Interview: Z Nation co-creator Karl Schaefer talks zombies and Season 4


EXCLUSIVE: As we await Season Four of Z Nation to begin, I was lucky enough to be granted an interview with co-creator Karl Schaefer.

“It’s a man eat man world!”

Z Nation first aired Sept 12, 2014. It began as a low-budget series, with big dreams. Filmed in Spokane, Washington, they have a multifaceted arena to use. From mountains to woods to cityscapes, they are able to make us believe the characters are traveling across America. The show has taken fans by storm with a unique view of what a zombie apocalypse would look like, and kept us laughing along the way.

With Season 4 arriving next month, Z Nation co-creator Karl Schaefer paid a visit to 1428 Elm to talk with me about the Syfy series. You can read the entire exclusive interview below!

What was your inspiration for creating a zombie show with the humorous twist?

My inspiration for everything I write is real life. Real life mixes tragedy with humor, and some of the funniest things that happen occur in very dark times. We also determined from the beginning that humor was a necessary survival skill, and that people with no sense of humor would just curl up and die in the zombie apocalypse.

When you first decided to create Z Nation, did it start with Murphy’s character and build around him?

Z Nation began as a group of survivors going to California to find a vaccine. In writing the pilot, I decided to turn the “vaccine” into a human being who had the antibodies they needed for a vaccine. This made the characters’ mission important to the whole planet, not just themselves.

Had you planned from the start on creating new and unique zombie hybrids?

Yes. We wanted to be the anti-Walking Dead. They have the same slow zombies they had from the beginning. We wanted to mutate our zombies to keep the threat ever evolving. Where The Walking Dead is all about DREAD – you know something bad is coming and you wait three episodes for it to happen. We’re all about the unknown and surprise, we wanted the audience to not know what was around every corner.

As a co-creator of the show, did you have a preconceived overview of each season and then leave it to other writers to bring them to life? Or do you give them specifics that must happen for each episode?

Before starting the show, I had a basic outline of where the first five seasons went, and what a possible finale might be. Each season when the writers get together I lay out a basic plan for the season, then all together as a group we break up each story and outline it in detail as a group. Then an individual writer goes off to do the first few drafts, then I rewrite the script to fit our locations and the casting in Spokane.

Did you envision going into the show that Z Nation would be the hit it is today?

Nobody expected us to be a hit. We’re the little show that could. We get higher ratings than shows with 10 times our budget.

I read that you have a five-year story arc and with its popularity has that changed along the way?

The show becomes its own thing that grows organically as all the different people, actors, crew, writers, and audience, add their own ideas and talent. I just try to keep it all going in the same direction, while being open to letting the show go where IT wants to go.

Photo via Syfy

Have there been any thoughts of a spin-off show when Znation does come to an end?

Yes. We may do a spinoff about Black Summer.

All the fans are anxiously awaiting season 4 to start, can you give us any tidbits of what to expect?

It’s a season filled with mysteries. The heroes have a new mission, driven forward by a prophetic dream Warren has about the end of the world. The zombie virus has mutated again, and now zombies are nearly unkillable. They no longer die when you kill the brain, you have to completely destroy them. Plus we get to see more of Zona this season.

Thank you, Karl, for taking a moment out of your busy schedule to answer these questions for the fans. We are all looking forward to more zombie fun.

Thanks Theresa. Anytime.

Next: Z Nation Flashback: 'Everybody Dies in the End'

Stay tuned to SyFy in September for the official return of Z Nation! Until then, try to catch some Z’s…