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The Walking Dead's Writer, Director and Executive Producer Frank Darabont describes the splendor and horror of Season 2's main set-piece, hints at upcoming tensions among Lori, Rick and Shane and explains why sometimes being the boss bites. New Dispatches From the Set are released every week throughout the production.
Q: How are the first weeks of production going?
A: Tough! It's a very challenging show to do, and this is why it really helps to have a fantastic crew and a really great director. The time I spent on the set was reasonably minimal because I was out scouting other locations and going through a bit of prep, so there's a lot of tromping through fields and picking ticks out of me when I got back to my room. You probably should know that the cast and crew are braving heat, humidity, ticks, every source of disgust you could imagine -- all to entertain you for an hour a week. [Laughs]
Q: Last season was very urban; now you're in the country. What kind of difference does that make?
A: Well it certainly is a great advantage because we're gonna be dropping anchor at Hershel's Farm for most of the season. Last season was so challenging because it was different locations pretty much every episode. Here, we're sorta following the template of the comic book and that puts us at Hershel's Farm for a good chunk of the season. Obviously we range out from there, but it's a primary location for the season and that's a terrific advantage really.
Q: Tell me about this farm you've found.
A: Well, it's got the farmhouse that was built in the late 1800s, I think. It's got such a magnificent, beautiful, Andrew-Wyeth-painting, Southern Gothic feel to it. And then it's also got just a hint of the house from Amityville Horror or from Carrie. It's got this wonderful blend of beauty and isolation and it's just a little bit creepy. Georgia has just provided such magnificent locations for the show. If it were not for the unbearably insufferable heat, it would be perfection.
Q: At least with a longer production, you'll be able to shoot in the Fall...
A: This is what I'm told. I'm told that it actually does get cool there. I don't quite believe it. I think they might be just messing with our heads.
Q: You've said before that you like to treat Robert Kirkman's comic as a road map, even as you veer off the road from time to time. What detours are you planning this season?
A: We're fleshing out the story in so many different directions. Once you're into this with real actors playing these characters, the dynamics develop over time from episode to episode. There's so much rich story and character to plunder. I don't know if we're giving anything away, but... [SPOILER ALERT!] something as simple in the comic books as "Lori gets pregnant" winds up being sort of a fantastic complication on screen. In the story we're telling, it's just not that simple as it was in the comic book because you have those opportunities to really spin the story out in many different layers. So, that kind of stuff is tremendously exciting to me.
Q: You were slated to do some second-unit directing for Episode 201. What did you shoot?
A: The schedule for Episode 1 was brutally tight given the ambitious nature of that episode, so we've had to do more second-unit on this one than usual. I jumped in and directed a sequence involving T-Dog trying to elude a zombie in a big snarl of abandoned cars on a deserted highway. It's a bit of cat-and-mouse in all the dead traffic, and it was terrific fun to shoot. [Special Make-Up FX Artist and Consulting Producer] Greg Nicotero has also greatly contributed as second-unit director. The teaser for Episode 1 is entirely his sequence, and it's our version of the opening of Day of the Dead. Atlanta as it is now, a lot of walkers, a lot of quiet and solitude in the dead city. It's a very cool visual sequence, he did a great job. Greg and I are dyed-in-the-wool horror/zombie geeks, so I know he had a blast doing it.
Q: Are you hoping to direct a full episode later this season?
A: I'm hoping to. You know, being the boss is kinda like being the kid who has to stay in and do homework. Everyone gets to play outside. Yeah, it's hot and miserable, but my God it's fantastic. And I'm just going, "Aww, I've got to go home to L.A. I'm cramming for finals, I guess. While you guys get to play zombies, I'm doing homework."