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'The Walking Dead' showrunner Scott M. Gimple on the comic book influence on season 5

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Good news if you are a fan of The Walking Dead comic book — season 5 of the TV adaptation is going to hit on a lot of big moments from that original source material. So with season 5 FINALLY debuting on Sunday night, we chatted with showrunner — and comic book super fan — Scott M. Gimple to find out how much those two worlds will be colliding coming up.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Let’s talk a little bit about some stuff from the comics. Last year you spoke about the remix philosophy of taking some stuff from the comics but maybe changing them a little bit and adapting them to your world, which is a little bit different. Is that going to hold true in season 5?

SCOTT M. GIMPLE: Yeah, it very much is. I enjoyed last season, I enjoyed working on it, and I was happy with how it all turned out, and it was basically the philosophy where I decided I was gonna follow it again. I mean, frankly, there’s just so much stuff in the books that I’m excited about getting to, just big moments. I’m just very, very desperate to get to certain moments like this, because I can’t wait to see them shot or come to life. That said, though, the butterfly effect is in full effect, and thus we have to have some level of invention with the stories as well. Last season, Terminus wasn’t in the books. There was some invention there, but it was taken from the books, the novels, and there’s stuff like that this year. And then there’s some stuff that is way, way back that we missed, that we didn’t get to. Maybe not the most giant things from the comics, but people will recognize them. There’s one that I was always bummed we never got to, that was just a perfect story moment for a story that was just completely different than how it appeared in the comic books. But basically, I’m going through the files of Robert Kirkman and I’m not leaving one behind.

That’s interesting, because that’s what I was going to ask you about next. Rick’s big line at the end of last season is the last line of issue #64 of the comics, but you guys sort of jump around so it’s hard to keep track of exactly where you are. It sounds like you’re going to still be doing that in season 5 as well.

Yeah, very much so. Terminus isn’t from the books, but that moment at the end of the season is completely from the books. And emotionally, that’s where Rick was at the end of our season. He was emotionally at a different point. Or rather, he was emotionally the same, but at a different point in the book. That’s the point, to drive our stories where the characters are at emotionally, and matching that to moments in the book. Generally, it’s on the same linear path. We’re going to catch up sometime. Maybe we’ll get ahead a little bit, maybe we’ll fall behind a little bit, but it’s generally in the same place.

Going by the Washington D.C. storyline from the comics, the next big place they end up is the Alexandria Safe Zone. Is that a location the group may end up at some point in season 5?

It is entirely possible. You know I wouldn’t say one way or the other. But I will say, that’s a very big point in the book. You know, I don’t think anyone who reads the comics will be surprised that we eventually get there. But whether it’s this season or not… I shan’t confirm anything, but it’s possible, I suppose. But I will say that one of the things that is a constant aspect of the show is that there are these new story parts that are inspired by the comics and the novels, and those work up to be pretty big things, and change the timeline a bit, send our characters in other directions that might help them to get to the emotional places that they were in the comic books when they reach certain storylines.

What about Father Gabriel? You’ve announced Seth Gilliam is playing him. We saw him for about a hundredth of a second in the trailer. Obviously a big character from the comic books. Can you tell us what we’re going to see from him and how closely that’s going to correspond with what we know in the comics?

Very much from the comic book, not at all from the comic book. I don’t think people can set their watches to it and be like, “Oh yeah, it’s totally going to be the same story.” It’s not. But the fact that he’s Father Gabriel Stokes does mean that there’s gonna absolutely be an association and general relation to the character that was in the books.

And his past? We know about his past and his feelings of guilt for past actions.

He was guilty in the comic for doing something bad. It could be that somebody did something really bad to him. We’ve done stuff that extreme before in the past. Robert is very much game to play around with stuff he’s done before. But will it have a connection to that story? Definitely. And I will say that Seth is amazing. He’s a tremendous actor and I loved him on The Wire, and I still could never picture him doing the stuff that he’s been doing on the show, which is just a very, very different role.

Check out our ‘Walking Dead: One-Minute Refresher ‘below. And for more ‘Walking Dead’ scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.