‘The Walk­ing Dead’ reaches 100th episode mile­stone

The Oneida Daily Dispatch (Oneida, NY) - - Kickoff -

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.

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