Oh no, not another zombie show. Yes, the trend is powerful, and it continues in full force and without any sign of stopping with the upcoming new series Z Nation. At the National Fan Expo in Toronto, executive producer Craig Engler and co-star Tom Everett Scott were on hand to tell fans why their show was different from The Walking Dead, why you don’t have to choose between the two, and how the show will reconcile both slow and fast zombies into the same show universe.
First of all, Engler explained, Z Nation is a road show following a group of characters as they travel from New York to California with a man who was bitten by a zombie, but somehow, inexplicably, has not yet turned into one. “We see how the entire U.S. has dealt with the apocalypse and how different communities deal with it in different ways,” he said.
The series begins in an island community three years after a zombie plague spread through the population. This island enjoys a relative amount of security, at least until the arrival of the man infected, but not affected, by the zombie bite and a soldier protecting him. Their mission is to make it out to the left coast where the man can be studied for a possible cure, and some of the island residents, including Scott’s character Garnett, get sucked into making the journey.
Unlike The Walking Dead, Z Nation will not move as deliberately as the AMC series, Engler said. His series will move pretty quickly as the survivors move from place to place across America, encountering all sorts of people who, without a central government, have had to find ways to survive, each according to their circumstances. “They’re on the move and they go somewhere new every episode,” he said of the main cast of characters.
As for the titular monsters, Engler says that when creating the world of Z Nation, the rules of zombie Godfather George A. Romero were sacrosanct. “In the writer’s room we spent days going over the zombie rules,” Engler said, adding that the show will feature a mixture of fast and slow zombies. In the theoretical construct of Z Nation, “fresher” zombies have greater mobility, getting more sluggish and rigid as they decompose. “If you were a big, bad ass person in real life than you’re a big bad ass zombie. But if you were a less harmful person, then…”
An astute fan later asked if the eating of the living meant that they could recover from their rigor, but the producer showed off his abundance of preparedness in his answer. “You can’t go from +8 health to +9,” Engler explained using an appropriately nerdy Dungeons & Dragons reference, “but it stops them from going +7.”
The series, which premieres on Sy-Fy next month, will rely on the enduring appeal of zombies and zombie lore to be successful. Everett and Engler were asked about their thoughts on why the walking dead are still so popular.
“You can kill a zombie and no one cares,” Everett said. “There’s no zombie preservation society, and there are no bleeding hearts trying to save the zombies.”
“The represent everything we fear and everything we might become,” added Engler. “It’s these primal fears and you can tell them in boom times or bust times.”
As to whether or not TV needs another post-zombie-apocalypse series, both Engler and Everett were sure there is. “It’s still better than trying to sell a cop show,” said Everett glibly.
“TV is different than film and is more similar to comic books because it’s episodic,” said Engler more seriously. “There are so many different ways to tell this story, so you don’t have to chose between about us and The Walking Dead.”
Z Nation premieres September 12 at 10 pm on Sy-Fy.