Gale Anne Hurd is no stranger to big budget summer blockbusters. Her resume easily includes some of the biggest of all time, Terminator, Aliens, Terminator 2: Judgement Day, Armageddon and the list goes on. Now with this foray into television, Gale Anne Hurd will take what she learned in her early days working for Roger Corman and produce a serialized television show about zombies. Gale Anne Hurd was quick to talk about why there will only be six episodes in the first season. In addition, she did reveal exactly how long it will be until we see season two of Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead.
Mania: How long have you been involved with The Walking Dead?
Gale Anne Hurd (producer): There was an earlier incarnation; this incarnation actually began a year ago at Comic Con. There was an earlier incarnation that Frank [Darabont] developed but this project for AMC completely written and cast started at a restraint in San Diego where Frank and I essentially tackled Robert’s [Kirkman] graphic novel and said we have to do this. We have to do it now and in a next year in and half we’ll be on the air. The amazing thing was we pitched the series in October of last year. Got a pilot and script order in November. AMC then read the pilot and ordered five more scripts. When they read the second script they ordered six episodes. Which is pretty untraditional; it was a great vote of confidence. The biggest problem meant that we rolled directly right from the pilot into the five episodes without taking any kind of breather.
Mania: The show’s episodes will only be an hour long…
Gale Anne Hurd: Correct.
Mania: …and the season will only be six episodes. That is very similar to British television. Do you like the six episode structure?
Gale Anne Hurd: The typical cable order will be thirteen so god willing it will be back with thirteen. Six was the perfect way in and that was from the very beginning, Robert and Frank worked on where we were going in six.
Mania: In building those six episodes to do you have a vision for the next six and the six after that?
Gale Anne Hurd: We have an idea. It is a very general idea of where the next thirteen would end. Something people will be able to predict and other things… well everything I have read is dead wrong (laughs) on the blogs. We have the blessing and encouragement of Robert to mix things up a bit but always to come back to the truth of the comic book.
Mania: With the subject matter in The Walking Dead, did you feel as if you only had so many places to shop this show around to?
Gale Anne Hurd: AMC, when the initial sessions began we said we want this, we will prove to you that we are the right network and we will make sure you will get on the air. They have been true to their word.
Mania: Do you think you could make a show like this on regular television?
Gale Anne Hurd: No. First of all I think for standard broadcast television; they really do like the formula. Because the general audience for TV shows want to see the episodes over and over again, maybe a different crime; maybe a different conflict, but essentially the same beats. With AMC it is no holds barred. Imagine what network would you see a TV series about a Meth dealer?
Mania: What was it about the climate that made now the time to go through with The Walking Dead?
Gale Anne Hurd: I think it’s the zeitgeist. Definitely the zeitgeist starting with, unfortunately, because so many lives were lost during Katrina, the tsunami, the earthquake in Haiti, and now the oil spill in the gulf. There is this sense of precariousness of life as we know it on the planet. That imagery is all around us and we find in when we are creating the world of The Walking Dead that imagery haunts us. You are then able to strip away basic human nature and what happens with that pressure to survive put on each of us.
Mania: How long are we looking at for a turn around on season two?
Gale Anne Hurd: That is an AMC question. But I think we would always premiere on October. I think it is a great time and part of their Fear Fest programming to begin with. It feels right. We are hoping, if we get the order, that we can start earlier than we did. We need to. We would also (laughs) be able to avoid some the brutal shooting in July and August in Atlanta.
Mania: Why did you pick Atlanta to shoot in to begin with?
Gale Anne Hurd: The first few issues, when you look at The Walking Dead, Atlanta is very much a character in the comic book. When AMC asked us where we wanted to shoot, we said we would like to go to Atlanta; we would like to scout it, and see the locations. We were able to find many things that look like panels in the comic. It is also very interesting coming from California, which is essentially a desert, to a place that feels like life after man. It is easy to see how a technological society could disappear very quickly. You really get that sense when you are in a place like Atlanta.
Mania: It’s interesting that you started out with Roger Corman and he was very much on the fringe of things. Now Piranha has returned as a 40 million dollar remake, you are making low budget series about zombies on television. Do you think the rest of the world has finally come around?
Gale Anne Hurd: I just think it is interesting that the rest of the world has finally caught up where we all were back in the seventies. I started in 1978 working for Roger Corman. Jim Cameron and I were working in the art department. We’ve loved it, since then and before then. Now Roger Corman movies are kind of dressed up with bigger budgets and better visual effects. Which have become the summer movie tent poles.
Mania: What’s the most important thing you learned from working with Roger Corman?
Gale Anne Hurd: the value of knowing what you are making going in. Making sure everyone is on the same page, the cast and the crew. We had very short shooting schedules but had very long pre-production. Pre-production is so important to get everyone on the same page. We had that opportunity on this to figure a lot of things out before the camera started rolling.
Mania: What is the signature of the walking dead zombie?
Gale Anne Hurd: It is homage to George Romero with the infamatore of Frank Darabont as realized by [Greg] Nicotero.
Mania: Footage has screened at both the San Diego Comic Con and the New York Comic Con. What does it feel like to hear the fans reactions to what you have shown them thus far?
Gale Anne Hurd: Being geeks and knowing what it is like sitting in panels and hoping that the filmmakers didn’t screw it up, is so important to us. We want fans of the comic book to realize that we respect and honor it. Also to have them enjoy it in a new medium. It has been great, really great.
The Walking Dead premieres on AMC on October 31st, 2010. Check out the official site for more details, video and on set photos. Don't forget to check out our interview with stars Laurie Holden and Emma Bell.
Robert Trate writes two weekly columns for Mania the DVD Shopping Bag and the Toy Maniac. Recently Robert has interviewed Batman himself Kevin Conroy and discussed Star Wars and Toys with Clone Wars director Dave Filoni.