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February 06, 2013

‘Walking Dead’: Glen Mazzara talks war, revenge, hope as show returns

Posted in: TV

thewalkingdead 309 2 Walking Dead: Glen Mazzara talks war, revenge, hope as show returns

Carol (Melissa Suzanne McBride), left, Carl Grimes (Chandler Riggs) and Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) in a scene from an episode of "The Walking Dead," "The Suicide King." (Gene Page / AMC)

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Carl Grimes (Chandler Riggs), Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and Carol (Melissa Suzanne McBride) in a scene from an episode of "The Walking Dead," "The Suicide King." (Gene Page / AMC)

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Andrea (Laurie Holden) in a scene from an episode of "The Walking Dead," "The Suicide King." (Gene Page / AMC)

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Andrea (Laurie Holden) in a scene from an episode of "The Walking Dead," "The Suicide King." (Gene Page / AMC)

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Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) and Merle Dixon (Michael Rooker) in a scene from an episode of "The Walking Dead," "The Suicide King." (Tina Rowden / AMC)

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Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) and Merle Dixon (Michael Rooker) in a scene from an episode of "The Walking Dead," "The Suicide King." (Tina Rowden / AMC)

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Andrea (Laurie Holden) in a scene from an episode of "The Walking Dead," "The Suicide King." (Tina Rowden / AMC)

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Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) and Merle Dixon (Michael Rooker) in a scene from an episode of "The Walking Dead," "The Suicide King." (Tina Rowden / AMC)

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The Governor (David Morrissey) in a scene from an episode of "The Walking Dead," "The Suicide King." (Tina Rowden / AMC)

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The Governor (David Morrissey) in a scene from an episode of "The Walking Dead," "The Suicide King." (Tina Rowden / AMC)

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Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) in a scene from an episode of "The Walking Dead," "The Suicide King." (Tina Rowden / AMC)

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Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus), Maggie Greene (Lauren Cohan), Merle Dixon (Michael Rooker) and Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) in a scene from an episode of "The Walking Dead," "The Suicide King." (Gene Page / AMC)

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Maggie Greene (Lauren Cohan), Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) in a scene from an episode of "The Walking Dead," "The Suicide King." (Gene Page / AMC)

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Merle Dixon (Michael Rooker), Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus), Maggie Greene (Lauren Cohan) and Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) in a scene from an episode of "The Walking Dead," "The Suicide King." (Gene Page / AMC)

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Maggie Greene (Lauren Cohan) in a scene from an episode of "The Walking Dead," "The Suicide King." (Gene Page / AMC)

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Merle Dixon (Michael Rooker) in a scene from an episode of "The Walking Dead," "The Suicide King." (Gene Page / AMC)

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Former Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Hines Ward guest stars as a walker in Sunday's episode of "The Walking Dead," "The Suicide King." (Gene Page / AMC)

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Former Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Hines Ward, who also popped up in "The Dark Knight Rises," gets made up as a zombie for his guest appearance in "The Walking Dead." (Gene Page / AMC)

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Former Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Hines Ward, left, and special effects makeup artist Kevin Wasner show off Hines' jersey number in bruises on the back of his head. Hines makes a guest appearance as a walker in Sunday's episode of "The Walking Dead," "The Suicide King." (Gene Page / AMC)

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Former Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Hines Ward on the set of "The Walking Dead." (Gene Page / AMC)

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Former Pittsburgh Steelers receiver and Super Bowl XL MVP Hines Ward guest stars as a walker in "The Walking Dead." (Gene Page / AMC)

When word came down that “The Walking Dead” would be renewed for a fourth season, it was hardly a surprise. The AMC zombie series has become a pop culture touchpoint, bringing in record-breaking ratings and introducing mainstream audiences to the type of expertly crafted horror movie gore that once only devoted genre fans cheered.

Far more shocking was the news that Glen Mazzara would leave his post as show runner, a reportedly amicable parting of the ways that resulted from creative differences between Mazzara and the network. (Mazzara, of course, is the second show runner in just three seasons to part from “The Walking Dead” under mysterious circumstances — series creator Frank Darabont left the show during the production of Season 2.)

The experienced producer is remaining in his position to see through the conclusion of the season, though, a 16-episode arc that translates the story of Rick Grimes’ confrontation with the Governor, the tale first told in Robert Kirkman’s “The Walking Dead” comic book.

Hero Complex sat down with Mazzara earlier this week for a detailed conversation; in part one of the interview, he discusses the direction of the upcoming run of eight episodes, which kicks off Sunday with an installment titled “The Suicide King.” Mazzara also addressed his departure from the series and what lies ahead for him creatively — look for those comments in the next installment.

And beware, some spoilers lie ahead for anyone not fully caught up with the episodes that have previously aired.

HC: At this point, watching “The Walking Dead” is really an emotionally harrowing experience.

Glen Mazzara photographed in May, 2012. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Glen Mazzara photographed in May 2012. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

GM: It’s supposed to feel real, like there are no good choices in this world, and any choice you make could be the difference between life and death. That’s why I think it keeps people on edge. We don’t give you an out. Once in a while we’ll throw something in there — one thing we did in the first half of the season was Daryl holding the baby. If you think of all the horror that we had in the previous episode, with Carl having to put down his mother, his mother with the C-section, we don’t give you any breathing room in that episode. Then in the next episode, Rick is trapped in the tombs, as we call them. At the end of that episode [the scene] of Daryl holding the baby [shows that] it can be OK. Some people thought it was sentimental, but I thought it was earned. If you take out that moment, it’s an incredibly bleak world. It was a little break in the clouds.

HC: There has to be some measure of hope.

GM: I want to show it, I don’t want them discussing if there’s hope. I want to show these little moments of human connection between the characters that show this is a life worth living, that it’s not just people are surviving for the sake of merely surviving, that if Rick’s group comes together they can build a life, they can get on the road to recovery in a sense.

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HC: Does that mean the baby might survive? She obviously does not in the comic book, but seeing her die on screen would be devastating — and potentially alienating to some viewers.

GM: If you think about it, that baby’s a huge problem because that baby cries. The baby doesn’t live in the comic book. That’s all I’ll say. So far, so good for the baby.

HC: What can fans actually expect from the second half of season 3?

GM: We’ve had a lot of fun introducing all these elements that fans know and love from the comic book, Michonne, the Governor, the prison, Woodbury, all that’s up and running. The stage is all set, now it’s a matter of having our characters bump into each other and show a lot of character development, show those character dynamics and show people having to make choices. Now the Governor only has one goal in mind, vengeance against Rick and against Michonne. That puts a lot of pressure on Rick at a time when his sanity is in question and he’s breaking, how much is Rick willing to sacrifice his group to save a woman that he just met? As we see in the midseason finale, Michonne realizes she can’t survive on her own, it will be a miserable existence and sooner or later she’s going to lose that fight. So she wants to join Rick’s group. There are other people who want to join Rick’s group, Tyrese and his group. Rick has a terrible track record with letting people into his group – he’s actually been able to keep this core group alive but now with his sanity in question, it’s a challenge for him even to keep doing that. All of this stuff is in play in surprising ways. The Dixons are their own factor, Daryl is caught between his brother and Rick’s group. Tyrese’s group is another factor. The Governor is yet another. Andrea is caught between the Governor and the innocent people of Woodbury and her loyalties to this other group who on some emotional level she believes abandoned her. It’s odd to think of Michonne going over to a group that Andrea used to be a part of. Everything’s in flux.

David Morrissey plays the Governor in "The Walking Dead." (Gene Page / AMC)

David Morrissey plays the Governor in “The Walking Dead.” (Gene Page / AMC)

HC: Are the people of Woodbury truly innocent? They seem to me to be fairly bloodthirsty to so eagerly accept the notion of brothers being forced to fight to the death.

GM: You can see how they’re manipulated. That’s an army the Governor is trying to raise. If those people are being manipulated and lied to by the Governor and they’re at some point possibly marching on the prison, Rick and his group have to defend themselves against innocent people. That’s an interesting dilemma. Is that a fight worth taking? In a way, if there’s a war coming, how does Rick decide who he’s fighting against? Do these people have anything to do with it? Well, they’re being told one thing. It’s interesting that nothing is as it seems and nobody has a complete picture. Rick sees these people as threatening, Andrea sees these people as being manipulated by the Governor. What does that mean for Andrea, how does she take action to try to stop this coming tragedy? What is Rick’s part? Not only are we faced with the questions of how to stop this war, but all of these complicated interpersonal dynamics are in play. The Andrea/Michonne relationship, the Merle/Daryl relationship, Glenn and Maggie. He wants revenge on the Governor for a personal reason that could compromise the welfare of the entire group. All this stuff is on the table. Now it gets complicated.

HC: Andrea does appear to be on the verge of stepping up in some interesting ways.

Laurie Holden as Andrea and David Morrissey as the Governor in "The Walking Dead." (Gene Page / AMC)

Laurie Holden as Andrea and David Morrissey as the Governor in “The Walking Dead.” (Gene Page / AMC)

GM: She’s thrown into a leadership position. The easy solution is for her to leave Woodbury and go over to the prison, but then what happens? She knows the Governor’s coming for them. Can she affect him in some way? Does she have a responsibility to try to save these innocents? Andrea will be faced with a lot of moral dilemmas. I’m happy to say there’s no big speeches about morality, but she has a lot of interesting moral dilemmas coming up. We have a few episodes with her as the focus.

HC: At what point do you bring the actors into the process, to let them know about what’s in store for their characters?

GM: Very early on. This is something that Shawn Ryan did on “The Shield” and I’ve used it on every show I’ve worked on. At the beginning of each season before we start shooting, the writers will bring in each actor, sit down with them for a few hours to talk about last season, and then we’ll sort of talk in general terms about the emotional arc of the upcoming season. We won’t tell them specifics but we’ll give them specific starting points. Then they realize that contrary to how it feels when you’re getting a script every week that there is a big picture. I invite all the actors to provide feedback on every script and their arcs and to say what feels right and what doesn’t feel right.

HC: The cast is really remarkable. It’s surprising in some ways that “The Walking Dead” hasn’t been as recognized in terms of awards attention as some other series.

GM: I think they’re fantastic and deserved to be acknowledged. That show is grounded because of their performances. There are other shows that are recognized that I’ve read press saying that those other shows don’t feel as grounded as the zombie show. As long as we’re connecting with the fans and our audience is as excited as they are, those awards, they’re nice but that’s not why we do this.

HC: What is it about the series that people connect so strongly with?

GM: I think what’s fun about the show is that it really taps into why people originally went to the movies. There’s a communal experience in a theater where people are sitting down and watching something that’s larger than life and yet connecting to it emotionally. People watch this show together, they watch it with their families, their friends, their co-workers, their boyfriends and girlfriends, and they talk about it. They go online about it, there’s a communal experience because it’s emotional. I think it’s being part of a larger thing that makes it fun. People feel very personally affected by it.

– Gina McIntyre

Follow us on Twitter: @LATHeroComplex

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