Walking Dead executive producer and showrunner Glen Mazzara along with series star Steven Yeun recently chatted with press about Season 3, and some of those powerful moments in last week’s season premiere. From the powerful opening scene that contained no dialogue to what happened in the gap between Season 2 and now, both Mazzara and Yeun gave us as many details as they could! Check out the interview below!
The opening scene of last week’s premiere was incredibly powerful with no dialogue at all. Can you walk us through this scene in the script and how it came to be?
Glen Mazzara: That’s a funny question. Yes everything you saw it was scripted from opening on the walker’s eye to pulling back to the door breaking open.
The entire sequence was scripted, you know, word for word and I think Ernest Dickerson did a great job shooting it and of course the cast knew exactly what to do, you know?
We wanted to advance the story and, you know, last time we saw this group they were by the campfire and there was a lot of chatter and a lot of, you know, questioning and anxiety and I just thought it was important to – since we were doing the time jump to show that these groups come together and they can pick up each other’s body language and subtle queues.
And we didn’t really need any dialogue and AMC embraced it, AMC loved it. They thought it was a cinematic opening. I think everybody just, you know, got on board and just – it just felt right. And I don’t know, Steven, did you – what did you think about it when you were, you know, playing it?
Steven Yeun: I mean it was just right. I mean, you know, the tone – I mean the tone is what we’re trying to hit and I think we hit it. I mean I can’t really say it in more words than that.
I had read that you said you were told that the season premiere was too big. It was unshootable and you shot it anyway. With the prison set it just seems this is more ambitious. Not just the season, but in particular this episode. What type of challenges did you face not only writing the first episode, but also getting it shot and getting it approved.
Glen Mazzara: Well writing it was actually sort of easy believe it or not. I wrote that episode pretty quickly because I had it – I was just lucky. I just had it shot by shot in my head, you know?
Obviously Ernest did a great job of bringing it to life and everything, but I really did get the sense of the story that we wanted to tell and where we wanted to advance the characters and what I wanted to hit and everything.
So we had done a lot of work as writers and producers and spent a long time discussing where our starting point and so there was a tremendous amount of prep work that went into the writing. But the script was actually one of the most fun that I’ve ever had the opportunity to write. I really just loved writing that script. It was just so much fun.
When it was written, you know, imagine how a script like that reads. Rick runs up and hacks a walker and Glenn runs behind him and stabs another walker. And Maggie kills a third. And, you know, so it reads like, you know, a battle and that was not something that I think is usually done on AMC.
So when this originally came in people said, “Okay how is this going to work? Is this – are we – you know, is the show amping up the violence?” “Is the show becoming a video game or something like that?” But then there were all these character moments that were then earned and when it all came together on film everybody said, “Yes that’s the show.” Everybody understood.
So there wasn’t any problem of getting it approved. AMC’s been incredibly supportive of the vision that we’ve as producers and writers have laid out for the show and, you know, they’re extremely happy with the show creatively. I think shooting-wise, you know, we had nine days to shoot that episode. Ernest is a veteran director, but we had, you know, particular gags that we didn’t have time to get to.
We had a couple of things that were cut. And then also we had – there’s actually a deleted scene; there’s a very funny deleted scene that, you know, had to be cut for running time.
So it was just so much story. I was so excited to be back that I was just sort of, you know, had a big, grand, you know, statement to say that it was all there I think and we were just trying to figure out okay how do we logistically shoot this, how many walkers do we need in the field, how many walkers do you need in the courtyard, how do get this done.
And, you know, there was actually another scene in the prison. We call those dark corridors, the tombs. There was a sequence that we just ran out of time and didn’t get a chance to film. So it was just a matter of just film making, but I’m very, very happy with this episode. I think we made all the right cuts and I don’t think you look at that episode and think anything’s missing.
Steven Yeun: I remember shooting that and, you know, Ernest always is crazy.
Glen Mazzara: Yes we torture Ernest. We torture Ernest.
Steven Yeun: Yes Ernest is awesome and that episode was so fun. And, you know, I think that’s just – the question is there. You know, you put all that stuff on the page and people think it can’t be done and everyone just kind of, you know, mans up and does it.
And I think that’s kind of been a running theme with our show. I think a lot of stuff is stuff that people probably wouldn’t believe how we shoot it and how fast we do it. But we do it and it works. And I guess that’s something that I’m very proud of.
Glen Mazzara: Yes let me jump in. Again like what you see there, that sense of scale continues throughout the rest of the season. We don’t pull back from that. So you may not have as many zombies, you know, zombie killing as in that episode because that’s maybe not that story.
But the scope of what this cast and crew and this entire production outfit can do week after week is pretty staggering. I mean we have this one episode in the back half of the season that’s just huge and could play as the season finale and it’s just the episode of the week.
So I’m really, really impressed with the level of film making that this crew in Georgia can produce every week. It’s fantastic. So we just write big and they get it done. And very, very few times have we been asked to pull something back because we can’t do it. We may have to make cuts because, you know, we do have limitations.
But it’s really impressive what the crew can do.
We learned in the Season 2 series finale that Rick knew the entire group was infected with a virus and I’m wondering if we’re going to get any more answers about this in this season?
Glen Mazzara: Yes, I’m – you know what; I’ll just say no we’re not going to learn more scientific information about the virus. You know, that was a unique sort of circumstances that they were talking to a scientist at the CDC.
I think the story that we’re interested in telling is more in line with Robert Kirkman’s book in which, you know, everyday people have very, very limited information and it’s about what do they do with that limited information. So we will have characters trying to figure out, you know, the nature of the virus.
We do introduce a character named Milton that will be part of the governor’s crew who is trying to solve the walker problem, but he’s not a scientist. So it’s really about people with no answers trying to make do.
With the time jump from Season 2 until now, is there any chance we’re going to get to see what happened in between then and now?
Glen Mazzara: The time jump was necessary for two reasons. Is, one, we wanted to advance the story to the point where Lori is, you know, about to give birth. That we feel a tremendous amount of pressure on the group. We felt that applied to maximum pressure, okay that’s one thing.
Two is just production-wise we pick up shooting in the summer and we didn’t feel that, you know, that it would be plausible to try to fake winter or something like that.
I am interested in shooting a winter sometime and perhaps if we, you know, change the production schedule in a future season or whatever, I think that would be interesting. But this time I felt that it was worthwhile to have the time jump and let the audience try to catch up.
So I will say I’m not interested in going back and doing any flashback episodes about what happens to this group and how they got there. You’re seeing the story that we want to tell and, you know, we have a great story for Season 3 that we’re excited about. So I think we’ve picked the right entry point and, you know, the story is about moving forward in the next 15 episodes for the 16 episode total.
So that’s just the point we chose.