‘The Walking Dead’ reaches 100th episode milestone
SENOIA, GA. » For seven seasons, AMC’s “The Walking Dead” has explored a world where the dead roam the earth while the living seek safety — almost more from other humans than from the zombies trying to tear into their flesh.
There are characters whose faith is tested but find their grit and fierceness. There are those who are kiss ups and latch themselves onto leaders, their will to survive stronger than their pride. Then there are those who seize a newfound power to terrorize and bully. Through it all, it’s often difficult to discern the difference between who’s good and who’s evil, something that evolves and can change from moment to moment.
And now, as the show approaches its 100th episode — the kickoff to Season 8 that launches on Oct. 22 — the characters are on the verge of war, a battle pitting character Rick Grimes and his band of loyalists against Negan and the Saviors, mixed in with a few other communities whose allegiances sometimes shift without warning.
For a full day this spring, AMC invited a small group of journalists to the set to talk with the actors and crew involved in the show. Everyone took pains to avoid revealing what was in store in the next season.
The main filming location is on a sprawling lot tucked behind this small south Georgia town where most of this new world has sprouted: Raleigh Studios, a constantly evolving set on 140 acres where all sorts of imaginary communities have been created from scratch.
The Heap — an actual mound of trash filled with all sorts of debris and cars no newer than 2010 (the year the world is said to have died) — was created in just three weeks to serve as the domain for Jadis (played by Pollyanna McIntosh), who speaks in an odd clipped form of English and switches allegiances as fast as character Michonne can lop off a head with her Katana.
The Hilltop, ruled over by drunkard and chauvinist Gregory (played by Xander Berkeley), took nearly four months to create, its 18th century architecture brick exterior concealing an interior that is basically a shell, devoid of any walls. Alexandria, the gated community supposedly in northern Virginia, is an actual subdivision that four real families call home and have to stay clear of the film crews that flock there six months out of the year.
The first season was shot largely in Atlanta. By the second season, Raleigh Studios in Senoia — about an hour south of Atlanta — had been created in this town of about 4,000.
Not only does it allow the show to create and keep the communities that make up “The Walking Dead,” but it can be constantly reinvented. The spot where Gabriel’s church once stood? It was torn down and became the dirt circle where Season 6 ended with Rick and his crew kneeling before Negan, the spot where beloved characters Glenn and Abraham were slain at the end of Negan’s barbedwire covered bat.
And now? It remains vacant. “This is pretty much hallowed ground,” said Tom Luse, the show’s executive producer, as he gave a group of journalists a tour of the studio grounds. It was a tough scene to shoot, he said, and it was even tougher to lose
In this image released by AMC, Lennie James portrays Morgan Jones, left, and Andrew Lincoln portrays Rick Grimes perform a scene from “The Walking Dead.” The eighth season premieres on Oct. 22.