Gale Anne Hurd, Executive Producer of “Fear the Walking Dead”

A Second Shot at Death

Aug 21, 2015 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


In 2008, The Walking Dead executive producer Gale Anne Hurd had no reason to believe that the zombie drama would ever be anything more than a cable TV curiosity. She was already a legend, having created the Terminator series and produced a number of sci-fi classics, but not even someone with her resume had put together a successful zombie apocalypse TV series. In those early days, as sm that would create the show, it was an open question as to whether anyone would want to watch it at all.

Seven years later, with The Walking Dead smashing cable TV ratings records with each new season premiere, Hurd doesn't have to worry about there being no audience for Fear the Walking Dead. This time around she had to contend with the prospect of creating a new show that will be instantly and endlessly compared to the most popular show on cable. Will series creator Robert Kirkman be able to create a new set of characters and storylines that will prove to be as enduring as Rick Grimes and his weary clan of survivors? Will showrunner Dave Erickson be able to capture a tone and pace that is both familiar to fans of the original show but different enough that the new series has its own distinct identity? Will viewers be as loyal to the new show if it stumbles out of the gate or goes through growing pains? Here, Hurd discusses how she approached piecing together the new team, how trading rural Georgia for urban Los Angeles will influence the storyline, and how Fear the Walking Dead should be only compared to other new shows.

Matt Fink (Under the Radar): Since you played a major role in assembling the team that made the original Walking Dead show, have you done anything differently this time?

Gale Anne Hurd: Well, we started working on The Walking Dead seven years ago, and the difference was that was really embarking into the total unknown and being unaware that it's a series the dealt with characters living in a post-zombie apocalypse would have any appeal to an audience whatsoever, and finding out that it was, indeed, something that people not only like but embrace and continue to embrace. With this show, we know that it is a world that people like, where before the bar was set very low, because there were no expectations. In this case, people are interested but expecting quite a lot.

Is there anything you learned from doing the show the first time that influenced your decision making this time?

No. I think you always start from the same point, and the difference here is that they are entirely new characters who are not inspired by Robert Kirkman's comic book. But you always approach it by making sure that you focus on interesting, compelling characters who can anchor a TV series for seasons to come.

So much is written about how the cast and crew of The Walking Dead is one big family. How do you go about trying to replicate that same sense of camaraderie? Were you trying to find another Andrew Lincoln who would be a leader on set?

Both shows are very much ensembles, and in Fear the Walking Dead, we have a tremendous lead in Cliff Curtis, and I've worked with him many years ago, so he's someone I already know. And Kim Dickens, who is someone who not only was our showrunner Dave Erickson aware of, and Adam Davidson, who is one of our co-EPs and who directed the pilot, has worked with before. So they were both known commodities and really talented actors but also very much leaders who inspired the cast and crew on set. That's why when we cast the cast; we wanted great actors but also people with great attitudes, and we also did the same with the crew. We wanted a situation where everyone is looking forward to go to work every day. The good news is that they don't have the fight with the same level of humidity and biting insects [as the main Walking Dead cast and crew do].

What drew you to Dave Erickson as showrunner?

Well, the good news is that he and Robert Kirkman had collaborated before on another project, and the sensibility from Sons of Anarchy is one that very much fits within our world-premium cable and a world within a world with very compelling themes. A violent world in which the characters develop their own code and live by it.

Would you say that your goal with this show is to replicate the tone and feel that people love from the original show or to create something that is its own entity?

It's very much about entity, but we're following the same world rules as The Walking Dead, because it takes place within another part of that universe. So it's grounded. It's not campy. You won't be seeing cheerleader zombies. But at the same time, since it takes place in a different part of the world, and we start very early on with this family who is experiencing this as it is happening, that in and of itself is quite different from The Walking Dead, where we were introduced to the zombie apocalypse when Rick Grimes wakes up from his coma, which is about a month in.

Does this show resonate with you differently as a viewer, simply because it's set in L.A. and you're from L.A.?

Yeah, I'm actually fourth generation Los Angeles, going back to 1868. And Los Angeles has been through a lot, and it's really interesting to see things, because obviously we think of San Andreas and other natural disasters that could befall here, but we'll be seeing firsthand how a particular extended family copes or is unable to cope from the very beginning. So it's an area that I know very well, and they are the kinds of peopleKim who plays Madison and Cliff who plays Travisthey both work at a school. My daughter grew up here, I went to school hereso I can immediately imagine myself as the world shifts permanently.

Given the success of The Walking Dead, what should be the measure of success for this show?

Obviously, it is a brand new show. It's not a spinoff. It takes place in the same universe, so it's not as if we're following characters who were introduced on The Walking Dead. So I think it should be judged the way any new show isbased on the merits of this particular storytelling. At least that's what I'm hoping.

Well, I'm looking forward to exploring this new world. It sounds like there's a lot of potential to stretch out in a different setting.

The look of the series is different from The Walking Dead in large part, because Los Angeles has a very different look than Atlanta and the areas outside of Atlanta or, as is now the case, Alexandria. So we have an opportunity to really explore a very different universe of characters and settings. I think you'll get a kick out of it.

(Also read a separate article on Fear the Walking Dead that first appeared in our current print issue. Also read our 2014 interview with Gale Anne Hurd on The Walking Dead. Fear the Walking Dead premieres on AMC this Sunday at 9/8 Central.)

www.amc.com/shows/fear-the-walking-dead



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June 14th 2017
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