Why 'The Walking Dead' Is Like Nothing You've Ever Seen
by Chris Harnick, posted Oct 27th 2010 5:45PM
There's something different about AMC's 'The Walking Dead.' Is it the zombies? Maybe.The blood, gore and guns? Well, 'True Blood' has the first two aspects too and while the weapons are kind of cool, there's something else.
Something caused AMC to order the show for a full season without a pilot. Something has caused this fevered excitement that has gripped TV fans and genre buffs alike. So, what makes 'The Walking Dead' so intriguing?
"It doesn't feel like the same rules apply to this show as they do to any other show I've ever been involved in, which is kind of cool," series star Andrew Lincoln said. "It's rare and it's a surprise. It's like nothing I've ever read before, that was one of the great excitements for me."
Zombies have gotten their tributes in films, music videos and comic books -- the source material for AMC's new drama is the Image Comics series by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard -- but now their time has come on TV. Come Sun., Oct. 31 at 10PM, TV as you know it will be changed.
Warning, minor spoilers below!
Lincoln stars as Rick Grimes, a sheriff's deputy in a small Georgia town, who is injured in the line of duty. When he awakens from a coma, things aren't as he left them. Zombies walk the streets and the world as he knew it is changed forever.
The cast is rounded out by 'Prison Break' alumna Sarah Wayne Callies (Lori Grimes), Steve Yeun (Glenn), Jon Bernthal (Shane), Laurie Holden (Andrea), Norman Reedus (Daryl Dixon), Jeffrey DeMunn (Dale), Emma Bell (Amy), Chandler Riggs (Carl Grimes) and Michael Rooker (Merle Dixon).
Executive produced by Gale Anne Hurd ('The Terminator') and writer/director Frank Darabont ('The Shawshank Redemption'), 'The Walking Dead' boasts quite a genre pedigree. Even better, the producers knew the material before they put their names on it.
"I had and not only [heard of 'The Walking Dead'], I was a fan of it," Hurd said. "I will admit, I have people in my office buy my issues ... They've decorated my coffee table for a while in my office."
The struggle for humanity
Don't worry, if you're not a fan of zombies or horror, 'The Walking Dead' rises above corny cliches to become must-watch TV. "It's a real morality tale, it's an exploration of the human condition," Laurie Holden said.
At its heart, the series is one of the most human shows on TV.
"It's a story about a group of people who are trying not to turn into monsters and failing as often as they succeed," Sarah Wayne Callies said. "I mean, it's food for actors too, right? The first thing I look for in a character when I play her is her flaws. Don't have to look far for Lori, they're right there.
"This is a journey about redemption and loss and returning, but at the end of the day we're just all trying to stay people," she said.
For as much horror, action and suspense, there's also plenty of wit, romance and humanity. Lincoln said that's what drew him to the project and that's what will hook non-genre fans, like Callies. She counts making it through Michael Jackson's "Thriller" music video an accomplishment.
"I'm not a genre fan," Callies said. "I've never seen a horror movie, they scare me. Never read a comic book, they scare me ... I saw the pilot and I'm legitimately a fan and I've got to watch half of it with my eyes closed."
Like any Hollywood adaptation of a property, hardcore fans of 'The Walking Dead' comic may be skeptical. The show does deviate from the comics, but producers aren't worried.
"In my mind, if the grand poobah is happy, then I think the fans can relax and enjoy," Hurd said.
Darabont said they're following Kirkman's narrative path, but taking detours along the way. New characters have been added and relationships have been tweaked, but they have Kirkman's blessing. The creator was involved in the casting process, signed off on all the scripts and stories and he wrote the fourth episode of this season.
"Between Frank and the writers in the writing room, there are a lot of great, talented people working on this show and a lot of interesting ideas come up when you're addressing what to do with this," Kirkman said, "There's a lot of new characters added that I think are amazing and that people are going to fall in love with."
The perks of being a TV show
Look at the upcoming slate of blockbusters and its riddled with comic book properties. From 'Thor' to the new 'Superman' project, comics are dominating the silver screen. However, the cast and crew of 'The Walking Dead' prefer to be right where they are on the small screen. Why? Well, they can actually develop their characters.
Kirkman reportedly has close to 250 issues planned for the series -- it's not even on issue 100 yet -- and Hurd said Kirkman wants to rival 'The Simpsons' in terms of show seasons. Given the nature of the story and with so many ideas in the pipeline it's safe to say the characters and actors who portray them are in for a wild ride -- and they couldn't be happier.
"The zombies push us to a place where we're all so far beyond the pale of who we recognize," Callies said. "We're all discovering we're capable of things we'd never have thought we could've done. You can take it further because you're already pushed back to the point of being somebody that you recognize. It's the great gift of television, right? That you have hours to attenuate these characters and layer them."
With the serial format of 'The Walking Dead,' characters are allowed to develop. For example, Callies said Lincoln's character can piss hers off, but Rick won't know he's annoyed Lori for three episodes, then it'll be six episodes before he finally apologizes and then a season later Lori will finally unload all her frustrations on him. "We don't resolve our issues in two hours and it really allows things to stew and marinate, particularly when you have relationships that go as far back as these [Rick, Shane and Lori] do," Callies said.
Darabont echoed the character development statements and said he doesn't know how a series as sprawling as Kirkman's could be translated to a film.
"I think with a feature it would be blown out of scale, blown out of proportion because that's all features seem to want to be anymore," Darabont said. "They're spending $200 million on board game movies. Is that actually necessary?
"I like that the series is really being true to the comic book in the sense of its intimacy, its focus on these characters. I like that every story doesn't have to turn into a big action scene," he said. "The sort of quiet, focused, intense story telling that we're doing often is very reflective of what Robert has done in the comic books and I like that."