The Walking Dead executive producer Gale Anne Hurd is a Comic-Con fan and veteran, but this year might be her biggest yet at the confab. Not only is she part of three separate Hall H panels at SDCC —TWD, spinoff Fear The Walking Dead and the Aliens 3oth anniversary reunion with James Cameron and Sigourney Weaver — but she’s also debuting her new USA Network show Falling Water today.
Amid high fangirl and fanboy anticipation over which TWD character will be killed by the Jeffrey Dean Morgan-portrayed Negan in the Season 7 opener, this is the fifth time the AMC zombie apocalypse series has appeared at Comic-Con. Hurd and Morgan will be joined tomorrow by cast members Andrew Lincoln, Norman Reedus, Steven Yeun, Lauren Cohan, Danai Gurira, Chandler Riggs, Sonequa Martin-Green, Michael Cudlitz, Josh McDermitt, Ross Marquand and Christian Serratos. Fellow EPs Scott M. Gimple, Robert Kirkman, Dave Alpert, and Greg Nicotero will be there too.
Meanwhile it will be the second FearTWD Hall H shindig, and the first time the Aliens crew have been together at the confab.
Today will also see the preview premiere of Falling Water, the supernatural thriller starring David Ajala, Will Yun Lee and Lizzie Brocheré that was created by Blake Masters and the late Henry Bromell. Set to launch in the fall, the Universal Cable Productions series tracks three unrelated people who slowly realize they are dreaming separate parts of a single common dream.
Hinting about what the new season of TWD could bring, Hurd chatted with me about the legacy of the blockbuster at Comic-Con, its Emmy nominations snub this year and why she thinks the Oscar-winning Aliens still holds up. The EP also talked about why she thinks that for her TV is a better medium than film for most storytelling, why SDCC was the perfect play to drop Falling Water, and what she wants to see at the convention.
DEADLINE: So, besides a sneak peek at Season 7 and maybe a premiere date, what surprises should we expect from The Walking Dead panel this year?
HURD: Well, obviously you won’t hear who is Negan’s victim.
— The Walking Dead AMC (@WalkingDead_AMC) July 20, 2016
DEADLINE: Even though you guy have always deviated from Kirkman’s comics, you know fans are scouring them more than ever for hints…
HURD: I know, but Season 7 will be just as much as it has in every other season. Which is there will be panels from the comics brought to life, but there will also be stories that are not in the comic book.
DEADLINE: And Melissa McBride will not be onstage at Hall H this year. Why?
HURD: The big thing really is our cast is so large right now that we couldn’t bring everyone. There’s a limitation at Comic-Con as to how many people can be onstage. So, we would love to have brought everyone, but we couldn’t.
DEADLINE: People are going to read into Melissa’s absence or that of others that they are being killed off, of course.
HURD: I think they read everything into the tea leaves at this point. There have been some very amusing theories based on a lot of sort of speculation based on who’s been in Georgia and who hasn’t. And how often they’ve been there and all of that, which I find very amusing, especially given how large the cast is now. Not everyone is in every episode.
The truth is the Hall H panel is for the most part the people who were where we left them in the last shot of Season 6, that’s sort of the lineup.
DEADLINE: Looking out on to that massive Hall H, what has changed for you and the show at Comic-Con since Walking Dead made its debut at the convention five years ago in Ballroom 20?
HURD: Obviously the first season was a litmus test when we showed the promo piece as to whether people thought we were, one, doing justice to the comic book they knew and loved, but also if we got the tone right and the casting right. So, what’s changed now is that people are familiar with all of that and the amazing thing is just that it’s continued to sustain and the show has been able to evolve, and not just stay the same year after year. I’m sure we’ll be hearing from people, very specifically, what they loved and what they didn’t about Season 6, but that’s the great thing about Comic-Con — it’s up close and personal.
DEADLINE: Speaking of personal, Walking Dead was snubbed again in the Emmy nominations this year, but the Fear The Walking Dead: Flight 462 web series was given two noms. How did that feel?
HURD: We were absolutely thrilled with it. We did a web series for The Walking Dead as well and one year that was not only nominated but also won an award for the Writer’s Guild. But the truth is there is so much worthy and worthwhile content now that you can’t take anything personally. Most importantly, we’ve got the passion of our viewers and they let us know that we have a very, very tight bond with them. Would awards be nice? Sure, but at the same time it’s not why we do a show.
DEADLINE: One of your other Comic-con 2016 Hall H panels is for a film that received several Oscar nominations, 1986’s Aliens. You, director James Cameron, Sigourney Weaver, who got a Best Actress nomination for the film, Bill Paxton and others will all be there. How does the movie look to you looking back?
HURD: As Jim himself said, of all our collaborations, it’s the one that not only really holds up but also it is as beautiful as when it was made. And it’s shockingly state-of-the-art when you consider that there was no CGI back then. It was a real breakthrough film for us and for the horror genre.
Back then there wasn’t the passion for making sequels or remakes that we’re experiencing now. In fact, it was considered a very out-of-the-box move for Fox and a very risky one. Since both Jim and I loved and revered Ridley Scott’s Alien, what we didn’t want to do was remake it. We wanted to, in essence, reinvent it by taking sort of a contained horror film and making it a combat film, a war film. That’s why the tagline on it was, “This time it’s war.” As such, I think there is a universe in which both are not only fantastic you don’t have to choose one over the other, because they’re very different films.
DEADLINE: You’ve done so much work in TV in recent years, do you ever think of going back to features like Aliens, big features?
HURD: I’m never going to say never but obviously the great thing about television is that you get to tell, like with The Walking Dead, 16 hours worth of character-driven storytelling in less time than it takes to make a feature film. So, it really is a medium at least for storytellers who are passionate about not only the genre but also the character-driven genre stories. It’s probably a better medium.
DEADLINE: It does feel like Comic-Con has become almost as much a TV convention as a film one?
HURD: Certainly. I mean, if you look Hall H, Hall H used to be it was almost entirely films. Now there’s both, and some of the most anticipated panels are from television. And I think in television you have an ever-closer bond to the audience because they’re inviting you into your living rooms and their bedrooms 16 hours a year. And they have that relationship with the characters and with the creators. And now, because of social media that’s even a more significant connection.
DEADLINE: There’s a potential for another such connection with your new USA Network show Falling Water, which is being given a debut preview here. Why did you think San Diego was the place for that debut?
HURD: Obviously, Comic-Con has the greatest concentration of people who are interested in this kind of fantastical world and storytelling, and the complexities of character driven science fiction fantasy storytelling. Falling Water was created by not only Blake Masters who will be there too, but the late great Henry Bromell who not only created Rubicon but was an executive producer of Homeland. Henry also worked with Blake on his show Brotherhood, and was just one of the titans in the television business. And Falling Water was the last thing that he’d written. It explores the dream world, it explores how potentially we are all connected through our dreams, and that we could potentially, not only we could be manipulated through our dreams, but the waking world can change as well.
So the Comic-Con crowd has all the reference points for a show like that. They’ve seen everything within the genre that’s relevant, and I think you couldn’t find a better crowd for a show like Falling Water.
DEADLINE: Besides all your panels, and the other activities that go with them, what do you want to see at Comic-Con this year?
HURD: I wish I had time to go to the Game Of Thrones panel on Friday but I don’t. Honestly, I’m going to be sneaking away and going into the hall. I want to go to Artist Alley, and try to catch other people’s panels or meet them at their booth the folks in the comic book industry. Because I’m a geek myself and I still get a charge out of that about being able to have a chat with the top artists and the top comic book creators.