Robert Kirkman and Glen Mazzara on ‘The Walking Dead’

The creator and executive producer of AMC's blockbuster series talk to us about the second season.

Fred Topelby Fred Topel

Well, I could say I didn’t mean to get into it with the producers of "The Walking Dead," but I kind of did. I love the series, we love the series and we want it to be great. If we collectively feel there were setbacks in the second season then they’re worth analyzing. Robert Kirkman and Glenn Mazzara proved a lively interview as AMC gave select journalists more intimate time in roundtables before the big Television Critics Association panel.


Crave Online: Looking back, do you regret taking several episodes to look for Sophia?

Robert Kirkman: I think it was important to take the time to get to know our characters. It’s a good thing to lull people into a false sense of security when the characters are experiencing a false sense of security. I think their time spent on the farm 1) made the Sophia reveal that much bigger of a payoff but also is going to inform just how the last six episodes are interpreted. The next half of the episodes, we’re going to see that the farm isn’t that great a place.

Glen Mazzara: Yeah, I think we have a story that we’re telling over 13 episodes. That first half had a great payoff, the second half accelerates the storytelling. I don't know if we’d say we regret any of the episodes that we did. I’m proud of those episodes and if some people feel that some of those episodes were slower than others, I could argue that we were spending time with our characters. So I’m not sure.

Crave Online: Were you surprised audiences had a hard time with the slow build?

Glen Mazzara: Well, let me say this. I could make the case that that’s true for a certain segment of the audience. People have expectations about the show and the show is a difficult show to write because I’ll be honest, if we have a zombie attack every week, people say it’s the zombie of the week. If we don’t have zombies, people say there were no zombies. So it’s a challenging situation. So I think that we’ve looked at making each episode as interesting and as compelling as possible. I think we get better at that as it goes on.

Crave Online: I don’t think people wanted it to be more action and gore.

Glen Mazzara: Okay, then what do you think they mean?

Crave Online: I don’t think it’s as simplistic as more action.

Glen Mazzara: Okay. Well, I’ll say this. The show is improving. I think by the end of these six episodes, I think hopefully those fans will agree that this is a thrill ride because we really do feel there are huge payoffs coming up in each episode. You won’t have to wait for just the last episode. Maybe that’s it. Maybe there weren’t payoffs along the way. Do you think that’s it?

Crave Online: Maybe the search for Sophia seemed repetitive and it was harder to see what the theme was until the scene in the barn in the midseason finale.

Glen Mazzara: That’s possible.

Robert Kirkman: But I think that building to that reveal of Sophia was a payoff that we were working towards and I think we did a good job of working towards it. Also I would like to say that the Sophia reveal is really the beginning of an escalation that takes us all the way through to the end of our season. So we started out here and we were searching for Sophia and then things got a little bit heightened when we found her in the barn.

Crave Online: That’s going to lead to a lot of conflict, that’s going to lead to a new threat on the horizon that you’ll see in our first episode back, which is really going to dovetail into a big series of events that’s going to lead us to our finale. So having that big escalation would not work as well, we feel, if we didn’t have those episodes.

Glen Mazzara: I think people will be satisfied by the end of this run and again, you learn how to do a show as you’re writing it. The story material reveals itself so if there’s a way to break down that criticism and look at it moving forward, that’s valid.

Crave Online: Who are some of the new characters we’re going to meet?

Robert Kirkman: Well, we can’t tell you. We’d love to tell you. There are definitely a lot of fan favorites out there that haven’t appeared in the show just yet. We’re hoping to get to them sooner rather than later but unfortunately we can’t really name names and reveal anything.

Crave Online: Fan favorites or original characters?

Robert Kirkman: Absolutely. There’ll always be a mix of characters from the comic and new characters appearing in the show, much like the characters that come in in episode 8 when we come back. Those guys aren’t from the comic book. Those are just people created for the show.

Crave Online: Frank Darabont recently released some concept ideas for what his Season 2 would have been. Could that really have been what the show was, if he had stayed on?
Robert Kirkman: That’s a strange thing. I will say that you’re pretty much watching what Frank Darabont’s Season 2 would have been.
Glen Mazzara: That’s correct.
Robert Kirkman: Frank moved off of that idea, in the room, before he was ever taken off of the show. That was something that he came into the room with and it was something that he did have planned, from the very filming of the pilot. I remember when we were on set filming the pilot, he was telling me about Sam Witwer coming in and playing the zombie, and how he had plans to come back to that, eventually.

But, when we broke it in the room, with Glen and all the other writers, we all decided, as a whole, coming out of the Jenner episode, and how that focused on Jenner in the CDC and didn’t really deal with our characters in any kind of real significant way, coming back for a second season, with a different character that isn’t our main characters, and telling his story, didn’t seem like the right way to open the season. So it was something that really came out of the room.


Glen Mazzara: So, the point is that Frank Darabont was the showrunner at the time we chose to move off of that idea. That idea was never outlined, as far as I know. It was never written as a script. It was never budgeted. It was never presented to anyone, except the internal writers room, in any significant pitch way. I’ve been surprised at the attention this is getting, so I’m glad to clear it up because that just wasn’t the [case.]

Crave Online: Well, it’s news when anything by Frank Darabont is released.

Glen Mazzara: Sure, but I didn’t read Frank’s statement I don’t know if he actually said that he wrote it, or it was a pitch. So it was something we talked about. The other thing is that this actor is on a show called "Being Human." So, another thing was that we’d have to begin production with someone who’s tied to another show. That was an issue that Frank did not want to get into. Is this guy going to be available for our shoot, when we have to build out the whole season? That was another factor that we discussed. That’s the case behind that.
Robert Kirkman: And, it wasn’t that we moved off of the idea because we had any kind of opinions on [it.] We thought that was a cool thing to do and a great idea in and of itself. It just wasn’t for that time. We didn’t feel like, and Frank agreed, that it was the best way to open the second season.
Crave Online: Will you have more featured zombies, like the one stuck in the well, in the second half of the season?
Robert Kirkman: Yeah, there’s a lot of zombie action.
Glen Mazzara: There’s a tremendous amount of zombie action. That’s a very particular zombie. Let’s say that’s a showcased zombie. There are several scenes revolving around that particular thing. Greg Nicotero designed that, had the whole thing fall apart, as disgusting as possible. It was fantastic. We continue to do that, to try to make sure our zombies are special. We certainly have that in our second episode back. We just have a tremendous amount of zombie action coming up.
Robert Kirkman: There are a lot of good moments like that coming up. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. The well zombie is definitely not going to be the be-all, end-all of this show.
Glen Mazzara: There was some really cool stuff that Greg was able to design of “What would happen to a zombie, if…”and that kind of stuff. It’s fun.
Crave Online: Will there be more fun ways for them to get supplies?
Glen Mazzara: That’s going to become more and more of a challenge. That is something that we talk about a lot and do a lot of research about. Unless you have factories up making something and working, until civilization comes back, that’s what life is reduced to, trying to safely go from one meal to the next, and not becoming a zombie’s meal. That’s what I think is their life because everything is broken down. That’s interesting.

Crave Online: Where are you going with the comic book series?
Robert Kirkman: Well, we’re coming up on our 100th issue, which is a big milestone. There’s a lot of cool stuff coming up. We’ve got a storyline now, called “A Larger World.” Basically, Rick and his group are holed up in a walled-in community that is fairly safe, and we’re going to open up that world and watch them re-establish civilization, in a big way.

They’re going to be encountering other pockets of civilization that are near them, and some of those pockets of civilization are going to be providing them with trade routes and supply lines that will continue to help them be sustained, and other pockets of civilization are going to hold tremendous amounts of threat for them. It’s going to be a big evolution in the kind of stories that we tell in the comic book series. It’s going to be the next step that’s going to get us going for another hundred issues. I’m pretty excited about all the stuff that’s coming up.
Crave Online: And, what’s going on with your label?
Robert Kirkman: Skybound, we have a lot of cool stuff coming out. We’ve got a new book, called Thief of Thieves, that will be launching in February. We’ve got another book, called Witch Doctor, that we do. It’s basically just continuing to expand our brand and getting more comics out there, but also trying to bring more of a universal sensibility to comic books.

We’re not doing any superhero titles, aside from the one that I’ve been doing for decades. We’re going to cap it at that and we’re just going to try to open up the genres that are told in the comic book medium, and try to tell more real-world stories and some things that you can’t really get out of comics. That’s what our focus is going to be.