"Fear the Walking Dead" Interview: Creator Robert Kirkman!
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[Interview] “Fear the Walking Dead” Creator Robert Kirkman!

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In 2010, millions of people watched in horror as a deadly virus decimated the better half of Atlanta, Georgia, transforming ordinary people into flesh-eating monsters. Our hero, Sheriff Rick Grimes, was left alone and defenseless in an abandoned, graffiti-tagged, vandalized hospital; surrounded by the empty, animated shells that the virus had claimed, staring into faces that had once been human, now out for blood. As the show trudged onward, we witnessed a tale of surviving horror, seeing Rick reuniting with his family, struggling to survive in an a dangerous land, permeated with “walkers” (a term coined for the lifeless zombies with a insatiable lust for flesh), as he loses his grasp on his sanity, and finds enemies at every turn. We came to learn that in this futuristic world, a farm is the most valuable piece of property around, with food and bullets coming in as close seconds and thirds. By this point, we’ve learned what to expect from this stylized, Western-based drama about people trying to survive the end of the world in these small Southern towns, but what about the rest of the country? What’s going on in the bigger, more highly populated cities, where the virus would spread like wildfire through the packed bumper-to-bumper streets? Enter “Fear the Walking Dead”, a spin-off companion series from the man who brought us “The Walking Dead”, celebrity comic book author Robert Kirkman.

“Fear the Walking Dead” offers a different perspective of the outbreak, as it follows a group of civilians in the Los Angeles area as they deal with the impending doom of the end of times in the big city. Set for six one-hour episodes scheduled to air in the summer of 2015, this glimpse at the rest of the globe will offer a look at the outbreak on the West Coast as it happens, with an entire new story and fresh faces to guide us through the apocalyptic wasteland. Along with Kirkman, “Walking Dead” veterans Gale Ann Hurd and SFX connoisseur Greg Nicotero return to produce the show, which will hit AMC in July 2015.

Bloody Disgusting was lucky enough to speak with series creator Robert Kirkman in a press conference call Friday morning, and was pleased to learn that although this franchise is rooted in “The Walking Dead’s” infected, post-civilization scenario, this take on the end of the world will be unlike anything we’ve seen so far. Read on to learn more about the show, and don’t forget to catch the series when it airs on AMC later on in the year.

Many people have wondered if the characters on “Fear the Walking Dead” are simply roles that were left out of the original comic books or TV show that are now being filled with the arrival of a new show. However, Kirkman quickly dismisses the idea that these characters have any connection to the past, and emphasizes the importance of starting fresh with a new group of people.

It really kind of sprang about with the idea of doing another show. I think when AMC came to me asking about the possibility, you know, would I be interested in doing a companion to ‘The Walking Dead’, my mind kind of went into the mode of, you know, I created ‘The Walking Dead’ when I was twenty-three, and I was like, thirty-four, thirty-five at the time when we started developing this, and I mean, the competition was myself. I wanted to see if I could come up with something cooler, or more unique, or what old, tired, sad Robert Kirkman thinks about the apocalypse as opposed to the young, energetic version that did the first comic. And it turns out that old, sad, tired Robert Kirkman could develop with Dave Erickson. So, you know, working with Dave, he and I came up with all these characters and created this world, this Los Angeles version of ‘Walking Dead’. So, there are no leftovers, or B-sides, these aren’t people that fit into ‘Walking Dead’ in the comic or anything like that. This is an all new cast created specifically for this show.

When it came to the visual style of the show, Kirkman went on to explain how this spin-off will break away from the usual Western-style that we’ve all grown accustomed to in “The Walking Dead”, to a more sleek, city-centric aesthetic captured through a digital medium:

Well one of the things that was really important to us from day one was that this show stand alone. We want it to stand alone story-wise, character-wise, and we wanted it to have its own corner of the universe and then all of that extended to what our visual take for the show would be. A big portion of that came from Adam Davidson, our director for our pilot ‘Fear the Walking Dead’. He’s going to be directing a fair number of episodes of the show moving forward. He was able to come up with a just a unique vision of Los Angeles as a city and also bring some very different flavor, like much more, I mean, I’m not a director, so I can’t verbalize as well as he probably could, but suffice to say that when you watch ‘Fear the Walking Dead’ it’s going to look very visually different than the way that ‘The Walking Dead’ looks. For one, we’re not shooting on 16mm, this is actually shot digitally, so there’s going to be a very different feel to the show, which is really exciting and I can’t wait for people to see it.

When it came to the narrative of “Fear the Walking Dead”, Kirkman reiterated the significance of starting over with little to no ties to “The Walking Dead”, noting that this show will start on a vastly different note than its predecessor.

I think the most surprising thing about the show for fans is we’ll be pointing out all of the things that we glossed over on the other show. I think that having Rick wake up in his coma was certainly a fun dynamic and a great way to open the original show, but actually watching civilization crumble around these people and getting to experience them learning how to adapt in a much faster way, with much more danger and much more uncertainty is going to make this show very different. But one thing I think the show is going to provide a very unique experience for people even if they have watched the first five seasons of ‘Walking Dead,’ so I think it’s going to be pretty cool.

When asked if this show would play on a greater sense of paranoia and psychological horror as opposed to outright blood and guts, Kirkman made a point to assure audiences that there would be just as much action as the popular predecessor, but also shed light on the look of the new zombies, and how they’ll play a large role in finding a new angle of sympathy to play on in this perception of the apocalypse.

We’re definitely going to have a different look to the zombies because this is much earlier in the outbreak and so they’re not going to be as decayed, and they’re not going to look as monstrous, which to me, I think, is going to make the violence in the show and other things that happen that much more startling because we’re going be dealing with a much more human walker. So, while there is going to be a tremendous amount of paranoia and psychological trauma, I think that there’s not going to be any loss of zombie action or excitement in the show as well, so I think we’ll be bringing you the best of both worlds.”

Expanding on the commentary about the amount of action in “Fear the Walking Dead” in comparison to “The Walking Dead”, and commenting on the possibility of a grander scale and larger set pieces due to new, more urban areas in Los Angeles, Kirkman promised that there would be plenty of grandiose set designs, but also felt that season six of “The Walking Dead” will feature just as much of a massive production.

I think that because we’re in a metropolitan setting and because of its pretty epic surrounding that the characters are in, I think that there will be some cooler things like that, but as far as scale and scope I think that both shows have a pretty equal footing when it comes to epic things and I know that what we have planned for season six of ‘The Walking Dead’ is pretty epic. But honestly, I haven’t really considered the competition that the two shows will be in as far as like grandeur and that kind of thing, but I don’t think that ‘Walking Dead’ itself was ever lacking for any kind of big, crazy set pieces, but having the show set in Los Angeles, I think there’s probably going to be more chaos, especially in the first season, and then moving into our second season, just because we are watching civilization crumble, and there is a tremendous amount going on, and the story is going to move very quickly. So, I would expect it to be a little more epic than the first season of ‘The Walking Dead’ was.”

Of course, curiosity abounds about the origin of the outbreak, but Kirkman stressed that this aspect of the “Walking Dead” world is an unnecessary component to the companion show, and therefore, will only be briefly touched on.

You know, that’s not an important aspect of the story. I think that walking through ‘The Walking Dead’ you’ll get a bigger picture of the world and there will certainly be aspects of watching civilization crumble that will give you a better insight into what is happening here but as far as digging down to find the smoking gun, and realizing what that cause is, it’s really just unimportant to the overall story, and you’ll see when you start watching the show that I think if we were to do a spin-off of ‘The Walking Dead’ and it was about a bunch of scientists that were working to find the cure and figure out the origins, that would bore me to tears, and I don’t really know where that show goes, so we’re definitely keeping it interesting and doing some cool stuff, and I think struggling in a world where civilization is breaking down is more interesting than trying to fix a virus. So, that’s not an angle that we’re taking.

What Kirkman did find important, however, were the connections between the characters, and playing on the family dynamics in the show, as opposed to previous encounters between strangers and individualistic perspectives.

You know, we have a lot of individuals or strangers in ‘The Walking Dead’, and one of the things we were trying to play with in this tight family is the concept of an extended unique family. What we have are Madison and her family, and Travis and his family, and they’re building a relationship. They’re getting ready to be married, and civilization is crumbling around them, and they both have kids from separate marriages, and it’s an interesting family dynamic to deal with, and a unique story by having all of the intricacies and struggles that come from that kind of family dynamic, and setting it against the fall of civilization and the fate of the zombie apocalypse just makes things that much more interesting. So, there’s a lot of interesting family dynamics that we’re going to be delving into in ‘Fear the Walking Dead’ that has yet to be explored in ‘Walking Dead’, so I think that’s one of the many things that lends to these shows being different, and being able to exist together without any kind of overlap.

When asked to discuss his casting choices, Kirkman only had the most positive words to say about his leading actors, Kim Dickens and Cliff Curtis.

Kim Dickens, she’s been so great in things like ‘Gone Girl,’ and ‘Deadwood,’ and ‘Sons of Anarchy,’ and she’s someone that I’ve wanted to work with for a long time, and there’s a strength to Madison that is something that is inherent in pretty much every role that she’s done. She just kind of exudes this confidence and strength of character that is embodied in character of Madison. Cliff Curtis, he’s Travis, this is a guy that you’ve seen him in a billion things, he’s a fantastic actor. He’s so every man. He has the ability to be the action star, but he has this softness; this kindness to him that I think, seeing the way that Travis and Madison work together as a team, one thing that I’m excited about is Travis and Madison, these are two characters that are very much in love. You know, when you’re watching cable you have television shows that deal with the breakdown of relationships and instability and people not getting along and people being torn apart, and this is a show that is very much about two people that, they’re a team, first and foremost. They back each other up, they respect each other, they love each other. And you know, watching these two people survive in this world together and watching how they lean on each other and watching how it sometimes pulls them apart, but often times, it brings them closer together as they continue to survive together, it’s really going to be the core of this show.

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