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NAB Daily: Session gets to the heart of The Walking Dead

The ‘More of What You Crave: The World of The Walking Dead' session featured AMC Networks president and general manager Charlie Collier, show creator and executive producer Robert Kirkman and actor Steven Yeun.

Introducing Tuesday morning’s session, ‘More of What You Crave: The World of The Walking Dead,’ to a standing-room-only crowd, NAB president and CEO Gordon Smith described the AMC Networks series, vividly detailing the show’s apocalypse survivors, roaming zombies and violent attacks. He then paused and asked, “How’s that for 9 in the morning?”

Moderated by TV Guide executive editor Michael Schneider, the panel featured AMC Networks president and general manager Charlie Collier, show creator and executive producer Robert Kirkman and actor Steven Yeun, who plays audience favourite Glenn.

Focusing on the overarching philosophy of The Walking Dead, the discussion traced the show’s development over the past five seasons and how it has become a pop culture phenomenon, with record ratings, a devoted viewership and an upcoming companion series, Fear the Walking Dead. (When asked about the success of the show, Kirkman joked, “Oh, it all goes to my head.”)

Kirkman — who adapted The Walking Dead for television from a comic book series he began at age 23 and still produces — loves zombie movies, but found he was more interested in what would happen as the movie was ending and, as he said, “the sun rises.” He would ask himself, “What happens next? Where’s this going?”

He confessed that translating the comic to a TV series was a “strange proposition,” and that when working with AMC to develop the series, he “never thought in a million years” it would end up in production. Kirkman laughed as he described the concept of the show: “Human people are dead and eating other people!”

Despite Kirkman’s concern that AMC wouldn’t want to produce “a zombie movie that never ends,” the cable network supported the show. The investment paid off as the show premiered in 2010 as both a critical and commercial success.

In his experience with The Walking Dead, as well as with Fear the Walking Dead, Kirkman has found that “AMC really cares.” They understand the material, he said, and “they ask the right questions.”

Collier said that the show started as a “passion project, and the passion continues.” He said the show’s focus on character development and interaction is what resonates with viewers.

“I love the show for many reasons,” said Kirkman, “but what makes me most excited is how it continues to evolve each season.”

“It’s an actor’s dream,” said Yeun (pictured), who finds that every action and plot development in the show “is purposeful and meaningful.” Yeun said he is most frequently asked by fans if his character is going to die; if that should happen, “you go down as part of history.”

Collier acknowledged that production, with its changing sets, location production and physical challenges, is difficult (“It’s a workout”), but said it’s necessary to make the world of the show “thoughtful and realistic.” He credited Kirkman and the show’s crew for their “clarity of vision.”

Kirkman said the objective of the show is not to solve whatever caused the zombie outbreak or even to disclose what caused it. He emphasised, “It’s dealing with the heart of these characters.”

Collier recounted a conversation with a viewer who said her two favourite shows were Downton Abbey and The Walking Dead. Collier said he understands how that’s possible: “We get to the soul.”

By Cristina Clapp, Digital Video

All content courtesy of NAB Daily, under copyright: © 2015 NAB