Alas, it may be many months still before Z Nation season 4 premieres on Syfy, but with the writers busy coming up with fun ideas on what stories to tell moving forward, so what better time to talk with one of the series’ main architects? Executive producer David Michael Latt helps to oversee the show, in addition to working on other projects over at The Asylum, and he was kind enough to talk with us about the story so far on Z Nation, some of what’s coming up on season 4, and also some of what goes into making the show so great from a writing and production standpoint.
CarterMatt – Congratulations on wrapping up Sharknado 5.
David Michael Latt – Nobody’s really ever done with Sharknado.
The first question I’ve have about Z Nation is about Murphy and Warren. These two have been through a lot together, but in the last season they were on opposite sides. If everyone survives season 3, could we see these two working together again?
If they survived (laughs). I’ll tell you this much, I’ve just seen the outline of what season 4 is going to be, and I’ve got good news and bad news. The good news, or it could be good news depending on how you read this, is that we’re going back to the season 1 definitive objective, the group being together, and the dynamics that make the series so good. The bad news is that it’s really out-there crazy. I say that conditionally hoping that we get that dynamic back. The story is kind of taking a life of its own, so there is a lot of really neat, unique places where the story could go. On one hand it’s going back to what we hopefully got the audience excited about in the first season, but on the other hand it’s hopefully not a repeat of the first season.
Let me explain the reasoning of it. In season 2 and season 3, the story got bigger and there was a lot of nuanced stuff; you had a lot of these mini-stories in places. It became a little more of an octopus. I think the idea is ‘let’s go back.’ Let’s ground this thing more with really vicious zombies — not nice, touchy-feely zombies — and really put our group in peril as it was in the first season.
There are some opportunities to have some action, to have the really great zombie stuff we’re known for, and to have our group forced together by a jerk like Murphy to take on the world.
You guys have obviously done a lot of crazy zombie stuff in the past. So when you’re coming up with ideas for season 4, do you feel any pressure to go crazier? What’s the process like to come up with these zombie moments?
You know what? There probably is a little bit of pressure with that, but there’s also probably pressure to make a story that we all like, to make sure that we’re fans of it first and that we’re really enjoying it. I love the show. I’d be watching it if I wasn’t producing it. The pressure is to make sure you don’t lose the audience like me, and there are so many shows to choose from. It’s easy to go ‘I’ll just binge-watch it when it comes on Netflix,’ as opposed to appointment television, which is the holy grail now for broadcast networks. It’s making sure they tune in on that Friday night.
The challenge is really creating an interesting story that will get people to stay — yeah, you want it to all be better. You don’t want to take steps backwards. But, you want to make sure that the audience is engaged with compelling characters, really engaging action, and amazing moments where the audience goes ‘I’m going to watch next week. I’m not going to wait.’ That’s pressure.
When it comes to writing a new season of Z Nation, how much of a long-term plan do the writers have, and is there some flexibility to mix things up along the way?
There’s always a plan. We have a several-season plan for the whole thing. What happens is that during a season, things change, they make a right turn or a left turn because you find an interesting story that you weren’t aware of when the season started. So, you go down that road. It could change the course of how you perceive certain things. There’s a little bit of that in season 4 in terms of carrying on certain storylines.
But, overall, there is a goal or objective that we’ve planned from season 1 that carries through to this season and then if we get a season 5, then a season 5, as well.
Have you started thinking about ideas for season 5?
Absolutely. You never know how it’s going to go over during the course of the season. We’ve been very lucky to be renewed every single time, and we’ll be going into season 4 as the longest-running series that Syfy will currently have on air. We’ll be the only season 4 series on the air [right now]. We don’t take that for granted.
If the ratings aren’t there for season 4, we’re done and hopefully we’ll come up with an end where people are satisfied. This is Z Nation and anything can happen, so at the end of every season we do always tend to blow the world up and see how the pieces come together for the next season. Although I haven’t seen what the end of the season looks like at this point, I have to think the same thing will happen — either the world will blow up once again and we’ll come back and answer questions, or people will go to bed very uncomfortable for the next few years (laughs).
I know you can’t say who lives or who dies from the cliffhanger to this past season, but how worried should we be?
Worried. I know that when you compare it to The Walking Dead there are people who’ll go like ‘oh, The Walking Dead is so dramatic, it’s so believable in those ways.’ I don’t buy into that narrative at all. I think that Z Nation, in spite of its craziness, is how people are. In times of stress they lean on the humor. Sure, if a nuclear facility melts down and kills people and starts the zombie apocalypse, there are going to be nuclear zombies! It just has to happen! There will be animal zombies and craziness is going to happen. Because of that, people are expendable and people will die in Z Nation. That’s the way the world works. We haven’t been shy about killing our core, and I feel like sadly in season 4 that’s going to happen again. It’s a hell of a story, and it takes you in unique directions when you have people you love and people you want to see no longer involved in the story.
People should be a little bit nervous, but also excited for if X, Y, and Z happens.
So what can fans look forward to story-wise?
There will be zombies (laughs), that’s all I can say.
I know you’ve done celebrity cameos in Sharknado and we’ve seen it in Z Nation with George R.R. Martin. Do you have any coming up?
There could be. We haven’t gotten that far into it. We’ve just broken the story and outlined it. We’ve got an idea of where we want it to be, and the writers are going into their little hovels and are starting to write the scripts. We haven’t cast yet to know if we know we’re going to add any special sauce to the cast or not. Our goal is always to have people like George R.R. Martin come in and be a zombie. We won’t shy away from it.
Where are you guys in the process of trying to keep the show [filming] in Washington?
It’s tough. It’s a difficult climate right now because Hollywood’s a little vilified in America. Washington’s been such a great home for three seasons, but they have limits on their tax [capacities], and it’s expensive for us to be there. For all of its status at Syfy, we’re their #1 acquired series, and we get paid very little (laughs). You have to really lean into tax incentives and other creative ways to produce a show like this. Washington’s been phenomenal, not just in terms of tax incentives. The crew, the casting — really amazing talent, and it’s all there.
At the end of last year, they let us know that the legislation is not going to be renewing the tax credits, and without a discount it’s going to be really hard for us to shoot there. So there is a possibility that, without people getting angry in Washington, we will not be shooting there. Another state will be taking us. That’s not our hope or desire — we really want to shoot there, and we employ hundreds of people and we spend millions of dollars in Washington. It’s a destination spot because we’ve shot Z Nation there, so people are traveling there for that purpose. It might all go bye-bye.
The showrunner Karl Schaefer and another producer in Steve Graham went up there and spoke to the Governor to see what could be done, but we don’t know what the results are. We’re hopeful that we’ll get at least half of the show filmed in Washington. It may end up being a situation where we shoot part there and part somewhere else due to the incentive programs.
Is there any word on when we can expect season 4 to premiere?
Nothing is delayed on our end, nothing is delayed on scheduling. There’s no drama there. Syfy hasn’t told us when they’re going to air us. If history’s any guide it’ll be September, but they may push it and go in August. It’s really up to scheduling. We will deliver when we are scheduled to deliver.
A very special thanks to David for speaking to us about all things zombie. Once there is further news about Z Nation season 4, we will have it for you here at the site, but in the meantime we have something else for you. Check out our article all about why Z Nation is the best zombie show on television at the link here.
What do you want to see on Z Nation season 4? Share in the comments! (Photo: Syfy.)