is there ever going to be a tie-in with the two in terms of where the TV series will wholly adapt what’s going on in the comic and vice versa a bit more, or are they going to remain separate entities?

Gale Anne Hurd: No. And Robert [Kirkman, creator of Walking Dead comic] does see them as separate entities that sometimes cross, there are things that happen in the comic book that happens in the TV series, but because we have characters that don’t exist in the comic book and the comic book has characters that don’t exist in the TV series, there’s no way that it’s ever going to be a panel for panel adaptation.

Geeks of Doom: You have a lot of British actors on the program. Was that a conscious decision to do that or it just worked out with the best actor for the best job?

Gale Anne Hurd: We go with the people whose auditions and performances bring the characters that we all envision to life.

Geeks of Doom: It was revealed in Season Two that if you die, you can still come back as a zombie even if you weren’t bit. Is that still going to be explored? Is there ever going to technically be a cure? Is that something that the characters are trying to find or hope for or is it mainly about survival on the program? I know you mentioned you can’t talk about plot points, but”¦

Gale Anne Hurd:: I think the focus is on survival. They are living day to day. It’s a constant struggle and the character of Milton has been trying to figure out what he can, but he’s not a trained scientist with all of the technology and the ability to even interact with other scientists, because who knows if they even exist around the world. One hopes, but it’s hard to reach outside of any of the people you interact with on a daily basis.

Geeks of Doom: Obviously the Season 3 Finale is going to sport some of the biggest ratings the show has ever seen, it seems that each season finale grows in audience ratings. Is there anything you can allude to, to kind of tease the viewers what to expect on Sunday?

Gale Anne Hurd: It’s not going to end well for a few people, and it will set up some of the conflicts, but also the world of Season Four.

Geeks of Doom: Now of course, any cast member that comes in and signs on to do the program knows there’s the unpredictable possibility that they may die at any given point in the Season, so how do they handle that, knowing that information?

Gale Anne Hurd: They are all incredibly professional. I think what no one expects is how deeply connected all the cast members are, not only with each other, but with the crew, and that’s what makes it hard.

Geeks of Doom: When they get scripts, are they surprised? Do they find out about plot points at the last minute?

Gale Anne Hurd: Well, scripts only come in before we start prep, which is a week before we start shooting.

“It’s not going to end well for a few people, and it will set up some of the conflicts, but also the world of Season Four.”

Geeks of Doom: Are there ever going to be any spin-offs, something that takes what you are doing now and expands on it in a different realm, anything that at all is in development?

Gale Anne Hurd: Nothing on the horizon at the moment.

Geeks of Doom: You’ve been a sort of mogul producer in terms of the science-fiction genre for decades now. Do you ever get a yen to want to do something like The Waterdance or Dick again? A rom-com or something like that?

Gale Anne Hurd: I’ve had Very Good Girls premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January, which is the pinnacle of what all indie filmmakers hope for. And it was written and directed by Naomi Foner and starring Dakota Fanning, Lizzy Olsen, and a terrific cast.

Geeks of Doom: What scares you? What kind of entertainment genres scare you, movies, TV, books?

Gale Anne Hurd: I think the only thing that scares me are those awful, amusement park rides that you go around and around in [laughs]. They make me sick anyway.

Geeks of Doom: So nothing like old Christopher Lee movies, Vincent Price, The Exorcist?

Gale Anne Hurd: No, I love those.

[(L to R: Andrew Lincoln, Gale Anne Hurd, Leron Gubler, James Cameron as Gale Anne Hurd is honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on October 3, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.]

Geeks of Doom: What were your influences growing up when you were green in the industry as a writer, as a co-producer?

Gale Anne Hurd: Roger Corman. I loved his Poe films. And Kubrick, Star Wars, I’ve always been a genre fan, and Kubrick and Lucas showed me the potential that the Science-Fiction genre had to be taken seriously and to be expanded to a really wide audience. That, and also Spielberg’s Jaws.

Geeks of Doom: Have you gotten any feedback from Lucas or Spielberg about The Walking Dead? Are they fans?

Gale Anne Hurd: I haven’t talked to George or Steven. Next time I see them, I will ask.

Geeks of Doom: How about TV anthologies growing up, like Alfred Hitchcock, Twilight Zone?

Gale Anne Hurd: All of them, especially the old Twilight Zones and the old Star Treks and The Outer Limits.

Geeks of Doom: Is it a constant challenge to keep the tone of Walking Dead in that breathless sort of feel, that uncomfortable feel that it usually has each week?

Gale Anne Hurd: No, not really, I mean, we have the writers, the directors, the cast, they are all very dialed in, and obviously the crew ensures that there is consistency as well, so I don’t think so.

Geeks of Doom: So it’s an harmonious family.

Gale Anne Hurd: You know, you can ask anyone and that’s why whenever we address each other, it’s actually as “Walking Dead Family,” and whenever I communicate with anyone, whether they are past or present, they are all part of the family. You don’t lose that, just like any family, even if you are not on the show.

Geeks of Doom: Thank you for taking the time to talk to me this morning.

Gale Anne Hurd: You are welcome!

Not that you need to be reminded of course, but for the one person in America who might not know this information, The Walking Dead‘s Season 3 Finale is this Sunday night at 9PM on AMC. Thanks again to Gale Anne Hurd for taking the time to talk with us. Also, a shout out to the most ravenous (pun firmly intended!) Walking Dead fans in the world who generously assisted me with their time in prepping for this interview, Elbert Havard the IV, Chris Marengo, and our illustrious staff here at Geeks of Doom.

[All images courtesy of AMC unless otherwise noted.]

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