Cue the zombies: The Walking Dead returns with a vengenance-The Vancouver Sun

Cue the zombies: The Walking Dead returns with a vengenance-The Vancouver Sun

They creatures are back, deranged, sinister and ever so hungry

By Chris Lackner, Postmedia News

SAN DIEGO — The Walking Dead are back among us . . . deranged, sinister, shambling and ever so hungry. The only difference? In Season 2 of AMC’s zombie drama, it’s getting harder and harder to tell man from monster.

In 2010, a six-episode launch wet viewers’ appetites for more rotting zombie flesh and bone. While they’ve had to wait nearly a year for more episodes, series star Sarah Wayne Callies (who plays mother and wife Lori Grimes) said it’s more than worth the wait.

“Now we can really do things that are scary; now we can really do things that are dangerous,” she said this summer at Comic-Con, the annual pop-culture convention in San Diego, hinting at the perks of a 13-episode story arc for their sophomore year. “The scripts this season are unprecedented; they are the best television scripts I’ve ever seen. The great thing about Season 2 is that you start to realize that the most dangerous things out there are the monsters inside.”

The 90-minute premiere follows last year’s gripping season finale, which ended with the explosion of Atlanta’s Centers for Disease Control — and the rag-tag band of survivors of a zombie apocalypse learning that there is likely no help on the way. The government is probably dead and gone, along with civilization and any probable chance for a cure to the zombie virus. Their only hope to stay ahead of the tireless, bloodthirsty “walkers” lies in co-operation, cunning and chance. Their biggest challenge: to hold onto shreds of their humanity in a world that has become savagely inhumane.

Jon Bernthal (who plays conflicted ex-cop Shane) summed up the season best in a new AMC promo: “Last year was sort of the introduction to this world. It’s a big cut, and now we’re slicing it, opening (it), going inside of it. There’s going to be some really, really tough decisions to make, and it’s going to be pretty sloppy and messy.”

Ladies and gentlemen, get ready to go down the zombie-infested rabbit hole.

Robert Kirkman is the original twisted mind behind the story of Rick Grimes (played by Andrew Lincoln) and his ill-fated band of less than merry men and women. Kirkman is the creator of the celebrated comic-book series that gave the show life.

Kirkman, also one of the show’s executive producers, admitted that its success (it’s AMC’s highest-rated show ever, easily topping the network’s award-winning series Mad Men and Breaking Bad) adds a certain amount of pressure for the second season.

“It’s just made everyone work harder,” he said at Comic-Con. “It’s empowered us to try harder, to cross more lines, to do bigger things, to tell bigger stories, (just) knowing there’s that rabid fan base out there, saying loud and clear that we love the show.”

Kirkman said he never expected his dark, brooding series to work on television.

“I was kind of the mind that it would never, ever be a . . . show, because it is dark and it is zombies. The idea of the show is that people get eaten and torn apart, and that’s not something that you see on television every day.”

The new season will offer a sea of new faces — both undead and living. But while the endless stream of zombie extras give the show its terror, it’s the human beings who give it its heart. Early in the new year, the series’ regulars will come across the family farm of Hershel (Scott Wilson), an old man holed up with his remaining family and their companions. They will include farmhand Otis (Pruitt Taylor Vince) and Hershel’s daughter Maggie (Lauren Cohan), a potential love interest for series regular Glenn (Steven Yeun).

Away from the zombie-infested cities and roadways, the rural setting will force the two groups to start thinking about long-term survival, and what’s in their respective best interests. But if the comic-book version is any indication, the farm’s country paradise will not be all that it first seems.

Michael Zegen (Rescue Me) is also poised to join the show this season as Randall, a skinny southern kid with a unique zombie-related backstory.

Meanwhile, Laurie Holden’s character Andrea will deal with the fallout of her sister Amy’s death: “Season 1 was very challenging with the death of Amy, because she was the love of my life. . . . I think I cleansed when we finished shooting, because I had an emotional intensity I had to go through for the whole season,” Holden said. “Everyone has got their own little challenges in Season 2, every character is pushed to the max. I think people are going to be so thrilled.”

One unresolved conflict is the love triangle consisting of Rick and Lori Grimes and Shane, Rick’s best friend and former police partner. In the first season, we learned Shane and Lori became lovers after they apparently thought Rick was dead. In the comic book, Shane dies early on, succumbing to jealousy and insanity. But the TV show’s creators chose to keep him alive, which has set the show down a completely different path. Kirkman calls it an “alternative dimension” from his source material.

In a series strewn with bloody bodies and animated corpses, the biggest casualty of the series so far was the sudden, unexpected loss of showrunner Frank Darabont. Shortly after Comic-Con, the TV show’s creator was dismissed by AMC (in an alleged dispute over the show’s budget) and replaced by his second in command, Glen Mazzara — a move that seemed to surprise even Mazzara himself.

While the cast was loyal to Darabont, they seem devoted to the show’s continued success.

“This will always be Frank’s show,” Jon Bernthal recently told Entertainment Weekly. “This is Frank’s creation. Frank is the heart and soul, and, as far as I’m concerned, he always will be. . . . He’s one of my heroes and I miss the hell out of him. That being said, this cast and this crew loves the heck out of each other, we love the heck out of this show, and nothing was going to slow us down or keep our eyes off the prize.”

The zombies themselves also promise to have a new look this season, according to the show’s special-effects guru, Greg Nicotero. New zombie prosthetics and contact lenses are in the cards.

At Comic-Con, Nicotero said it takes 90 to 105 minutes to put an undead face on each zombie extra. By the end of filming the second episode, Nicotero’s special-effects and makeup team has already created 400 zombies.

Beyond the excruciating prepping process, being a zombie has other downfalls.

“If you notice, when you look at the zombies, we have a little mouth rinse that we blacken the mouth and their tongues with, so there’s no pink inside the mouth — and that stuff tastes disgusting,” Nicotero said. “I feel bad for the zombie extras, but we tried icing, we tried everything you could think of to get that colour away. So literally, if you walk on set when we have 80 or 100 zombies, there’s always these black puddles around (the set), because we rinse their mouths and they spit it out.”

Nicotero also recently told AMC about another new zombie look: “There’s a fine line between glueing a wound on someone’s cheek and making them look like they’re decomposing. . . . I had our sculptors create some prosthetic pieces that would go over the brow and onto the cheekbones, so it would make the eyes look a little more sunken in and make the bone structure more pronounced. We’ve been using these pieces a lot more than we were last season, so we’re getting more of a skull-like look to the walkers.”

While the zombie extras worry about staying black, the show’s central character Rick Grimes will further slide into darkness — a transformation from morally upright hero to morally challenged leader. Lincoln said Rick “shoulders all the responsibility, and takes blame for things that aren’t necessarily his fault.”

Kirkman said the TV show would take its time with Rick’s evolution. “The comic-book series has been going for so long that I’ve had the time to . . . do all these horrible things to Rick Grimes that make him turn into the character he’s become. All I can say is, I think the plan is to get there. It’s not something we can rush.”

The Walking Dead’s second season premieres Sunday, Oct. 16 at 9 ET/PT, with a 90-minute episode on AMC (and six more episodes to follow). The final six episodes of the new season will begin Feb. 12.

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