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The Walking Dead is a hugely popular US post-apocalyptic horror series that was developed by Frank Darabont. It began showing on AMC in 2010 and is set to conclude in 2022 with it’s 12th season.
The Walking Dead TV Show is based on a comic book series created by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard and follows a large ensemble cast as they try to stay alive after civilisation ends. Cast members include Andrew Lincoln who plays the lead character Rick Grimes until the ninth season as well as Norman Reedus (Daryl Dixon), Lauren Cohen (Maggie Greene), Danai Jejesai Gurira (Michonne Hawthorne) and Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Negan Smith).
Since its premiere on the 31st October 2010, The Walking Dead has been developed into related media including a spin-off series named Fear The Walking Dead and another called The Walking Dead: World Beyond. AMC has also announced plans for three films to follow Rick Grimes’ story after Andrew Lincoln departed the show.
1. The Walking Dead Showrunner Also Directed The Shawshank Redemption
The Walking Dead series creator,Frank Darabont, had previously worked with many of the cast members during his film career. Five actors who appeared early in Season One had worked with Darabont in his 2007 science fiction horror film, The Mist - a Stephen King adaptation.
These cast members were:
• Jeffrey DeMunn (Dale Horvath)
• Laurie Holden (Andrea)
• Melissa McBride (Carol Peletier)
• Juan Pareja (Morales)
• Sam Witwer (feat in the Pilot Episode, “Days Gone Bye”)
Thomas Jane also starred in The Mist and was in talks with Darabont about becoming a regular character in The Walking Dead. However when Darabont departed the role of Showrunner after Season One, this role and a rumoured guest spot never materialised.
Laurie Holden and Jeffrey DeMunn also starred in Darabont’s film The Majestic in 2001. DeMunn also starred in Darabont’s hugely successful films, The Shawshank Redemption (1994) and The Green Mile (1999).
2. AMC Green Lit Season One From The Strength Of The Scripts Alone
AMC officially announced a pilot for a series adapted from The Walking Dead comic book series in January 2010 and swiftly ordered the entire Season One based on the strength of the comics, scripts and Darabont’s involvement. Filming for the pilot began in May 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia - after AMC had officially ordered six episodes of season 1.
3. Frank Darabont Filed Lawsuits Against AMC
In July 2011, The Walking Dead showrunner Frank Darabont was fired from his position. In December 2013, Darabont filed a lawsuit against AMC citing breach of contract. It mainly accused the company of denying him and his agents profits from the success of the series due to vertical integration in production and distribution. The lawsuit contended that he was fired at the beginning of the second season so that AMC could avoid having to pay him.
During the initial Discovery Phase hearings, lawyers wanted to gain information from other AMC shows including Breaking Bad and Mad Men to obtain fair market value for The Walking Dead. AMC stated that there had been no wrongdoings and they had already paid Darabont US$3 Million upfront for two seasons. He described “crisis level problems” during the series production claiming that the per episode budget had been dropped from US$34 Million to US$3 Million while keeping the tax credit offered by the state of Georgia for filming there.
At the end of the Discovery Phase in 2016, Darabont’s lawyers stated they were seeking damages for over US$280 million. They also filed a second lawsuit against AMC for allegedly manipulating fees from digital sales and overseas markets. Darabont’s lawyers were seeking an additional US$10 million in damages in the second lawsuit.
In July 2021, AMC reported that they had settled with Darabont and his agents from Creative Artists Agency for US$200 million and would pay future royalty payments.
Since Darabont’s departure, showrunners on The Walking Dead have been Glen Mazzara, Scott M. Gimple and Angela Kang.
4. Cause Of Death Would Be Swapped Between The Walking Dead Characters
Many of The Walking Dead episodes generally tend to follow Robert Kirkman’s comic book series when it comes to major characters and plot points. However, the TV series does not try to go step-by-step with the comic books and sometimes changes the narrative. One of the ways this happens the most is that the series writers liaise with Kirkman and often change how one particular character dies to another in the series. For example in Season Four of The Walking Dead, Hershel Greene is beheaded by The Governor in a stand-off at the prison but in the comic books Tyreese is the one who is beheaded.
5. Character Timelines Differ In The Walking Dead Television Series
Another common practice when adapting the TV series of The Walking Dead from its source material is making characters outlive their comic book counterparts. This is especially prevalent with the character of Carol Peletier who outlives her comic book character on screen by a large amount of time. Whereas Sophia and Andrea have both outlived their onscreen counterparts in the comic books.
6. Carol Peletier Is Much Younger In The Walking Dead Comic Books
Carol is a very contrasting character across The Walking Dead TV series and comic book source material. In the comics, Carol is 25 years old and is a housewife with a naive and often self-centred personality. Throughout the story she becomes more and more mentally unstable and ends up dying by suicide.
Carol in the television series, who is played expertly by Melissa McBride, is a much older character and is shown as serious and down-to-earth. We see the abuse that she suffered from her husband in the television series but this was only hinted at in the comic books.
Before her suicide in the comic book series, Carol and Tyreese had a brief romantic relationship.
7. Steven Yeun Knew His Character Was Going To Die For A Year
Due to the fact that The Walking Dead has such a large ensemble cast, the main reason a character would be written out of the show was to further the plot itself. This means that actors usually know ahead of time when their character's time is up but are sworn to secrecy.
Steven Yeun, who plays the character Glenn Rhee in The Walking Dead, knew of his fate a whole year before it was played out. The scene in which Glenn dies is held as one of the most memorable death scenes in The Walking Dead history - he was bludgeoned to death by Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and his barbed wire covered baseball bat named Lucille.
This is in contrast to Chandler Riggs, who played Carl Grimes, he only knew his character would die a few weeks before filming his final episodes.
Steven Yeun has said in an NPR interview that his parents, who emigrated from South Korea, are faithful viewers of The Walking Dead and get versions of it with Korean subtitles.
8. Andrew Lincoln Left The Walking Dead To Spend More Time With His Family
Despite most of the actors being written off the show as a plot device, there have been a few who have left for their own personal reasons, including:
• Andrew Lincoln (Rick Grimes) asked to leave The Walking Dead at the start of the ninth season as he was having to spend half a year in the USA filming the series rather than spending quality time with his family in the United Kingdom.
• Lauren Cohen (Maggie Greene) appeared in less episodes of the ninth season due to being given the opportunity to star in David Hemingson’s Whiskey Cavalier. She returned as a series regular in Season 11.
• Danai Jekesai Gurira (Michonne Hawthorne) announced that she would be leaving The Walking Dead after the 10th Season due to balancing other acting commitments.
• Lennie James (Morgan Jones) and Austin Amelio (Dwight) were both transferred from The Walking Dead to the spin off series Fear The Walking Dead after Season 8.
9. AMC Paid The Walking Dead Actors Less Than Their Other Hit Shows
As you would expect, the salaries for the principal cast members of The Walking Dead have grown significantly throughout the show's run. However overall, the actors salaries have been lower compared to similar drama series that were equally popular on AMC including Mad Men. AMC has clarified that salaries are lower because The Walking Dead has such a rapidly moving plot with a large ensemble cast, actors could be potentially written off the show at any point.
10. Reedus & McBride Were Paid Significantly More Than Andrew Lincoln
According to an article in The Hollywood Reporter, Melissa McBride (Carol Peletier) and Norman Reedus (Daryl Dixon) both made around US$9,500 per episode in the first season of The Walking Dead. By the seventh season they were paid around US$80,000 per episode. The main star of The Walking Dead, Andrew Lincoln, was earning US$90,000 per episode in Season Seven.
In Season Nine, Norman Reedus became the principal actor due to Andrew Lincoln‘s departure and reportedly began earning US$350,000 per episode plus other incentives which would earn him between US$50 million and US$90 million over three seasons. Melissa McBride also had her contract extended in Season Nine with her having the ability to earn US$20 million over three seasons. This large jump in pay was intended to secure the two principal actors following Andrew Lincoln’s departure.
11. The “Walkers” Would Take An Hour And A Half To Make Up
Greg Nicotero is the special effects artist on The Walking Dead and is responsible for making the “Walkers” look exactly how audiences would assume zombies to appear and behave. With his team of four permanent make-up artists, Nicotero spends an hour and a half per character making them up to be a convincing zombie. Each “Walker” has a set of contact lenses and custom dentures.
In an interview with CNN, Nicotero explains that the team are able to spend longer creating more decomposed “Walkers” on days where they have a small number of extras to make up. On other days when they have around 60 or 70 to make up, the background actors are broken up into three groups: The Heroes, The Mid Grounds and The Deep Backgrounds. The Heroes are completely made up, The Mid Grounds are painted with highlights and shadows on their faces and lastly The Deep Backgrounds often wear masks. This is due to each group’s proximity to the camera; the closer they are to the foreground, the more make up would be used.
As the seasons of The Walking Dead went on, the make-up artists would use darker skin tones for the “Walkers” to show their decaying in real time.
12. Background Actors Have To Attend “Zombie School”
At the beginning of each season, Greg Nicotero holds a “Zombie School” in which 150+ extras are auditioned and chosen by their look and performance. In terms of look, he aims to find background actors who are thinner with a pronounced bone structure that would look gaunt in make up.
Nicotero and his special effects company KNB EFX Group have an impressive portfolio of work. They have worked on films such as Suicide Squad, Day Of The Dead, Misery, Pulp Fiction, and The Chronicles of Narnia.
13. The Walking Dead Was Filmed In Georgia Due To A Tax Incentive
The Walking Dead is predominantly filmed in Georgia due to the State offering a large tax incentive for film production companies to work there. This has been in place since 2002 in the hope of building up the local economy. The first season of The Walking Dead was mainly shot in Atlanta, Georgia and many streets and parks were shut down for filming. Subsequent production was moved to Riverwood studios just outside of Senoia, Georgia.
Sets were built for the exterior shots of the main Hilltop mansion, Father Gabriel‘s Church and the rubbish heaps used by The Scavengers. When the sets are done being used in filming they are quickly dismantled but soundstages have been reused for interior shots including the prison in Season Three went on to be the Saviour’s Sanctuary in Season Seven. AMC bought the Riverwood Studio lot in July 2017 for US$8.25 Million.
Woodbury was filmed in downtown Senoia. The Kingdom was filmed at Fort McPherson, a former military base which has now been developed into studio space for the director Tyler Perry.
14. The Walking Dead Is Shot Completely On 16mm Film
David Tattershall and David Boyd worked as the Directors of Photography on The Walking Dead and chose to film it completely on 16mm film. This gives the series its gritty look and motion blur synonymous with classic horror films. Regular discussions have been had throughout the series around whether production should switch to digital, however the crew have always decided that the gritty look of 16mm is needed to keep scenes looking as authentic as possible.
15. The Walking Dead Switched To Digital During The COVID19 Pandemic
Eagle eyed viewers may have noticed that the last few episodes of The Walking Dead Season 10 look a bit different to the other episodes. This is because they were not filmed on 16mm. These episodes were filmed in the middle of the COVID19 Pandemic and digital provided a safer working environment for crew who would previously be swapping out rolls of film regularly.
16. AMC & Fox International Channels Created A Worldwide Zombie Invasion
In 2010 The Walking Dead was released in the same week in 120 countries. To advertise its arrival, AMC and Fox International channels created a worldwide zombie invasion marketing campaign on the 26th October 2010. It was a huge stunt which involved invading 26 major cities for 24 hours beginning in Taipei City, Taiwan and ending in Los Angeles, California. The stunt saw hundreds of actors dressed as Zombies (under instruction from Greg Nicotero) invade the cities and visit the world’s biggest landmarks including Big Ben in London and the Acropolis of Athens.
17. There Have Been LOADS of Walking Dead Spin Offs
Due to the success of The Walking Dead franchise in both comic book and TV show form, there have been many spin-offs and merchandise created alongside it, including:
• The Walking Dead Web Series: AMC have released 4 Walking Dead web series on their website - Torn Apart (2011), Cold Storage (2012), The Oath (2013) and Red Machete (2017).
• Talking Dead: A live “after show”, hosted by Chris Hardwich, featuring cast and crew giving their reaction to the latest episode that had aired moments before.
• Fear The Walking Dead: A successful companion series developed by AMC in September 2013. It was first broadcast in 2015 and featured a different group of characters developed by Robert Kirkman. It starts at the onset of the zombie apocalypse and follows people who escape the LA quarantine and seek refuge on the West Coast of the USA and Mexico. Season 4 of Fear The Walking Dead crossed over with The Walking Dead by introducing the character Morgan Jones (Lennie James) from the main series.
• The Walking Dead: World Beyond: Premiered on 4th of October 2020 and is set to run for two seasons. It focuses on the first generation of children that have grown up during the zombie apocalypse who refer to themselves as “Endlings”. It was created by Scott M. Gimple and Matthew Negrete.
• The Daryl and Carol Spin Off: A spin-off focussing on the characters Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) and Carol Peletier (Melissa McBride) was announced in September 2020 and plans to air in 2023 after the conclusion of The Walking Dead itself. This series will be created by Angela Kang and Scott M. Gimple.
• Tales of The Walking Dead: A collaboration between AMC and Scott M. Gimple that would explore new and existing characters and their backstories in an episodic anthology series. This was also announced in September 2020.
18. Three Walking Dead Films Are Set To Be Produced
AMC plans to create three original films with Universal Pictures that explore the events related to Andrew Lincoln's character Rick Grimes in the future. These will star Lincoln, Danai Jekesai Gurira (as Michonne) and Pollyanna McIntosh (Jadis/Anne) with the first being produced in 2019. The films are expected to follow a group known as “Three Rings”, a military force that aims to be the future of humanity, and are the rescuers of Rick at the end of his last episode, “What Comes After”.
19. The Walking Dead Has Been Criticised For Diversity
During the run of The Walking Dead, film critics have praised the show's increased diversity in terms of characters and their backgrounds. This has also been questioned by critics including at the New York Post where they suggested the inclusion of characters from many different backgrounds has become “too much”.
Robert Kirkman, one of The Walking Dead comic book creators, has said in response that he regrets the lack of representation in early issues of the comic series and explained how they would have become vastly more diverse if he were to start writing them in the present day.
20. Sadly A Stuntman Died On The Set Of The Walking Dead
Sadly during the filming of Season 8 in 2017, a stuntman named John Bernecker performed a 21 foot drop stunt and missed the padded cushions. He fell onto a concrete floor and sustained a serious head injury. He was taken to hospital where doctors found his injuries to be too severe and he passed away the following day. Production was shut down for several days and the cast, crew and AMC expressed remorse for the accident. His family were awarded US$8.6Million in damages after a trial for negligence during production. Episode 1 of Season 8 is dedicated to Bernecker’s memory.
21. Actors Would Have A “Last Supper” On Their Final Day Of Shooting
Frank Darabont created the tradition on set of The Walking Dead for actors who were filming their death scenes to have a “last supper”. He was inspired by Season 1 of the 2009 show “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” starring Gustavo Goulart.
22. Norman Reedus Originally Auditioned For Merle Dixon
In an interview Robert Kirkman claimed that Norman Reedus, who is known for playing Daryl Dixon in The Walking Dead, originally auditioned for the role of Merle Dixon. He was rejected but his audition intrigued the producers so they created the part of Daryl just for him.
23. Laurie Holden Originally Auditioned For Lori Grimes
Laurie Holden, who plays Andrea Harrison in The Walking Dead, originally auditioned for the role of Lori Grimes.
24. Each Season The Opening Titles Change
From season to season of The Walking Dead, the opening titles are re-designed in order to make them look as if they are decomposing as the series ages.
25. Sonequa Martin Green Originally Auditioned For Michonne
Actor Sonequa Martin Green originally auditioned for the part of Michonne in The Walking Dead. While she was unsuccessful in securing the role, the producers liked her audition so much that they created the character of Sasha Williams just for her.
26. The Zombie Girl In The Pilot Returns
Addy Miller plays the little zombie girl in the pilot episode, “Days Gone Bye” in 2010 and later appears in the 2017 episode, “Mercy” just after the scene in which Rick tells off Carl for nearly helping a man who was begging for food.
Interestingly the same horse is used in the Pilot episode “Days Gone Bye” and in the film Survival Of The Dead (Romero, 2009).
27. The Walking Dead Are Allowed To Say The “F-Word” Twice Per Season
In 2018 AMC introduced a new policy that allowed both The Walking Dead and Fear The Walking Dead to include the F Word twice per season.
28. Dr Edwin Jenner Was Named After A Real Scientist
The character Edwin Jenner. who is the Doctor at the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention in The Walking Dead, was named after Dr Edward Jenner II who developed the first vaccine for Smallpox.
29. Zombies Aren’t Mentioned For A Reason
You may have noticed that the term zombies is never really used in The Walking Dead and instead they are referred to as “Walkers “. In an interview on Conan in 2010, the comic book creator Robert Kirkman explained that this is because they wanted The Walking Dead to take place in a universe where zombie fiction doesn’t exist. Characters cannot take inspiration and rules from other zombie media. The term zombies is used however in the comic books and is written in scripts just not the dialogue.
In the Walking Dead series, Morgan is the first character to refer to the Zombies as “Walkers”.
30. Mika Was Originally Named Mike
Originally the characters of Lizzie and Mika were going to be male and female twins. However after Kyla Kenedy’s Skype audition, The Walking Dead producers decided to scrap that and change her character from Mike to Mika alongside Brighton Sharbino’s Lizzie.
31. Melissa McBride Did Not Audition For The Walking Dead
Melissa McBride did not have to audition for the role of Carol Peletier in The Walking Dead due to her previous work with Frank Darabont.
32. The Season 8 Trailer Was Viewed 31 Million Times in 4 Days
Each brand-new trailer for The Walking Dead was released at Comic Con each year and it has always been a popular fixture. The trailer for Season 8 broke all the records in July 2017 as by day four of its release it had been watched over 31 million times. It also beat Season Seven which was highly anticipated but only reached 25 million views.
33. CGI Is Used To Enhance The Horror Of The Walkers
CGI is used to edit out the blinking of the actors who are playing “Walkers” in The Walking Dead. This must take forever! The growling noise made by the “Walkers” is also added in post-production.
34. NBC Turned Down The Pitch For The Walking Dead
Before being snapped up by AMC, The Walking Dead producers pitched the show to NBC. At the Edinburgh International TV Festival in 2016, Executive Producer Gale Anne Hurd said that Darabont presented the script to the network and he had an overall deal. NBC then came back to ask whether there had to actually be Zombies in it. They later went on to ask whether the show could be in a procedural format with two of the main protagonists solving a “zombie crime of the week”.
35. The Greene Family Farm Was Very Nearly Not Included
Showrunner Glenn Mazzara has said in interviews that the family who owned the farm used in Season 2 for the Greene family farm initially refused to let the series film there as they did not agree with its content. Frank Darabont flew out to meet the family to discuss the series and they finally allowed the Walking Dead to use their farm as a location.
36. There Was Nearly Two Characters Named Tara
Elizabeth Faith Ludlow plays one of Negan’s closest members of The Saviours, Tara. In the comics she was originally named Tara but the producer’s changed her name to “Arat” (Tara backwards) because they already had Alana Masteron’s character named Tara.
Actor Alana Masterson has said in interviews that The character of Tara was originally only supposed to appear in three episodes of The Walking Dead.
37. Some Casting Facts About The Walking Dead You Might Not Know
• Matthew Lillard got down to the final two to play Negan alongside Jeffrey Dean Morgan.
• Dave Bautista asked to be a “Walker” in The Walking Dead for free but was turned down by the producer’s saying he was too big to be a convincing zombie.
• Chris Daughtry auditioned for the role of Dwight.
• Robert Kirkman pushed for Chad L. Coleman to be Tyreese due to enjoying his work in The Wire (2002).
• Tovah Feldshuh based her performance of Deanna Monroe on Hillary Clinton.
• Matt Morgan auditioned for the role of Abraham Ford.
38. Angel Theory Originally Auditioned For The Role Of Connie
Before starring as Kelly in The Walking Dead, Angel Theory auditioned for the role of Connie. While she didn’t get the part, she impressed producers and they created Kelly just for her. Interestingly in the comic books, Kelly is the name of Connie’s boyfriend.
The storyline around Connie's gradual hearing loss mirrors Angel Theory’s real life story. She started losing her hearing in her right ear then started losing it in her left after a car accident. She wears hearing aids in both ears but has been told that it is a possibility she may lose her hearing completely.
39. The Last 5 Episodes Of Season 5 Are Based On A Season 1 Quote
In Season One Dale says the line, “I like what...a father said to his son when he gave him a watch that had been handed down through generations… I give it to you not that you may remember time, but that you may forget it for a moment now and then and not spend all of your breath trying to conquer it.”
The last five episodes of The Walking Dead Season five are named after parts of this quote, “Remember”, “Forget”, “Spend”, “Try”, and “Conquer”.
40. All Of Carol’s Children Are Real Life Siblings
All of the actors who star as Carol's children in The Walking Dead are played by real life siblings. Sophia, who was shot by Rick after turning into a Walker, is played by Madison Lintz. Henry when he was young, is played by Macsen Lintz and then when he is older, he is played by Matt Lintz.
41. Fans Sent AMC Plastic Spoons After Beth Dies In Season 5
A fan campaign and petition titled “Bring Back Beth” was created after the character Beth dies in the mid-season finale of Season Five. It caused an uproar on social media and an email was sent to AMC along with boxes of plastic spoons in reference to the Silver Washington DC spoon she found. The “Bring Back Beth” petition had 135,000 signatures and was a topic on good morning America.
42. The Walking Dead Is The Longest Running Cable Drama In The USA
After the final 11th season, The Walking Dead will become the longest running cable television drama series with a total of 177 episodes in the USA.
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