Robert Kirkman created the Eisner Award-winning THE WALKING DEAD comic book series, first published in 2003 and still running today. The comics chronicle the travails of a small group of people trying to survive after the world is overrun with the title element. When AMC commissioned THE WALKING DEAD as a series which began its run in October 2010 – Season Two is currently running Sundays at 9 PM – Kirkman came aboard as one of the executive producers and staff writers.
Kirkman and David Alpert, another of WALKING DEAD’s executive producers, are available for a quick private chat about their work on the show at the Television Critics Association press tour.
ASSIGNMENT X: What made you decide that you wanted to tell a long-running zombie story? Did you look at movies like DAWN OF THE DEAD and go, “This is too short”?
KIRKMAN: Yeah, that’s exactly what happened. It was like, “Where do those people go in that helicopter? Where do they land, who do they meet, how do they carry on?” [At the time the comics were created], there was never any kind of a zombie story that maintained the same cast from novel to novel or movie to movie, and you never really got a long-term exploration of that world. That’s what I wanted as a fan, and any time as a writer you can do something that is something that you want as a fan, I think that’s a good thing. I think it means that you’re going to have a passion for that and it’s going to make the project that much better. So I set out to do the zombie movie that never ends, and that became THE WALKING DEAD.
AX: And how did you feel when it became a zombie movie of multiple seasons?
KIRKMAN: Yeah, it’s a little overwhelming. I mean, it’s a really good thing. I’m shocked any time I hear any more good news involving something that’s happened overseas with THE WALKING DEAD or some new demographic that we’ve learned about, or some kind of information – I mean, it’s just a wealth of good news that’s come from this show and it’s a really cool thing.
DAVID ALPERT: It’s great to hear that Rick Santorum has actually endorsed THE WALKING DEAD. We’re feeling very excited about that [laughs].
KIRKMAN: I didn’t know that. Is that true?
ALPERT: Huge fan.
KIRKMAN: Wow. It takes all kinds, I suppose [laughs].
ALPERT: It broadens our demographics.
AX: Has it gotten easier or tougher to make the show in the second season? Or is it about the same?
ALPERT: In some ways, it’s both. I think it’s easier because we know that the fans are going to show up. When we first were making the show, we had no idea if people were going to like it as much as we did, but the hard part is now, the bar is set so high, because [everyone] did such a great job on the first season, people loved it so much, so we’re now trying to figure out, how do we keep it going, how do we keep doing interesting new twists and turns on the genre.
KIRKMAN: The same. It’s a difficult process. I mean, I’m new to the TV world, so seeing everything that goes into it and putting it all together is a bit crazy, seeing all the different levels of work that are done by so many different people, but David’s right. That’s the thing about knowing the audience is going to be there – it makes the load a little bit easier to bear and being driven to outdo the first season is an inspirational kind of thing that helps the writing and the writers’ room be a little bit more fun, because you have a bar to exceed. So I’ve had a lot more fun on the second season, but I’ve been a lot more involved in the second season, too.
ALPERT: Also, we’re battle-tested now, so we have a cast and crew that is awesome, ready for anything. They’re really sort of Marines taking the beach and it’s like we know that there are no challenges we could give them that they’re not going to be able to handle.
AX: Is anything about the show causing you to do the graphic novels any differently?
KIRKMAN: No, absolutely not. I’m fortunate in that the comic book series is so far advanced [in story terms] past where the television show is that everything in the television show is like a re-thinking of the very early days of the comic book series.
ALPERT: It has helped you come up with different ways of doing comic books in general.
KIRKMAN: Oh, yeah. I do other comic books. My experience in the writers’ room has led to me falling in love with that process and trying to bring it into comics, and so I’ve got a new series called THIEF OF THIEVES. It’s very different than THE WALKING DEAD. It’s a much more real-world crime-oriented story, but it’s being told in a writers’ room method. I’m working with a number of other comic book writers in tandem to craft the stories together, and then much like television, where the writers’ room breaks off and everyone writes their individual episode, we’re breaking off and writing our individual issues, and it’s been a cool process so far. That debuts in February.
AX: So everybody comes up with the general ideas and it’s anthologized?
KIRKMAN: Yeah, everyone kind of contributes to their own stories themselves.
AX: Are any networks looking at THIEF OF THIEVES as a possible series?
KIRKMAN: It’s entirely possible. Who knows?
ALPERT: I think they should.
AX: Are there any characters in the WALKING DEAD television series that are especially close to your original vision? Are there any that are extremely far away from your original vision?
KIRKMAN: Everyone from the comic book that’s appeared in the show is pretty spot-on with their characterization as it appears in the comic book series, but characters like Daryl [Norman Reedus] and Merle Dixon [Michael Rooker] and Morales [Juan Gabriel Pareja] from the first season, Jacqui [Jeryl Prescott] are characters that didn’t appear in the comic book series and those are created originally for the show and have no kind of relationship to the comic book. But I think the ones that are adapted are adapted pretty closely. It’s the stories that change a little bit from the comic to the show, but the characters themselves have been adapted pretty much intact.
AX: What would you say is the world view of THE WALKING DEAD? For example would you say, “Keep trying?” or would you say, “The world will go to hell,” or would you say, “Keep trying when it all goes to hell”?
KIRKMAN: Well, for the characters, it’s a story of their journey to try and survive and trying to find some reason to carry on, and so it’s a somewhat hopeful kind of tale and it’s somewhat inspirational. I like to think that if you’re sitting at home and you’re watching THE WALKING DEAD, it’s a very dark, visceral show, but if you relate it to your life, you can always go, “Well, I’m not really happy with what’s going on with work right now, and my friend’s kind of being a jerk, but at least I’m not getting chased by zombies.” And so I like to think that the show can be somewhat uplifting in that respect.
ALPERT: You’re not getting chased by zombies.
AX: Have either of you done the zombie makeup and been in any scenes?
KIRKMAN: No. I have that peeve of seeing recognizable people involved in a production cameo-ing for no reason. I always look at it like, “Oh, that’s great, you got yourself in your own movie. That’s awesome.” It just really takes me out of the project, and so I don’t really want to ever do that.
AX: But on WALKING DEAD, it seems like you could be rendered unrecognizable by the makeup …
KIRKMAN: Oh, then it’s hot and sticky and who wants to do that? I’m a little lazy.
AX: Anything aspect of WALKING DEAD that you feel doesn’t get enough attention?
ALPERT: I think we don’t talk about the humor enough.
AX: You’ve got THIEF OF THIEVES – do either of you have any other upcoming projects we should know about?
ALPERT: We’re working on the pilot for POWERS at FX right now. We’ve got a bunch of other stuff that Bob and I are cooking up.
KIRKMAN: There are always things on the back burner and there are things on the front burner. I like to keep my hands in as many pies as possible. So there are pies on burners and hands in pies.
AX: How do you guys like to work with each other?
ALPERT: We don’t like to work with each other.
KIRKMAN: It’s a nightmare of a proposition to have to see this guy every day. We’ve had a long working relationship, I think Mr. Alpert and I really understand each other, and we work well in tandem to bring about our plans of world domination and I think it dovetails into the WALKING DEAD phenomenon in a cool way and it’s been working out so far, so I probably won’t kick the guy to the curb just yet.
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Related Link: ASSIGNMENT X’s complete Season 1 episode guide
Article Source: Assignment X
Article: Exlcusive Interivew with THE WALKING DEAD creator Robert Kirkman and executive producer David Alpert