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Fear the Walking Dead: Robert Kirkman on why the companion series is a 'great appetizer'

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Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC

For Walking Dead comic creator Robert Kirkman, the opportunity to create a brand new story out of his zombie apocalypse is exciting on many levels. One such level involves the fact that instead of transporting characters and settings from page to screen as on the original show, Kirkman and showrunner Dave Erickson have been able to create 100 percent new story with Fear the Walking Dead. We emailed Kirkman — who was recovering from throat surgery — a few questions to ask him his thoughts about the new show and its relationship to the original.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What’s it been like to generate 100 percent new story with Fear the Walking Dead as opposed to the original show, which is mostly adapted from the comics in some form or fashion?

ROBERT KIRKMAN: Exhilarating? Also, I have to say being able to work so closely with Dave Erickson on this has been a wonderful experience. Dave and I go way back. We even developed a show together a couple years before TWD got off the ground. But we’ve never really had the opportunity to craft a vision together the way we have with Fear The Walking Dead. Being able to work with Dave to look back on what was done in the early days of The Walking Dead and not only devise different corners of the universe to explore but to also create an entirely new cast of characters that are so different from the ones we know — to inhabit this world has just been a great deal of fun.

The new show is set in L.A. and takes place a little earlier, but beyond that, what is the biggest difference to you between the two shows?

It’s the exciting blend of uncertainty and the inevitable. On one hand … you have a cast of question marks. Who will survive? Who won’t? And how will they evolve? How will they grow? I think not having source material, where you kind of know there are stories with Michonne that just have to be told — and sometimes we break that mold, but too often, we can’t because it would change the overall story we’re talking — we don’t have any of that here. We can, and do, go in any direction we imagine and that’s made for, I think, a companion show that can stand shoulder to shoulder with the original. 

Now on the other hand, there’s the familiar, the inevitable — people know this world. All our viewers, or at least most of them, will have seen The Walking Dead. They know the rules, they know what these people are up against. Our characters do not and that creates a tension and a sense of dread in the viewing experience that I think is unique to our show, and very exciting.

Any concern of saturation by putting two Walking Dead shows on the air? Are you worried at all that airing the new show right before the return of the original might dampen anticipation for season 6 since people will not have had to wait to get their Walking Dead zombie fix?

The two shows are so different. If this was the spin-off Michonne show or Daryl Dixon show, yeah. But Fear The Walking Dead is a great appetizer to season 6 that will hopefully serve to just make fans that much more excited for the return of the characters they’ve grown to love for going on six years. I’m confident we’re doing this the right way. We’re building a wing on the house. It’s nice, it’s got a library, it’s adding to the overall value of the thing. We’re not just throwing a second story on top hoping the ground level can suddenly support the additional weight. We don’t borrow from the original, we don’t detract from it in any way. Fear The Walking Dead adds to the overall tapestry of The Walking Dead — it’s another glimpse into a hopefully fascinating world that stands on its own.

For more Fear the Walking Dead intel, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

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