First to take the stage at the panel are AMC TV Sr. Vice President of Creative programming Joel Stillerman, makeup specialist Greg Nicotero, co-producer Gale Anne Hurdeshow, show creator Frank Darabont, and Walking Dead comic book creator Robert Kirkman.
- Gale Anne Hurd Kicked things off by talking about the Eisner-nominated comic series, The Walking Dead, and how the quality of that comic attracted AMC to the show.
- Frank Darabont talks about his interest in the show being a combination of George Romero nostalgia and the love of Kirkman’s approach, which keeps the zombie madness grounded in a very human story.
- Stillerman talks about the worldwide launch of The Walking Dead TV series in October: the show will launch simultaneously all over the globe in one of the biggest TV launches in recent memory.
- Kirkman talks about how proud he is that he found the perfect live-action format for “The Zombie story that never ends,” and how he always knew a film was impossible – but “Zombie TV“? Very possible. He’s not worried about the showrunners adapting his work.
- Nicotoro describes the “Zombie school” that took place in Atlanta, GA, in order to cast zombies who both “looked” the part to begin with, and actors who would give each zombie character, instead of having a mob of zombies all doing the same thing.
- Kirkman passed on the chance to play a zombie in the show; Walking Dead artist Charlie Adlard totally went for it.
- Gale Anne Hurd describes each of Walking Dead‘s six initial episodes as “a one-hour movie.” The goal was to tell a complete tale in each episode of the show. Frank Darabont adds that while they are honoring the source material, “detours” will be taken that will keep the show unexpected and interesting for both fans and non-fans of the comic.
- Kirkman adds that he wants the comic and show to exist separately, and that new stories that the show spawns will be interesting and will “blow you away.”
- Stillerman is talking about the process of fleshing out AMC’s already impressive lineup (Mad Men, Breaking Bad) with a show like Walking Dead – about zombies. It’s an unexpected way to go, but one that promises to be exciting.
- Darabont announces that Bear McCreary (Battlestar Galactica) will be composing the show. The crowd goes NUTS.
- Darabont adds that the heat where the film in Georgia is so intense he lost about 15 pounds. The quoted temperature on a sun-baked rooftop of their set is 150° – I’m sure it’s not that hot, but still, you get the idea…
- Nicotero describes trying to keep the makeup right in the heat. Don’t want your zombies melting – he says nobody wants to eat with them at the lunch table as it is.
And here comes the first footage screened from The Walking Dead:
- The first scene is of a sheriff’s dept on a high speed chase after some crooks. A gunfight ensues and Sheriff Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) is shot. He slips into a coma and wakes up 28 Days Later style in a new world – that’s being overrun by zombies. His wife and son are gone, and the dead are everywhere. Grimes gets himself armed and rides out on horseback toward Atlanta to search for his wife and son. At one stop, he is forced to draw his gun on a young girl zombie. Cut to black.
- Next is a montage of different scenes from the series, including Grimes on the hunt for his family, tragic scenes of characters facing zombie versions of their friends and family, and lots and lots (and I do mean lots) of zombie-killing moments.
- The footage ends with Grimes waking up in a tank, only to find a horde of zombies waiting outside the hatch.
- By the way: these zombies move like your average human being – but they look nothing like one. Fantastic makeup work.
- The series looks dark, gritty, emotionally gripping and just…great. Another AMC winner.