Talkin’ About the Talking Dead
If you’re a fan of “The Walking Dead” and watch it on initial airing, there’s a good chance you stick around to watch the live show “The Talking Dead” afterwards. The guests sometimes flop (Marilyn Manson, for instance) and host/comedian Chris Hardwick occasionally veers into self-indulgence, but the show is generally a therapeutic way to unwind after TWD and learn some behind-the-scenes tidbits.
Having had the great joy of scoring passes to see the live filming of the mid-season premiere last month, I have some behind-the-scenes tidbits for “The Talking Dead” as well. Hopefully this will also shed some light on what to expect if you, too, luck into General Passes and spend hours scouring the interwebs to try and find out what to expect—I was sorely disappointed in the lack of similar firsthand accounts. So let’s start at the beginning.
You love the show and realize you’ll be in Los Angeles on a Sunday when a new episode is scheduled to air, aka just about any Sunday between late October-early December and mid February-early April. Great! Now make haste and get thyself over to 1iota.com and sign up for an account so you can join the watchlist for your favorite shows and request tickets when they become available. My experience with 1iota is that they open the Talking Dead for you to request tickets within about a week of the date you’d like to attend. We tried to get tickets for the mid-season finale back in December, and the “sign up” opportunity opened early morning on the Monday ahead of that Sunday (11/27 before the 12/3) show. We were probably relatively early in submitting a request but didn’t make the cut, which turned out just fine since I was miserably sick that entire trip. I digress…
I started checking 1iota’s Talking Dead page as soon as we knew what dates we would be in L.A. Early that Monday morning before the taping date, I checked and 1iota still hadn’t opened up for ticket requests. Kept checking throughout the day and around 1pm, it was open. I submitted my request and crossed my fingers.
That Thursday, I got an email saying they couldn’t accommodate my request. Bummer.
The next day, I happened to check on my 1iota account to see if they’d updated the guest appearance list for Jimmy Kimmel and noticed that I suddenly had Talking Dead tickets waiting for me. After I recovered from the shock, I followed the prompts and printed those babies as fast as I could (lest they discover their mistake). On printing the tickets, I learned that they were General Passes, meaning there are Priority Passes that some people manage to get their hands on and the General Pass holders get in on a first-come, first-served basis after those with Priority Passes. The passes also tell you to arrive at least 30 minutes early… I think you’d be tempting fate to arrive that late. Add an extra hour to that for a safer bet.
We tried to arrive 2 hours early but L.A. traffic and parking being what it is, we got in line 90 minutes early. 8 people in line already ahead of us. I’d suggest coughing up the money to park in the garage at The Grove. The $20-whatever is worth the peace of mind to save yourself time and hassle; and you can stop in at The Container Store on your walk to the CBS Studio lot if you need to use the restroom (you won’t get another opportunity until after you go through all of the security protocols).
Enjoy using your cell phone while you wait on the street, as it gets confiscated when you go through security. I totally understand why you can’t use your phone during the early screening of the unaired Walking Dead episode—you’ll watch the new episode commercial-free before it even airs on the East Coast!—but it was pretty frustrating being unable to take photos of the Talking Dead set before filming started. Specifically, it was annoying because there are other audience members (who get in by means other than 1iota) who are allowed to have their phones and it feels rather like a double standard.
Anyway, after going through security screening the group is ushered into a tight little room that’s like a garage or dock area on the lot filled with chairs. That’s where you get to watch the new episode. The few accounts I saw online said that they had to watch on a very small screen; I’m happy to report that they’ve upgraded and now you get to see it projected on a pretty good size screen. Sound isn’t theater quality, but you’re caught up in the episode enough that it doesn’t matter so much.
After the episode, audience members pose questions they might ask on the show. The staff choose a handful of those people (the ones who have the best confidence and stage presence, I think) and they go on a separate track for, presumably, screen prep. At our filming, the question asked live on the show was not any of the questions the audience actually submitted. It was in the same vein, but not the same.
Finally, you’re ushered into the set studio, and it’s pretty dang cool. Much larger than it looks on screen. We couldn’t figure out how they decided where to seat people, but we ended up a lot further back in the crowd than we had been for the screening. It really wasn’t a big deal since there is somewhat tiered seating but we ended up on the end behind the crane camera so it was a little hard to see sometimes.
Chris Hardwick comes out and films the little preview bits (they’re not really live) without any audience interaction; this surprised me, as I kind of imagined he’d address us a bit. Perhaps he was too busy being lint-rolled. Seriously, they had lint rollers on him during every commercial break. How much lint can one guy accumulate while sitting mostly still?!
I couldn’t have been more thrilled with the lineup we had: Greg Nicotero, Khary Payton (King Ezekiel) and DeAngelo Williams from the Pittsburgh Steelers. All 3 were a delight to watch interact during commercial breaks, though we couldn’t always hear what they said. As was alluded to during the show, DeAngelo kept jabbing on Khary being a Falcons fan, and Khary repeatedly got up to walk out (jokingly). I don’t remember if it was during a commercial or actual show but DeAngelo said something about also not liking the Patriots and Khary replied, “because you’re human!” Greg also got up at one point, saying “I’m out” during the football talk. Lots of laughter, much fun.
After the live show wrapped, they filmed several bonus segments for the website (here). We did end up getting audience-giveaway shirts, and I was pleased that we actually got to choose what size we got. All in all, a really enjoyable experience that could only have been better if we’d gotten to take pics.