Q&A: The Walking Dead’s Frank Darabont and Robert Kirkman

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In our countdown to The Walking Dead this Sunday, we’re bringing you exclusive interviews from the creators of the show. We spoke to executive producer and show developer Frank Darabont, who developed the show as well as wrote the first two episodes, and comic book creator Robert Kirkman during a press panel. It may seem weird to have a zombie show on television, but Darabont and Kirkman assure us that this is the best and only way to stay true to the material

I noticed that the show has a dramatic feel to it similar to AMC’s Breaking Bad or Mad Men, but it has zombies in it. Was that something that you were going for?

Frank Darabont: Not in those terms. My perception of the main task here is really to due to the intention of what Robert’s done here, which is tell these stories in the most unflinching and adult character driven fashion possible, it kind of backs us into it. It makes us a really good match for AMC because they like that storytelling.

But it certainly isn’t a sop to AMC, it’s really out of respect and deference to the material we’re adapting. The material is so good it makes it possible to tell those kinds of stories, and yeah to get really gross on occasion, which is really fantastic because yeah, we’re not holding back. If I were doing this as a feature, I wouldn’t be doing those effects, those moments than I would be doing now.

Robert Kirkman: Did you even tell Greg Nicotero this was for television?

FD: No, apparently not.

(More on Techland: Robert Kirkman Talks Walking Dead Weekly)

You started walking on television with the Young Indy show. You have this wide canvas as an artist to tell a story, and then you have success in the feature films where you have a two-hour window. What is more conducive to the art form?

FD: I wouldn’t say one is necessarily superior to the other. I have to tell you, it’s very exciting to slip into this serialized approach to telling a story. You’re right, with a feature – hell even you’ve talked about this – you’ve got two hours, in my case, two hours and change, to tell a story with a set of characters so there is a finality to that. You have to get everything said in that span of time.

With this, we’ll be talking about who these characters are as long as they let us continue to make these. I love the long range thinking that goes into something like this.

(More on Techland: The Zombie Combat Manual: How to Kick Some Undead Ass)

So you’re not locked down to the books?

FD:  Not slavishly. And this is one of the reasons I love Robert so much. When we first talked about this I said, I intend to stay on your narrative path, but I also want to detour where and when and where it makes sense to detour.  You go of the path because so many great ideas are going to come up as we go along. Why not step off the path and explore this little area off the side and get back on the path? He was always very supportive of that.

RK: How arrogant that you have to be to say, “FD is going to adapt my comic book. By the way Frank, can you not change anything? I don’t want any of your ideas to be included.”

Between Frank and the writers’ room, there’s a lot of really talented people involved in this show and there are a lot of great ideas that come up when you are discussing what to do with this. There’s a lot of new characters added that are amazing that I think people are going to fall in love with, and they all have their own stories so what you do is you get the comic book which is a good roadmap. Well, it’s all right: I think it’s a good comic book.

FD:  It’s a very good comic book.

RK: But when you do a television show you get to add all these pieces and expand it to something that’s bigger than it started out being. The television show is kind of the comic book that expanded out into the best possible version of the comic book.

(More on Techland: The Zombie Crawl: The Walking Dead’s Steven Yeun on Being Glenn)

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