With a second season now in production and former police officer Rick Grimes and the rest of the series’ core cast of characters on the road once again, MTV News managed to get “The Walking Dead” creator and executive producer Robert Kirkman on the line to chat about the series’ impressive first season and what’s to come for the hit show.
Oh, and if you haven’t watched the first season yet, consider this your SPOILER WARNING!
MTV NEWS: When I spoke to you a while back, before “The Walking Dead” premiered, you said that doing the television series gave you a chance to go back and improve on some of the stories you told in the early issues. Now that the first season is behind us, what were some of the story points that benefited the most from the adaptation process?
ROBERT KIRKMAN: First off, let me say that the comic is great. But there’s all kinds of extra emotional stuff they added in the show. The moment between Andrea and Amy, when she’s turning into a zombie and Andrea has to shoot her — that’s very quick in the comic book. It’s there, but it’s not given the gravitas it was given in the show. Stuff like that, where they make things seem so important, and you really get a better emotional punch out of it, I could’ve done that in the comic if I thought about it, but I just didn’t pull it off as well as they did in the show.
It’s a great feeling, though. I’m happy with the comic and have no regrets, but it’s nice to know the adaptation is firing on all cylinders. I love when it impresses me — when I’m watching it and think, “Oh, that was really cool.” There’s a lot of stuff like that.
MTV: There have been a few new characters introduced in the television series that weren’t in the comic, but the one everyone’s talking about is Norman Reedus’ character, Daryl Dixon. There’s talk that he’s your favorite of the new additions… is that the case?
KIRKMAN: I wouldn’t say that, but the thing is, all of the [comic book] characters kind of bore me, because I’ve been with them for so long. I like everything the actors are doing with the characters, and they’re not giving boring performances, but Daryl Dixon is entirely new to me. That guy is cool and unexpected and throws a lot of new things into the mix of the ensemble. I think because of that, he brings so much new stuff to the show, and that excites me. … Steven Yeun does a great job, and he’s a perfect Glenn and does all kinds of awesome stuff, but I’ve known Glenn for 10 years. I know all about Glenn.
MTV: Any more brand new characters on the way for the series, or will it just be comic characters joining the cast in Season Two?
KIRKMAN: There will definitely be new characters in the second season. There are definitely people from the comic that haven’t appeared yet that will be appearing for the first time in the second season, and as far as new characters that haven’t appeared in the comic, we’ll be seeing some of them, too.
MTV: The first season’s final story arc in the Center for Disease Control took a lot of comic fans by surprise, as it was such a big divergence from the source material. Why was the CDC arc the right place to end the first season? Where did that arc come from?
KIRKMAN: That all came from Frank Darabont. He was talking to me about it very early on. He thought it was a very natural extension of what was going on in the story, because the CDC is based in Atlanta, and he thought it would make sense to go there. He thought it would be a cool way to end the season — to turn the show on its head and go, “Okay, you’ve seen people in the woods being miserable, now let’s change it up.”
I think it worked really well, because you get a lot of character moments out of that. You saw a different side of Rick, which I think is very important because he let his guard down and relaxed for a minute. Because of that especially, I thought it was the perfect way to end the season. It twisted things and turned things around, and by the end of the episode, they’re back on the RV and back on the road. We see it getting back to where the comic book was, but I thought it was a great departure.
MTV: What about Jon Bernthal and Shane? Was there a decision made early on to spend more time with that character than you did in the comic? It feels like everyone is waiting for the plot point we know is coming…
KIRKMAN: I will say that some of that came from the fact that we had a six-episode first season. It didn’t feel right to get through Shane’s story in six episodes and wrap it up. Jon Bernthal is doing such an amazing job with the character that we don’t really want to get rid of Shane any time soon. The guy could live forever.
I will say this: I get no small amount of delight from making jokes about killing that guy every time I’m doing a convention or panel with Jon Bernthal. That guy loves being on this show, and I go a little overboard. I’m expecting him to deck me at some point. We’ll be on a panel and I’ll go, “Keep on lipping off, buddy — we’ll be getting rid of you soon!” He’s a good sport about it, but I want to keep Shane around to keep bugging Jon Bernthal.
MTV: And is it safe to say we haven’t seen the last of Merle Dixon?
KIRKMAN: We have definitely not seen the last of Merle. I can confirm that.
MTV: So where are things at with Season Two? do you have a start date for filming yet?
KIRKMAN: As we speak now, I’m in Los Angeles, pulling into the parking lot of the writers room. We’ve been hard at work on the season for weeks at this point. I know the start date for filming, but I don’t think I can divulge it. I can say we’re full-speed ahead and the second season will be underway soon and I couldn’t be more excited.
MTV: What about casting? I know you can’t divulge any names, but have you started looking at actors for Michonne, Tyrese, Hershel or any of the otehr characters bound to show in the second season?
KIRKMAN: It’s not confirmed yet, but I’ll give you an exclusive on this: I’m pulling for Ed O’Neill to play Michonne.
MTV: I’m not sure how fans would react to that… I don’t think it would work out.
KIRKMAN: [Laughs] I don’t know if it would work out, either. I just want to meet that guy. I’m an executive producer, and I’m drunk with power! [Laughs]
“The Walking Dead: The Complete First Season” hits shelves March 8. Keep it locked to Splash Page for more “Walking Dead” news, interviews, and video as we approach the second season’s premiere.