The Walking Dead has always made some major changes to the comic books it’s based on, particularly in terms of changing the fates of numerous characters over the show’s eight seasons so far. With original creator Robert Kirkman having a hand in the TV series, it’s not surprising to find out that the medium’s different approach to the same stories caused some arguments and creative disagreements behind the scenes. However, this didn’t happen the way you might think.
Former showrunner Scott M. Gimple, who was recently promoted to TWD’s Chief Content Officer, revealed while speaking at an AMC panel for From Book To Screen that he initially came to loggerheads with Kirkman over some proposed changes from the comics – but the twist is that the one calling for changes was the creator himself. As a fan of the source material, Gimple wanted to replicate the comics as faithfully as possible. However, Kirkman asked for things to be freshened up.
“Back when we started, Robert and I argued a lot because I wanted to do the book just as the book and he actually wanted to do changes because he had already done it. And, yeah, I wanted to see those moments that I saw in the book. And yet, as I worked more and more on it, because I was so familiar with those moments, I knew that making those little twists to give the reader, it’s actually doing right by the people who read the book and know what’s coming. You try to put them in a place where they don’t know what’s coming, which is what reading the book is like.”
When he came around to the idea of tearing up the rule book, Gimple devised a new mantra for making The Walking Dead, involving remixing familiar moments from the comics, which allowed the show to surprise the hardcore audience but also “do right by the book.”
“Being a fan of it to start with, you want to do right by the moments that you’ve seen. But to do right by the moments you’ve seen, sometimes you have to remix them because people like myself who are familiar with the work know what’s coming, So you’re not going to get that surprise. You’re not going to get that emotional twist. You’re not going to get that build. So to do right by the book, to tell the book with absolute fidelity sometimes, you have to change it. That said, you’re sort of like sneakily trying to get into the same exact thing that Robert [Kirkman] did, and to do that it takes a little bit of misdirection.”
This look behind the scenes casts Gimple’s time as showrunner on the series in a new light. For instance, when Carl Grimes was killed off last season, angry fans started a petition calling for him to be fired for his reckless disregard of the source material. Now we know that it was actually Kirkman himself though who wanted to ring in the changes and Gimple originally had the same viewpoint as those same fans.
Even though Scott’s since passed the baton onto incoming showrunner Angela Kang, the major changes won’t stop in The Walking Dead season 9. The big one’s that Andrew Lincoln is bowing out of the show, likely meaning that Rick Grimes will perish at some point during the run. Chalk that up as speculation for now, but we’ll find out for certain when the zombie drama returns to AMC this October.