This weekend, hordes of flesh-hungry zombies will finally shamble their way from printed page to television screen as AMC premieres its new post-apocalyptic horror series "The Walking Dead" on Halloween night.
Based on writer Robert Kirkman's long-running comic book series that debuted in 2003, "The Walking Dead" chronicles the trials and tribulations of former Kentucky police officer Rick Grimes as he struggles to first find then protect his family in a nightmarish landscape where corpses walk and living humans are an endangered species.
The premiere of "The Walking Dead" culminates just over a year of casting, filming and near-constant conversation about the project among comic book and horror fans, and puts Oscar-winning filmmaker Frank Darabont ("The Shawshank Redemption," "The Mist") in the director's chair for the pilot episode, "Days Gone Bye." No stranger to horror fare, Darabont also serves as executive producer of the series, and wrote or co-wrote each episode in the initial six-episode arc.
When MTV News visited the set of "The Walking Dead" in June, the fan-favorite auteur discussed the project amid overturned cars and abandoned military vehicles in a closed-off section of downtown Atlanta — with a massive crowd of background actors made up to look like zombies milling about just a few feet away.
Comparing the tone of the series to a classic western, Darabont likened lead actor Andrew Lincoln to well-known Hollywood heroes of the Old West, such as "High Noon" star Gary Cooper.
"I always kind of knew it, but it really came home as we've been shooting the last few days — it really does turn into a Western at times," Darabont said. "You see [Lincoln] riding into the dusty streets of the town here, only it happens to be Atlanta with these skyscrapers, [and] it's a very cool mix of visual elements. There's a little John Ford meets 'I Am Legend' thing going on here."
Kicking off with a 90-minute premiere, "The Walking Dead" has AMC hoping it has yet another award-winning series on its hands to tout alongside such recent hits as "Mad Men" and "Breaking Bad." In fact, Lincoln recently told MTV News it was the latter of those two series that inspired Darabont's approach to "The Walking Dead."
"He said, 'I want you to watch two things,' " Lincoln said of his early conversations with Darabont about the role. " 'Breaking Bad,'
which is a show he was a huge admirer of, so I rewatched the first series. And he said, 'Watch Gary Cooper,' so I watched 'High Noon.' "
For Darabont, the tonal connection between the two projects was so significant that he recruited "Breaking Bad" director/producer Michelle MacLaren to direct the series'
Still, despite the connections between "The Walking Dead" and any existing movie or television projects, Darabont and the series'
creative team and cast have remained adamant about one aspect throughout the project's development: The source of its appeal lies firmly in the characters, tone and visual foundation established by Kirkman and the comic book's artists, Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard.
"What I find is that we're very much on course with the philosophy we approached the show with," Darabont told MTV News earlier this month.
"From the very first, I always said to Robert Kirkman, 'I want to follow the narrative path you've laid out, but I want to take as many interesting detours and step off the path for a little bit as [much as] we can, as long as it feels organic to the overall.' "
"The Walking Dead" premieres Sunday, Halloween night, at 10 p.m. ET on AMC.