A Chat with Robert Kirkman (“The Walking Dead”)

ALSO: Check out our Season Two preview, as well as interviews with actors Jon Bernthal and Norman Reedus.

Bullz-Eye: I know you don’t remember me, but you and I met briefly when you were doing the press roundtables at the New York Comic-Con.

Robert Kirkman: Oh, good! I hope I did okay.

BE: Oh, yeah, you did great. It was a lot of fun. I just got the Season 2 press kit, and I’m 95% of the way through the first episode, so it killed me to have to get on the phone with you.

RK: (Laughs) Awesome!

BE: So how excited are you about the premiere of the show’s second season?

RK: I’m extremely excited. I mean, you know, there’s a lot of pressure to follow up our first season. It was a big success, and, you know, knowing what I know of the second season and seeing what I’ve seen, I’m fairly confident that we’re still going to come out of the gate and impress people, so I’m really anxious to see what people think of it. A lot of hard work has been going into this season, and it’s great that it’s going to finally be enjoyed by some people. So I’m really excited.

BE: When it comes to adapting the original source material, you’ve obviously got an advantage, given that it’s yours… (Laughs) …but I’m sure it’s hard to pick and choose which bits actually make it onto television.

RK: It’s a process. There’s not really a way to nail down exactly what goes into it. But everyone in the room is familiar with the comic, and we all sit down knowing what happened in the book, and we look at where the show’s going and what the characters are doing, and we just kind of figure it all out. Sometimes we take things directly from the comic, and there are a lot of times when we’re talking about things from the comic, and things will go to different characters in the show, or it’ll spin off into something entirely new that wasn’t in the comic, but the starting point was something that did appear in the comic. So it’s an evolving process, and it’s neat to be sitting down to adapt something that I wrote awhile ago. The earlier material in “The Walking Dead” is something I wrote some time ago, so it’s good to be able to revisit that stuff.

BE: Do you have a favorite TV-only moment that really stands out for you?

RK: Well, there’s a lot of stuff in the second season I can’t really talk about that’s pretty great. I really like the fact that Shane is still around. I think that Jon Bernthal is an amazing actor, and we have a lot of great stuff coming up for him and a lot of stuff planned for the future. I think it was a really good decision to keep him around, and I think that he’s adding a lot to the show. Daryl Dixon’s character is a really good X-factor thrown into the mix that morphs the story around him in the show, because he doesn’t exist in the comic, so throwing him into those scenarios is a lot of fun to see how he changes things. But there’s all kinds of different stuff.

BE: I feel like Season 2 needs more Michael Rooker. What’s your thought on that?

RK: I would say that if Michael Rooker was in every single episode of Season 2 – and he’s not – but if he was, the show would still need more Michael Rooker.

BE: That’s a pull quote. (Laughs) If we could briefly touch on the Frank Darabont situation, what’s his current status on the series?

RK: Frank Darabont is still an executive producer, but he’s no longer the show runner and he’s not in the room. It’s Glen Mazzara’s job now.

BE: You and Frank seemed to have a really strong rapport at Comic-Con. Can you speak to the matter of his departure at all?

RK: There’s very little I can talk about, just because there were a lot of dealings between AMC and Frank directly, so a lot of it I’m unaware of. It’s up to Frank when he wants to talk about that stuff, so it wouldn’t be right for me to come out and say it. But Frank got this show off the ground, and I’ll always be indebted to him for doing that. I was definitely sorry to see him go, but it kind of is what it is. The show is a bigger animal than any of us, and we kind of just have to do what we have to do to keep it going.

BE: Would you say that some of his vision that he put into place while he was show runner is still visible in the second season?

RK: There are bits and pieces here and there that were broken in the room, but the important thing to note is that Frank wasn’t in the room alone at any point during the show. With the second season, it was Glen Mazzara and myself and Scott Gimple and Evan Reilly and Angela Kang and Frank, and we all worked together to map out this second season. So to a certain extent, sure, there are things that Frank suggested, just like there are things that everyone suggested in every episode throughout the second season, but… (Hesitates) Yeah, I think I answered the question.

BE: (Laughs) Yeah, you did. So I know you said of Season 1 that you couldn’t believe how much you’d been able to get away with in Season 1 when it came to the gore. Season 2 seems to be at least on a similar par.

RK: Yeah, I don’t know how far you got into the episode, but it’s pretty crazy.

BE: I’m at the scene at the church.

RK: Oh, so you saw the autopsy scene, then? (Laughs) Yeah, it’s pretty crazy. There’s more of that kind of stuff coming up in the second season. It’s really kind of ridiculous. We’re definitely crossing some lines and breaking down boundaries and all kinds of crazy stuff. It’s a constant battle to try and come up with something that AMC won’t let us do.

BE: Did it surprise you when you realized how open they were going to be about it?

RK: Yeah, absolutely. I know when we were talking very early on about the first season, I was very excited because I thought, “We’ll get to be able to do our R-rated crazy zombie gore, but we’ll edit that into the show for the DVD release,” so the DVD would be something special. You might have to watch a tamer version on TV, but at least you get to see the full craziness on DVD, and that’ll be a good system. That’ll be kind of cool. But as we kept going and moving into the show, it became clear that all that stuff was just going to air, which got even more exciting. I was, like, ‘Oh, so we don’t have to do the DVD thing? That’s pretty crazy!’ And any time there is any kind of talkback, we constantly have “Breaking Bad,” which is doing just absolutely crazy stuff, so we can say, “Aw, well, you just blew up a guy’s head in ‘Breaking Bad,’ so surely can we make a zombie piñata that explodes!”

(NOTE: Portions of this interview appear in the print edition of TV Week Magazine.)