On a sweltering June day in Grant Park, a child whacks a man with a shovel.
“Daddy! Daddy!” he yells. “I got something. I’m going to smack it dead!”
Then he does it at least five more times. Fortunately, the man isn’t really getting hit. It’s a scene from AMC’s new series “The Walking Dead.” The boy in the show thinks he hit a zombie when in fact, he’s a human named Rick Grimes.
Grimes is a small-town cop who had been shot and falls into a coma. Weeks later, he awakens to find the world overtaken by zombies. He journeys to Atlanta, thinking it’s a refuge. It’s not.
“The Walking Dead” is AMC’s first original horror series, playing off a popular comic book series. It debuts Sunday at 10 p.m. on Halloween as part of AMC’s annual Fearfest. It packs plenty of gore, guts and zombie brain mush.
But since this is AMC, home to Emmy-winning series such as “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad,” “The Walking Dead” is a cut above your typical horror flick.
The show doesn’t attack viewers with loud music or quick cuts. Like other AMC shows, “The Walking Dead” makes use of silence and natural sound to bolster anticipation. “They don’t want to insult the audience,” said Andrew Lincoln, who plays Grimes. ”Wait, come to us. Trust us. It’s bold cinema with old-fashioned storytelling.”
Grimes is “a reluctant hero,” Lincoln said. “He’s intensely human. He’s driven by a moral sense. He’s compromised but trying to do right by the group.”
Atlanta is very much a character in the show. Promos show the city skyline from Freedom Parkway. Grimes and a pack of zombies face off in downtown Atlanta on Forsyth St. Refugees hide out at the former Bellwood Quarry four miles northwest of Atlanta. In later episodes, pivotal scenes feature the Atlanta Civic Center and Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre.
Most of the six-episode series was shot outdoors this past summer, one of the hottest on record for Atlanta. Lincoln tried to see the bright side: “The heat galvanized the cast and crew. It became a vital character in the show. There was no acting required in some scenes. All the sweat you see is my own! I lost 14 pounds in two weeks.”
Location manager Mike Riley said the crew “was thrilled when we shot the final week and a half inside the Atlanta Civic Center – just to get out of the heat.”
The show was originally pitched to NBC but didn’t get very far there. “It never stood a chance at NBC,” said show creator Frank Darabont, who directed “The Shawshank Redemption. “ This is not slag on NBC. They’re a broadcast network. We could never had done it the way we intended to have it done there.”
“The Walking Dead,” 10 p.m. on Sundays on AMC, starting October 31
And as a promotion, here’s a compilation of zombies taken from 26 cities around the world earlier this week: