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Walking Dead is back… showrunner Glen Mazarra and creator Robert Kirkman talk about the past & the future

February 11th, 2012 by Marc Comments

Well after THAT revelation at the end of Season 2 part 1, the Walking Dead returns this Sunday night. Now that showrunner Frank Darabont is gone AMC are hoping they can maintain the quality they’ve achieved this far. Altough I personally would argue that, while certainly good, the end of the first season was a mess and season two dragged out over five episodes something that could have been easily rsolved in one. But these are mere nitpicks.

The series is a massive hit and everyone is talking zombies because of it, but lest we forget that before the hit series was the (ongoing) hit comicbook series that kicked it all of and that the TV closely, if not perfectly, mimics.

With Darabont’s departure, second in command Glen Mazzara, (The Shield) is now in charge and Robert Kirkman (pictured above), creator of the superb comic series and writer on the series is overseer. Hitflix caught up with them both of them and tackled the big issues: where are Rick and the survivors going next, how did they feel about the audience reactions to the slow adventure at Hershel’s farm and what exactly does Darabont’s departure mean for the show?

We must point out before you, constant reader, that the fate of certain characters in the comic and the books are very different and as such some of what follows could be considered spoiler territory… you have been warned. Still here? Fair enough… read on:

HF: What is the plan for this batch of episodes? I read the comic, but obviously you’ve deviated quite a bit from the comic already. What kind of story do you see yourselves telling in the back half of this season, thematically?
Robert Kirkman: Thematically I think that we were trying to lull you into a sense of security with the farm in the first half of the season and I think that the second half of the season is just reminding everyone how dangerous this world is. And there is a theme going throughout the season of Rick’s leadership role, how he comes into it, whether he’s able to assume the mantle of leadership and whether he does that. So that is going to be going with all the episodes, but it really is about how dangerous this world is and these new threats that they’re encountering.
Glen Mazzara: Yeah, I think that after the revelation that Sophia was in the barn, everything is just at a full boil on that farm, that the outside world now starts crashing in. The farm itself is not safe. People are turning on each other. It’s just the stakes are amped up as high as possible.

Some people have felt that they’ve (the survivors) have been at Herschel’s farm maybe a little bit too long. Have you guys learned anything now that you’ve been doing this a while in terms of how much story to devote to things?
Glen Mazzara: You know what, I do. I’ll say that I don’t think the issue is necessarily “are they on the farm or aren’t they?” It’s that some of those episodes on the farm perhaps feel as a stall or perhaps feel safe and the danger is elsewhere. That changes in the back half of the season. Now there is no safe place and everything is a lot more heated. I don’t think that what we’re doing is a course correction based on feedback. It’s the natural progression of storytelling over 13 episodes and if we had to do it again perhaps we would pull some more stuff up, but it’s just the way it came together.
Robert Kirkman: I think once you see this season as soon as whole and you’re able to look at the 13 episodes you’ll see that some of the things in the back half are more intense and more threatening because of the way those episodes in the first half were perceived. I think that that story will build into something that as a whole will be a pretty cool thing.

Roughly at what point in the writing of the episodes did Frank leave?
Glen Mazzara: It’s sort of impossible to say because there were scripts that were done and shot and then we went back and where there were things that were being prepped that new scenes were written for or something. I’d say at midpoint of the episodes that are there. Some people are saying that the first eight or first seven are Frank’s and the next are mine. It’s not that clear. That midseason finale for example that was a script that I polished. That was a script that I think there was a draft done, but Frank never touched that script.

You only had six episodes to work with last year, so there was only so much you can do with the characters, and during this time on the farm, you spent quite a bit of time on characterization. Daryl, for instance, feels like someone who you’ve done quite a bit of work with from who he was then to who he is now. Talk about sort of your approach to him and what you want to do there, especially since he’s one of the few people who is wholly invented for this show.
Robert Kirkman: We really like that character. I think he’s a fan favorite, but I mean he’s also a favorite among the writers on the show as well. It’s just a really interesting character. The whole show is about how different characters exist in this world and how it affects them and how they change over time, and to see a character like him that to a certain extent his life has been improved by this dramatic change in civilization. I mean, he actually has friends now. He actually has a family for the first time and it’s just a lot of fun to explore. So I think that that drives us coming up with cool ideas for the guy.
Glen Mazzara: Yeah and I’ll say this that Daryl became Carol’s knight in shining armor. He took up this quest to find Sophia. The fact that Sophia was right there and that quest is lost, I think Daryl feels foolish that he ever thought he could take on this noble quest. That really affects him and turns him into a dark place in the back part of the season and it’s a matter of as we have the rivalry between Rick and Shane, obviously Daryl is a great asset, and it’s important to see where his loyalties lie.

With what they found at the CDC and what they’ve been talking about a lot this season, there really is no hope here — at least that they’re aware of. The world is damned. How do you deal with a story in which characters have no hope? What is the objective?
Glen Mazzara: The story is the search for hope. As Rick clearly says, we were all facing death anyway, whether it was from this or that, so it’s about how does this group of survivors carry on? How do they find hope? How do they give each other hope? And right now I think that that’s coming out of a sense of their community about togetherness. I don’t think anybody would be successful going off on their own. I don’t think people consider that and so it’s a matter of how does humanity pick itself up after this horrific event and the show is not about dealing with the loss of hope. It’s about the search for new hope.

And obviously you’ve had to deal with that in the book. As you say, things get really, really bad as it goes on and all these terrible things happen. As you’re plotting out the journey in the book and now you’re doing it in the series how do you look at it in terms of what the story is? Is it just a series of awful things that happen to Rick Grimes or —?
Robert Kirkman: It’s important to me to do as realistic a portrayal of what life would be like in this situation as possible. I do believe that were this to actually happen life would be pretty bleak and so I want to not pull any punches. I want to continue to tell that story as I believe it would happen and that ends up being a fairly dark, really kind of at times, depressing kind of story, but I like to think that it is a story about looking for hope and searching for that and every now and then they do find it and I think that the comic book series does have these moments where they do think things are going to get better and there are signs that there are going to be able to survive and I think that that’s what keeps things going and that’s what keep people invested in seeing where these people are going to go and how they’re going to do it.

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Marc is a self-confessed nerd. Ever since seeing Star Wars for the first time around 1979 he’s been an unapologetic fan of the Wars and still believes, with Clone Wars and now Underworld, we are yet to see the best Star Wars. He’s a dad of two who now doesn’t have the time (or money) to collect the amount of toys, comics, movies and books he once did, much to the relief of his long-suffering wife. In the real world he’s a graphic designer. He started Following the Nerd because he was tired of searching a million sites every day for all the best news that he loves and decided to create one place where you can go to get the whole lot. Secretly he longs to be sitting in the cockpit of his YT-1300 Corellian Transport ship with his co-pilot Chewie, roaming the universe, waiting for his next big adventure, but feels just at home watching cartoons with his kids….