ATLANTA — There is carnage on the streets of the ATL. At least there was, when MTV News went down South, to visit the set of “The Walking Dead.” There we found a horde of living dead prepared to bring Frank Darabont’s live-action adaptation of the hit comic books to life when the series premieres on AMC in October.
We also found Darabont, “Walking Dead” comic creator Robert Kirkman, and many of the creative minds behind the show.
“We have blocks of Atlanta shut down here, and there’s a tank behind me, if you can’t see it,” said Kirkman, who also serves as the series’ executive producer and a screenwriter for two of the first six green-lit episodes.
“Just the scale of everything,” he marveled. “Everything is being done exactly the way I would’ve wanted it. And it’s better than I could have ever envisioned it. The whole thing is just amazing.”
“The Walking Dead” follows a small group of human survivors in a world overrun by flesh-hungry zombies. Unlike zombie stories of the past, however, the comic book series and its small-screen adaptation focus on the effects a zombie apocalypse would have on the people who survive it. Instead of the zombie outbreak, it’s the zombie aftermath.
And what an aftermath it is, as the project’s team brought the devastation of a zombie plague to the streets of downtown Atlanta — complete with overturned vehicles, scattered debris and yes, even a tank.
“We’re going to follow the Robert Kirkman narrative pretty closely, but we’re giving ourselves permission to veer off path and find the interesting detours,” Darabont told MTV News. “We’ve got hundreds of zombies. We’ve got a downed helicopter; it just goes on and on. It’s crazy — all on a TV budget.”
“The cool thing about it is, Frank Darabont, everything that he’s doing is him looking at the book and going, ’I think there’s something here that would make it better,’ ” said Kirkman. “And I’ll be damned if he’s not right every time.”
During our visit to the set, Darabont gave direction to series lead Andrew Lincoln, who plays police officer Rick Grimes, as hundreds of extras in full zombie makeup waited in the wings, ready to crawl, shamble and drag themselves into action. Given the 95-degree temperature on the day of our visit, the performance of the zombie horde was impressive.
“There’s a certain look that we’re going for,” makeup effects supervisor Greg Nicotero told MTV News. “We want real gaunt, real thin features. … Tall, so that then we can make it look like they’re malnourished. So far, we’ve had some great performers, and they bring the makeup to life.”
Darabont said he’d love to make the series a regular part of his career well beyond the first six episodes, much like Kirkman himself has done with the long-running comic book series.
“I’d like to do 20 years of zombie TV,” he laughed. “Every day I’m at the monitors, and I’m going, ’This is really, really cool.’ ”