Exclusive: Craig Engler Talks Z Nation and What’s Ahead in Season 2
One of the most surprising things on TV last year was Syfy and The Asylum’s “Z Nation.” In the end the show was a lot of fun and home to some of the finest zombie carnage found on TV (and yes, that includes “The Walking Dead”). Bold statement I know, but when you have set-pieces like the Liberty Bell rolling over re-animated corpses or full-on death-by-blender, it’s kind of hard to not appreciate the creativity and awesomeness.
With the show now on DVD, we took the time to talk with one of its creators, Craig Engler, about what came to pass as well as what’s to come.
“It’s super-important for us to come up with new zombies and zombie deaths,” says Engler of the series’ main attraction. “We talk about it a lot. We talk about what kinds of zombies there can be. Our show has introduced several different kinds of the living dead, my favorite being the nuclear zombies. In Season 2 we have some really cool things planned. Stuff people haven’t seen before. It’s very important for us to have good and fun zombie kills. That’s what people look forward to. If you just kill the zombies the same way every time, it gets a little boring. We’re always thinking like, ‘Okay, what’s in the environment? If you have an unarmed character in a particular environment, what’s he gonna grab?’ We go into things like what would be around and what would be fun?!?”
He adds, “Syfy keeps pushing us to do more and go farther [in terms of the show’s gore]. I’m not going to use the word ‘tasteful’ because I don’t think that’s really applicable to our show, but as long as it’s done well and in the spirit of the show, they’re totally happy. In fact, one of my friends is the network executive who we deal with; he literally just sent me an e-mail yesterday which read, ‘Keep pushing it! We want cool, big, crazy stuff.’ What other studio would tell you to keep pushing the envelope? I was like, ‘Yes! We will do that!”
“I see people online all the time who say things along the lines of ‘I don’t know what this is, but now it’s my favorite show’ or ‘I thought this was gonna be terrible, but now I can’t wait for every episode,’” Engler said of the public reaction to “Z Nation.” “I always felt that if we could get people to tune in, they would really like it. I love ‘The Walking Dead,’ and our show does share a few things with it, but I wanted to make a show with more action and humor. I’m really gratified to learn that people are enjoying it as I thought that they would. There’s this crazy statistic that there were 330 new dramas or dramas with new episodes that either debuted or returned on TV, so trying to get people to find your show among literally 100s of others is very tricky.”
“I can’t talk too much about it, but there’s an idea that’s come up for Season 2 that we definitely haven’t seen before in the zombie world,” Engler continues, “and I’m a HUGE zombie fan thanks to the Romero movies and the dawn of the modern zombie as we know it. Whenever we can do something that is new and innovative that we know people are going to like, we jump at the chance. We have several moments like that coming up.”
So, beyond Season 2 we were wondering of there was an endgame for the show or if they were working from a specific timetable. “[Showrunner and co-creator] Karl Schaefer and I have talked a little bit about a possible ending. He has a vision for the show’s end which matches the one that I had in mind when I came up with the idea of ‘Z Nation.’ He even has the final scene in mind. We can either take our time getting there, or we can rush depending on what’s going on with the show. It’s an ending which you could see in 5 seasons, you could see it in 7 seasons… or… if something went drastically wrong, we could probably wrap it up quicker. There’s definitely an endgame in mind, but there’s definitely a lot of ground to cover between now and when we get there. What’s really exciting to me about that is I don’t think anyone has any idea where the show is gonna go. I don’t even think this season is gonna go where they think it’s gonna go… in a good way.”
“Z Nation” Season 1 stars Tom Everett Scott (“Southland”), DJ Qualls (“Supernatural”), Michael Welch, Kellita Smith, Anastasia Baranova, Russell Hodgkinson, Keith Allan, and Harold Perrineau (“Lost,” “Oz”). The show is executive produced by Karl Schaefer (“Eerie Indiana”, “The Dead Zone”), who is also the showrunner.
“Z Nation” starts three years after the zombie virus has gutted the country. A team of everyday heroes must transport the only known survivor of the plague from New York to California, where the last functioning viral lab waits for his blood. Although the antibodies he carries are the world’s last, best hope for a vaccine, he hides a dark secret that threatens them all. With humankind’s survival at stake, the ragtag band embarks on a journey of survival across three thousand miles of rusted-out post-apocalyptic America.