Living in Fayette or Coweta County, Georgia, chances are high that your life has been touched in one way or another by The Walking Dead.
It’s also possible that over the past decade of the show filming in the area, you’ve run into one of the cast members (lucky you!) while out getting your coffee or even buying dog food at the pet store. It’s even more likely that you’ve crossed paths with a crew member and didn’t even know it.
Julia Hobgood, who’s been an associate producer on the show since 2018 and assisting for years before that, is one of those people. She’s been loving life in Fayette County for six years, so she sat down with Southern Woman to talk about working on the show and the impact it’s had on her life.
Originally from Fayetteville, North Carolina, Julia attended the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. Her first work on a film was an internship on the 2013 film Are You Here with Owen Wilson and Zach Galifinakis. “It was a lot of fun,” she remembers, “but they kept me in the office a lot.”
Meanwhile, her film school friend, Emma, had gotten an internship in the props department of The Walking Dead (TWD). And Julia was still in North Carolina setting up interviews for jobs when she “hit a roadblock,” she says.
She cancelled all her upcoming interviews and decided to take a step back to figure out what she wanted to do next. After a couple weeks of downtime, she got a call from an excited Emma who had given Julia’s information to the production coordinator for TWD. Before Julia even hung up the phone with Emma, the show was calling her and scheduling an interview for the next day. From there, things happened very quickly. Julia drove to Georgia for her interview, and within just a couple of weeks, she was moving to Georgia.
“Ironically, I had just started watching TWD a month before I got the interview,” she recalls. “Before that, I thought it was just some zombie show!”
Initially, Julia was hired as an office production assistant during the show’s fourth season, but at the wrap party in November of that year, after working on the show for only three months, Julia’s boss recommended her to Greg Nicotero to work as his producer’s assistant.
“Greg’s been a producer on The Walking Dead since the beginning,” she explains, “but the capacity of his creative directing/producing development was not in as high a gear back then. He was head of KNB EFX and was getting a lot of help from [his staff in] L.A. He might have needed [an assistant] sooner, but it was the first time that he really couldn’t do without. It was getting harder and harder for him not to have someone on the ground here.” Julia was up for the task and graciously accepted the position.
“In film school, they want to believe that if you set the right boundaries, you’ll never have to do anything that you don’t want to do like running to get the dry cleaning or whatever, menial tasks,” she describes. “But you’re never going to build trust with someone if you refuse to do stuff like that. Because what they need help with is support, and if you’re not supporting them in those ways, why would they think you could support them in any more meaningful ways?”
“Boundaries are good,” she continues, “and if you’re at their house all day folding their laundry and doing dishes, that’s obviously not what you signed up for. But errands and stuff like that totally make sense.” In addition to signing for packages and other chores one might expect from an assistant, Julia was assisting Greg on the show. She took notes in meetings, sat in on phone calls, and typed out script breakdowns, and worked as Greg’s right-hand woman for the next three seasons.
Deeply immersed in TWD culture, Julia admits to not fully understanding the scope and reach of the show she works on. “I still don’t think I do.” she laughs. “It was hard to know from the inside how big it was going to be, or how big it already was. By the time I signed on, even as a P.A., we were already breaking records for the most watched premiere; we had over 18 million viewers for the season five premiere (domestic, AMC). The next biggest show after us was around 10 million. It’s astronomical. It’s insane. It’s quantifiable, but it almost feels like it’s not because it’s such a huge audience.”
At the beginning of season nine, Greg called Julia and told her he had spoken with showrunner Scott Gimple, and the two had decided they wanted Julia to be an associate producer, coordinating the special effects makeup department in an administrative capacity, scheduling, and more. Because of the work she had put in
previously, she was retroactively credited as an associate producer for half of season eight as well. “It was a wonderful feeling for my work to be recognized on TWD. During the same time, Greg brought me into the fold to develop Creepshow with him which broadened my horizons and opened the door for creative producing.”
Creepshow, which Julia co-executive produces along with Greg and Brian Witten, is a continuation of the 80s movies. “The movies are older, and they’ve aged. But because the series is newer—and it’s Greg—I’d have to say it’s scarier. He does some pretty creepy stuff,” she laughs.
“He is definitely a great person to collaborate with and work with, and he really has been such a blessing,” she adds. “It’s so wonderful working with him. He’s really good with wanting your opinion and having respect for it, but also sticking with his own. If you have a perspective he hasn’t thought of, he’ll take it into consideration. He’s truly a collaborative artist. It’s really great to work with him.”
Greg is equally thrilled to be working with Julia. “I consider myself honored to have been able to collaborate with a woman as talented as Julia,” he says. “I feel like, on our journey together, I am able to learn as much from her as I teach. It is one of the best working relationships I’ve had in my nearly four decades in the industry.”
Julia says she gets mixed reactions in town when people find out where she works. They’re either asking her if the explosions they heard last night in Senoia was the filming, or they’re somewhat starstruck and love the show and have a personal anecdote to share with her.
“People think it’s so glamorous, but the long hours are not glamorous,” she says. “Don’t get me wrong…there are parties and premieres and all that, but ultimately, there are grueling hours, and blood, sweat, and tears. It’s a really taxing industry. But the people who are in it for the long term get so much satisfaction out of their work being watched and appreciated. It means the world to artists for anyone to come up and say, ‘Oh my gosh, I love that show’ or ‘You changed my life.’
Most of the glamour is in the premiere parties, she says, adding that she’ll never miss one if she doesn’t have to. “It’s like a big reunion and everyone gets dressed up, and the red carpet, and the lighting, and the press… They’re so much fun!”
After next March, when The Walking Dead is done filming and the final wrap party is a wrap, Julia plans to continue working on Creepshow, which will keep her in the area, since filming is in Atlanta, and there may be other (undiscussable) projects in the works. She says, “I’m at a point now where I’m trying to look at what I want to do in the next five to ten years. I have the opportunity to take a step back and look at what I’ve done and where it can lead me and begin to make intentional decisions about the future of my career and juggling that with my personal goals to include family.” She’s also got a handful of hobbies (watercolor, martial arts, and gardening, to name a few) to keep her busy, and a bold, bright filmmaking future ahead of her.
The Walking Dead final season, which premiered on August 22, is on Sunday nights on AMC, and Creepshow: Season 3 is airing this month on Shudder.