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'The Walking Dead': This week's EW cover story goes behind the scenes on TV's best new show

EW-COVER-1131How in the world did a show that begins with a policeman shooting a little (albeit zombified) girl in the head ever make it on to television? And how did it become the hottest new series of the year? The new issue of Entertainment Weekly examines the past, present, and future of AMC’s zombie survival epic, The Walking Dead — from the comic book’s humble beginnings, to unlikely path to the small screen, to even more unlikely path as a bona fide hit. We talk to all the key players, including comic creator Robert Kirkman, executive producers Frank Darabont and Gale Anne Hurd, and star Andrew Lincoln, who was as shocked as anybody by the subject matter when he was first approached for the project. “I got an e-mail outlining the project,” says Lincoln. “The first thing I read was ‘AMC.’ I went, ‘Great! I’ve been waiting for an AMC opportunity!’ Then it said ‘The Walking Dead.’ Terrific title. Then the names. ‘Frank Darabont.’ ‘Gale Anne Hurd.’ Great. And then it said ‘Zombie survival horror.’ I think I actually did a literal double take. I was like, ‘Really?!’

For more on The Walking Dead, check out the new issue of Entertainment Weekly, on sale Nov. 29.

'Walking Dead' comic creator Robert Kirkman talks about last night's episode, 'Tell It to the Frogs'

the-walking-deadLast night’s episode of The Walking Dead was a fairly gore-free zone, by the standards of AMC’s hit zombie show. True, we did get to see one of the undead chowing down on the insides of a deer before being beheaded — and then arrowed through the brain by a new character, Daryl Dixon, played by Boondock Saints star Norman Reedus. And the episode concluded with the image of a recently severed hand belonging to — or, by that point, not belonging to — Daryl’s brother Merle (Michael Rooker). But compared to the mayhem of last week’s let’s-wear-intestines-like-a-scarf, blood-a-thon Guts, this was a veritable Merchant-Ivory-esque yakfest — albeit one not short of incident as Rick was reunited with Lori (who thus discovered that Shane had been lying about her husband’s demise) and the hotheaded Daryl was informed that his sibling had been left to perish on the top of a building in Atlanta.

Regardless, it almost seemed like, having presumably repelled all the people who don’t like zombie movies with the first two shows, the behind-the-scenes team had decided to get rid of everyone who does enjoy a good undead flick with the third episode. “We’re really trying to burn through this audience as fast as we can,” laughs Robert Kirkman who writes the Walking Dead comic series and is an executive producer on the TV adaptation. “There are entirely too many people watching this show.”

Kirkman can afford to joke about ratings. The pilot episode of The Walking Dead — which was helmed by Shawshank Redemption‘s Frank Darabont — garnered an very impressive audience of 5.3 million viewers. Unsurprisingly, AMC announced a week ago that it was ordering a second season of the show, which will comprise 13 episodes, as opposed to the current run of six.

After the jump, Kirkman talks about last night’s episode, “Tell It to the Frogs,” the Rick-Lori-Shane love triangle, and, why he can’t be blamed for that Miss Piggy-oral sex gag.

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'Walking Dead' star Andrew Lincoln talks about making AMC's new zombie hit: 'It got crazier and crazier'

the-walking-deadLast summer, I spoke at length with British actor Andrew Lincoln for EW’s Fall TV Preview just as he was coming to the end of shooting the first season of The Walking Dead in Atlanta. Of course, at the time, there seemed a good chance that it would also be the show’s only season. Despite the creative input of Shawshank Redemption auteur Frank Darabont and legendary sci fi producer Gale Anne Hurd (The Terminator, Aliens) AMC’s adaptation of the long-running, Robert Kirkman-penned zombie comic book series, seemed like an unlikely project even from the cable network responsible for such idiosyncratic successes as Breaking Bad and Mad Men. It would have been a brave man for sure, who bet the farm on The Walking Dead becoming the season’s breakout hit.

A brave man and, as we now know, a richer one. The Walking Dead debuted on Halloween and garnered a record-breaking audience of 5.3m viewers, making it the most watched premiere in AMC history.  Unsurprisingly, the network announced this week that it had commissioned a second season.

Given all this, I thought Walking Dead fans new and old might be interested in persuing an extended version of my chat with Mr Lincoln, particularly as he discussed at some length the filming of the most recent episode, Guts. You can read it after the jump.

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'The Walking Dead': Comic book series creator Robert Kirkman talks about last night's 'Guts'-y episode

the-walking-deadLast night, AMC broadcast the second episode of The Walking Dead, its adaptation of Robert Kirkman’s still ongoing zombie comic book saga. Would executive producer and show creator Frank Darabont maintain the jaw-dropping level of carnage featured in the pilot, which opened with Andrew Lincoln’s sheriff hero Rick Grimes shooting a cute zombified girl in the head (and which scored record-breaking ratings for AMC)?

The answer was a definite “Yes-and-then-some!” as the appropriately titled Guts found Grimes and his new buddy Glenn (Steven Yeun) attempting to blend in with the undead hordes of Atlanta by covering themselves with blood, viscera, and even a severed foot. (Between this show and the just released 127 Hours, I can only assume it must have been National Detached Extremities Weekend. My, it seems to come earlier every year!) The second episode also introduced a number of characters including the racist Merle Dixon, played by Michael Rooker of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer infamy.

After the jump, Kirkman—who in addition to creating the original comic, is one of the show’s writers and executive producers—ruminates on the episode, talks post-apocalyptic sex, and admits that the severed foot may possibly have been… a step too far! (Warning: The post does contain an image of an extremely gore-covered Grimes.)

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'The Walking Dead' walks on Google Maps

As much as I’ve always loved the utility of Google maps, I never pegged it as a service applicable to pop culture. But, apparently, it is. See: this fantastic and spoiler-filled Google map geared entirely around The Walking Dead, also known as the coolest thing I’ve seen all day.

Jason McDonald created the completely annotated map, which chronicles the births, deaths, appearances, and other events and locations from the 78 issues of The Walking Dead comic book series. It’s certainly made me want to delve further into Robert Kirkman’s world — I find it pretty cool to see a comic-turned-TV series that’s so rooted in fantasy (zombies!) through a lens of something so familiar to my everyday existence. I’ve loved the Walking In Holden Caulfield’s Footsteps map, but this map takes it to the next level. Which other shows, books, or movies would you like to see get the Google map treatment?

Those of you who’ve read all The Walking Dead books, give it a look and sound off below as to the accuracy of the map, and those of you who are looking to avoid spoilers, check the map — and read the comments — with caution.

More on The Walking Dead:
‘The Walking Dead': Comic book series creator Robert Kirkman answers our questions about last night’s shocking pilot
TV Insiders podcast: EW experts explain why ‘The Walking Dead’ will scare the beejezus out of you
‘Night of the Living Dead’: How a 42-year-old zombie movie refuses to die
George Romero unlikely to direct an episode of ‘The Walking Dead’
‘Walking Dead’ exec producer Gale Anne Hurd talks about AMC’s no-holds-barred zombie show

'Dancing With the Stars' 200th episode: Which group of returning alumni was the most hilarious?

Last night marked the beginning of the 200th-episode celebration of Dancing With the Stars. What? It seems like the series just started! NOT. So many random crops of alumni turned up for this huge ABC event. There they were, in scattered patches of the liiiiiiiive crowd, at once funny, fascinating, intergalactic, and sad. They bothered to show up, so I thought I’d bother to screengrab them in all their return-to-Planet Mirrorballus glory! Judging on ridiculata standards and nothing else, look through the pics and vote in our totally unnecessary poll after the break. READ FULL STORY

'The Walking Dead': Comic book series creator Robert Kirkman answers our questions about last night's shocking pilot

Last night, AMC screened the pilot of new show The Walking Dead, in which Andrew Lincoln’s small town Georgia sheriff Rick Grimes desperately attempts to reunite with his family in a zombie apocalypse. The result was an epic start to this adaptation of Robert Kirkman‘s long-running comic—and an amazingly horrific display by TV standards.

How did pilot director Frank Darabont get away with featuring so much bloody mayhem? Will a knowledge of the original comic series help viewers guess which characters are going to live and which become undead chow? And was that really Jim Carrey cameo-ing as a zombie?

After the jump, Robert Kirkman—who is also one of the writers on the show and a Walking Dead executive producer—tackles these questions and more. Though, be warned, at times the conversation leans toward the gory and, if you haven’t yet seen the pilot, spoilery.

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TV Insiders podcast: EW experts pick the best and worst 'Dancing with the Stars' contestants ever

Image Credit: Adam Larkey/ABC; Bob D'Amico/ABC

With Dancing with the Stars getting ready to celebrate its 200th episode, we thought it the perfect time to look back on 11 seasons of ballroom bliss and bedlam. On the latest edition of the TV Insiders podcast, DWTS expert Annie Barrett shares her selections for the best and worst hoofers to ever shake their groove thang on the dance floor. Who is the best of the best? Who is the worst of the worst? And who was neither good nor bad enough to merit our attention at all? Answers await in the podcast below! Also on tap for this special Halloween edition: Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman and star Andrew Lincoln stop by to talk about the best way to kill a zombie, Michael Slezak and I discuss the latest developments involving urine on Survivor: Nicaragua, Michael Ausiello weighs in on the shaky future of NBC’s The Event, and Clark Collis shows up to flaunt his fancy English accent. You can download all the insanity straight to your mp3 player, or click on the video player after the jump to enjoy all the podcast magic on your screen right here, right now. And if you have a question for the TV Insiders, you can tweet it to @EWDaltonRoss. READ FULL STORY

TV Insiders podcast: EW experts explain why 'The Walking Dead' will scare the beejezus out of you, and pick the best Halloween TV episodes ever

Image Credit: AMC; ABC Photo Archive/Getty Images

BEWARE! Zombies are everywhere this Halloween! At least on TV they are. On Sunday, IFC will air the entire run of Dead Set — which, in the most genius plot device of all-time, centers on a zombie outbreak outside the Big Brother house. (Finally!) That same night, AMC will debut the first episode of The Walking Dead, the Frank Darabont-directed adaptation of the popular comic book. Zombie aficionado (zombionado?) Clark Collis joins the TV Insiders (Michael Slezak, Annie Barrett, Michael Ausiello, and yours truly) to rip, tear, and sink our teeth into both shows. Exactly how scary — and gory — are they? We’ll tell you on our latest podcast. Not only that, but Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman and star Andrew Lincoln pop by to give us their unique, blood-splattered perspective. (Kirkman also gives his pick for the best zombie movie ever — and the choice may surprise you.) But that’s not all we have up our spooky sleeves. We’re also offering our picks for the best Halloween TV episodes ever, discussing the future (or lack of it) for The Event, breaking down Survivor etiquette when it comes to peeing in a pool, and sharing Annie’s picks for the best and worst Dancing with the Stars hoofers ever. You can download all the insanity straight to your mp3 player, or click on the video player below to enjoy all the podcast magic on your screen right here, right now. And if you have a question for the TV Insiders, you can tweet it to @EWDaltonRoss. Listen now…if you dare!

Click here to read Clark Collis’ extensive history of the ultimate zombie film: Night Of the Living Dead

'Night of the Living Dead': How a 42-year-old zombie movie refuses to die

walking-dead-night-of-the-living-deadImage Credit: AMCThere are people who believe zombies should only walk. And there are people who believe they can run around like steroid-injecting track stars. Then, there’s Frank Darabont, executive producer of the new AMC zombie show The Walking Dead, who believes both aforementioned groups are full of hooey. “Well, it depends on the zombie’s mood,” says the Shawshank Redemption director. “If they’ve recently fed, they’re a little less interested, a little more shutdown. Other times, they’re riled to a predatory state and can get a little faster.” So, they’re mostly walking — but sometimes they jog in the manner of an arthritic grandmother? “Yes, exactly,” laughs the filmmaker, who also directed the Walking Dead pilot, which debuts, appropriately, on Halloween. “This all goes back, by the way, to the original Night of the Living Dead. The Internet adherence to zombies never running clearly ignores the first 10 minutes of that movie. Because the first zombie you see is pretty spry. He’s obviously rather hungry and worked up.”

Darabont was in junior high when he first saw George A. Romero’s 1968 tale of bloodthirsty, reanimated corpses and the bickering band of still-breathing humans they besiege — a low budget black-and-white gore fest that invented the modern-day zombie horror genre. “I remember it vividly,” says Darabont. “It was 1974, and it came to one of the revival houses in L.A. My friends and I were very affected by it.” Darabont’s fellow Walking Dead executive producer Gale Anne Hurd (Aliens, The Abyss) says that she first saw Night of the Living Dead “through my fingers. I’m pretty sure I had to leave the room quite a few times. I’m one of those people who is highly suggestible. I do tend to believe, after I’ve seen something, that zombies are about to exist and somehow they’re going to come find me first. I’ve had therapy for this. [Laughs] But I’ve seen it a number of times and it really holds up.”

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