Ahead of the return of AMC's The Walking Dead this Sunday, executive producer Gale Anne Hurd talked to Deadline about the exit of showrunner Glen Mazzara, the involvement of comic book creator Robert Kirkman, and the similarities to its 9:00 PM competitor, PBS's Downton Abbey.
Unsurprisingly, Hurd didn't have much to say when asked about the circumstances surrounding Mazzara's departure, noting only that he saw the next season "in a different light" than AMC. With writer Scott Gimple taking over as showrunner for Season 4, Hurd doesn't believe there will be a noticeable difference.
"We have the same writers' room who'll be contributing to all the episodes as we had before," she explained. "We have Greg Nicotero and Robert Kirkman and producer Dave Alpert are still very strong voices. So I don't think you'll see a shift at all."
The first half of Season 3 set a phenomenal pace and exceeded expectations before its midseason finale in December. In its absence, Hurd pointed out that she has grown accustomed to watching Downton Abbey on Sundays at 9 PM and compared the two series, despite their obvious differences: "I like to think that we have a lot of the same type of moral issues and ethic issues that the cast [of Downton Abbey] has to deal with – ours is just in a heightened state."
Robert Kirkman, the writer of the original comic book series, has taken a lot of flak from fans and others in light of all the changes behind the scenes of the show. While Hurd didn't address the rumors that he was partly responsible, she mentions that he has been "100% on board" with the alterations that have been made from the page to the screen.
"There are a lot of times when he goes back to the comic book and goes 'Wow, that actually would have been an interesting thing to do,'" she said. "Keeping Shane alive in Season 2 was something he fully supported and the change-up of having Rick kill him and then having Carl shoot the zombified Shane was also something he fully supported. In the rest of Season 3, there were things that I can't talk about, but same thing, that he fully fully supported."
She also discussed the evolution of her role as executive producer as the show has grown in popularity.
"My role really hasn't changed with the success of the show," said Hurd. "It changes based on the number of episodes. The first season we had six episodes so I was on set the entire time. Last year we had 13 and I was on set amount a less amount of time. This year we had 16 so I was back and forth. Now, with 16 episodes it is a year-round enterprise because we're still finishing the episodes for Season 3 as our writers' room is coming back together for Season 4. It is more a factor of the number of episodes and the number of episodes is a result of our success."
While Hurd wasn't sure of the exact date, she anticipates that Season 4 will premiere in October during AMC's Fearfest as it has since the first season.
Do you think we will ever find out what really caused Glen Mazzara to leave The Walking Dead? Moreover, if the show maintains the level of quality established this season, does it really matter?