Although most of the credit usually goes to the actors, writers, and directors, production designers are just as important to the finished product on any television series. That is especially true for the post-apocalyptic landscape depicted on The Walking Dead.
Currently filming the follow-up to its record-shattering third season, the world of the AMC drama is pieced together by Grace Walker, an Australian production designer with some big-time end-of-the-world experience on genre classics Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. In this week's Dispatches from the Set, Walker talks about what to expect in Season 4 of The Walking Dead.
At the end of the Season 3 finale, Rick (Andrew Lincoln) welcomed a busload of Woodbury citizens to the prison. The influx of new arrivals will obviously have an effect on set design.
"We're trying to form better conditions for the survivors at the prison," reveals Walker. "We figured because we had a lot more people coming in -- like the people coming from Woodbury -- that the cellblocks were starting to overflow, so we made more room for them. We had to have better shelter, and conditions where they can now eat outside."
With a surname like Walker, he was a natural fit and joined the series for Season 3. He shared some of the tricks he has learned to employ.
"With the prison, the interiors have worked really well, as we go into them time and time again," Walker notes. "We've got it down now where we can remove walls from the cells a lot faster than when we did the first episode there. The main block has 18 cells; nine below and nine above. And we can shoot in any of those cells and take out all the walls, including the rear walls on the second floor as well. We've got mobile towers that we quickly put in. We're just completing a new cellblock for this season, and it's looking almost better than the others. But like everything, we're not quite ready -- there's always a moment when we're nervous and trying to get things done. But we always do, and it looks great!"
There was one set that was planned to be built last season, but was ultimately called off for reasons unknown. The mind reels in horror at the very thought of it.
"There was a very big shower set that we were going to build for the prison," says Walker. "And that never came off. But that doesn't happen that often; because of the time we have, we don't have time to shift things around."
Just like the characters on the show, Walker and his crew are very resourceful, reusing and recycling old sets in addition to building new ones.
"The cafeteria that we used last year we then turned into the prison laundry," he says. "And then it was turned into the prison generator room. We basically used the same vantage, but changed it around a bit with different colors and different dressings, and voila. We have a new set this year that you'd never know was the old one."
If you're looking for some post-apocalyptic design tips, Walker has some simple advice.
"Something that's got a good age and is getting older. Things getting overgrown, weeds are growing, vines are crawling on things; the paint is fading, cracking, peeling off. The concrete's falling away. It's a challenge, but we work with great painters."