The Walking Dead Season 4 Q&A: EP Gale Anne Hurd On The Big Ratings, ‘Caryl’ & Zombie Patrick

When “The Walking Dead” cast and crew heard the big ratings numbers for their Season 4 premiere (16.1 million), there was one member of the team who wasn’t available to celebrate — Violet the pig.

“You know, Violet’s not doing so well,” “TWD” Executive Producer Gale Anne Hurd told Access Hollywood of the pink porker who didn’t make it out of the “30 Days Without An Accident” episode alive. “We may have to have a ‘dead dinner’ for her.”

The rest of the team, however, was very, very pleased.

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“Everyone went absolutely crazy,” Gale told Access. “We’re so close, including people who aren’t even on the show any more… Everyone said, regardless of what the numbers are, ‘This is the best experience of my life and we’re all ‘The Walking Dead’ family.’ And then, when the numbers came through, it’s just the icing on the cake.”

In a new interview with Access, Gale talked more about those big numbers — including what she thought of the show’s huge ratings in the 18-49 demo — and she addressed some of the big developments from the premiere, like Patrick turning into a zombie and Carol (Melissa McBride) calling Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) “Pookie.” When you saw there were 10.4 million viewers who watched the Season 4 premiere in the 18-49 age group, was that sort of a surreal moment?

Gale Anne Hurd: Everything about ‘The Walking Dead,’ I think, has been surreal from the very beginning, but it certainly took us all by surprise. We’re very grateful. We keep saying we’ve got the best fans in the world and they prove time and time again that they are.

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Access: Some people in our office were wondering if the numbers ticked up a little bit more because of binge watching, word of mouth, and by the time a new season rolls around there are newcomers.

Gale: I think so and also, I imagine there might be more people watching because I keep hearing from people that they have ‘Walking Dead’ watching parties and they have 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 people over to watch it. But… it’s a phenomenon. … I attribute it all to the fans because they talk their friends, their family, their colleagues at work into watching by saying, ‘Trust me. Look at the first episode. If you don’t like it, that’s fine. You don’t have to watch any more, nothing ventured, nothing gained,’ and that’s, I think, how people become addicted and luckily there is enough time to catch up and I think AMC does a fantastic job before every season and before the midseason premiere, they tend to do marathons, so you can actually catch up watching it on AMC.

Access: Obviously we have mad cow disease in our world. Looking back at Violet the pig in Episode 401, should we be worried there’s some mad pig disease in the world of ‘TWD’ that has something to do with what’s going on?

Gale: The one thing about it is there are no medical facilities as we know. The CDC doesn’t exist anymore. So like the characters on our show, we’ll probably always have to guess what’s going on and what’s out there because there’s no way of tracking down pathogens and figuring out their etiology.

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Access: At Comic-Con, a lot of the actors were saying fans would get to know characters in new ways this season. And, one of the things we saw in the first episode back was Carol calling Daryl, ‘Pookie.’

Gale: Yes! All the ‘Caryl’ fans out there… they lit up Twitter at that moment.

Access: Do others in the camp see a relationship between these two?

Gale: They have an incredible bond. They get each other. They really do because they both come from abusive backgrounds and they’ve survived and they know they can trust each other, so they have that bond, whether it’s a brother sister or more than that, it’s definitely very strong.

Access: In the season premiere, Carol was teaching a knife class and Daryl has become a bit of a rock star. What will we see from them going forward?

Gale: This season we’re going to feature not only Carol and Daryl a lot more and delve really into depth with both of them, but also characters like Tyreese and characters like Sasha in a way that we haven’t had the opportunity to in previous seasons. … At the same, even though we have these intimate interactions, we still have some pretty epic set pieces to deliver. The number of ‘#RainingWalkers’ or ‘#RainingMen’ that cropped up on Twitter was also something, but Greg Nicotero and his team at KNB Efx have really stepped it up in delivering the walker threat this season.

Access: Rick and Michonne— people were reading into their first exchange of the season. Will we get ‘Richonne’?

Gale: I can’t tell you that (laughs). It’s also because, a lot of people have read the comic books, so sometimes they assume things that we actually deliver and other times they assume things that aren’t necessarily in the cards at least immediately so we’ll see which way this one plays out.

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Access: What can you hint at about how bad the situation will get now that we have a zombie Patrick?

Gale: Well, yeah, and he’s in a locked cell block and most people aren’t locked in. So, literally, I think a lot of people are gonna be in jeopardy.

Access: He seemed so sweet.

Gale: He is and I know that a lot of the actors on set who have young kids were almost in awe of him because of ‘Phineas and Ferb.’

Access: Were they having Vincent Martella, who plays Patrick, call their children?

Gale: There may very well have been some outgoing message on cell phones recorded by him.

Access: What can we expect when The Governor returns? He was all kinds of crazy when we last saw him.

Gale: That’s what we’ll have to see. Is he still in that frame of mind? Is he literally set on revenge mode or is he trying to regain his humanity and if so, is that even possible.

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Access: Outside of ‘The Walking Dead,’ you’re working on a show called ‘Horizon’ (for USA). I hear iti nvolves a mystery and it’s set in World War II. What made you want to do it?

Gale: Fantastic script with remarkable, complex characters in a world that I absolutely love. Obviously, in the post-zombie apocalypse you have high stakes, but you also have high stakes during war time. And it’s set in 1942 in World War II. … It’s sort of a dramatic thriller with a sci-fi element that runs through it.

Access: The costumes must be amazing.

Gale: Oh my gosh! The costumes! I wanted to take home the costumes. Most of the photos that you see from World War II, from the 40s, are black and white, and you don’t realize just how colorful it was and everyone looks good in them. I’m very, very, very happy… It’s written by Bridget Tyler, who is our showrunner, and she was on ‘Burn Notice,’ and the director [is] Yves Simoneau, who directed the pilot for ‘The 4400’ and ‘V.’

Access: And you’ve got Cary in the cast.

Gale: Cary Elwes! One of my favorite people.

Access: How many times have you watched ‘The Princess Bride’?

Gale: A lot because it was daughter’s favorite movie and she quotes it on her Facebook page.

“The Walking Dead” continues Sunday at 9/8c on AMC.

-- Jolie Lash

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