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The Walking Dead's Gale Anne Hurd talks soccer, zombie apocalypse

The Walking Dead has plenty of sports rivalries on set to pass the time amid grueling shoots.

The Walking Dead has been one of the most-watched shows on cable TV for nearly six full seasons now and shows no signs of slowing down, such is our collective fascination with the thought of the zombie apocalypse. But while the Premier League is heading to a glorious catastrophe of its own with Leicester City closing in on an unprecedented title, there's still plenty of time to look at the overlap of soccer and zombies with The Walking Dead.

Executive producer Gale Anne Hurd has been at the helm of several top shows and films for nearly three decades -- The Terminator, Aliens, the Abyss and the criminally underrated Punisher: War Zone to name just four -- and is also a massive Arsenal fan. (Her handle on Twitter fits the bill: @GunnerGale.)

We talked soccer, the Premier League title race and the best soccer players for the zombie uprising on the eve of Sunday's season six finale and the return of Fear The Walking Dead on April 10.

ESPN FC: Where did your love of soccer begin?

Hurd: I was in Berlin working with Charlize Theron on Aeon Flux for Paramount and our German crew insisted on wrapping early that summer so they could watch the 2004 Euros. I finally started watching them in local restaurants, including a Greek restaurant -- which is where I watched the final, which Greece won. I felt I had become part of a huge soccer family and have enjoyed the European and World Cups ever since.

What's your favorite soccer memory?

My husband, daughter and I attended the U-20 World Cup final matches in Toronto, Canada when I was filming The Incredible Hulk, which Argentina won. I was able to see current world stars like Sergio Aguero (who won the Golden Boot) and Angel di Maria play as youngsters.

Do you follow the USMNT fan? Think the U.S. men's team could ever win a World Cup?

I am a fan of the U.S., even more so of our Women's Team. We were filming Fear the Walking Dead in Vancouver last summer and I loved seeing the streets filled with fans of our U.S Women's Team, especially seeing boys wearing Abby Wambach, Megan Rapinoe, Carli Lloyd and Alex Morgan jerseys.

Where did your love of Arsenal begin?

My husband, Jonathan Hensleigh, grew up in London and is a lifelong Gunner. He would be up at 4 a.m. watching the early matches and early in our relationship, I simply couldn't understand the appeal. I even missed out on most of the Invincibles seasons due to my initial lack of interest; what a mistake, right?

Best Arsenal game you ever went to?

Despite always watching on TV, I've only attended one match, the 2006 Champions League match between Juventus and Arsenal in North London. Arsenal won 2-0. I have never had a better time at any sporting event in any sport, and I have been hooked on Arsenal ever since.

Favourite Arsenal player of all-time?

It has to be Thierry Henry, although I am a huge Mesut Ozil fan too.

How about least-favourite?

It's a three-way tie between Ashley Cole, Emmanuel Adebayor and Samir Nasri.

Gale Anne Hurd produced sci-fi classic Aliens, which garnered seven Academy Award nominations and two wins in 1986.

If you could get one player at the Emirates next season, would you take Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo?

I would pick Messi but having seen them both play (at different times in exhibition matches at the Rose Bowl in my hometown of Pasadena), Ronaldo is mesmerizing to watch.

Do you think Arsenal can still win the Premier League this year?

Yes, but they never make it easy on themselves, do they?

What's your opinion of Arsene Wenger as manager? Happy with him?

I give him a great deal of credit for the run that he's had, especially making the Champions League every year when there was no money to buy players and we were considered a "selling club." I think he's brought in some incredibly talented players recently, like Ozil and Alexis Sanchez, but I also think a top four finish year after year is simply not good enough.

If you could give Wenger one piece of advice, what would it be?

We have the worst injury record in the Premier League, so we have to buy more top players to cover the injuries that at this point seem inevitable.

As a Producer, how would you coach your soccer team?

I am smart enough to know I'm not good enough. I'd have to hire Claudio Ranieri. What a season he's had with Leicester City!

Now, some quick Q&A... who will win the Premier League? Leicester City deserves to win!

Who will win the Champions League? I'm thinking Barcelona.

Who is the number one player Arsenal should buy this summer? Jamie Vardy!

Should Arsene Wenger keep going as manager? Ask me at the end of this season!

Are there any major sports rivalries among the TWD cast? Plenty. Andy [Andrew Lincoln] is a Man United fan, Lennie James and Steven Yeun are Tottenham supporters and the late great Governor, David Morrissey, supports Liverpool.

Andrew Lincoln, aka TWD's Rick Grimes, is a massive Man United fan... and not just for the Giggs comparison.

Anything you can tell us about TWD moving forward? Get ready for the best villain we've ever had on the show: Negan, played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan.

What can we expect from Sunday's season finale? Anything you can tease? You'll meet Negan... and Lucille.

Which soccer player do you think would be the most able to survive the zombie apocalypse? Eric Cantona or Zinedine Zidane, although the latter cost France the 2006 World Cup when he head-butted Marco Materazzi, so probably Cantona.

Who would get eaten first? Hopefully Cole, Nasri or Adebayor.

Does soccer form any part of the downtime on-set? Absolutely -- we have a pick-up team in Mexico where we are filming FEAR THE WALKING DEAD, and many of the cast and crew on my shows are huge soccer fans.

Who is the Rick Grimes of the Premier League? Right now, Olivier Giroud has the looks and Jamie Vardy the lethal statistics.


THE WALKING DEAD CAST: WHO DO THEY SUPPORT?

Andrew Lincoln (Rick Grimes):
These are my reasons for being a Man United fan...
1: Paul Scholes. Everything I look for in a sportsman begins and ends with Paul Scholes.
2: The 1999 European Cup final. Probably the greatest three minutes of injury time in the history of the game. It made United one of only seven clubs in Europe to have done the treble.
3: Being mistaken for Ryan Giggs at a red carpet premiere in 1998... and quite happily taking the applause.
4: 20 first division titles, 13 of them in the Premier League.
5: Did I mention the treble? I could go on....

Steven Yeun (Glenn Rhee):
It's hard for me to nail down one team, I would have to say I'm a fan of the state of Michigan. Pistons, Red Wings, Tigers, Lions... all of them.

Ross Marquand (Aaron):
My love for the Denver Broncos has always been very much a family tradition. My mother instilled a love of football in us from an early age and I'm committed to that franchise for life. So thrilled to have gone to this most recent super bowl -- it was absolutely epic!

Josh McDermitt (Eugene):
My favorite team is the Green Bay Packers aka the greatest team in professional sports. They're owned by the fans and Lambeau Field smells of cheese curds: a winning combo if you ask me.

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