The Walking Dead Set Visit Part I: Bringing Kirkman's Walking Dead to Life

In our set visit preview we emphasized the gooey gory goodness of AMC’s forthcoming zombie series "The Walking Dead". And while there certainly promises to be plenty of red splattering gloriously at the camera lens, don’t forget AMC is all about character. What we mean is there will also be some stories and pretty cool characters to go along with all the bloodshed.

"Dead" is based on the long-running comic series by Robert Kirkman about a cop named Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) who wakes up from a coma in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. He discovers some not-so-friendly undead hospital staff and ultimately makes his way home to find his town and house completely deserted. Grimes hopes his wife, Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies), and son, Carl (Chandler Riggs), have made their way to Atlanta. Also joining the cast are Laurie Holden as Andrea, Emma Bell as Amy and Jon Bernthal as Shane.

Behind the camera "The Walking Dead"’s pedigree is extremely impressive. Frank Darabont exec produces. He also wrote the first three episodes and directed the pilot. Gale Anne Hurd produces along with creator Robert Kirkman, who is writing Episode Four. Finally, makeup maestro Greg Nicotero is doing his thing, crafting some of the coolest looking zombies ever seen on the big or small screen. Nicotero is also directing second unit and serving as the resident zombie aficionado when Darabont’s away.

Dread Central spent the day on the boiling hot Atlanta sets in early June observing filming, sweating, viewing gory production photos, sweating and speaking to Darabont, Lincoln, Bernthal, Hurd, Kirkman and Nicotero. We learned about Darabont’s lengthy struggle to bring the series to life, the casting and preparation en route to production in Atlanta and, of course, zombie school.

The Walking Dead Set Visit Part I: Bringing Kirkman's Walking Dead to Life

Part 1: Bringing Kirkman’s The Walking Dead to Life

Like many projects these days, it all started with a trip to the comic shop. “He picked it up in a comic shop because somebody had told him it was a good zombie book and he loves all things zombie,” Kirkman says of Darabont’s initial discovery of The Walking Dead books. “He really enjoyed it and started asking around town and Hollywood to see what was going on with it, and he found his way to my manager. That was a long time ago.

Darabont first struck a deal with NBC, but it wasn’t meant to be. “They were very excited about the idea of doing a zombie show until I handed them a zombie script where zombies were actually doing zombie shit,” laughs Darabont. “So after that I shopped it around and got a lot of doors slammed in my face is the truth of it. It languished for a bit, as things do in Hollywood.

Enter Gale Anne Hurd. “I’d heard about it,” Hurd tells the assembled press. “When I first read the book, I thought, ‘This would be a great film,’ and boy was I wrong. It’s a much better TV series. Fast forward, I knew that Frank had initially developed it for NBC, which to me seemed like an odd pairing for this. Then I heard it wasn’t going forward at NBC so I talked to Frank.”

The Walking Dead Set Visit Part I: Bringing Kirkman's Walking Dead to Life

Gale was tremendously instrumental in jump-starting it at a point where it felt like it was languishing,” says Darabont. “I’d gotten turned down enough times, which is no reflection on the material, but no matter what you’re trying to sell in Hollywood, you’re Willy Loman and it’s Death of a Salesman. You’re out there trying to sell shit that nobody wants. Even if it’s good shit.

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