The biggest cliffhanger as we head into season 2 of “The Walking Dead” may not be whether Sheriff Rick Grimes manages to overcome zombies and his own insecurities to survive a zombie apocalypse, but why showrunner and series originator Frank Darabont abruptly quit on Tuesday (July 26).
“I’m not going to slack off ’cause I’m feeling sorry for myself and I’m 52 and I’m tired,” Darabont said at a press roundtable on Friday at Comic-Con.
Yet just four days later, Darabont was out and — as of Wednesday — Glen Mazzara (a second season addition to the writing staff) was named to succeed him.
Darabont — a hands-on producer who, along with GaleAnn Hurd, coaxed the series based on Robert Kirkman’s popular graphic novels into existence on AMC in 2010 and was, according to cast members, a constant on the Georgia set — didn’t give any indications that he was contemplating a change.
When Zap2it spoke to him at the pop culture fest on Friday during a series of press roundtables promoting the upcoming second season, Darabont not only seemed secure in his position as showrunner, but downright enthusiastic about it.
“I’d written for television before, but not extensively,” said Darabont. “So it’s really interesting to get that thing figured out to the second with every cut of the show. Aside from that, you’re telling the story — the basic part of it is the same. There’s an added technical element to it which makes it kind of interesting, actually.”
Darabont’s film credits include “The Green Mile” and “The Shawshank Redemption,” both of which he wrote.
“It’s very satisfying to me to be able to tell this story and cram as much into it as we are,” said Darabont referring to the first season’s six-episodes. “It’s really cool. I really like it.”
As for season two which is currently filming in Georgia, Darabont seemed dialed in to the process and ready to proceed after the brief Comic-Con break.
“We’ve got the first eight [episodes] written,” he said. “We had them written before we started. We’ve been re-writing and honing those eight, but it’s been a tremendous advantage to have eight scripts by the time you shoot a show.
“Which I discovered isn’t really common in television. This sort of ‘let’s go one at a time thing’ doesn’t really make any sense to me. You have less perspective over all. The more scripts you have the more perspective you have on the over-all arc and what the connective tissue needs to be. And I don’t know why everybody doesn’t work that way. I said, we’ve got a room full of writers here, we’re all going to write a script. And it’s worked out great.”
Not that working on a complicated story with lots of moving parts on a scorching hot set in Georgia didn’t take it’s toll. But Darabont as much as said he was committed to sticking it out.
“You do it because you love the show and you don’t want to let it down,” he said. “And most of all you don’t want to let your colleagues down … I know that these people are busting their asses on the set and I want to make sure that they get the best that I have to offer. And I’m not going to slack off cuz I’m feeling sorry for myself and I’m 52 and I’m tired.”