[SPOILER ALERT: Read on only if you have already watched Sunday’s season 6 premiere of The Walking Dead, “First Time Again.”]
Former enemies possibly on their way to becoming allies. Former allies possibly on their way to becoming enemies? A gruesome death. And more zombies than we’ve ever seen. The Walking Dead’s season 6 premiere had all that and more, so we spoke with comic creator and show exec producer Robert Kirkman for answers to all our burning questions. (Also make sure to check out our premiere Q&As with with Andrew Lincoln, Greg Nicotero, and Ethan Embry, as well as exclusive storyboards from Nicotero.)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: First off, in the Fear the Walking Dead finale we hear Strand say, “The only way to survive a mad world is to embrace the madness.” Now here in the Walking Dead premiere Rick says, “I know this sounds insane, but this is an insane world.” So did Strand and Rick take the same Zombie Survival Seminar or something?
ROBERT KIRKMAN: Yeah, and we’re also in a rut. We shouldn’t be repeating ourselves this soon and I apologize for that. I think this just might represent that Strand might be someone as acclimated to this world as Rick is. They both seem to be having similar reactions to this. Strand might also be a little quicker to the punch than Rick has been.
You’ve created massive herds in the comics, but what was it like to see that rock quarry scene with those hundreds of walkers?
I look at it and I just think, “Well, we can top this in season 7.” It’s great getting to see where we can do big things like this. The show is always escalating season to season. We’re always trying to come back bigger and better. I think we accomplished that with this premiere so I’m excited about that. Look, that was probably the hardest shot, that quarry scene, that we’ve had on this show thus far. It just took an immense effort from everyone involved to make that work. It’s a testament to what this team can pull together, that it turned out so well.
So what did you think when showrunner Scott Gimple first told you about the plan to have all the stuff form the past — and there is a lot of it — be in black & white?
I thought it was brilliant on Scott’s part. I don’t want to talk out of school, but it was not originally the plan. On the original cuts, everything was in color. There were some scenes here and there where you would go, “Wait a minute, was that before the opening scene or after? Are we in the past? Which one’s which?” When Scott came up with the idea to go, “Screw it, let’s make everything in the past black and white,” that’s when it really came together.
I think it elevates the episode in a weird way to have this unique thing that you never really see in an episode of The Walking Dead. It really makes the storytelling so clear and it really brought that episode together in a way that got us all excited. It is a very complicated episode; you’re relying on the viewers to be able to keep track of everything that’s going on. The black and white just really kinda drove it home that yeah, we could accomplish this, and the weird editing we tried to pull it off did work. It was great seeing it all come together. And anytime I can see the show look like the comic, which is in black and white, that’s pretty fun.
Is playing with time something we’re going to see more of this season?
Well, without revealing too much, yes.
Let’s talk about the Rick and Morgan dynamic. We see some disagreements on whether to bury Pete, and whether to help Carter when the zombies are coming towards him, and they even disagree on how much they actually know each other. Right now they have a shared history of helping each other so they’re letting some of this go, but where is this heading?
It’s headed to all kinds of places. It’s interesting the way these two characters have gotten to know each other over time. Rick in some ways has more history with Morgan than he does with a lot of other characters in the show. But while there is a familiarity there, we do meet these characters somewhat as strangers just because of everything Morgan has gone through that hasn’t been revealed yet that may be revealed in a future episode. But the fact that these two characters are so good at what they do and so acclimated to this world but in completely different ways — I don’t want to reveal too much, but it puts them at odds with each other in pretty substantial ways. It’s a product of this world and everything they have to deal with.
So we will see more of Morgan’s backstory?
There are certainly answers coming. It was certainly meant when Morgan showed up with all his stick fighting skills for the audience to go, “Okay I don’t remember that guy having stick fighting skills. What happened there?” And you know there definitely is a story there, and it’s a story that will be told this season.
What about Glenn and Nicholas? Pretty fascinating situation here where they were on the verge of killing each other ,and now Glenn is acting as something of a mentor or trainer of Nicholas. Is Glenn doing this because he wants to, or because he needs to, and how is that going to shape up as things more forward?
I think to a certain way that Glenn needs to. This guy has an immense optimism despite everything he’s experienced. I think he wants to know that Nicholas can come back from that and stop being this horrible useless dangerous coward. He wants to see that this can be turned around, that he can place his trust in this person and be rewarded for that. I think it is as rewarding for him as it is him trying to do good by this fairly despicable person.
I gotta say, I really love that story. Nicholas in the comics is a coward, and there’s an element of that in the show, but Scott Gimple and the writers have taken that nugget and really just expanded it immensely into some really cool stuff. It really is one of the cool adaptations, taking something that happened in the comic and making a meal out of it. It really excites me and gets me jazzed for the show.
You had Ethan Embry playing Carter here and he was kind of a stand-in for Nicholas from the comic book, although there’s another Nicholas on the TV show just to make things more confusing. What did you think about that character here and his very loud death scene?
Having him come on the show, as brief as it turned out being, was a great honor. I hope to work with him again in the future. To have a guy come in and do what Ethan did is pretty hard for an actor, but he really was able to carry that story in such a brief way and make his death matter in way I don’t think a lot of actors would’ve been able to pull off.
You have that scene where Rick has the gun on Carter and gives the speech about “You really think you’re going to take this community from us?” which is ripped straight from your comic. What’s more exciting for you — to see scenes from the page come to life, or see completely new scenes that didn’t exist in the comic?
I think they both offer their own sense of excitement. I mean, hearing Andrew Lincoln deliver dialogue that was written for the comic a long time ago is always very cool. Seeing locations and environments built from the comics is always awesome. But writing-wise and creatively, it’s the new stuff that excites me the most. As much as I love seeing all the cool big moments from the comic get adapted fairly accurately in the show.
The group is pissed at Gabriel, viewers are pissed at Gabriel for turning on the group and letting walkers through the gate. How are you feeling about that guy at this point?
Lot of potential in that character. People need to stay tuned.
What can you say about next week’s episode?
I’ll just say that seeing that size of herd, knowing that horn is drawing their attention definitely sets the stage for what is to come. As intense as you would expect our second episode to be, it is that much more intense and we don’t stop there. So I would expect a similarly cliffhanger-y moment at the end of episode 2, which will take us into episode 3. Everything you’ve heard about this being a fast-paced season is definitely going to hold true. People just need to hold on and get ready for a pretty wild ride.
Make sure to also check out our finale Q&As with Andrew Lincoln, Greg Nicotero, and Ethan Embry, as well as exclusive storyboards from Nicotero. Also click on our video below to watch the cast members reveal who that they think would die first in a real zombie apocalypse. And for more ‘Walking Dead’ scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.