The Walking Dead Executive Producer Gale Anne Hurd talks about frightening the cast with Season 5’s new walkers and how she celebrates “Skull Friday” with the crew on set.
Q: Season 5 is officially in production! How are things going on set?
A: Everything is fantastic! We’re knocking on wood — it’s been gloriously sunny and while it’s been hot, it at least hasn’t been too humid. So, Georgia is breaking us in a little slowly. It feels like being in elementary school the first day you’re back after summer break. Everyone is so excited and they’re hugging… we really do have one big family. We’ve already, not surprisingly, worked with a few walkers. We’ve really hit our stride now. All of our crew members are completely prepared, our cast is top-notch and confident, the scripts are coming in and we have such fantastic directors.
Q: Tell us about the first day back on set: Any memorable moments stick out for you?
A: Let me see… what can I share?
Q: There’s a better question…
A: [Laughs] Well, we try not to be too flashy with some of our camera work, but we had a super technocrane and being a technology buff myself, it’s really fun when we get to use the big toys.
Q: What’s the biggest lesson you learned from Season 4 that’s being carried into Season 5?
A: I think we continue to learn not only how to do it well, but to make it better each season. We have a little extra time to shoot this premiere episode. One thing we learned is when we come back with a new season and we want to launch it right, we have enough time to do so.
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Q: What’s most important to have in mind when trying to keep the show fresh and interesting?
A: The great thing is Greg Nicotero, our genius and Emmy-winning makeup effects artist, and his team at KNB EFX have something new up their sleeves every season with how they bring the walkers to life. They always manage to come up with something you’ve never seen before, and we try to surprise the cast with it also. So, they’re as surprised and shocked as the audience will be when they see the episodes.
Q: Have you developed an affinity for any specific The Walking Dead character after all these years?
A: Every season, it’s a little bit different. I’m very fickle. Last season, it was Carl because his story was so compelling. Carol’s journey has been a truly remarkable one and Rick is still the leader, even though he loses his way from time to time — but I think I want to be Michonne.
Q: How did this season’s zombie school go? Are you ever tempted to join in the fun?
A: My daughter was a walker on the first season and was able to die on camera, so one [walker] per family. We did have zombie school, as always. It’s our tradition and it’s how we determine which of the extras who are auditioning really fit in and can bring it. There were some standouts this season and we were impressed. I think there will be some new gruesome faces.
Q: Hershel declared Spaghetti Tuesdays last season. Are there any fun weekly rituals you guys have on set?
A: We do Skull Fridays. So, on set, you’ll find the crew wearing skull earrings or skull T-shirts — and I do tweet photos every Friday with a #SkullFriday hashtag. It’s been embraced by the fans, so they pay tribute as well and take photos of themselves and their kids and tweet those with the hashtag.
Q: What are you most looking forward to people seeing in this upcoming season?
A: I’m really looking forward to the premiere, and the reactions that the fans have once we’re back on the air. That’s why we do all this — the cast, the crew — we’re part of a big worldwide family with our fans. The connection, the feedback, the love — and a little bit of hate sometimes — is why we’re sitting here sweating in Georgia. We do it for the fans.