Usually when a TV program changes showrunners it is a sign of struggling show making a last ditch effort to gain traction and ratings. Which is what makes the case of The Walking Dead so curious. The show smashed ratings in its first season, and then AMC dismissed the man who smashed those ratings, Frank Darabont. The network promoted Darabont’s number two, Glen Mazzara, to the top spot for the back end of season 2. Mazzara was credited with getting the zombie drama back on track — after what some saw as a creative rut at the start of season 2 — and the ratings and reviews have only improved during his stint at the top spot. However, it was announced at the end of 2012 that Mazzara too would be leaving the show at the end of season 3 due to creative differences. Exec-producer Scott Gimple will become the new showrunner for season 4, which begins filming on May 6.
How has all this change at the top among the key players in Los Angeles impacted the actors working on set down in Atlanta? I asked Norman Reedus, who plays Daryl Dixon, that very question. “I remember with Frank we were like, ‘What?’” says Reedus. “That was the first big hit because Frank brought us there. So that was a big deal, but Glenn was Frank’s No. 2 so we didn’t see a new person. Then Scott is Glenn’s No. 2 so we’re not seeing any new stuff. It’s interesting because it brings the cast together — like this is ours and we’re going to fight for it.”
Reedus does say there has been a bit of a disconnect at times between the cast and the producers, but chalks that up to one group being in Atlanta and the other being across the country in Los Angeles. “The only weirdness ever was it felt sometimes that what we were doing down in Georgia in that little bubble — you do that and we know what we’ve got and we know where we’re headed and we know the vibe here, and then you send it away and they cut it up and put it together. Sometimes it didn’t feel exactly like what we were doing. We still loved it, it was still awesome. But we were like, ‘What about that thing?’ I really watch the episodes like an editor, because we shoot them way before we see them and I see a lot of that when I’m doing the ADR and stuff. And I look at it like an editor and I’m like, ‘Why did they pull the music up there and why is that there?’ I’m critical because it’s me and it’s us.”
Because each change has involved a producer already on staff taking the top spot, Reedus says the cast has not had to adjust too much. “The thing about those showrunner decisions, they are made without me in the room, without all of us in the room,” says Reedus. “But it’s not like it’s a whole new vibe. We’re still doing the same thing. We still have solid writing and the same directors. It’s the same people talking, the same people making the same thing. So it doesn’t really change that much, to be honest.”
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