You don’t have to get recruited by Aaron to live in The Walking Dead community of Alexandria. You can actually live there—for real. The community currently deciding whether to exile Rick Grimes in tonight’s season 5 finale is an actual development known as the Gin Property in Senoia, GA., and, yes, people do live in some of the houses. When I was on set for last week’s episode and the big fight scene between Rick and Pete, filming was momentarily halted while a mail truck drove through to deliver catalogs and bills to residents of the community.
Another fun fact about The Walking Dead’s fictional Alexandria? It is literally right on the other side of the train tracks from another iconic Walking Dead setting: Woodbury. That’s right, you can see one town from the other. In fact, while filming in Alexandria, Walking Dead cast members would often walk over to Woodbury for coffee. I know, weird.
How is the AMC zombie hit able to film in the Gin Property development? Because it was actually developed by Scott Tigchelaar, the president of Raleigh Studios Atlanta, the home base for The Walking Dead in Senoia. (The famous prison from season 3 and 4 was built onto the back of Raleigh.) And as Walking Dead exec-producer Gale Anne Hurd explains, Gin Property was specifically built to also be used as a live set.
“It’s called the Gin Property development outside of Senoia where our studios are,” Hurd tells EW. “And luckily the community was developed by the same people who own the studios. Part of the covenant in the CC&Rs of that community is that it is designed to be a haven and a draw for filming, so that’s something that all the residents there were aware of—[though they] may have forgotten. But I have a feeling the blasting lights at three in the morning probably reminded them.”
CC&Rs stands for Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions, which basically are rules placed on homes by—in this case—a developer. So if you want to buy a house and live there, you agree to the conditions. And now one of those conditions has become a giant 15-foot wall around the majority of the property to simulate the wall around Alexandria in the comic books on which the show is based. According to the Newnan Times-Herald, the studio has a wall permit that extends to Nov. 30, 2015, with the option for annual renewals through 2019. That’s a lot of wall. (It should also be noted that Alexandria is still an active community in the comic books, so folks could be there for a while.)
Kathleen Sullivan, who lives on Plyant Street in the community did not sound particularly enthused about the enclosure when she spoke to the Times-Herald. “I said that the wall would be ugly. None of us had seen it yet. But, OMG, it is uglier than I could ever imagine.”
While residents have to worry about a big wall surrounding their house for up to four more years, the show has to worry about spoilers from nosy neighbors who may want to leak details of what they see, or sneakily take unauthorized images. However, Hurd says that’s actually less of an issue than when they film in other locations. “The truth is, we face it wherever we go when we’re outside the studio property,” says Hurd. “At least there isn’t a home that is six stories high where they can actually get a lens focused on us. The area that we film in primarily, the houses are empty. The people have decided while we’re there to live elsewhere—or they understand and respect the rules.”
In the end, it sounds like both the local homeowners and the people making the most successful drama in cable TV history have learned to coexist and deal with the inconveniences on both sides. “I think the biggest issue is really access,” Hurd says. “People want to be able to get home when they drive up, and that isn’t always the case because we’re in the middle of a shot. But we try to be respectful to that part of the neighborhood and understand that these are people’s lives. We’re there, they’re there—just like Rick’s group needs to integrate with the Alexandrians, so do we with the locals in Senoia.”
That integration has led to a few awkward moments for the cast. “We’re shooting scenes in this town and you see the curtains move in somebody’s window and there’s people living in there!” says Melissa McBride, who plays Carol. “And you look over and they wave and then the mail truck comes through. It’s bizarre!”
So if you want to settle down in Alexandria and don’t mind living behind a giant steel wall, then move to Senoia, GA. Who knows? Maybe Carl Grimes will be your paperboy.
For more ‘Walking Dead’ scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.