'The Walking Dead': Glen Mazzara on his new role, Frank Darabont's exit and season 2
In a small screening room in Beverly Hills on a sweltering late summer afternoon, newly-minted "Walking Dead" showrunner Glen Mazzara -- along with co-executive producers Robert Kirkman, Gale Anne Hurd and David Alpert -- was on deck to reassure a handful of TV reporters and bloggers (and, by extension, their fans) that AMC's zombie hit is very much on track, in form and moving ahead at full steam.
In late July, show creator Frank Darabont abruptly left the production -- just days after enthusiastically promoting the show's second season at Comic-Con. Since Darabont's exit, the rumor mill has been churning with theories about his exit -- everything from Darabont's personality to clashes with AMC execs over budget cuts have been blamed for the shake-up.
Darabont, it should be noted, will still be listed as an executive producer in the show's opening credits and, according to Mazzara, his name will remain there as long as the show runs.
Here's more of what Mazzara had to say.
On his loyalty to Darabont:
"I came over to be Frank's no. 2. I believe in Frank. He's a terrific guy who is a mentor to me and everything and we all did a lot of work on plotting the season under Frank and I think part of the reason we've had such a smooth transition is because it's a fully articulated world -- both what comes from the comic and what Frank's put on screen.
"So I think that there's been all this concern that I'm going to f--- up the show and really we're just trying to get it done. I think this is consistent with what we did last year. Like any second season, you try to work out the bugs, you try to improve what you can do and what you're seeing is the usual growth of any TV show creatively. So there's no plan to deviate from what we worked out. There's no different vision of the show. It's just really like 'Let's make the greatest show that we can.' The show came roaring out of the gate and we just want to continue like that."
Zap2it asked about Comic-Con's "Walking Dead" press roundtables, where many cast members talked about how important and central Darabont was to their experience working on the show. Here's Mazzara's answer about how the cast is weathering the change:
"I sat in a room with the cast and that was tough. When I was on "Crash," there was a leadership change there and I was the one that got that show up and running so I know it's painful. People are working and I realize that the cast has -- he's the big daddy figure and they care about him and they're going on auditions and blowing gigs and all of a sudden the great Frank Darabont picks them and puts them on a hot show so there's an emotional connection to Frank that they're never going to have with another writer/producer -- they're just not.
"So now I'm in a situation where I have to go in and try to fill Frank's shoes. Well, that's a dangerous situation -- so I just spoke to them honestly about that and told them that at some point there's going to be material that's going to be different."
Mazzara continued to talk about his next step after telling the cast -- informing the crew on the ground in Georgia:
"And the cast said, well, don't do that until we get there and can stand behind you. And that was really a win -- that they are such professionals, care so much about the work and that they are so dedicated to making sure the show does well. I mean, listen, the show could collapse -- and that's a big scare for everybody. I don't believe that's going to happen. I think we're coming out strong and all the material is just as good as this or better.
"But when they stood behind me you really felt like they were invested in saying 'OK, this is confusing, but we're going to work through this together.' And that's been the case -- I speak to them all the time. The material continues to be good -- it may not necessarily have the Frank Darabont feel, but I believe in it and believe we'll execute it as best we can and I think they've really risen to the challenge.
"It was a hard punch to take, but we're moving on."
"The Walking Dead" returns to AMC on Sunday, Oct. 16.