Gale Anne Hurd (March 27, 2012)
Gale Anne Hurd is one of the executive producers on The Walking Dead and I was lucky to get a chance to talk to her about the series. When I called her I called her at work and when I heard “You have reached The Walking Dead” I know I have dialed the right number.
Lilja: So, The Walking Dead, season finale, 9 million viewers. Pretty impressive.
Gale Anne Hurd: Yeah, we were certainly thrilled and it’s always unexpected when the show continues to build and since it’s a serialized show for it to make sense people need to be watching all along so we were delighted by that rating. And then it aired again later in the evening and anther million and a half watched then.
Lilja: Impressive. There are about 9,5 million people living in Sweden…
Gale Anne Hurd: So more people in the US watched the show that night than live in Sweden…Wow…
Gale Anne Hurd: So our goal now is to make sure that every person in Sweden watches the show [laugh]
Lilja: Yeah, definitely. The show is a success here.
Gale Anne Hurd: Fantastic!
Lilja: Yeah, I’m a bit surprised. Swedish television doesn’t usually air shows like The Walking Dead but this time they did and it’s a success.
Gale Anne Hurd: That’s great. I’m happy to hear that. So if our cast comes to Stockholm they’ll be celebrity’s?
Lilja: Definitely. How did you get involved with The Walking Dead?
Gale Anne Hurd: About four years ago I had read the comic book which had been publishing for a few years then but I was late for it. I read it and I thought that it was fantastic and even though I normally do films this doesn’t make sense being a film because it’s a continuing journey of the survivors so you can’t really end it at any point. And I thought this would be a fantastic TV series so I had my office track down who controlled the rights to it and I found that Frank Darabont and the creator Robert Kirkman had the rights. It also turns out Frank Darabont is a long time and very dear friend of mine and my husband because he actually, in the beginning of his career, he and my husband Jonathan Hensleigh, also a writer, worked for George Lucas on the Indiana Jones TV series. So I got involved after Frank had already been involved but the project at that time didn’t have a home and I was able to take it to AMC and set it up with them.
Lilja: Did AMC OK the series right away? This show is gorier them most TV shows…
Gale Anne Hurd: Well, on AMC in October, during the two weeks leading up to Halloween they program something called Fearfest and during that time the air the top classic science fiction and horror films so in October when the show premiered they already had an audience that watch that type of programming. So AMC was actually open to something to premier in October that would appeal to an audience they already had on the network. But that wasn’t well known at the time so I think there was a bit of luck on our part as well as timing that AMC was looking for programming.
Lilja: Was AMC the first network you contacted?
Gale Anne Hurd: Prior to my involvement Frank had had actually done a script for NBC but they didn’t go forward with that and it was then sent to most of the other cable channels and they all passed.
Lilja: I bet they regret that today. [laugh]
Gale Anne Hurd: That’s my thinking [laugh]
Lilja: So you have been involved with the show from day one?
Gale Anne Hurd: Yes.
Lilja: What is your part in it now? You are one of the producers right?
Gale Anne Hurd: Yes, we have four executive producers going into the third season. Glen Mazzara who’s our showrunner, myself, David Alpert and Robert Kirkman.
Lilja: And more exactly, what do a producer do?
Gale Anne Hurd: I’m very involved. I don’t write episodes but I’m very involved in giving notes, the pitches in the writingroom, I’m very involved in the casting and I spend a lot of time on set when we’re in production because each week we have a different director so for continuity sake it’s good to have people on the set that’s been there from the very beginning. And I’m involved in postproduction in terms of sound and visual effects.
Lilja: So you’re there for the entire process. From start to finished episode?
Gale Anne Hurd: Yes.
Lilja: Has your work changed a lot from the premier to the season 2 finale?
Gale Anne Hurd: It’s stayed pretty much the same since the beginning of the first season. Now we have writers on set every week so I may not need to be on set quite as much. I would like to be there when we have new cast members that joins us But I may not need to move to Georgia for six months like I did last year.
Lilja: When Frank Darabont left the show there were a lot of speculations on who did what and why he left and did you feel that his departure from the show disrupted the flow of the show or was it something that made the show stronger.
Gale Anne Hurd: Any change, whether a cast member’s coming to the show or a cast member’s dying on the show, it’s always going to have an impact. But we’re also dealing we a cast and crew that’s very professional and while it’s always difficult everyone stepped up and recommitted to the show and I haven’t seen anything, obviously I can’t read everything people post but people seem happy enough that the ratings keep going up.
Lilja: I think that the reaction was that a lot of people was worried that the show was going to become totally different without Frank but judging by the second half of season two, which I imagine is the part where Frank wasn’t involved, many are saying that the show has been getting better and moving forward faster. Is that your feeling as well?
Gale Anne Hurd: I can’t really say because I think it was always assumed that the second half of the second season was going to start move more quickly but I don’t know if that has anything to do with Frank’s departure.
Lilja: I interviewed Glen [Mazzara] a few weeks ago and he told me he wanted to get the TV series closer to the comic. Do you feel the same?
Gale Anne Hurd: Well we’re moving to the prison during season three and we’re introducing the character The Governor but at the same time they are two different media. In the comic book you can have a lot more characters than you could in a TV series. So we can’t have everybody that appears in the comic book and I think that will always be a difference between the two and obviously with Robert Kirkman’s input and support some people who are alive in the comic book are no longer alive in the TV series and some characters that die very quickly in the comic book are around a lot longer in the TV series. And we also introduce new characters that, like Daryl and Merle Dixon who aren’t in the comic book and they have turned out to be some of the fan’s favorites.
Lilja: And it’s very interesting to see, like with Shane living longer in the TV series, it’s a bit like “what if he had lived in the comic?” That’s very interesting to see them get like a second chance like that.
Gale Anne Hurd: Yeah exactly.
Lilja: And in the finale Michonne appears. How on earth did you manage to keep that a secret?
Gale Anne Hurd: It was pretty difficult [laugh] but there were so many other things leaked early which I don’t think you want. I mean you don’t want things leaked were there’s nothing about spoilers. It really ruins it for a lot of people so we kept it very quite. And Robert was able to announce the actress (Danai Gurira) playing Michonne on Talking Dead after the season finale.
Lilja: I think that the appearance of Michonne was something a lot of fans suspected would happen but no one really know so the speculations were running wild.
Gale Anne Hurd: Yeah.
Lilja: And especially since it was revealed that The Governor would be played by David Morrissey…
Gale Anne Hurd: A fantastic actor.
Lilja: …I think a lot of fans where thinking that Michonne would come later since no actress had been announce for that part. It was a very smart move. It was very effective when you saw it on the screen.
Gale Anne Hurd: Yeah, I think it was very well done.
Lilja: With that we had to end the interview since Gale had to attend a meeting but it was great talking to her and it feels very safe knowing that she’ll keep an eye on future episodes of The Walking Dead. Thanks Gale for taking the time and if you ever want to do it again, just let me know.