You could call her the Queen of the Dead. Walking Dead executive producer Gale Anne Hurd has been with the AMC zombie apocalypse show from the very beginning, through its behind the scenes up and downs and its record breaking ratings results this past year. After a more than two-month break, The Walking Dead is back Sunday for eight more episodes of its third season. Hurd spoke with Deadline about the show’s return, the sudden exit last year of showrunner Glen Mazzara and how Dead comic creator and show EP Robert Kirkman feels about the detours the series takes from the comics. The seasoned producer also talks about the possibility of a Walking Dead movie and the similarities between her show and its fellow Sunday night airer Downton Abbey.
Deadline: I have to ask right off the bat – What happened with Glen Mazzara?
Gale Anne Hurd: Essentially with the series moving forward, he saw Season 4 in a different light than AMC did.
Deadline: OK. That’s very similar to what he has said. With Glen having left, are we are going to see any difference in the show with Scott Gimple taking over the showrunner job?
Hurd: I don’t think there will be any difference. We have the same writers’ room who’ll be contributing to all the episodes as we had before. We have Greg Nicotero and Robert Kirkman and producer Dave Alpert are still very strong voices. So I don’t think you’ll see a shift at all.
Related: Glen Mazzara No-Show At ‘Walking Dead’ TV Academy Panel
Deadline: There did seem to be a shift when Mazzara took over from Frank Darabont, with horror becoming more prevalent in the series.
Hurd: A lot of the third season had been figured out before Frank’s departure.
Deadline: With the phenomenal ratings The Walking Dead achieved in Season 3, are you worried the expectations are too high as the show comes back for 3B?
Hurd: You know, you just have to put that out of your mind and just continue to tell the best, most character-driven, exciting stories. And we fully trust AMC to be able to market the show so our audience hasn’t forgotten that we’re there.
Deadline: So you’re worried?
Hurd: You always worry. You always worry that people will find something more compelling to do at 9 PM on a Sunday night. But I hope that instead they’ll be sticking with us. I’m a Downton Abbey fanatic myself so I tend to tune in at Sunday nights at 9 and now I’ll be tuning in to the zombie apocalypse instead of the post-World War I English gentry.
Deadline: Doesn’t seem like there’d be a lot of crossover between the two shows and Walking Dead fans and Downton Abbey fans.
Hurd: I like to think that we have a lot of the same type of moral issues and ethic issues that the cast has to deal with – ours is just in a heightened state.
Deadline: AMC ordered a fourth season of the show late last year. Going forward into that fourth season, how much more deviation are we going to see from the original Robert Kirkman comics?
Hurd: From the very beginning we’ve made detours from the comics and that’s something that Robert Kirkman is 100% on board with. But we don’t do it just to do it. We do it because, as you saw in the mid-season finale and when we come back with the mid-season premiere, we have characters that aren’t in the comic books and that is going to take you in a different direction. On the other hand, we still have the Governor as the villain, we have Michonne as the warrior. We also have the opportunity to delve in even deeper because of the medium of television than you can in a comic book, we you have panels on the page and bubbles for dialogue and not a lot of exposition. Because it’s a different medium we can dive in much more deeply with each of our characters.
Deadline: Any chance we’re going to see a Walking Dead movie?
Hurd: Not right away.
Deadline: Not on the table?
Hurd: Not at the moment
Deadline: It would seem to be a natural next step.
Hurd: Right. I mean, there’s an Entourage movie coming up, right? That’s what I keep reading. Right now, seriously, we’re focused on Season 4. If there was a movie, there are so many decisions that would need to go into it. The availability of the cast and all of that.
Deadline: You mention him before as a strong voice on the show but how deeply involved in the show is Robert Kirkman in day-to-day, episode-to-episode?
Hurd: He’s part of the writers’ room and has been from the very beginning.
Deadline: You also talked about him being 100% on board with the deviations from the comics that he created. How has that worked?
Hurd: There are a lot of times when he goes back to the comic book and goes ‘Wow, that actually would have been an interesting thing to do.” Keeping Shane alive in season two was something he fully supported and the change-up of having Rick kill him and then having Carl shoot the zombified Shane was also something he fully supported. In the rest of season three, there were things that I can’t talk about, but same thing, that he fully fully supported.
Deadline: On matters, you can talk about, how has your role changed on the show as it has grown to more episodes each season and the success it has had with viewers?
Hurd: My role really hasn’t changed with the success of the show. It changes based on the number of episodes. The first season we had six episodes so I was on set the entire time. Last year we had 13 and I was on set amount a less amount of time. This year we had 16 so I was back and forth. Now, with 16 episodes it is a year-round enterprise because we’re still finishing the episodes for Season 3 as our writer’s room is coming back together for Season 4. It is more a factor of the number of episodes and the number of episodes is a result of our success.
Deadline: When will Season 4 hit the air?
Hurd: I have a feeling that it will more than likely it will be sometime in October and more than likely sometime during AMC’s Fearfest. I don’t know when exactly, we haven’t even discussed it.
Deadline: Will you announce it at Comic-Con like you did last year?
Hurd: I don’t know yet if we’ll be at Comic-Con. We don’t even begin those discussions for a couple of months. It’s contingent on a lot of things. It’s my favorite thing to do. I love Comic-Con so I’ll be there even if the show isn’t. I’m a geek anyway. And I love New York Comic-Con too and we try to be there as well. But part of it depends on what slot we get and if we have to shut down production. And that’s out of our hands.