“There’s a lot I can’t tell you, but I will say that even if you follow the comic book, get ready because Season 8 is big and it is badass,” The Walking Dead executive producer Gale Anne Hurd says of the upcoming new season of AMC’s hit zombie apocalypse series.
At New York Comic-Con this weekend for a Madison Square Garden panel on TWD ahead of its October 22 season premiere, Hurd’s doing double duty at the confab again. In 2016, it was TWD and USA Network’s Falling Water, this year it’s the Amazon horror anthology Lore, which launches its six-episode first season Friday, October 13.
Adapted from Aaron Mahnke’s popular and critically acclaimed podcast and first reported by Deadline at NYCC last year, the small-screen version of Lore is the well-versed Hurd’s first experience in the streaming world.
Before today’s Lore panel at the Hammerstein Ballroom on W. 34th Street, I spoke with Hurd and Manhnke, who also has a The World Of Lore book coming out October 10, about the challenges and choices of transforming the popular 2-year-old podcast into a TV show. The always circumspect Hurd also talked about the “All Out War” promised for the new season, the 100th episode-opening Season 8 and what kind of body count to expect this year on the series based on Robert Kirkman’s comics. Touching on the big-bucks lawsuit that Hurd, Kirkman and other recently launched against AMC over profits from TWD, she revealed that “everything is continuing in the best possible way in terms of everyone’s relationship” with the cabler.
DEADLINE: So, how has it been taking Lore from a podcast to a TV series?
HURD: It has been one of the most exciting challenges I have ever undertaken. I didn’t think that 30-some-odd years into my career I could break new ground, but thanks to Aaron and our colleagues on this, we’ve done something brand new.
HURD: I think it’s a natural evolution, for me and for the genre. There is fantastic source material and it really is expanding the genre. What I loved first of all was the podcast. I look forward to every new one and Aaron really doesn’t tell us what’s coming up next. We can be just as surprised as everyone else. The fact is these are true stories and that makes them all the more frightening. They did happen and they happened to real people.
MAHNKE: When you think about horror one of the things that I think about, and maybe this dates me, but I think about scary stories around a fire. About sitting out in the woods around a campfire with friends and telling scary stories. Because you’re in the dark and that’s the mood, and that’s oral storytelling. I mean what better place to dip into for new horror content than a podcast, right? Where you have to tell things just from sound, maybe some background music and the words you speak. So, I think it’s a natural fit and the television show is the next step.
DEADLINE: How do you think fans of the podcast will react to the TV show? Do you worry about pushback or an attitude of leave it like it is?
HURD: Well, the good news is that everyone has had a taste of it with the fantastic trailer that Amazon has already put out. And I defer to Aaron on this, but from what I’ve seen the response has been tremendous. Which is everything from, “I didn’t think it could be done and you’ve done it,” to, “This is the way I’ve always imagined it. Bravo.” But Aaron, you can speak better to how the podcast fans are responding.
MAHNKE: I guess one of the similarities is to compare that to The Walking Dead and with what Gale does with now two shows that exist in a world kind of parallel to the comic book. If you’re a true purist you can just keep reading the comic. We still make them and you still get that experience, and the same translates over to my side. People are still going to listen to the podcast. I haven’t ended it and new episodes come out every two weeks like clockwork. So, that aspect is there and helping us.
DEADLINE: You guys chose a number of different methods to make Lore a TV show, with reenactments, historical footage, animation and more, and of course narration. Why did you go that route?
MAHNKE: Part of the challenge with something like Lore is that even though it’s just audio, just me talking, it is a content hybrid. Because it’s history storytelling, there’s a little bit of teaching and education, and there’s also some documentary parts to it as well. It’s about equipping the listener with facts ahead of time so that when we tell them the story the story has more relevance and it means more.
I see it like giving people 3D glasses before they go into a movie theater to see a 3D film. They see it in a more rich experience that way. So, I still do that with the audio even though it’s just me talking. But with TV there’s more flexibility and more freedom than me just telling more historical details. Now we can show something. We can bring in some historical footage. We can animate something to make that more alive and fresh. And so, I think it does the same thing as I do with the podcast, it just does it in a different way for that medium.
DEADLINE: Are you pleased with the way its turned out for the first six episodes?
MAHNKE: Yes, but also at the end of the day, the stories are the same. That’s what’s so exciting about it to me because the story kind of transcends whatever medium it happens to be in.
DEADLINE: To that, are we going to see any Lore surprises at New York Comic-Con from you guys?
HURD: (Laughs) I don’t know if we can answer that. You’ll definitely see a trailer.
— Gale Anne Hurd (@GunnerGale) October 5, 2017
DEADLINE: Gale, you are double=dipping again at New York Comic-Con with Lore and then a big Walking Dead panel at Madison Square Garden, maybe the last one before the Season 8 debut at the end of this month. So, to shift to the zombie apocalypse, how are things shaping up for this all out war between the Survivors and Negan’s gang that you guys have promised us for the new season?
HURD: There’s a lot I can’t tell you, but I will say that even if you follow the comic book, get ready because Season 8 is big and it is badass.
DEADLINE: After the shocking double killing of Glen and Abraham in the Season 7 opener, it felt like last year was a transitional season to get to the battle royale of this year…
HURD: You know, it’s very similar in tracking the comic book in that if you’re going to set up an all-out war you need to do it in a way where the stakes are as significant as they are going into this season. So, yes, I think you’re dead-on about last season’s purpose.
DEADLINE: The Walking Dead Season 8 opener is also the show’s 100th episode. With Dead still the biggest show on TV, what does it mean to you to reach such a milestone?
HURD: I have to tell you, starting as a feature film producer the idea of a hundred of anything is daunting. The only hundred I’ve ever dealt with before was over a hundred days of shooting on a number of the films that I’ve produced. And to think that in seven years we have produced a hundred episodes of Walking Dead is remarkable. It’s actually more than a hundred right now because we’re shooting our 12th episode of the season currently in Georgia.
But back to the 100th episode, what’s even more remarkable is how much everyone working on the show still loves coming to work every day. I think that our fans can tell that this is a show that we love as much as we hope they do. And that’s a real testament is that everyone still shows up every day excited to be coming to work. And as a producer who comes on set I can’t think of anything better.
DEADLINE: That’s keeping it 100 for you?
HURD: (Laughs) For sure.
DEADLINE: Dead lost a couple of core characters last season — obviously we caught a glimpse of Rick as an old man in the Season 8 trailer. But will we see another big on-screen death this year?
HURD: Let’s just say people will die. Yes, people will die.
DEADLINE: To go to another grisly place of sorts, you, Robert Kirkman, former showrunner Glen Mazzara and others filed a potentially huge lawsuit earlier this summer against AMC over Walking Dead profits and how you feel you were ripped off, to put it mildly. So, as a similar Frank Darabont suit moves forward, where are things at for you in what must be an awkward situation working on AMC’s biggest show?
HURD: Well, obviously I’m on set and everything is continuing in the best possible way in terms of everyone’s relationship with AMC. We’re partners on this show. We’re partners on Fear the Walking Dead and Talking Dead, and everything else outside of my domain.
DEADLINE: In terms of changing domains, having made features, documentaries like Mankiller and of course linear TV like the Walking Dead franchise and Falling Water, what was your inaugural streaming experience like with Amazon for Lore?
HURD: Great, and I love the fact that all six episodes will be available at once and people can enjoy them immediately. But that doesn’t mean that I’m not a fan of appointment viewing. I’m someone who still goes out to the movie theaters. I was up at the Toronto Film Festival watching films. I think that the great news is that however you like to consume content or storytelling there is a medium available to you.
DEADLINE: Aaron, having jumped mediums, what was the most unexpected challenge for you to turn Lore to a TV show?
MAHNKE: So, Lore as a podcast is maybe 25 minutes long. I guess I thought going into this that the challenge would be let’s take a 25-minute episode and double that length, and how do we fill that space? But what ended up being the challenge was there’s so many things to teach and explain, and equip the viewer with along the way, while they’re seeing the story unfold. In the end, I felt like the biggest challenge was making sure we got it all in. Making sure we gave people the pieces that they needed to really fully experience the story.
And I had great partners, because when I see something like the Walking Dead and what Gale does with taking something like literally a black-and-white comic, right, and to bring it to life like that, it’s literally like one of those Wizard of Oz moments where things just kind of click. It’s all about the story. It always is all just about the story and story can go anywhere. Story can be oral, it can be print, it can be video, it can be audio, it can be TV.