The drama behind the scenes on The Walking Dead is beginning to rival the zombie action on screen.
First, there was the controversy over whether the show’s tiny writing staff would be fired, with executive producer Frank Darabont leaving open the possibility of writing everything himself with the assistance of a few freelancers. And now comes the news that Darabont himself is stepping down as showrunner, a strikingly early departure – The Walking Dead has aired only one six-episode season, with its second season now in production – considering his prominence and his very hands-on presence to this point. No replacement has been named, and there has been no word on whether Darabont will maintain any role with the show.
Whenever someone leaves a big job abruptly, rumors of backroom power struggles typically pop up, but that doesn’t seem to be the case here. Darabont and fellow executive producer Robert Kirkman, who wrote the comic on which the series is based, headed The Walking Dead panel at Comic-Con last week, and neither gave any inkling of what was to come.
Deadline.com, which broke the news of the departure, suggested that Darabont had trouble getting accustomed to the faster pace and smaller budgets of television, after a career spent writing and directing features (The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile). This makes sense: Darabont wrote and directed the pilot of The Walking Dead, which was cinematic by the usual standards of the tube, but that sort of care and attention simply isn’t possible on a week to week basis, and he may have had difficulty making the switch.