Friday, May 28, 2010

Robert Kirkman Talks 'The Walking Dead' TV Adaptation

Robert Kirkman revealed a few more details of the eagerly anticipated 'The Walking Dead' TV series, in a interview with AICN:
AICN: Hello, sir. How do you do?

Robert Kirkman: I’m doing all right.

AICN:I’m very excited to be talking to you about this because THE WALKING DEAD is my favorite comic book out now, so this is…
Robert Kirkman: And rightly so!

AICN: “Damn right it is!”

[Both Laugh]

AICN: But I have to say upfront that I’m at least two months behind, so anything that’s happened after the group got to the “a little too nice looking” suburb I’m not up to date on.

Robert Kirkman: Well I won’t hold that against you and I’ll do my best not to spoil anything.

AICN: Regardless, I’ll be buying them. What’s kind of funny is that the person who turned me onto THE WALKING DEAD five years ago was Frank Darabont. I had talked with him once or twice and then I bumped into him at a premiere and we got to talking about what he was doing and he said, “Hey, I just got this great comic book, a zombie book called THE WALKING DEAD.” He urged me to check it out, I did and then I got hooked. Now you guys are finally actually getting to make the show.

Robert Kirkman: Yeah, it all worked out.

AICN:: I’ve read some of your tweets where you are saying you were location scouting. The impression I get is AMC seems to be really getting behind the show. Is that right?

Robert Kirkman: Yeah, AMC is giving us a huge deal of support and they have already shown that they have a lot of confidence in the show just by immediately picking up the six episode first season without ever even starting to shoot the pilot, which I’m told is fairly unusual, so I’m pretty excited with how the process has been going so far.

Everyone’s moving full speed ahead. That’s kind of a fun thing because like you say you talked to Frank like five years ago and there was a time when it was going to be a pilot at NBC, but that kind of fell through and Frank kind of stayed in the picture and kept in touch with me and did his best to do things behind the scenes to try and get it made because he really likes the comic and I think was really gung-ho about making it.

The funny thing to me is five years went by and it was a little bit more than a year ago when Frank called me and said “Hey, I think AMC is interested in this.” They optioned it in September of last year, I think, and then in January they were like “Hey, we are making the show.” Then from January up until now, it has been nonstop. It just cracks me up how things can move so slowly and then as soon as they decide to make a show it’s like a hundred things happening at once.

So right now it’s like full speed ahead and they are moving forward with this pilot. They are going to be shooting all summer for the first six episodes. Frank is in Atlanta right now doing prep, so he’s kind of hard at it. They start shooting in, I think, a week.

AICN: That’s crazy.

Robert Kirkman: It’s pretty exciting. And then I’ll be going down there for that, so I’m looking forward to it.

AICN: Are you looking to have any sort of involvement in the show?

Robert Kirkman: You know what, I’ll give you guys a little bit of a… I think it might be an exclusive. I don’t think anybody has talked about it yet and I don’t know why it would need to be kept a secret or anything, but I’m actually writing the fourth episode in the six episode first season, so I’ve been spending time in the writer’s room and working with them plumbing out the season.

I just turned in my outline for the fourth episode a week or so ago. I’m going to be pretty involved in the series up to the point of actually writing a few episodes here and there, hopefully as we move into the second season. So yeah, it’s pretty exciting.

AICN: That’s great. It’s got to be a completely different beast than your standard script duties for the book. Is it an hour long show or half hour?

Robert Kirkman: It’s an hour long. It’s a little bit different. I’ve done screenwriting before… Also, the writers room is a very useful tool and they will be there to say, “Yeah, that script doesn’t look like a television script, it looks like a comic script. You need to change this around,” so I’ll be leaning on them quite a bit as I kind of learn the ropes. They are all great guys who are really supportive, so I’m pretty excited about that.

I do need to clarify, just a second ago I said something about “As we move into the second season.” I don’t want to give you the impression that that’s already been picked up or anything. Everyone on the show is just assuming that it’s going to get a second season. We are all pretty optimistic because we know how good the show’s going to be, but I don’t want you to say “Oh, it looks like he slipped!” I don’t want you to think it’s been picked up or anything because that’s definitely not the case.

AICN:No worries. It’s always good to clarify. I wouldn’t have announced it like that or made a big deal of it, but I think you might have had some fans pick up on that.

Robert Kirkman: Exactly.

AICN: Considering that even JJ Abrams, who created one of the most popular shows ever, had to shoot a pilot before the network committed to his new series it’s pretty spectacular that AMC’s going in sight unseen?

Robert Kirkman: I really have to give that to Frank Darabont. His vision for this show is so unique and the pilot script is so strong that I think that that’s why AMC got behind it so quickly. I think Darabont’s hand in this is the thing that is driving it. I think that he’s going to turn this into a pretty awesome television show.

AICN: I know this is going to come across totally as me kissing your ass, but he’s got such great material to work with.

Robert Kirkman: Look, I’m not denying that either!

AICN: (laughs) The character work in the comic is the reason why I love it so much and the reason why I have been an avid reader since issue 24. I love that there have been whole issues of people sitting in a room talking and I found that to be just as engaging as the action issues, where Michonne’s chopping off zombie heads left and right.

Robert Kirkman: Thanks man. I really appreciate that. I get complaints sometimes when I do those “We are going to sit in chairs in this issue” kind of issues, but it’s good to know that people appreciate that stuff because for me the fun of it is having people sit there and talk about what kind of cereal they like to eat while all of this zombie stuff is going on.

AICN: The reason why you can get away with that is because you have set up a world where nobody is safe, absolutely nobody is safe. There have been people that have died in your books that have blown me away. When you have those crazy moments… if somebody gets bit or killed, they are so effective because we have grown to know them in those quiet moments. Your material in Darabont’s hands I think is such a fantastic combination and that’s why I’m so excited for the show.

Robert Kirkman: Yeah, I think it’s going to be something that people haven’t really seen on television before, so that’s pretty exciting to me.

AICN: AMC has, obviously, been very supportive, but what can you get away with on AMC, in terms of graphic language and the intensity of the violence and stuff like that?

Robert Kirkman: You know, we just had a long meeting about this. There are some language restrictions. You’re not going to be dropping the F-bomb on AMC, which is fine. It’s not like if no one ever said the “f” word in WALKING DEAD the comic book, people would miss it.

I think the best way to put it is if you have ever watched BREAKING BAD…. they push the limit in BREAKING BAD quite often. There’s severed heads on the back of turtles, there’s liquefied bodies falling through ceilings, somebody just got their head blown off recently. I don’t want to spoil anything, but there’s very graphic nasty stuff that’s on BREAKING BAD all of the time and the thing that I was very excited to learn about AMC is that there is no limitation to how much of that you can have per episode or per hour or per minute.

AICN: Really?

Robert Kirkman: Anything you have seen in BREAKING BAD we can do every minute of our show. And then also there’s a lot of things you can get away with, because they are zombies, so you will be seeing all kinds of cool stuff that you would expect to see in THE WALKING DEAD: THE TV SHOW, so while it isn’t a pay cable channel, I think that people are still going to get what they want.

AICN: That’s good, because having a neutered zombie show is definitely not ideal, especially when you have people like KNB on board who can tear people up pretty good.

Robert Kirkman: Oh yeah. Nicotero has already been doing make-up tests on all of the zombies and there’s a bite test that I’ve seen. There’s a head shot test… So there’s all kinds of cool stuff that he’s already done on the show that just looks amazing.

AICN: I haven’t seen anything yet, but I’ve heard that Nicotero’s zombies are very Adlard-ish.

Robert Kirkman: Yeah, they are very true to the comics.

AICN: That makes me happy. I’m telling you, I’m a real deal fan. I have about four or five pieces of Charlie’s original art from the series.

Robert Kirkman : Only four or five? Come on, man…

AICN:I’m saving up for a good zombie splash. Those are a little bit pricey.

Robert Kirkman: I would recommend buying them before October.

AICN:Yeah, believe me I’ve been thinking about that. I noticed at WonderCon that all of THE WALKING DEAD art that you could find on the floor this year was significantly more expensive than it was last year.

Robert Kirkman: That’s unfortunate… for Charlie. (laughs)

AICN: Here’s a question that I know a lot of fans have asked… I’ve seen this pop up a lot in our talkback. Has there been any talk at all about shooting the show in black and white?

Robert Kirkman: No, no there isn’t. I have a concern that if people were flipping the channels and they saw something that was in black and white, they might think it was an old movie. It’s just something that’s usually not done on television and while I think it’s neat and I know Darabont likes black and white a lot, that’s why there’s a black and white version of THE MIST on the DVD and he wanted to do the movie in black and white originally. I don’t know that there’s going to be a black and white version of the show on the DVD. There might be, but it just doesn’t make sense as a television show for a lot of reasons.

One of the things that I’m really adamant about is I want this to be the best show possible and I don’t want there to be any kind of limitations on the show where they are trying to mimic the comic book. I think black and white would be limiting the show only for the reason of making it more like the comic book. And I kind of like that the show is going to be somewhat different than the comic, so that it will be a different experience for people who like the comic and read the comic. I’m fine with it being in color and I think it’s going to be great.

Now it’s not going to be a rainbowy bright color kind of show because I know they are doing a lot of visual stuff to kind of dull things down and not put a lot of bright colors on screen and make it visually interesting and fit the tone of the story, but it’s not going to be black and white.

AICN: I’m kind of in that camp with you as well. I think it’s a neat idea, but also at the end of the day I really do like the fact that these are two radically different mediums telling the story in different ways. Honestly the characters are what’s important, not so much the color palette of the world, so if the characters are brought over, that’s what matters. Do you think that the show is going to catch up to the books at some point? Or do you think that you are always going to be a step ahead of the show with the comics?

Robert Kirkman: Well, one of the many cool things about the show is that while it is going to follow the comic book to a pretty close degree, there’s going to be things that happen in the show that have happened in the comic and most of the characters are there and if the characters aren’t there initially, there will be more characters from the book added in as we go on, but the show is going to have new characters that aren’t in the comic. It’s going to have differences in the storyline and so there’s going to be things in the comic that it just never touches on and it’s really going to be “There’s the television story and then there’s the comic book story,” so as far as catching up to the comic series, it’s not really going to be possible because as time goes on they are not going to be really following the same story.

Now we will probably eventually see The Governor because that is a big part of the comic book. So, there’s cool stuff like that that will definitely be making into the show if we continue on, but it’s not going to follow the comic book story for story. So, it’s probably not going to really catch up to it and hopefully it will go in a completely new direction, so that it will be two separate stories that people can enjoy together.

AICN:I guess the last thing that we should probably talk about regarding the TV show is the cast, which is starting to bit by bit come out. I think the last ones I saw were Jeff DeMunn and Laurie Holden coming on board. I think those are really interesting people. I like that they are Darabont regulars. Have you gotten to weigh in at all? Has Frank asked your opinion on any of this stuff or is this kind of off in his world?

Robert Kirkman: I got to see most of the screen tests and a lot of the readings and I saw the different actors that tried out for the different roles and I would kind of hang back and enjoy them and let Gale Anne Hurde and AMC and Frank… You know, they know acting and they know actors and they are the ones actually making the show. I had input, but I wasn’t really going to come in and tell them “I like this guy” because I don’t know anything about acting! “That guy” could be really horrible! I know what I like and I know what I don’t like, but I’m no expert.

So basically they would come to me and they would say… for instance with Andrew Lincoln “This guy is really great. We really like him. Do you see him as Rick? What do you think about him?” In the case of Andrew, I was like “He’s perfect.” His screen test was great. He’s a really good actor. He’s not too terribly recognizable, so it’s not like I’m going to be sitting there “Oh no, that’s not Rick, I’ve seen him in other things,” so he was perfect and I responded and said “Yeah, that guy’s awesome. I would totally love it if he was Rick.”

So they cast him. Now maybe they did that just because of me, you know. Maybe I got that guy the part, but probably not. (laughs) So I was definitely involved and I basically loved everyone that they picked and so I don’t know how influential I was on the casting at all.

I think Jon Bernthal is excellent, Sarah Wayne Callies is great, and Jeffrey DeMunn is awesome. I was so thrilled. He was great in THE MIST, so yeah I’m really excited about the cast. I can’t wait to meet all of these people and annoy the shit out of them on the set. It’s going to be awesome!

AICN:(laughs) And you get that right too. “This is mine suckers, you’re going to have to put up with me!”

Robert Kirkman: (laughs) I’m going to see if I can get a photo of me wearing Dale’s…
Jeffrey DeMunn, who I guess I just revealed is playing Dale, which for some reason they never printed out and people were speculating as to who he was playing.

AICN:Yeah, well who else is he going to play, really?

Robert Kirkman: Yeah, it’s pretty obvious, but I’ve got to get that hat. I’ve got to wear that hat!

AICN: Oh yeah, that little fisherman hat or whatever? The kind of grandfatherly fisherman hat that he wears all of the time, yeah.

Robert Kirkman: Yeah!

AICN:So outside of the show what else do you have on your plate right now?

Robert Kirkman: What else have I got on my plate? Well, I’ve got all kinds of stuff going on. I’ve got my INVINCIBLE series still going strong. INVINCIBLE and THE WALKING DEAD will be hitting their 75th issues in July. They are running a little behind scheduled right now. I think WALKING DEAD is actually going to catch up and ship on time, but INVINCIBLE is probably going to ship in late August. But we’ve got the big 75th issues going and INVINCIBLE’s got the big Viltrumite War storyline going, which has been building up in the books since issue one. Do you read INVINCIBLE at all?

AICN: I have read the first two of the graphic novels. I picked those up around the same time that I picked up WALKING DEAD, but there seemed to be more INVINCIBLE graphic novels for some reason and I was poor and I had to make a choice.

Robert Kirkman: For shame!

AICN: I liked what I read!

Robert Kirkman: Yeah, but I have an INVINCIBLE spin-off called THE GAUDIANS OF THE GLOBE that’s coming out in August, so that’s coming up and my ASTOUNDING WOLF-MAN series is coming to a close with issue 25 and I’ve got that book that I co-created with Todd McFarlane called HAUNT that has been going strong. It sill be reaching it’s one year anniversary in October and we are going to be doing something special for that, so you know I’ve got a bit of stuff going on. I’m sure I forgot some things, but you know.

AICN: So, what you are basically saying is you’re just lazy.

Robert Kirkman: Pretty much. (laughs)

AICN:Cool man. That sounds great and I’ll have to catch up on INVINCIBLE, so next time we talk I wont be so embarrassed for having not read it or been completely caught up.

Robert Kirkman: That’s all right. It starts getting good on the third volume, so give it a shot.

AICN:Nice. Well good luck with the series. I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to it. And hey… All I’m saying is I was a zombie for George Romero… If you guys want a fat geek zombie, I’m around.

Robert Kirkman: (laughs) Which movie were you in?


Robert Kirkman: Oh cool. Well, good luck with it.

AICN:Cool, man. Again, good luck to you guys. I really think this show has a lot of potential.

Robert Kirkman: I think it’s going to be great. I think people are going to be really blown away by it, so I’m pretty stoked.

AICN: Thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate it.

Robert Kirkman: All right cool, thanks a lot and maybe I’ll see you on set.

AICN: Fingers crossed!