Jason Gold, SOC/BA ’05, occasionally walks down memory lane—though faster than the titular zombies he spent a decade bringing to TV screens.
When the AMC senior vice president of production began working as a production executive on The Walking Dead in 2010, “We created the studio from the ground up. There wasn’t much infrastructure at the time . . . so we made it up as we went along and made a great product.”
The show about the undead became an undeniable success, wrapping its 11th and final season in March. It’s one of many triumphs in which Gold has played a supporting role during his 14-year run at the cable network, including Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Halt and Catch Fire, Turn: Washington’s Spies, and Better Call Saul.
He’s in the business of finding good people and production locations, ensuring storytelling and budget align for the 10 shows he oversees. Gold helps “creative vision come to life”—even when the antagonists are very dead.
Gold’s career began in 2005 with a move to Los Angeles, where he worked as an assistant to a talent agent and later to DreamWorks’s feature development and production team. “I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do, but I said, ‘As long as I can get in the door and work really hard, hopefully l succeed at something, whether that’s being a producer, an agent, a manager, or an executive.’,” Gold says. “It was like, ‘OK, I may just be an assistant to a talent agent for now, but I’m going to be the best assistant that I can be.’”
In 2007, he and a friend launched Artist International Management, a small management production company. Before they could find their bearings and build capital, the Writers Guild of America strike arrived—a problem, given that most of their clients were writers. Gold stopped working, nearly ran out of money, and drove his Corolla to New York to move back in with his parents. Working his wealth of contacts, however, he quickly piloted a comeback. Gold’s time in Tinseltown placed him ahead of the pack for a department coordinator position at AMC, fresh off its first seasons of Breaking Bad and Mad Men. He joined the New York–based cable network in 2008.
At the outset of the pandemic, film and TV productions everywhere pressed pause to regroup. AMC assembled a COVID-19 task force over Zoom and developed protocols for every stage of production down to craft services. The network’s plan aligned closely with the back-to-work agreements drafted by the Hollywood unions and guilds, allowing it to be ahead of the curve on returning to set, mobile PCR testing labs and all. The Walking Dead resumed shooting in fall 2020.
For an executive whose job is problem-solving—making Atlanta pass for Silicon Valley or finding the right crew—COVID has simply added another layer of work in transforming script to screen.
“I have the ten-thousand-foot view of, ‘We're going to put all these pieces in place and make sure that we have the right people in order to make that happen,’” Gold says. “I hope to get back to visiting my productions again very soon. Working remotely has been a major shift, but we’ve made it work and we’ve done so successfully. Knock on wood.”
Stream? How about the Potomac? Gold pitches his favorite shows set in DC:
The West Wing (1999–2006): It’s a Sorkin show, so the dialogue is outstanding. When I met Elisabeth Moss on Mad Men, I told her I was very upset the entire summer after her season 4 kidnapping. She appreciated that.
Veep (2012–2019): The dialogue in Veep is equally great—but not equally grandiose. It’s petty, personal insults from people who don’t have any power. They’re all miserable, which makes it hilarious.
BrainDead (2016): In this single-season CBS sci-fi comedy, aliens invade the minds of politicians and hardly anyone notices. Each episode recap is a song set to acoustic guitar. I’ve never seen anything like that.
Homeland (2012–2020): A show that already has good bones—it was adapted from Israeli drama Prisoners of War—is made even more engaging through its ability to build tension in both DC and the Middle East.
24 (2001–2010): It’s ridiculous and takes itself so seriously, but 24—only portions of which unfold in DC until season 7—also might be the first perfect binge show. My roommates and I blew through Netflix DVDs when I first moved to LA.