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Why 'The Walking Dead' Is Like Nothing You've Ever Seen

by Chris Harnick, posted Oct 27th 2010 5:45PM
The Walking Dead
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!

The Walking DeadLincoln 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.

The Walking Dead"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."

Fandom fervor
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."

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Benjamin Harnick

Good show! Chris, you highlighted some of the best features about the narrative. I think that the serial format of television is perfect for the story. They have tweeked things a little bit, but the core of what the Walking Dead is all about rings true. I am super excited for this season to unfold. If you like Walking Dead, then try Dead Set, a five episode miniseries from the UK.

November 04 2010 at 1:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Henry

Who started these type of movies? George Romero (Night of the Living Dead, 1968). This movie was a low budget film and it is still being shown. The movie is a cult favorite. Romero went on to make more of these type of movies.

October 31 2010 at 7:42 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
FromThere2Here

Sooo, Dr...you're telling us that by using a pyramid time machine, the characters can go back to the past, reverting the zombies back to humans, OR, discover the cause, prevent it from happening, and then - UH OH! PARADOX! No reason for the series! Cancellation!

October 31 2010 at 2:55 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Will K

Another reason to watch football on Sunday nights. AMC must be desperate to get involved with this crud.

October 31 2010 at 2:39 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
D*

I LOVE ZOMBIE MOVIES!! Now a show, can't wait to watch.

October 31 2010 at 2:25 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
ALLEN SINCLAIR

i can not wait for this show bring it on.

October 31 2010 at 1:50 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
FEDUP

These are among the most boaring movies aroud. Vampire movies, enough already, way to many. Now here we go again with the boaring walking dead. Get some fresh new writers in hollywierd will ya? Avatar is a refreshing new movie, what happened no other brains out there in La La land.

October 30 2010 at 11:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to FEDUP's comment
Carlos

Boaring? I could take you seriously if you spelled correctly.

October 31 2010 at 12:50 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
FromThere2Here

There are zombie boars running thru the forests of Georgia, Carlos - be careful of their horns! They're the FAST kind of zombie boars - not the slow shuffling ones.

October 31 2010 at 2:48 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
stksnstons

The series is set in Georgia . . . and there appears to be no black people in the cast . . . what's up with that?

October 30 2010 at 10:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to stksnstons's comment
MadCatTV2

There is african-american characters in the trailer and the book.
Maybe you can actually research, watch and or read something before criticizing next time.

October 30 2010 at 11:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jenniferkizzy

i haven't seen anything like it on tv so yes it is pretty rare too say the least the only thing i can akin it too is the early romero gig that was happening in the early too mid seventies sixties and finally the eighties with day of the dead dawn of the dead and the iconic night of the living dead so yeah look's promising let's hope it stick's around

October 30 2010 at 9:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Sun

IT WILL BE EXCELLENT SHOW! IS THAT SAME LITTLE BLOND GIRL FROM DAWN OF THE LIVING DEAD MOVIE? MAYBE LOOK ALIKE LITTLE GIRL. CAN'T WAIT TO SEE IT

October 30 2010 at 8:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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