AMC Greenlights Zombie Strip

Plot out the rate of contagion during the first flush of a zombie plague and it becomes apparent that humans and the undead simply weren’t meant to cohabitate.

And yet the struggle for survival is what makes zombie infestation such a reliable source of entertainment; as much as an undead cannibal apocalypse is mathematically hopeless, it’s in our nature to cheer on our ever-dwindling human tribe.

Such is the impetus that drives AMC’s newest original series project, The Walking Dead. Based on the 66-part comic book series written by Robert Kirkman, The Walking Dead will shuffle onto AMC this October.

AMC has ordered six episodes of The Walking Dead, which follows a shrinking core of survivors in an America that has inexplicably given rise to a terrifying zombie outbreak. The series will be faithful to the source material, which is in many ways as smart and provocative as AMC’s signature original fare.

“The brilliant thing about The Walking Dead is that Kirkman literally wrote the story as an antidote to all zombie movies, good or bad,” said Joel Stillerman, AMC’s svp of programming, production and digital content. “The problem with zombie movies is there’s always a need to have some ham-fisted conceit to explain how the outbreak began. The Walking Dead doesn’t concern itself with root causes. It focuses on the band of survivors, offering the human drama and social commentary you’d find in any survival story.”

While a zombie plague can make for some gory goings-on, AMC’s adaptation of The Walking Dead won’t exactly be a splatter fest. “The title of the series actually refers to the survivors, which should tell you who this show is really all about,” said Charlie Collier, AMC president. “One of the reasons we fell in love with the project is that it we could see it would make for great episodic television … and it will be advertiser friendly.”

Shooting begins in June. The series will be written and directed by Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile), and is executive produced by Kirkman, Gale Ann Hurd (Aliens, Armageddon, The Incredible Hulk) and Charles “Chic” Eglee (Dexter, The Shield).

The Walking Dead will premiere in October, concurrent with Fearfest, AMC’s annual two-week marathon of thriller/horror films. “In the same way we’ve used our movie library to tee up our original series, we’ll look for Fearfest to lend its support to our newest effort,” Collier said.

If Kirkman’s opus often subverts the horror paradigm––the author has said “the best zombie movies aren’t [all about] gore and violence,” and many installments of The Walking Dead are completely zombie-free––much of the AMC series will adhere to the established “rules” established by filmmakers like George Romero.

“They’re slow zombies, and you have to shoot them in the head to kill them,” Stillerman said. “But Kirkland also avoided a lot of the traps of the traditional zombie narrative. As the series progresses, it’s a toss-up as to who’s the bigger threat, zombies or people.”

The Walking Dead is the fourth original series greenlighted by AMC, following Mad Men, Breaking Bad and the upcoming conspiracy Rubicon. Starring James Badge Dale (HBO’s The Pacific), Rubicon premieres this summer.