The Walking Dead's Award-Winning Producer/Writer Glen Mazzara Spills the Beans on Season 3
Once again AMC Channel’s The Walking Dead breaks all cable viewership ratings records with the season finale last Sunday. Â An astonishing 9.2 million tuned in for the show that features best friends who try to kill each other, a trifling wife, a kid who keeps showing up where he shouldn’t, a gun-toting sexy blonde, a squirrel-killing redneck, a kid falling in love for the first time, a black guy who never gets any lines, and of course the zombies…. except on the show they’re called “Walkers.”
AMC Channel is known for featuring TV shows that are story driven like Mad Men, Breaking Bad, but who would-a- thunk a show about zombies and the limits people would go to stay alive would appeal to the masses so successfully; And for those who thumb their noses at comic books and the folks who read them… boo hoo!
If you’re reading this article chances are you already saw the Season 2 finale last Sunday and already can’t wait for Season 3 (premiering in the fall). I had an opportunity to talk Walking Dead with show producer and writer Glen Mazzara.
Allie Hanley: CultureMob has a large following of readers who follow your show. From all directions, including Facebook and Twitter, fans are buzzing and asking me about the arrival of the sword-carrying lady with the two walkers chained to them and the samurai sword. Obviously that’s Michonne from the comic. Give us some hints about what we are going to see of her in Season3.
Glen Mazzara: Michonne is one of the lead characters in the graphic novel, so we’re excited to finally introduce her. She is a loner. She’s a kick ass character. She’s very dynamic and we really see her as a very, very important addition to the cast. She’s a significant character and she’ll be carrying a lot of story, so we’re excited about her.
We’re also excited about Danai Gurira, who is the young actress who is going to play this role, so we’re lucky to have her and look forward to seeing what she does with it.
Allie Hanley: Are there plans to get T-Dog (IronE Singleton) having some momentum in the story for Season 3? Lots of people are wondering and they feel like he’s been left out of Season 2.
GM: You know what? The T-Dog question, I’m glad you’re asking that. I’ve been surprised at this because I’ve worked on shows before that have had characters in the background and have been on a slow burn.
With T-Dog, I’ll admit, T-Dog has been off to the side and has been forgotten. And part of my goal as show runner was to really address developing Rick’s character and some other stuff.
So poor T-Dog was left by the side. That’s something that now that he has survived the finale we’re going to correct. I think (IronE Singleton) has done a fantastic job of establishing a character and making people interested in him with just very, very little to say.
So, you know, that’s a strength of the show. I think moving forward hopefully we’ll make it a strength and that’s a character we’re looking to develop in a significant way. So that’s a fair question and, you know, we haven’t done our work yet with T-Dog but we’re going to roll up our sleeves and get to it.
Allie Hanley: Next question, are you going to make Lori’s character (Sarah Wayne Callies) less trifling? That’s coming from a lot of people who seem to love to hate her. She’s a hot topic of ridicule on the Facebook group The Deadnecks, The Walking Dead (1), the walking dead (2) on Facebook. They all think she is just irritating and no one likes her.
GM: I think Lori is a compelling, interesting character. I think she is realistic in a lot of ways and she’s certainly a character that people are talking about. So I don’t find her irritating.
I think it’s interesting that people are so focused on her and, you know, I think the work ahead of that is to see where the – in Season 3, you know, we really have to look at the Rick, Lori relationship and what it means that, you know, she put Rick and Shane in motion to try to kill each other. So that’s an interesting place to start and we’ll certainly examine that character.
But, you know, I don’t know if we really need to start creating false speeds to make her more likeable. I don’t – that’s not part of the plan.
Glen Mazzara on what Season 3 is going to look like:
GM: Right now I do see that prison is a significant storyline for Seasons 3 and Season 4. I do think that’s a major story line. You know, and I know we were on the farm for longer than perhaps people wanted. There were reasons for that.
I think what we want to do is make sure that that prison does not become claustrophobic. I think the farm played a little claustrophobic for people. The farm – now that the entire landscape has fallen to the zombie apocalypse and zombies are literally at the gate of the prison – if you see the graphic novel, that prison is really, you know, a very, very small, safe corner and there’s a lot of danger around. So it won’t feel like we are bottled up in the same way that we were on the farm in Season 3, let’s say.
So I do think that prison is a significant storyline. But we’re interested also in opening up the world. You know, the governor has a world of (Woodbury). There are other factors out there in the world, other groups. So I think that Rick’s group is really stumbling into a much larger world.
On more significant chracters from the comic joining the cast (besides The Governor and Michonne):
GM: Oh, well, certainly. I mean, there’s a lot of great material from the comic book and we see, you know, this show would have to go on 20 years to get to all of it. I think the (Tyrese) character is someone that we’re interested in introducing at some point.
You know, we still have Morgan and DuaneÂ are out there from the pilot. We’re interested in them. And there’s new characters that will be original to the series not coming straight from the comic book. So we are really, you know, I think I said yesterday to someone that I think Season 1 and 2 have been prologue and now it feels like we’re hitting the ground running.
[Look for CultureMob’s exclusive – in depth interview coming soon with Michael Rooker.]
And I sort of see Season 3 as resetting the show in terms of what I really hope it can be.
On going to that deep, dark place that is part of the original graphic novel and may be just too much for TV – even AMC cable:
GM: Well, I know what you’re referring to and, you know, we have to put our own spin. This is a question that I think – I would say this, there’s no place we won’t go. Everything is on the table. This is a cutting edge cable drama. I’m comfortable with that material and we answered a lot of these questions on say The Shield and when I worked there, so I’m comfortable dealing with very, very edgy material.
That being said, you want to make sure that things are not gratuitous, that things are not offensive for the sake of being offensive. I don’t ever want the show to get too bleak. I think we’ve done a good job of creating characters that people care about. I think there’s a heart to the show.
So we will, you know, tackle issues in our own way but right now everything is on the table and I think if you take a look at those last few episodes we’ve been making some pretty bold choices and that’s where the show lives and that’s where we will feel we get the most entertainment value out of the story we’re telling.
On the pacing of the show and how it got more thrilling the last few episodes:
GM: …Â it’s my intention that the show picked up the pace, you know. And I would say yes. You look at those last three episodes but I’m also very proud of the episodes that came before that. I’m proud of the pacing and the mid-season finale. I’m proud of the pacing in ‘Triggerfinger’ and ‘Nebraska’.
You know, I thought that ‘Nebraska’, which did not have a lot of zombie action, had a very, very compelling last scene with Michael Raymond James (TV Show – True Blood). So, you know, we will continue to have fast-paced episodes. We will continue to have slower-paced episodes.
So week by week we want to keep throwing curveballs at the audience, you know, and so that you sit down and you never know what kind of episode you’re going to get. We are constantly playing with people’s expectations because that’s what horror movies do.
The minute that you know exactly what you’re getting at the beginning of an episode, I think it becomes less scary and less entertaining. So I’ll just say this. I think we’re – next year we’re just throwing curveball after curveball. That’s the goal.
Where the show is in production for Season 3:
GM: We have submitted outlines for Episodes 1 through 6 to AMC. They’re very excited about the material. We have pitched out through Episode 8. We’re currently working on those outlines.
And then all eight scripts will be written simultaneously. This was a process that Frank Darabont took from George Lucas I think on Young Indiana Jones where we talk about all the episodes and then all the writers go off and write simultaneously instead of writing sequentially on other shows.
Every other show I’ve done you break Episode 1, someone goes to write it and then you break Episode 2. So we’ve got a very unique system here that really works well for our culture. I’m excited about using that method. I think it’s terrific.
So I’m – you know, I’ve obviously been very excited about the finale having to do press and all of this stuff and then I look forward to sort of the smoke clearing in a couple of days and then I will write the season premier. That’s all been worked out and we’ll have scripts done pretty quickly, I believe, because we’re excited about the story.
And then we start shooting in May. So the trains are moving and, you know, we’re very far along.
On who the writers will be for Season 3:
GM: We have… Robert Kirkman is obviously there and we’ve brought back Evan T. Reilly, who is just fantastic.Â Scott M. Gimple is brilliant; immensely, you know,Â Angela Kang – also brilliant; and we’ve added two new writers,Â Sang Kyu Kim. He’s a writer I worked with on Crash and I just love working with him.Â Nichole Beattie, who just recently did Prime Suspect and she was also on Rubicon, and so they’ve been terrific additions.
Let me also announce this, that we’ll have Frank Ranzouli, who was one of the original writers on The Sopranos will be doing an episode for us in the first half of the season. So I have not announced that yet but (Frank Ranzouli) who worked with me on Crash and is just, I think, one of the best writers out there really has a very, very exciting and pretty scary episode to write. So he’s working with us, too, so we’re looking for him to do that freelance.
On the Zombies being a major facet of the story for Season 3:
GM: Zombies will never take a back seat, okay. We will always have the human drama and we would like to introduce a significant human threat.Â But we love writing the zombie material and I think those zombies are now fully integrated into the world. We’re not waiting for the zombies anymore to reach us. They are there. They are within, you know, in our eyesight, you know, all the time. They are, you know, part of the landscape.
So we expect, you know, there to still be a balance of zombie and human threat but the zombies will never take a back seat on this show.
It’s been a great season covering the show. It’s over for now. Thanks to everyone for following the interview articles… now it’s time for HBO’s Game Of Thrones airing Sunday, April 1 at 9:00pm.