At the start of Season 3 Executive Producer Glen Mazzara and actor Steven Yeun who plays Glenn Rhee joined reporters to discuss the series third season via telephone.
Glen, I got a question for you first. You’ve obviously put a very big stamp on Season 3 literally from the opening minutes by doing a teaser with absolutely no dialogue whatsoever which I thought was fantastic.I sort of curious though did you basically write out all those sort of bits of business that the characters were going to do in the teaser, you know, from the owl to the can opener and so forth? And what sort of resistance did you have from the powers that be who I should think was – but they have to say something, don’t they?
Glen Mazzara: That’s a funny question. Yes everything you saw it was scripted from opening on the walker’s eye to pulling back to the door breaking open.The entire sequence was scripted, you know, word for word and I think Ernest Dickerson did a great job shooting it and of course the cast knew exactly what to do, you know? We wanted to advance the story and, you know, last time we saw this group they were by the campfire and there was a lot of chatter and a lot of, you know, questioning and anxiety and I just thought it was important to – since we were doing the time jump to show that these groups come together and they can pick up each other’s body language and subtle queues.And we didn’t really need any dialogue and AMC embraced it, AMC loved it. They thought it was a cinematic opening. I think everybody just, you know, got on board and just – it just felt right. And I don’t know, Steven, did you – what did you think about it when you were, you know, playing it?
Steven Yeun: I mean it was just right. I mean, you know, the tone – I mean the tone is what we’re trying to hit and I think we hit it. I mean I can’t really say it in more words than that.
Glen Mazzara: Yes.
Steven, if you don’t mind, I got a follow-up question for you as well. I know that the actors don’t necessarily follow the comic books in terms of knowing what’s going on with their characters now, but I can’t help wondering what your reaction was to Walking Dead #100. And if you either read it and somebody had said, “Guess what?”
Steven Yeun: Well when that happens, you know, people kind of made a bigger deal out of it than I did. I don’t know why. I mean I know why; it was pretty intense.For me I think it was, you know, I’m blessed to be able to play a character that people hold in such high regard in a comic and for Kirkman to do that I thought was brutal and amazing.And, you know, it’s just it’s – he just took him away. He just took him away like from everyone and I thought that was ballsy. I thought it was in a way beautifully grotesque and awesome. And for me now it’s just how do I live up to, you know, what he established in the comic and how do I make whatever we’re doing on my own and not mess that up for everybody.
You know, having seen the first couple episodes, the thing that really struck me about this is how much the entire group has sort of disconnected emotionally from a lot of the process of killing walkers.I mean particularly in this first episode what struck me was Maggie‘s reaction where at one point she’s very almost gleeful about killing these walkers and then her scene between her and Glen, Steven I thought – where she’s an entirely different character.And I wonder if either one of you can sort of talk about that process because that was really what struck me the most about the first episode was just how nonchalant they are about killing people or killing walkers.
Glen Mazzara: Well let me say this; part of our process as writers when we, you know, approach a new season is I actually put together a reading list and one of the books that was a seminal work for us this year was Sebastian Junger‘s War.And it’s really an incredible book about a group of soldiers, you know, fighting in Afghanistan. And the idea that our – the people in the Armed Forces today are just, you know, bond together and that they want to, you know, protect each other at all costs is really inspiring. And they have a responsibility to do their jobs to keep their fellow servicemen and servicewomen alive.And that was something that we really thought about that if you were in a zombie apocalypse you care about, you love the rest of your family, the rest of your group of survivors. And so when Maggie is excited about that, yes there’s an adrenaline rush. There’s something insane. But she’s also solved a problem that now she can share with the group and everybody immediately picks up what she’s done and they end up dispatching the rest of the walkers.So one of the central themes that you’ll see this year is our tight knit group against all others. And what happens when they meet, you know, both friends and foes and what happens when they encounter these other groups that we know on the horizon, you’ve all heard that we’re going to introduce other characters. What happens when they come into contact with them.The question that we’re saying is, “Well okay here is our starting point, our tight knit group and all they can see is just whoever’s in that group,” you know? And they really don’t care about anyone else because anyone else could threaten their survival.So that was something that we were getting to and I think that, you know, you see it was also important for us to show that they have wins. The show can be very bleak. And when she’s excited about this dispatching a walker or Rick is on the guard tower and he smiles. They have wins and I think that that’s important for the audience to see this group have wins so that when they suffer losses like at the end of the episode, it’s that much more devastating.
Steven Yeun: Yes I think – I personally think, you know, we created this whole batch story. We all met up as a group I remember before and talked about, you know, alongside, you know, with the writers and producers; they talked about where these people have been to and where they’re coming from. Have they had contingency plans and have they – you know, they’re clearly weathered. And, you know, even – I think there’s one particular moment early on that kind of shows where they’re at is, you know, there’s that tag team motion which is I think – there’s that scene with Glenn, he pins the walker up against the fence and then Maggie finishes it with the hammer.And that to me was very indicative of the fact that, you know, they’ve done this before. This is not something that they’re completely fearful of. Obviously there’s risks, but they’re known – they have now figured out how to effectively at least what they think is deal with these walkers.
Great, just a quick follow-up Steven. Probably next to Carl it seems like Glenn maybe has changed the most over these now going into three seasons.I mean when we first see you – and the character isn’t exactly immature, but he does – he seems a little lost maybe and now you’re very confident, very together person. And not that the zombie apocalypse has been very good for him, but it seems like it’s brought out some characters characteristic of his personality that are good.
Steven Yeun: Yes I mean I’ve loved playing Glenn and I’m very blessed to do so. And I’ve loved, you know, how Glenn and the team have really just amazingly act out his kind of whole development.And, you know, first even I saw him as, you know, the kid that had good ideas and had the abilities, but was kind of the meek one with all the other big egos around and all the bigger characters around. And the fact because he’s kind of coming into his own realizing that maybe not everybody’s right all the time, maybe he’s not always right, maybe it’s not always Shane that’s right.And learning that he maybe has to take queues from himself. But then that didn’t drawn out and so Maggie comes along and really hits that home because he realizes that now not only does he have to live – or not only does he just cover his own ass, he has to live for a whole other being and take care of somebody else as well.And I think that quickly asks of him to grow up. But the problem is, you know, you growing up quickly doesn’t mean you’re doing it the right way. And I think what’s interesting is that, you know, all these characters are flawed and I love the fact that Glenn can be flawed. And I think the rest of the season will show, you know, just how dynamic a lot of these characters are.So I’m excited for people to watch.
I wanted to say congratulations. I think that you and the cast and crew did a fantastic job on the first episode; it’s one of my favorite of the show.
Glen Mazzara: Thank you.
And my question is for glen Mazzara. I had read that you said you were told that the season premiere was too big. It was unshootable and you shot it anyway.
Glen Mazzara: More edit anyway. That’s right.
Yes with the prison set it just seems this is more ambitious. Not just the season, but in particular this episode. So I was wondering what kind of challenges you faced not only writing this first episode, but also getting it shot and getting it approved.
Glen Mazzara: Well writing it was actually sort of easy believe it or not. I wrote that episode pretty quickly because I had it – I was just lucky. I just had it shot by shot in my head, you know? Obviously Ernest did a great job of bringing it to life and everything, but I really did get the sense of the story that we wanted to tell and where we wanted to advance the characters and what I wanted to hit and everything.So we had done a lot of work as writers and producers and spent a long time discussing where our starting point and so there was a tremendous amount of prep work that went into the writing. But the script was actually one of the most fun that I’ve ever had the opportunity to write. I really just loved writing that script. It was just so much fun.When it was written, you know, imagine how a script like that reads. Rick runs up and hacks a walker and Glenn runs behind him and stabs another walker. And Maggie kills a third. And, you know, so it reads like, you know, a battle and that was not something that I think is usually done on AMC. So when this originally came in people said, “Okay how is this going to work? Is this – are we – you know, is the show amping up the violence?” “Is the show becoming a video game or something like that?” But then there were all these character moments that were then earned and when it all came together on film everybody said, “Yes that’s the show.” Everybody understood.So there wasn’t any problem of getting it approved. AMC’s been incredibly supportive of the vision that we’ve as producers and writers have laid out for the show and, you know, they’re extremely happy with the show creatively. I think shooting-wise, you know, we had nine days to shoot that episode. Ernest is a veteran director, but we had, you know, particular gags that we didn’t have time to get to.We had a couple of things that were cut. And then also we had – there’s actually a deleted scene; there’s a very funny deleted scene that, you know, had to be cut for running time.So it was just so much story. I was so excited to be back that I was just sort of, you know, had a big, grand, you know, statement to say that it was all there I think and we were just trying to figure out okay how do we logistically shoot this, how many walkers do we need in the field, how many walkers do you need in the courtyard, how do get this done.And, you know, there was actually another scene in the prison. We call those dark corridors, the tombs. There was a sequence that we just ran out of time and didn’t get a chance to film. So it was just a matter of just film making, but I’m very, very happy with this episode. I think we made all the right cuts and I don’t think you look at that episode and think anything’s missing.
Yes I would agree.
Steven Yeun: I remember shooting that and, you know, Ernest always is crazy.
Glen Mazzara: Yes we torture Ernest. We torture Ernest.
Steven Yeun: Yes Ernest is awesome and that episode was so fun. And, you know, I think that’s just – the question is there. You know, you put all that stuff on the page and people think it can’t be done and everyone just kind of, you know, mans up and does it.And I think that’s kind of been a running theme with our show. I think a lot of stuff is stuff that people probably wouldn’t believe how we shoot it and how fast we do it. But we do it and it works. And I guess that’s something that I’m very proud of.
Glen Mazzara: Yes let me jump in. Again like what you see there, that sense of scale continues throughout the rest of the season. We don’t pull back from that. So you may not have as many zombies, you know, zombie killing as in that episode because that’s maybe not that story.But the scope of what this cast and crew and this entire production outfit can do week after week is pretty staggering. I mean we have this one episode in the back half of the season that’s just huge and could play as the season finale and it’s just the episode of the week.So I’m really, really impressed with the level of film making that this crew in Georgia can produce every week. It’s fantastic. So we just write big and they get it done. And very, very few times have we been asked to pull something back because we can’t do it. We may have to make cuts because, you know, we do have limitations. But it’s really impressive what the crew can do.
A lot of people, more fans complained about that everybody stayed on the farm, nothing much happened. Was there a little of a worry saying, “Well we’re going to a prison now where we’re going to be staying here,” that fans might have a tiny, like a little backlash like last season?
Glen Mazzara: Yes that’s a great question. Yes that was a concern. And so if you notice in the premiere that there are – you know, the prison’s occupied, you know, and Daryl even points out there’s some damage over there and some civilians are getting in. Is this as secure as we think it is. And that’s something that’s always going to be an issue. You know, I do think that last year we were playing that the outbreak originated in the urban environments and then swept through the countryside. So like a wave that took a while for it to reach the farm.Now the landscape is different; the walkers are, you know, omnipresent. But also within the prison itself there are unsecured areas because I always want to have a sense of danger, I always want to feel like these characters are living on the razor’s edge. So I really – you know, the idea that this prison is going to be, you know, too safe like the farm. That’s just not an issue; it’s just not an issue and it will not be an issue at all.
Yes for you Steven, has the show spoiled you in ways as an actor? I mean on several levels, like first of all, I imagine the last thing you’ll want to do when you have a break is to make a movie that’s horror themed.But also, you know, a show this good that’s not going to be easy to replicate in the future when the time comes. Am I right?
Steven Yeun: Yes, you know, that is absolutely true. I think I’m in a very fantastic, amazing position. It’s all been a learning experience and all been really amazing, but you know, where it is really good you realize like it really teaches you in those moments because you know, it’s humbling, you know? And it’s I think if anything it spoiled me in really like managing how successful this show is yet making sure you’ve put everything in perspective and you come – show up and do the work and you realize that all these fantastic crew and fantastic actors that are here who have leaps and bounds over me in accolades and talent and everything are showing up.And they could just dial in if they wanted to, but they don’t because they’re professionals and they’re fantastic. And everybody kind of, you know, pours everything out for this show. And for me that’s fantastic. And I think I guess if I’m spoiled it’s only in the sense that if I go do something else I would only hope that people are as wonderful as they are on our show.And that sounds like really high praise, but I’m almost dead serious about that. Or pretty dead serious about that.
Cool, good for you. Glen, I think there’s blood spatter on the inside of my TV because what do you think it says about us as people in the year 2012 that we can get off on that kind of mayhem? Are we – and sometimes are we just as ghoulish? Are we the real ghouls because we find that entertaining?
Glen Mazzara: I don’t know. You know, I see the show as, you know, entertainment. I think it’s exciting, I think there’s an adrenaline rush and, you know, the zombies are the perfect victims in a sense because they’re, you know, monsters.And they’re trying to kill innocent people. So, you know, yes there’s a certain amount of gore and violence and all of that, but in a way it’s also – it’s safe because they’re not human. You know, they’re not, you know, feeling that pain or whatever. It’s hard to sympathize with those walkers.So I just look at is as, you know, it’s this, you know, good old Hollywood entertainment. I think it’s just exciting and it’s fun and it’s an adventure.
We learned in the Season 2 series finale that Rick knew the entire group was infected with a virus and I’m wondering if we’re going to get any more answers about this in this season?
Glen Mazzara: About more information about the virus itself?
Glen Mazzara: Yes I’m – you know what; I’ll just say no we’re not going to learn more scientific information about the virus. You know, that was a unique sort of circumstances that they were talking to a scientist at the CDC.I think the story that we’re interested in telling is more in line with Robert Kirkman’s book in which, you know, everyday people have very, very limited information and it’s about what do they do with that limited information. So we will have characters trying to figure out, you know, the nature of the virus.We do introduce a character named Milton that will be part of the governor’s crew who is trying to solve the walker problem, but he’s not a scientist. So it’s really about people with no answers trying to make do.
Also in a medical vain with a baby kind of on the way this season, you can’t help but think what kind of world this child is being born into. Yes just will the baby coming into the world – it makes you think of, you know, what kind of world they’re living in at large. Will that get dug into anymore?
Glen Mazzara: Well certainly. I mean the baby – you know, if you think about it, the baby – if that baby is born that baby would be a mixed blessing because obviously a new birth is a sense of hope.But also, you know, the baby is vulnerable as can be and when that baby cries, you know, it could, you know, draw the attention of all the zombies. So it compromises the entire group and really this is a story about the group. So it’s – that baby would be a mixed blessing and that’s something that our characters will have to deal with.
I wanted to talk about the combat kills that we saw, you know, in the premiere and the second episode. It feels like there’s this like a Spartan phalanx kind of element to it.Can you talk about the de-emphasizing of the gun and the close quarter kills that have become kind of a motif of this season so far?
Glen Mazzara: Well that just made sense to us. You know, if you were going to take the courtyard how would you do that. Again it’s about showing the group is – has been working together, you know? Let me say that in the opening scene, you know, a gentleman asked me before about the opening scene. You know, the inspiration for that opening scene was, you know, sort of a police raid on a drug dealer’s den. You know, that’s something I’ve written on The Shield and other shows before.And those things are trained. You know, those type of choreographed movements are trained. And so I think that this phalanx movement is something that they’ve done before as Steven pointed out, you know, they have a tag team type of mentality and it just makes sense that they’re literally getting each other’s backs.
Could you maybe explain maybe this (unintelligible) into do a time jump in between seasons and whether or not both we’ll see what happened between that time jump or just kind of continue moving forward.
Glen Mazzara: The time jump was necessary for two reasons. Is, one, we wanted to advance the story to the point where Lori is, you know, about to give birth. That we feel a tremendous amount of pressure on the group. We felt that applied to maximum pressure, okay that’s one thing.Two is just production-wise we pick up shooting in the summer and we didn’t feel that, you know, that it would be plausible to try to fake winter or something like that.I am interested in shooting a winter sometime and perhaps if we, you know, change the production schedule in a future season or whatever, I think that would be interesting. But this time I felt that it was worthwhile to have the time jump and let the audience try to catch up.So I will say I’m not interested in going back and doing any flashback episodes about what happens to this group and how they got there. You’re seeing the story that we want to tell and, you know, we have a great story for Season 3 that we’re excited about. So I think we’ve picked the right entry point and, you know, the story is about moving forward in the next 15 episodes for the 16 episode total.So that’s just the point we chose.
So I’m wondering how Hershel’s leg amputation might affect his ability to watch out for Lori’s baby.
Glen Mazzara: That is a great question. That’s something that we will address. I think one of the things we’re going to see is that the group, you know, has thought about contingencies as Steven said. And we’ll see that, you know, Carol has had some minor medical training to be Hershel’s assistant.In Season 2 we played that Patricia, one of the women on the farm was sort of, you know, assisted Hershel with medical stuff. And so Carol has rudimentary medical training and of course her first patient is going to be Hershel. So she’s immediately in over her head, you know? Let me just say this that, I don’t know if anybody cares, but my brother is an orthopedic surgeon. So, you know, when I was in a hotel room in Georgia I was calling him and say, “Okay if I was going to cut someone’s leg off,” and he said, “Please don’t do that.” But he gave me – so, you know, we went through the steps and immediate care and all that.So if anyone has any notes I’ll give out my brother’s phone number and you can call him, okay?
Glen, I wanted to ask about the decision to – the way the season was split up for the season premiere. For example I think that many people who had seen Michonne in the beginning were kind of expecting more of her. And then we also saw in the teaser trailer the Governor and Woodbury.So I was wondering why you made the decision to focus on the prison for the first two episodes and did you consider it risky given what you had been teasing so far?
Glen Mazzara: No, no. I mean, you know, we’re teasing – I think those teasers are teasing the season. So I think that that’s fair game – I mean that stuff’s coming up. And the season’s pretty well-constructed as far as the flow of what we want people to think at one point and then when we introduce new characters and stuff.So there’s a method to the madness and I think at the end of, you know, the run, people will, you know, find that it was satisfying. What was important was to show the character development about the core group, that this is very much this show. We care about these characters; it’s Rick’s story. And we need to see what that prison means for them.You know, in a way those first two episodes really show the amount of sacrifice and emotionally what it means for everybody. And once that’s up and running, then that’s a great base to jump off – you know, to jump off from.And we – then we’ll, you know, introduce other characters and other storylines and all that. But we needed that foundation of the core group, the prison, what it means, what sacrifices have been made, what our characters are willing to do to keep it. And then we’ll complicate it. So it’s I think a very thought out plan and, you know, I just hope the audience goes along for the ride and responds and enjoys it as much as we do.
Do you think we can expect the same kind of thing for future episodes? You have no problem just focusing on a couple characters rather than showing us everything each episode?
Glen Mazzara: Yes that’s true. I mean, you know, we’re telling a story. It’s a grand story over 16 episodes. So there are some episodes that will be only in the prison. There are some episodes that will only be at Woodbury. There are some episodes in which Michonne does not appear.You know, there are some episodes in which, you know, Rick does not appear. You know, so it’s all – it’s really, you know, about telling the best story every week and making sure that each chapter adds up to a greater whole. So, you know, I don’t think – I think there’s so much exciting new stuff coming every week that I don’t think people will end up feeling that they’re being shortchanged on any front. We’re really trying to pack as much story into every episode, so nothing ever feels like a stall. That I promise.
I just wanted to follow up on something that somebody had asked you before about the notion that everybody in the series is infected with the virus.Does that become more of a – sort of a MacGuffin for the series in that, you know, it’s not a vitally important device? Or are there implications that you could play with because for example when I first heard about it I just thought up until now the whole idea was to lock the zombies out. And now basically everybody that’s in a group is a potential zombie.So if somebody dies in the middle of night with a heart attack you suddenly got a zombie waking up in your midst. Does that sort of come into play or do you guys not really sort of play with that sort of detail yet?
Glen Mazzara: No it’s something we’re very mindful of and it’s something that I think we’re going to put – use to put some very, very surprising twists out there. You know, obviously I can’t give anything away. But it’s a very unique device.I mean what’s great is, you know, I’ve never witnessed something like that. You know, I mean what a fun thing to have as a writer. So it’s a matter of, you know, keeping that fresh as, you know, it sounds like you just pitched a scene. We might steal that from you.But it’s something that we’ll certainly play throughout the life of the series. You know, it’s interesting. The other thing — I was just about to say something else — is also, you know, not everybody knows that information. You know,Rick and his band knows that information, but it’ll be interesting to see how other people learn that and how that informs what they do, informs how they make decisions. So that’s also in play.
I just want to change the subject. This is something that I actually asked Gale Ann Hurd over the weekend, but I’m sort of curious how you feel about it.Is there a sort of invisible line that you guys feel you’ve established at this point in terms of the content of the show? Because every time I think that you guys have sort of reached the limit you sort of just give it a little bit of a nudge and I’m thinking for example of a certain scene that comes at the end of next week’s episode which certainly freaked me out a little bit.And I sort of wonder do the powers that be at AMC have anything to say about that sort of invisible line or the fact that you guys have done such a great job in working on the series yourself. Has that given you a certain amount of autonomy as far as that’s concerned?
Glen Mazzara: Well let me tell you, AMC’s been incredibly supportive of that line of content. You know, I will say that internally as writers and producers push that line. And we certainly come up with ideas that even we wonder can we pull this off. Is this going too far, is this too much.And that’s where I want the line to be. You know, when I worked on The Shield we thought let’s push it and when it’s too far we can always pull it back. But as a group we’ll know when we’ve gone too far. And that’s what I try to instill at The Walking Dead.So I don’t want the writers to censor themselves. Let’s try to come up with the most exciting, rewarding stories that we can, the scariest things that we can and we’ll try it. And if it doesn’t work, that’s okay we’ll pull it back. So there’s a give and take. There’s an experimentation with the form every week.What’s been surprising is how much of it actually works, how far we can push things is really sort of surprising. There have been things that I think we’ve pushed a little too far and we’ve pulled it back, but the line is pretty far out there and it’s pretty exciting. I am interested in The Walking Dead being on the cutting-edge of TV and that’s just what I enjoy as a writer. And that’s something that I think is just important to the DNA of the show now.
I have a couple questions about Hershel’s involvement at the end of the episode. I found it a little strange that Rick allowed Hershel to go down into the valley of the prison after not allowing him to be involved in the initial attack on the prison.And secondly the walker that got him in the calf, I was wondering if there was any thought process as to how it seemed to be dead and jumped to life almost as if he was setting a trap.
Glen Mazzara: Well no – now let me answer the Hershel piece first. If you notice Hershel’s going sort of as, you know, as a medic. I think that they were not sure – you know, when they were going through the field and the courtyard, you know, everybody else has their particular job.Hershel is involved in shooting in the field. He’s killing people at the fence during the courtyard. So it’s just that, you know, Rick and those guys are the front line for those particular kills. But I think anybody could go. I mean Carl could go; anybody could go. Anybody except for really Lori. Anybody’s a viable part of the fighting unit, okay? We just chose those particular characters for that episode.So when Hershel is going, Scott Wilson had this terrific idea that, you know, he’s carrying a medical bag. So the – you know, the axe used to amputate his leg is clean. This is something that they’ve had discussions about throughout the winter. They don’t know if this would work. So he’s going and I think that, you know, he’s a part of that team.So and the other thing they’re obviously very, very afraid of getting lost in the labyrinth of the prison. That’s why Glenn is spray painting the arrows on the walls so that they can find their way back. You know, so I think this was part of the plan.The walker that grabs Hershel, that’s something that I believe we’ve done before. We’ve had walkers not lay in traps, but they’re sort of in a dormant state because they’ve been starved of flesh for a while. We call them lurkers. And then when they’re excited or there are humans they can, you know, spring forth.So this is something that we’ve done; this is something that I’ve discussed ad nauseam with no pun intended, with Greg Nicotero. We have many, many, many, many, many debates about what walkers can do and, you know, I would say that we really try to make our, you know, zombie rules as consistent as possible. So that walker was not laying a trap; it really was lunging because it had been starved and then was sort of springing to life. That was something that we’ve done before and we’ll certainly do again.
Special Thanks to Feren Communications And AMC