The Walking Dead invaded Los Angeles this weekend as part of the annual Paleyfest, a week-long celebration of television sponsored by the Paley Center for Media. The sold-out panel included all the stars, comic book writer Robert Kirkman, and executive producer Frank Darabont. Though he was ill, Darabont was extremely jovial all night, as were the rest of the panelists. More after the break.
With the writers back to work for only the last week, not much can be said about season two because not much has been decided. So instead, the conversation turns to development and the first, mindblowing season. "I saw The Walking Dead while at my comic shop," Darabont explains. "I was immediately drawn to the zombies on the cover, and read it that night. The next day, I started looking into obtaining the rights."
Darabont was not the first producer to approach Kirkman about bringing his characters to life, but he was the first to want to bring it to television. "I was happy just writing the comics," Kirkman explains, "so I had the luxury of turning down stupid shit like super zombies. But when Frank approached me, he knew that it was about the humans more than the zombies. He got it." When NBC passed on the project, it was a blessing in disguise. AMC offered them the leeway to create the show the producers wanted.
In creating the television series, both Darabont and Kirkman view the comic book as a template, not law. With so many characters dying relatively quickly in the comic, some deviation was necessary. "I wrote some issues in a week," Kirkman admits. On occasion, when Darabont has approached Kirkman about changing the way something is handled in the comic book, Kirkman's response is, "I dunno. I forgot what happened." Both men agree that The Walking Dead takes place in a kind of alternate dimension where zombie movies don't exist, "a sad world," Kirkman laments. As such, you won't hear any of the characters use the Z-word, and there will be no "Thriller" jokes. "This is something new to them," says Darabont.
Unlike most shows, the actors are all consulted on where they want to see their characters go. Sarah Wayne Callies, who plays Lori Grimes, feels that her love triangle with not-dead husband Rick and his best friend Shane is the most dangerous aspect of the show. "It's hard to keep secrets without walls, and Lori's secret affects everyone," Callies says. "The humans are getting to be more dangerous than zombies." She also points out that, in a world without doctors, antibiotics, and clean water, there are so many more ways to die than just at the hands of zombies. With her character likely to end up pregnant, these factors are especially important.
Of season two, little else is left to be said. Michael Rooker will return, but not as the governor. Andrew Lincoln, who plays Rick Grimes, would like to see his horse return as a zombie ("That horse could hit his mark better than most actors I know"). Because Darabont is an advocate of coming in on a show in the midst of "something interesting," season two will likely pick up right where it ended, with the survivors caravanning away from the CDC. As for the secrets that Jenner whispered to Grimes, Darabont promises we will find out what he said. "What kind of communist turds do you think we are?"