***Though it's probably obvious, we just want to remind folks that this article is Walking Dead showrunner Glen Mazzara talking about this past Sunday's season finale, and as such is full of spoilers for that episode and the entire second season, so proceed with caution!*** This past Sunday the finale to the second season of The Walking Dead hit a high water mark with 9 million viewers, making it the highest rated cable drama — ever — among adults. Not bad for a show based on a black-and-white comic book by two boys from Kentucky.
Titled "Beside The Dying Fire," this season-ending episode written by franchise creator Robert Kirkman and showrunner Glen Mazzara ended the group's tenure at Hershel Greene's farm and dealt with the death of Shane. It also set up new challenges to be addressed in the next season, such as the popular prison arc from the comic, and the debut of fan-favorite character Michonne.
Catching up with the overwhelming positive reviews and comments from fans, The Walking Dead’s showrunner Glen Mazzara took part in a conference call with the media on Tuesday, sifting through the rubble of season two and looking towards next season and beyond.
The final moments of last Sunday’s season finale gave viewers the first glimpse at the group's expected next destination: a prison, as fated years ago in the comic version of The Walking Dead. Mazzara seemed excited about the storytelling potential of the prison, and the lessons he's learned from season two factor heavily into what comes next.
"I see the prison as a significant storyline moving forward. I know there were some viewers who thought the show stayed on Hershell's farm, but there were reasons for that. When we do reach the prison, we don’t want it to become claustrophobic the way the farm was. The prison represents a very, very small and safe corner, with the danger of zombies at their doorstep.
"The prison will be a significant part of season three, but we're also going to be opening up the world with things such as the Governor and his settlement of Woodbury," the writer said. "There's other factors out there in the world, and Rick's group will begin stumbling into that larger society moving forward."
When asked about Michonne's debut in the final minutes of Sunday's episode, Mazzara expressed excitement for the character's introduction and actress Danai Gurira's future portrayal."I see Michonne as one of the lead characters in the graphic novel, and I'm excited to finally introduce her," Mazzara said. "She’s a kick-ass character with a loner dynamic that makes her an important addition to the cast. She's a significant character, and will carry a lot of stories moving forward."
Mazzara revealed that at the time of filming the aforementioned season finale that Michonne hadn’t been cast yet, leading them to keeping Michonne’s face obscured with the dramatic cloak and camera angles.
"It's wonderful how theatrical Michonne is in the comics, and we brought that in with her debut," Mazzara points out. "Some of the writers had some heightened pitches about Michonne’s part in the show moving forward, but my sensibility is to keep it grounded and gritty."
Mazzara explained that while he wanted to make her as important as her comic book counterpart, he didn't want to make her such an overwhelming character that it turned viewers into spectators with no sense of attachment to the show.
"I think one of the reasons our show is successful is because we put viewers in the action; they’re thinking about what they would do in these situations, whether they’d be dead, or they would shoot someone, or run away," the writer explains. "I'm very conscious about not making this show too serialized or weighed down by an overdeveloped mythology. The best horror movies are those that are simple, and my goal is to keep the show grounded and real. Fitting Michonne into that will be a great challenge."Mazzara looks forward to bringing in other new characters such as Tyrese, as well as revisiting unresolved characters such as Morgan and Duane from the pilot episode.
“I really feel that season one and two were the prologue, and season three really feels like we’re hitting the ground running. I see season three as a rest of the show into what I really hope it can be.”
When asked about how far into production Mazzara’s crew is into season three, the showrunner said that they’ve submitted outlines for the first six episodes to AMC and they’ve worked out pitches for two more episodes. For season three, Mazzara has secured veteran Sopranos screenwriter Frank Renzulli. He's writing an episode of season three on a freelance basis, and worked with Mazzara in the past on the television adaptation of Crash.
On more than one occasion, it was brought to Mazzara’s attention that some viewers thought Lori Grimes was, as one reporter puts it, "irritating." Mazzara refuted that statement bluntly, arguing his intentions for the character in his tenure on the show.
“I think Laurie is a compelling and interesting character,” explains Mazzara. “She’s realistic in a lot of ways, and certainly a character people are talking about. In season three, we really begin to look at Rick and Lori’s relationship and what it means that she put Rick and Shane on a collision course to kill each other.”In terms of the comic, Robert Kirkman has admitted before that he wishes he would have portrayed Lori more compassionately to avoid the derision some readers had for her character, but for his part Mazzara doesn’t see the need to change Grimes for the show.
“”I don’t know if we really need to start creating false beats in the story to make her more likeable.”
One of the reporters in the conference call asked about T-Dog, a long-time character of the show who was shifted to the background in season 2.
“I admit that T-Dog has been off to the side and forgotten recently. Part of my goal when I became showrunner was to really develop Rick’s character and other stuff, and poor T-Dog was left off to the side. Actor IronE Singleton’s really done a fantastic job of establishing the T-Dog character despite having very little to say. I think moving forward, the strength of the show is allowing characters like him to develop in a significant way. We haven’t done our work with T-Dog, but the writers are going to get to that.”
Mazzara was questioned briefly about the death of Dale in the show and how it veers from The Walking Dead comic series in which Dale lives on for longer. The showrunner says that while the comic inspires them, they’re not above taking a new path in service of the story.
“We’re not so devoted to the source material that we’ll shy away from a new angle to tell this story,” the writer expressed. When asked about the romance between Dale and Andrea in the comics and how his death changes that, Mazzara said it wasn’t something the show writers were interested in exploring.On a similar topic, Mazzara wrapped up the conversation with a question about pleasing fans of The Walking Dead comic while not being tied down to a strict adaptation of the source material. The showrunner was upbeat in his answer, and confident in what he’s done so far.
“Well, I hope they’re happy with what we’ve done so far. I think we’ve stayed true to the heart of Robert Kirkman’s work in the comic, and I think fans will be pleased with our plans for Michonne and the Governor coming up,” says Mazzara. “We certainly deviate from the material, but not from the heart of the story. The fans of the comic have been supportive so far, and I hope they’ll continue.”FACEBOOK and TWITTER!