'Walking Dead' writer Robert Kirkman talks season premiere (and that traumatic ending)

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Image Credit: Gene Page/AMC

Last night’s special, 90-minute episode of the Walking Dead got the second season of AMC’s zombie show off with a bang. Specifically, the show ended with one as Carl (Chandler Riggs) was gunned down. The moment was shocking — if not a huge surprise for fans of the Walking Dead comic, in which Rick’s son has demonstrated a magnetic attraction for bullets over the years.

The shooting concluded a show that had already found Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and his fellow survivors up to their elbows in trouble — and, in one memorable scene, zombie innards — as they hid from a herd of undead and then searched for the missing Sophia (Madison Lintz).

The man ultimately responsible for the group’s travails is Robert Kirkman, who, in addition to co-creating the Walking Dead comic, is also one of the show’s executive producers and writers. As he did last year, the zombie overlord has agreed to explain, defend, and generally ruminate upon the TV version of his post-apocalyptic saga, episode-by-episode.

Below, Kirkman discusses the shooting of Carl, that zombie autopsy, and the highly controversial (at least in these parts) cutting of EW editor Dalton Ross’ zombie cameo.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Hey there.
ROBERT KIRKMAN: So we’re doing this again?

Yes, we are.
Alright!

I think what everyone is going to be talking about is the fact that you cut the scene in which our very own Dalton Ross made a cameo as a zombie.
Yeah. That guy can kiss my a–! [Laughs] He’s already complained to me about it.

He’s a shell of a man, a shadow of his former self! And his former self only weighed about 80 pounds, dripping wet.
He got a whole page in Entertainment Weekly about it. What more does he want?

No, sir, you got a whole page in Entertainment Weekly about it.
Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t look at it like that. [Laughs]

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Image Credit: Gene Page/AMC

But the absent scene, which documented the survivors escape from the CDC, did sound like a big action sequence. Why did you cut it?
We decided it would be better to have a 90-minute first episode and make it an event. So we took the first two episodes and cut them together. And in cutting those two episodes together there were certain things that just got left on the cutting room floor.

In the first ever episode of the Walking Dead, you killed a zombie girl, and in this episode, you shot Carl. Do you just enjoy keeping the younger cast members on their toes?
[Laughs] I like to say that, here at the Walking Dead TV show, we hate children. Yeah, it is one of those strange coincidences. We noticed it in the writers room and we were just like “Eh, what can you do?” It’s still cool.

To be honest, I had completely forgotten that, in the Walking Dead comic, Carl gets shot very near the start of the saga, as well as more recently.
I shoot that kid way too often [in the comic], I’ve got to say. It’s funny, half the time in the writers room, they’re reminding me [of what happens in the comic]. “Oh yeah, remember when that guy did this?” I’ll be like, “That never happened!”

There was a lot of stuff in this episode about Andrea wanting a gun. As a reader of the comic, I kept on thinking, “Just give her one! You never know, she might be a good shot.”
We may possibly be getting to that kind of stuff this season. I can’t really say. But her being such a good sharpshooter [in the comic] and finding that natural talent is a really cool thing from the comics, and I’ve been wanting to work that into the show from the very beginning, so… Maybe we’ll see  a little bit of that.

Congratulations on the zombie autopsy. That really was quite disgusting.
Thanks. [Laughs] We had a lot of fun with that. That autopsy scene especially is a real testament to working in a writers’ room environment. When we were plotting out that episode, I was like, “Since they’re searching for Sophia, it might be cool if they encounter a zombie and they start checking its fingernails and its teeth and examining it to see if they have any evidence.” Because Rick is a police officer and that might be a cool thing to do. And then it was [writer] Scott Gimple that was like, “Oh, and he could cut him open!” It just built as everyone in the room tried to one up each other and improve the scene. And I have to say, [special effects artist] Greg Nicotero making that body — never in a million years did I think it would turn out that great. And then the performances of Norman Reedus and Andrew Lincoln really sell that. The whole scene just came together top to bottom.

I freeze-framed on the badge the dead guy is wearing in the tent…
Oh, I’ve never done that. What does it say?

It says “No excuse for domestic violence.”
What?

I wasn’t sure whether it was supposed to be taken seriously or whether it was a joke about the fact that this guy was in a tent.
I have no idea. You’d have to talk to the wardrobe department. I have no idea what was going on there. Sorry!

At the start of the episode, Rick references the message Jenner (Noah Emmerich) whispered to him at the CDC. Is that something which is going to be resolved this season?
Absolutely. I’ll be straight and give that away. It’s one of those things where it’s a cool mystery and the viewers are really excited to find out what that it is, and milking that for all it’s worth is the absolute wrong thing to do. It’s something that we’re definitely going to wrap up in a satisfactory kind of way. We really want to not drag it out to the point where you’re bored with it, which I think some shows kind of do.

This was one of several episodes overseen by Frank Darabont before his departure from the show. Do you keep in touch with him?
We email from time to time. But I mean, everybody’s so busy. It’s not like we’re talking on the phone or anything.

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Image Credit: Megan Mack

How much has your life changed over the past year? You’ve moved to Los Angeles, so obviously you’ve become a douche…
Well, I was a douche before I moved. It’s just gotten more official. No, it’s a lot of fun. It’s fun being in a room and actually writing as a group. It’s something that’s a completely alien experience to me. I’m used to being in my office alone, typing crap and making stuff up. To be in a room, discussing ideas, it’s really kind of cool.

Do you have time management issues? You have so many things on your plate. You write a number of different comics, you run your own imprint Skybound, you co-wrote a Walking Dead spin-off novel, Rise of the Governor, you go to conventions, you have to talk to people like me…
My eyes are bigger than my stomach. I get very excited about projects, and then at night, when I’m at working at one in the morning and I have to get up at six to go to work the next day, I’m like, “Why did I do this? This sucks!” But every other minute of the day, I’m having a good time. I enjoy working, is what I’m saying. But talking to people like you is the worst part. It’s really just awful.

Next week, Kirkman will return to discuss to this season’s second episode, “Bloodletting.”

Read more:
‘The Walking Dead’ at New York Comic-con: Full report of the panel
Norman Reedus talks action figure-envy, Lady Gaga, and season 2 of the ‘Walking Dead’: ‘It’s soooooo f–ing dark!’
InsideTV podcast: Norman Reedus talks about the ‘disgusting’ season 2 of the ‘Walking Dead’
‘Walking Dead’: My day as a zombie
‘Walking Dead’ recaps
‘The Boondock Saints II’: A cult hit gets a second shot

Comments (39 total) Add your comment
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  • Mrs. Polly

    I want to know why Ken Tucker keeps saying this show needs to be more like Mad Men or Breaking Bad. Ken Tucker is a fool. If he wants to watch Mad Men or Breaking Bad, then watch them. Not every show has to be like them. Walking Dead is a scary zombie horror show. It’s not about people in the 60s talking to each other and being jerks to women. I have no idea what Breaking Bad is about but since Ken Tucker loves it I have no interest in seeing it.

  • PSB1962

    I LIKED THE EPISODE, AUTOPSY WAS GROSS, THE HEARD WAS THE MOST FRIGHTFUL THING SO FAR. I CAN ONLY HOPE THE GORE KEEPS ON COMING, AS IT IS MY FAVORITE PART!!!

  • LOL

    America loves crap.

    • mike

      that’s why we love youuu so much mwahhh . Now go watch 60 Minutes

  • Ace

    @LOL also good to know that crap like you resides in America, go troll somewhere else you herb.

    • America IS Crap

      @ Ace – What? The truth hurts, does it? America and Americans are complete fecal matter in the eyes of the rest of the CIVILIZED world. Go sit in the corner and wait for your new Overlords from China to take you over in less than two years.

      • chris

        Bring on the overlord from China will kick their @ss same as we did those limey Brits..revolutanary style

  • STUPID & VAPID

    This show represents nothing more than the criminal One-Termer from Chicago’s desire for America. FACT! It was stupid and vapid, much like the One-Termer. I shall not tune in for another episode. We waited all that time… for THIS?!? What a waste of time.

    • asdgasdg

      Grab your tin foil hat and get back in your dead mom’s basement!

  • jeff

    Great first episode! The autopsy was gross and the attack by the herd of zombies was one of the most terrifying moments on the show so far. Keep up the good work!

  • Snsetblaze

    I think I would have liked to have seen the CDC escape scene. It could have been a 2 hour event not a 90 minute event …

    • SLB

      I would have rather seen more story telling (like the CDC escape) than 30 minutes of just zombie chase.

  • JimW

    I don’t know why people are bringing up politics during a discussion of a zombie show, go to CNN if you want that discussion!

    • America IS Crap

      @JimW… again… the truth hurts, doesn’t it? What? In your alleged land of free speech?! For shame. LOL. LOL. You’re all weak and effete. (Look it up if you lot haven’t burned all your dictionaries.)

      • howard8b

        you are weird and have issues. this is a zombie show. you are a psychopath. go somewhere else.

      • Kevin

        If there’s one thing most Americans are not, it’s effete. You must be thinking of the Europeans.

      • mike

        You realize you’re on a Walking Dead forum on the internet for God’s sake. Why are you here?? The real news forums too intense for you ? Too intelligent? We’ll we’re not intelligent enough for you – so no one wants you ! buh bye !!

      • bgl

        Stop trolling, or go to the bathroom, open the medicine cabinet and get your meds out. Now…. take them. You are seeing things. You are hearing things. You are on the wrong webpage.

    • Bobby’s Robot

      “People” aren’t bringing up “politics”. Just sad little crazy trolls trolling away on the internet because they have no human relationships in real life.

  • Boobie

    The CDC explosion…..from where they were positioned the whole group should of died. Like Val, the computer voice, told us it ignite the air they breathe & that explosion was worse than nuclear….but they all just ducked & lived?

    The horde of zombies & one zombie decides to check out the RV?

    If Zombies are so slow why couldn’t Sophia outrun them?

    Asking Jesus for a sign or help….only when it suits you Rick?

    & thats what I think about when i havent eaten in 2 weeks, glasses of wine.

    I know this is fiction but……its aggravating at times. This could be dam good if they think outside the box.

    PS Dale the do-gooder needs to STF.

    • mike

      Zombies = Not Rocket Science. Please people , take this show for what it IS. Mindless escapism. This is not a mensa meeting. Oh, and who said Sophia didn’t outrun them ??

    • Mike

      I’m sure the explosion was a controlled explosion that would only ignite the air WITHIN the CDC. If they got far enough away from the building, they should have been fine. Maybe just a little hot. :-)

      I’m not saying I’m an explosives expert or anything but that’s how I interpreted it. The place was designed to contain any kind of virus from being exposed to the world. It wasn’t designed as a shelter from the Zombie apocalypse. So it’s not like they were trying to blow up Atlanta or anything!

  • Larry Berta

    I know it’s only a show,but the more they keep moving around the bigger chance they have of getting killed.Why don’t they find a place to stay put.

  • ZombieUSA

    I think we already have zombies living amongst us. Occupy Wall Street is a zombie movement. The Tea Part is a zombie movement. Hell, our own political system is a zombie movement.

    Why can’t people act for themselves, instead of following the cattle?

    Hope Dale is the next to go.

    • Krys

      Yeah dale gets on my nerves.

  • Kirsten

    That was originally two episodes? I thought it was one stretched out to 90 minutes. The number of commerical breaks at the end was crazy. Luckily, I had it DVR’d, but it was still annoying to have to fast forward every 5 minutes when they did a break again.

  • Ziggy

    Love this show – my kids and I looked forward all year to this second season. I am fondly reminded about what a Zombie my ex was during our divorce.

  • Tracy & Joe

    My husband & I watched all of season 1, and the premiere of season 2 yesterday! We had never seen it before. By nature, I am not a zombie, alien or other nonsense fan. But … AWESOME … we loved every minute of it and cannot wait till next week! Thumbs up to WALKING DEAD! Terrible about Carl though!

  • Tracy & Joe

    LOL oh, and anyone who does not like the show can simply just turn the channel. No need to get upset.

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