The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman on that 'startling, heartbreaking' premiere
[SPOILER ALERT: Read on only if you have already watched Sunday’s “No Way Out” midseason premiere of The Walking Dead.]
If you are heartbroken and/or disturbed by what happened in Sunday’s midseason premiere of The Walking Dead, blame Robert Kirkman! Because the horrifying events that led to the Sam and Jessie being devoured by zombies, Rick cutting off Jessie’s arm, and Carl being shot in the face all came from Kirkman’s original comic. We spoke to the exec-producer to get his thoughts on the premiere, this huge scene leaping from page to screen, and what’s coming up next. (Also, make sure to read our midseason premiere Q&As with Walking Dead showrunner Scott M. Gimple, director Greg Nicotero, and actress Alexandra Breckenridge. And for more Walking Dead scoop all season long, follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss.)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: We have this huge sequence from the comics with Sam freaking out, Jessie not letting go of Carl, Rick cutting her arm off, and then Carl getting shot in the eye. What’s it like to see these moments go from page to screen?
ROBERT KIRKMAN: It’s great. Seeing how it was directed and put together, everything turned out really well. It’s a moment that we’ve been building to and looking forward to for quite some time, and to see it actually happen and to see it actually come off so well — that moment where Carl gets shot in his eye was just awesome, and startling, and heartbreaking, and all those things in the comic. But seeing it move, and seeing Chandler’s performance and how it all came together was just extremely gratifying and was everything that I could’ve wanted it to be, and so I’m really excited when I feel that way because I kind of feel that the fans are going to feel the same way about it.
Obviously the one big change is it is Ron who shoots Carl here, as opposed to Douglas Monroe in the comics.
I think that’s a really good example of changes that excite me. Douglas, who turned into Deanna in the show, getting eaten by zombies and actually firing off his gun and shooting Carl is cool and everything, but having it be Ron, having it be this heightened thing that has been building for the entire season — this revenge thing that he’s got going on with both Rick and Carl — to me is just a great example of how [showrunner Scott M. Gimple] and the writers, and myself to a lesser extent, are able to heighten things and really kind of dovetail cool storylines into things that feel that much cooler.
Was there ever talk about, do we really want to do this to Carl’s eye in terms of the logistics of dealing with that going forward?
Yeah, you know, there are definitely meetings, and planning, and all those things that go into that, and how is this going to affect filming schedules, and budgets, and all that. We have to take all those kinds of things into consideration in a way that we don’t have to in the comics, but when a story comes together like that and we feel that the moment is as important as, the fans will see that moment is moving forward, you just kind of have to pull the trigger. Pun slightly intended, I guess. I don’t know. So it is going to be extra work, and it was something that we had to talk to Chandler about quite a bit with the things that he’s going to have to put up with as an actor moving forward, but everybody was really gung-ho about it, and we were able to pull it off.
And poor Jessie just never had a chance. She was slated to die the second she showed up on the show, right?
If we were to adapt that story very closely to how it went in the comics, then yes. Jessie was definitely one of those characters where, you know, their full story has kind of been laid out in the comic book series upon casting. And Alexandra was very aware of what that story was when she signed on. So everybody was acutely aware of how we would be adapting that storyline.
So we meet the Saviors finally here now, and then they promptly get blown up. But we know that we’re going to see more of them, obviously, going forward and that will eventually lead to Negan. We saw that last Wolf guy die. Now that that guy’s gone, is it safe to assume we’re done with the Wolves now and we’re moving into a new chapter with the Saviors?
Yeah, W was the last of them, and we’re full steam ahead in the Saviors territory at this point. So, yeah, you know, those guys that blew up, definitely not the sum total of Negan’s crew, and we’ll definitely be seeing more of them moving forward. As to when, I can’t say, but very soon.
Looking ahead, big Daryl and Rick reunion road trip episode coming up next. What can you say about that?
I can say that it’s possibly the most fun episode that we’ve had, just seeing those two guys together. It’s almost like a Lethal Weapon episode. It’s a lot of fun.
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Yeah, Scott told me that humor is “attempted.” He didn’t say successfully. He just said it’s attempted. Whether it lands or not is another question.
[Laughs] Yeah, I think that’s him being modest. It’s not a comedy episode, and it’s not some kind of out-of-the-box kind of thing. It’s definitely an episode of The Walking Dead. There’s some trauma involved and some tragedy, but seeing those two guys together is a lot of fun. It’s a very fun episode.