On Friday, July 22, the cast and producers of The Walking Dead assembled in San Diego to bask in the adoration of fans at Comic-Con. Among them was Frank Darabont, the Academy Award-nominated writer/director of The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile, who shepherded the zombie-apocalypse drama from the black-and-white pages of Robert Kirkman’s comic book to television, where it became the highest-rated show on AMC.
Darabont met with hordes of reporters, including myself, and appeared on the brink of exhaustion at times. Understandable, given the show’s relentless production schedule, and the rumblings we’d all been hearing about behind-the-scenes conflicts with the network over budgetary concerns. But he still managed to answer each question gamely, and his continuing passion for the project shone through.
Three days later, he was fired.
In retrospect, some of his comments become very interesting. Here are the ones that stand out:
On how tough the schedule is: “It’s grueling to do what we do, period. The sheer hours and lack of weekends. Normal people get to work a nine-hour day, and that’s when we’re just getting started really. I’ve been in so many writing days that were 12, 15 and 16 hours with no time off. It’s not easy writing 16 hours a day. You set your mind to a different space. It’s more like a marathon. Last year felt like a marathon. … There are days I wish there were a zombie apocalypse, because then I could stop working.”
On the show’s copycat effect on the zombie genre: “Yeah, all the a@@holes who said no to this show. They saw our numbers and said, ‘I need a zombie show.’ They could have had one. All they had to do was just say yes to me. I have no idea what the substance of those shows is going to be. I’ve been paying more attention to our show than my own life. … When we’re done with this show, I’m going to be zombied out for the rest of my life. I’m really getting zombies out of my system with this show.”
On whether Season 2 will be heavy on social commentary: “Most of the good commentary came from the accidental. You’re writing about something and half the time you don’t realize you’ve made a comment until afterward. It’s like a good double entendre, you don’t realize it was one until it came out. So who knows? It’s an interpretive dance anyway, you get to interpret what you dance. You tell me. We’ll meet back here next year and you tell me what we commented on.”
Photo: Scott Garfield/Courtesy of AMC