Robert Kirkman sat in on a Reddit AMA yesterday to answer questions about The Walking Dead (as well as a few of his other side projects). Among the topics he addressed was the showrunner changes over the course of the series, if any characters are safe from death, and how he really feels about Steven Yeung. I read a ton of AMAs, and to be honest, Kirkman was one of the best, not just for how revealing it was, but because that guy is funny and down-to-Earth as hell.
Check out his best answers below. Some spoilers ahead.
1. How does popularity, if at all, effect the survival rate of characters? Have you ever killed a character just because they were popular and you wanted to shake things up?
In my opinion, I feel like characters ripen like fruit. So while I wouldn’t say the more popular a character is the more likely they are to die, they do have to reach a certain level of popularity before they’ve “earned” the death.
No character is too popular to die. (Suck it, Reedus!)
2. My question is: are we ever gonna get an idea of what’s going on in the rest of the world? Like in canada, or even overseas?
We’ll only see what’s going on if the characters we’re following go there. So we’d never randomly cut to Canada or anywhere, randomly. So it’s likely we’re not going to see most of the world.
3. Of all of the show-created characters on The Walking Dead, is there any that you begrudge at all for taking away from the characters that you created for the the comics?
No way! I love the differences to the show and those are the things that excite me the most about working on the show. It makes it something new for me to work on instead of the same old same old of working on the comic stories again. So… I begrudge none of them.
4. (COMIC SPOILER) Long time fan of the comics, and now the TV show. I’m a big Paul “Jesus” Monroe fan, among others. I found it very awesome that you recently revealed him to be gay. Any reason in particular that made you do this?
In my opinion there should be more awesome gay people in fiction because there are plenty of awesome gay people in real life. I want Jesus to be a character where his sexuality is as unimportant as Rick or other heterosexual characters. So we won’t focus on it constantly and it won’t be the focus of any big storylines for him… but he’ll make it with a dude every now and then… before going out and drop kicking zombies. He’s one of my current favorite characters.
5. How much does the TWD TV shows censoring stop you from doing what you wish you could, and how has that effected the story as a whole?
There honestly haven’t been any moments that had to be cut from scripts or edited out of the show due to content. AMC is pretty great when it comes to that stuff. There are clearly limitations. We can’t use “F*CK” for instance or show nudity or things like that. Be we know that going in, and I think as evidenced by the most recent episode there’s nothing stopping us from getting as dark as the comic series is at times.
6. Negan recently has his guys dirty up weapons in zombie gore for infection attacks. I’m curious if this works due to “Phillip” kissing a zombie and Tyreese and other characters getting bloody all over their face, but nobody changing. This also made me question Dale’s “tainted meat” logic back during the Fear the Hunters arc.
Are you explaining that stuff soon or is Negan unaware of that method probably doing no harm? In other words, can zombie blood or spit change you after apparently having no effect on characters previously?
The weapons would create an open wound, and getting that material in an open wound and have contact in that way would be bad news. Kissing a zombie, getting stuff on you… not so much. It’s more like direct contact with the blood stream. Make sense?
7. Is Rick Grimes a ‘safe’ character?
ABSOLUTELY NOT. Although when I look in Andrew Lincoln’s piercing blue eyes I FEEL safe.
8. What is your favorite depiction of zombie excluding your own? I personally think yours is the best.
I like all zombies, fast, slow, shooting lasers out of their eyes. Whatever. I really like the movie UNDEAD, cool zombies in that. The Snyder/Gunn DAWN OF THE DEAD remake is glorious. And of course ROMERO was/is the best. Better than Walking Dead. Kirkman is to Romero as Stephanie Meyer is to Bram Stoker.
9. Is there anything you can give us about Beth’s outcome after the supposed abduction?
We will see Beth again… eventually.
10. Any chance we will ever see the walking dead on the big screen?
I wouldn’t rule anything out at this point. Not any time soon. We’re not working on this right now. I can officially put that rumor to rest.
11. What is the funniest thing that ever happened on set while shooting the show?
I’m somewhat childish, so I’ll go with during the filming of episode 402, EVERY SINGLE TIME Andrew Lincoln would pick up one of those pigs, it would sh*t all over him. Every single time. I think there was one pig he picked up three times over about 20 minutes and it was like the pig was holding sh*t inside him so that it could have enough to keep shitting on him next time he picked it up. By the end of that shoot, Andrew was covered in pig sh*t and he would just come over to the monitors where the producers were and hang out. He didn’t shower for a few days after that. I think Andrew has a thing for being covered in pig feces. (Okay, that last part was a lie).
12. You’re working on a movie with Reedus? Interesting. How’s your relationship with Reedus and the rest of the cast? Does it influence in their character’s fate?
It honestly doesn’t. Everybody knows the score and everyone knows what they’re getting into when they sign on. I think I have a good relationship with all the actors. I love them all, except for Steven Yeun, I f**king hate that guy.
13. I was wondering if you could speak at all about the circumstances surrounding the trend of multiple showrunners (Frank Darabont, Glenn Mazzara, & Scott Gimple) and what you thought each of them brought to the show?
Our SHOWRUNNER musical chair routine is not entirely uncommon in television. There have been countless shows that have changed showrunners and some even from season to season. It’s unfortunate that this show exists under such a microscope and the behind the scenes drama has been pushed into the spotlight… but it’s a SMALL price to pay for the success that we’ve had, so I’ll take it.
It would be wrong for me to go into any details on the various changeovers because for the most part I was really only on the sidelines during the changes. Although, I will state for the record that I do agree with AMC’s decisions in each case and strongly feel they were only acting with the shows best interests in mind.
I think Frank set the show up with a solid foundation to build upon and gave us a directing and visual style for the show that we still use because it’s superb and has been a big part of what makes us stand apart on television. This show wouldn’t exist without him and his work on the pilot still holds up as one of our strongest episodes. We were lucky to have a director of his caliber involved in the show from day one.
Glen was a shot in the arm that the show needed in its second season and his instincts to move story up and really heighten the pace at times was a welcome addition to the show. The level of energy he brought to the show is something we still try to maintain. Personally, Glen was very good to me as a novice television writer and I feel that he was a great teacher whose lessons I still use often on the show. I owe him a lot.
Scott Gimple is an absolute rock star. I think that looking back at Season 4 as a whole it is by far our strongest season. The show is intense when it needs to be and slows down and digs into the interpersonal character drama in ways we never achieved without him. Scott’s been integral to the show since he came on board for season 2 and honestly knows more about this world than I do. (And he definitely remembers the ins and outs of the comic book WAY better than me).
I think we’ll keep him.