'Walking Dead's' Gale Anne Hurd: A Zombie Apocalypse 'Was Less Scary' Than Financial Meltdown

Walking Dead
Scott Garfield/TWD Productions

During NATPE, the producer explained the series' success in the U.S. and abroad: "And zombies can be fun."

Producer Gale Anne Hurd, who is billed here at NATPE as the queen of sci-fi, thinks zombies are just what's needed to offset today's real-life anxieties.

"Given the fears in the world today, a zombie apocalypse series was less scary than, say, the financial meltdown or a disease outbreak," she half-joked to an audience of sci-fi fans and business execs in Miami on Tuesday.

Hurd was speaking during a Q&A at the NATPE confab in which she talked about what made the series The Walking Dead work and why zombies, as clumsy and unsexy as they are, have so caught on worldwide.

"And zombies can be fun," Hurd said.

That's how she explained the unexpected success of Dead not just on cabler AMC Stateside but around the world on Fox Intl Channels and transmedia outlets.

As for getting zombie extras to do their thing properly, "We even now have a zombie college which trains folks to walk the walk." (Zombie invasions accompanied the launch of the show in 20 cities worldwide. Same plan next Halloween.)

"Also," Hurd opined, "I think the idea of the undead exists across cultures and all these problems are on everyone's minds. The show essentially examines how humans will survive such a disaster and what is the right thing for humans to do in such a situation."

Asked if there was any resistance among advertisers to the level of violence and gore in the series, Hurd said advertisers had no real problems.

"AMC never gave us a note to tone anything down. An airline even approached us about product placement -- but we just couldn't make that work with our plot!"

Another reason for the success of the show was  pre-production -- which Hurd said she learned the importance of from her stint working years ago for Roger Corman.

For one thing, she pointed out, "We learned how bad zombie makeup looked in HD so we opted to shoot in super 16."

Work on Season 2 begins this spring in Atlanta and there will be some new twists, Hurd added.  

Writer Robert Kirkman has done almost 80 issues of the graphic novel on which the series is based but there are some additional characters and other changes for the TV series.

"He and we hope it's "the series that never ends," Hurd said.