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BBCA.com got a chance to chat with creator/writer of “In the Flesh,” Dominic Mitchell about everything from “The Walking Dead,” to Stephen King, to neurogenesis.
“In the Flesh” is a new 3-part drama coming to BBC America in June. The series follows zombie teenager Kieren Walker (Luke Newberry) in the year 2015 as he becomes reintegrated back into both the local community and the heart of his family after his brutal suicide.
“I’m dyslexic, so when I was a kid, I had some difficulty reading. But then a good friend gave me a copy of Stephen King’s “Pet Cemetery” and it was a revelation,” Mitchell says. “I remember it opening up the world of horror stories for me and the strange concept of the dead coming back to life stuck with me.”
So where did he get the inspiration for “In the Flesh?”
“I originally wanted to explore more of a straight story about a kid who had experienced some kind of psychotic episode and had to undergo treatment, and then be released back into society,” but that seemed “too on the nose, too preachy.”
Then one (very late) night, he was watching TV when he stumbled upon a zombie movie. When asked which one it was, all he could remember was that it was “really bad.”
“Here these characters were, in your “typical zombie apocalypse, blasting away zombies with such glee, and I kept thinking, it’s not really their fault that they need brains! They need them to survive, just as we need protein.”
Needless to say, Mitchell suddenly found himself rooting more for the zombies. “I wanted the heroes to die,” he says.
So he decided to tweak his initial idea.
Mitchell started to wonder: “What if being a zombie was considered a neurological disease or syndrome?” And, if so, “how would the government deal with it?”
He consulted with psychiatrists on the subject of “the repairing of the neurogenesis of brain cells.” And this is where his script became distinctly British.
“Us Brits have this “keep calm and carry on” sort of mentality,” he says. And Mitchell used this as a way of portraying how the British government may attempt to tackle a zombie apocalypse as a real societal epidemic.
How would Americans handle such a quandary as opposed to the cool, calm and collected Brits?
“Americans might be better at the problem, I don’t know!” he says. “They would probably be more open about their feelings towards those with PDS (partially-deceased syndrome).” Where would “In the Flesh” be set in America? “Maybe somewhere like Alaska, someplace remote where people don’t trust the government,” Mitchell says.
He wanted to play with the idea of the “’other’” and the outcasts within society’s constructs, citing the myths and rumors that came along when HIV was discovered as a parallel to the fictitious PDS.
“People are constantly creating labels,” he says. For example, in “In the Flesh,” Kieren is called and considered many different things by different groups of people in the story. He’s called a ‘rotter,’ a ‘demon,’ a ‘PDS sufferer’ and even an ‘undead angel.’
In the series, there is an online cult leader called The Prophet. “He’s a terrorist, really,” Mitchell says. “In my research, I read the book of revelation cover to cover, and in it there’s talk of judgment day, and the apocalypse. If there was a zombie apocalypse in Britain…science wouldn’t have the answers…people would likely turn to religion.”
“On the other hand, you’ve got the character of Vicar Oddie, who “has a very committed stance about why this (the rising of the undead) has happened. He believes that the living should judge the dead,” so there are a lot of different stances on the phenomena but “ultimately the Vicar and The Prophet are coming from the same place.”
What will Americans make of the series? “Well, obviously, you guys have shows like “The Walking Dead,” he mentions. But despite the ‘zombie’ connection, these shows could not be more different.
“In the Flesh” premieres June 6 at 10pm/9c on BBC America.