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The Walking Dead; Season 5 Crew/Production Q&A

SCOTT M. GIMPLE

Showrunner/Executive Producer/Writer

WHAT DO YOU THINK MAKES THIS SHOW SO SUCCESSFUL?

We have the epic and we have the intimate. We have the visceral and we have the soulful. It is this big stew of emotion and excitement. We try to give the audience everything, and have it all mean something.

ARE YOU APPROACHING THIS SEASON DIFFERENTLY?

The show reinvents itself every eight episodes. That holds true. Nothing changes in that everything changes.

WHERE DO WE START SEASON FIVE?

We are in Terminus and the group is in the clutches of the Terms. It’s pretty intense. This is one of the biggest episodes we’ve ever shot. There are a lot of moving parts. Every single one of our characters in the railcar has a moment within it.

TELL US WHAT WE CAN LOOK FORWARD TO WITH THE CHARACTERS THIS SEASON.

Each of our characters has a pretty significant story arc in Season Five. Most of those character stories separate and crash together again. You will see a lot of the characters pushed to the limit. Every single one of these people will be tested as to who they really are. The threats they face are emotional as well as circumstantial.

TELL US ABOUT THE WALKERS THIS YEAR.

The walkers this year that Greg Nicotero and his team are designing do reflect that we are deeper in our timeline. They have been around longer, are more damaged, and are really horrific. We are using the philosophy that you will see these walkers and what they have been through in their physiology. They are still just as dangerous.

HOW DO YOU HOPE FANS REACT TO THE SEASON PREMIERE?

I hope the fans geek out. I know we did.

GALE ANNE HURD

Executive Producer

TELL US ABOUT ZOMBIE SCHOOL.

I love zombie school. It is one of my favorite days of the year. People come in and we see if they fit on the show. You don’t want to destroy the believability of this world we’ve created. There were some standouts this season. I think fans will be very impressed.

TELL US ABOUT THE WALKERS THIS SEASON.

Greg Nicotero and his team at KNB FX every season have something new up their sleeves with how they bring the walkers to life. We try to surprise the cast with that also so they are as surprised and shocked as the audience will be when they see the episode.

HOW DO YOU KEEP THE SHOW NEW AND FRESH EACH SEASON?

The show has and needs to continue to evolve. We follow Kirkman’s fantastic graphic novel. We have a road map and we take a lot of detours. The graphic novel gets more and more character driven and compelling as it goes along. We are hoping to do the same thing.

WHAT MAKES THE WALKING DEAD SO SPECIAL TO SO MANY?

We are living in interesting times where you never know where you’re going to find yourself tomorrow. That’s true just looking at everything from natural disasters to government upheavals in so many countries throughout the world.  Last year a lot of these places could not imagine where they find themselves now.   We have a sense as a human species that we are on the edge of something apocalyptic. Because people respond primarily to the characters in our show, audience members can put themselves into the shoes of any particular character saying ‘I would not do that’ and ‘Could I survive that?’  It speaks to who are you going to be if and when that other shoe drops.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE THREATS THIS SEASON?

While there is no shortage of walkers, they are the predictable threat. A lot of it has to do with the threat you pose to the people around you after you have done something that crosses the line. Can you regain your humanity? Are you safe to be around? That’s certainly one of the things we are examining.  Just look at Rick last season compared to season one when he rode into Atlanta on horseback. It’s all putting our characters into situations in which they find out what they are really capable of.

WHAT CAN FANS EXPECT IN SEASON FIVE?

We are really turning up the stakes this season, if you can imagine that. Season Five kicks off in fifth gear and delivers on the promise of the cliffhanger, and then amps it up from that point on.

ROBERT KIRKMAN

Executive Producer/Writer

HOW DO YOU STAY TRUE TO THE COMIC AND LET THE SHOW EVOLVE AS ITS OWN ENTITY?

It’s almost like two completely different projects. I get bored if I’m not multitasking, so it’s very easy to keep things separate. The Walking Dead television show and The Walking Dead comic are, to me, completely separate things in my head. There are two different Rick Grimes, two different Maggies, and so on.

WHAT SURPRISES YOU ABOUT YOUR OWN CHARACTERS AFTER ALL THESE YEARS?

I’ll never get used to the fact that the actors know more about their characters than I do. In comics, there is not this phenomenon where one artist draws each character so that they are uniquely invested and know more about the individual characters than I do. So it’s fun to sit down with Steven Yeun, for example, to talk about Glenn and have him say things to me that I hadn’t considered. It’s definitely one of the benefits that you get from working in television.

HOW WAS IT BEING ON SET DURING THE FILMING OF THE PREMIERE EPISODE?

There are a couple of big set pieces that were built from scratch and it’s amazing to see Grace Walker work his magic. I will say that the worst thing about going back to set is that our prison has been dismantled. I kind of wish I had spent a little more time in it. It was fun getting back to Terminus. The secrecy has been fun. There are some really great things coming.

WHAT’S ONE ELEMENT FROM THE SHOW YOU WISH YOU HAD WRITTEN INTO THE COMIC?

Daryl Dixon is definitely the big one. But that said, I think it’s great that there is something in the television show that you can only get from the television show. He’s a tremendously important character in that when we go to adapt stories from the comic, there’s always this X factor that automatically makes us change stories in some way. The best part of doing the show is looking at my comic like a rough draft and sitting down with the writers to make it better.

DAVID ALPERT

Executive Producer

WHAT IS THE THEME FOR SEASON FIVE?

In Season Four, Scott Gimple focused on the questions ‘Can you get away from the things you have done?’ ‘Can you turn your back on the past?’ Season Five is an emphatic response to that you are what you have done, you are where you’ve been, and you are where you are from. Our survivors wholeheartedly have to embrace that reality, and all the conversations that come from that in the apocalypse.

YOU’VE KNOWN ROBERT KIRKMAN FOR MORE THAN 12 YEARS, WHAT SURPRISES YOU MOST ABOUT HIS WRITING IN THE SHOW AND THE COMIC?

The thing that gets me is how he finds humanity in these insanely intense situations. It is remarkable. Robert always writes from a place of character and heart.

WHAT ARE YOU MOST EXCITED FOR FANS TO SEE IN SEASON FIVE?

We are attempting some things that have never really been done before on the show. We are taking some bigger swings. We are really upping our game. I can’t wait for fans to see that and respond. Hopefully they feel as good about it as we do.

WHAT STILL MANAGES TO SURPRISE YOU AFTER FOUR SEASONS WITH THE SERIES?

It is the fact that four years in it still scares me and still tears my heart out. When I watch Season Two and Sophia comes out of the barn, just thinking about that scene rips at my heartstrings. There are all these great little moments that still blow me away. Even in the first episode when Rick apologizes to Bicycle Girl saying ‘Sorry this happened to you’ – all these moments are so fantastic on this show. There are scenes in every season that still resonate with me, like Morgan coming back in Season Three. The fact that they still have the same impact four years in is amazing.

GREG NICOTERO

Executive Producer/Director/Special Effects Makeup Supervisor

WHERE IS HERSHEL’S HEAD?

Hershel’s head is in my office in Los Angeles, where it will reside in memoriam.

TELL US ABOUT ZOMBIE SCHOOL.

We had our fifth annual zombie school. One thing I learned was most walker extras come to school already knowing how they want to die. I’ve never heard that before. It’s always fun.

TELL US WHAT IS UP YOUR SLEEVES FOR THE WALKERS THIS SEASON.

I have very long sleeves.

TELL US ABOUT DIRECTING THE SEASON FIVE PREMIERE EPISODE.

This was my eighth episode directing and it was by far the hardest episode I’ve ever directed.  We are constantly trying to up the ante. The opening teaser is something that is so completely different than anything we’ve ever done with the show.  It was so much fun, but so hard.

SO IT DOES NOT GET EASIER TO DIRECT EACH YEAR?

No, because the show does not get easier.  We challenge ourselves every year. It is not routine. It always gets harder and that is what makes the show great.

WHAT’S THE BIGGEST MISCONCEPTION ABOUT THE SERIES?

The biggest misconception is that it is a show about zombies. Universally the show appeals to people who wouldn’t normally be attracted to a genre show because they wouldn’t necessarily think you would get something that is emotionally compelling. The show’s stories are tremendously well crafted.  Those emotions are what resonate. I attribute that to the cast. I attribute that to the writers. I attribute that to the type of storytelling we are able to accomplish on this show. People cry watching our show. It makes me proud.

WILL YOU BE A ZOMBIE AGAIN THIS YEAR?

I hope so.

TOM LUSE

Executive Producer

HOW MUCH PLANNING GOES INTO EACH SEASON?

Each show is handcrafted and specially made. It has become a 52-week-a-year job for us. Sometimes we prepare the new season before the previous season is over. The goal is to have our world look as if it has been shut down for a couple of years – so in a way, we’re making a period film. In order to do that, we have to be planning ahead, at least a year in advance.

HOW MANY EPISODES ARE YOU WORKING ON AT ANY GIVEN TIME?

Five – the one we are currently filming, the next one prepping, and three episodes beyond that to be prepared

IS THE CAMARADERIE STILL PRESENT ON SET GOING INTO THE FIFTH SEASON?

Our cast, lead by Andrew Lincoln, has from the get-go stayed on set. We shoot outside in Georgia in the middle of the summer, in the woods with bugs, with the constant heat, and tremendous humidity. The cast does not go sit in their trailers. That’s always been the way of this show since the beginning to this day. The camaraderie is that we are all together in one thing, cast and crew. We know it is going to be the hardest thing to do. We know we are going to shoot in insufferable places with very difficult conditions. That’s what the job is and we like it that way.

IS IT TRUE THE WALKERS SOMETIMES GET STANDING OVATIONS FROM THE CAST AND CREW?

Absolutely, on a regular basis. The extras who play the walkers really inhabit them.

WHAT IS THE BIGGEST LESSON WORKING ON THE WALKING DEAD HAS TAUGHT YOU?

It’s such a great honor to have so many people like our show. We want to make sure we give back to that audience everything that they deserve. We never expected this and we get a chance to go on this amazing journey with these characters. That’s only because we have an audience that wants us to tell that story. The relationship between our show and our audience is an incredibly close one. Everyone, both in front of the camera and behind the camera, feels that way.

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