Wrapping up our interviews leading up to the premiere of The Walking Dead Season 4, I recently had a chance to speak with Gale Anne Hurd. In the first of two-part feature, we discussed the development of the fourth season, including a push for more walkers and a bigger focus on character moments:
*Updated- Spoiler Warning* We've included additional comments that discuss the new threat and character deaths in the first two episodes.
Looking back at Season 3, what was something that you and the creative team wanted to improve when developing the fourth season?
Gale Anne Hurd: I think it’s really important to balance the epic action with more intimate character stories. That was really our focus. We have a few characters we introduced last season that didn’t figure as significantly into the stories as we would have liked. It was important that we got to know characters like Tyreese and Sasha better, and to see what the world is like when they have, albeit briefly, a safe haven at the prison.
Since you’ve been with The Walking Dead TV series since the beginning, you’ve had a chance to see all of these actors and characters grow over the years. What actor or actors really stood out to you this season or took you by surprise?
Gale Anne Hurd: The cast members who joined have varying degrees of experience. Andy Lincoln trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, so you don’t get much better than that. Then you have other people, who have very little action training, like Steven Yeun, but you wouldn’t know it because he’s such a natural. We’ve pushed his Glenn and we’re pushing him even more this season. Then you have Chandler, who I first worked with on The Wronged Man, and you see how you could literally have a Carl-centric episode now. He can actually be in a leading role, which is something you don’t usually find with a young actor. That shows how much Chandler has grown, and I attribute it to how supportive the community of actors on the show have been. Everyone is treated as equals, whether they are child actors or guest stars and it allows everyone to give their all for the show.
You’ve been talking over the past few months about how zombies will not be a manageable threat in Season 4 and we see that right away in the first two episodes. Was this something that you pushed for and how did you work with Greg Nicotero and the rest of the creative team to accomplish that?
Gale Anne Hurd: We all tend to have a collective conscience. We began to feel much like we did during the course of the second season, when there were very few walkers on Hershel’s farm. Collectively, Greg, Scott, Robert, and Dave … we all discussed the fact that there is no way that this can remain a safe haven. It’s true in the comic book that no place remains safe for very long. Every day there are more walkers and fewer humans in the world and it is important to portray that in the prison and everywhere else. It’s not going to be as easy as it was.
This season continues to up the gore and zombie effects. Have you received any pushback from AMC and are they ever worried about what they send your way?
Gale Anne Hurd: To this day, we have still yet to receive a violence note from them. We understand the rules, they haven’t changed the goalpost and it’s a system that works. It’s great not to have something kicked back to us and to be told that it’s too much. But that’s because we both respect the process.
Earlier this year, you were teasing a "new threat" in Season 4. In the second episode we learn that this threat is a very deadly flu that spreads throughout the prison. Can you tell me how this idea developed among the producers/writers and why you felt it was a good time to introduce such a threat?
Gale Anne Hurd: The idea of doing an infection was something that really involved organically. I remember Scott referencing the Spanish Flu epidemic and how it started in army camps. People were close together, like you would be in a prison, and that allowed it to spread so quickly. It also attacked young healthy people, which as you see in the show, those are the people who become ill and die. It’s something they’re not prepared for, they don’t have the medicine for, and it highlights the moral dilemma of who’s going to treat them. The reveal that they have a killer in their midst is clearly upping the ante as well.
The first episode introduced a number of characters that seemed like they could be a big part of the series, only to have them killed off in the first or second episode. Was this always the plan when you brought these actors on board?
Gale Anne Hurd: We’re very fond of the characters we killed off, but it was important for them to make such an impact very quickly, so that the audience couldn’t see what was coming. We hope that they fell in love with those characters as much as we did.
I’d like to thank Gale Anne Hurd for taking the time to talk with me and this is only the first part of our interview. After the first two episodes, I’ll publish the rest of our interview, where we talk about some specific items related to Season 4. The Walking Dead returns tonight in the US and you can catch up on all of our recent coverage by visiting the following links: