Robert Kirkman makes a living off the dead. Technically, the undead. Kirkman is the author of The Walking Dead comics, the source material for the highly anticipated AMC series of the same name that debuts this Sunday (Halloween!) at 10pm. Being the cool guy Kirkman is (he really is a nice guy), he spoke with us about the show and even gave us tips on what to do when the dead rise up.
You're now in the bowels of Hollywood, and The Walking Dead is getting lots of attention. Are you dating a supermodel yet?
Robert Kirkman: [laughs] Don't tell my wife. It's a lot of fun to go out there and play and see Hollywood. But I still live in Kentucky, I still have my family, I'm not going to be buying a Lamborghini anytime soon. It's one thing to have your comic book turned into a television show, that's neat and stuff, but I feel like my comic book is being turned into an awesome television show.
For those who haven't read the comics, can you explain how The Walking Dead is more than just about zombies?
Robert Kirkman: The Walking Dead is a character study that uses zombies as a backdrop to make the stories more interesting. It's a survival story about people struggling to get by at the end of the world. Civilization has crumbled, there are zombies shambling around, and there's danger around every corner. But it's really about a small-town cop and his wife and son, and trying to keep the kids safe and trying to find food, trying to build shelter and just get by. It's a fun little exploration on surviving.
We've heard the show will stray from the comic books a bit, but can you give us an idea of how far it will go, and if that path will be tangential, parallel, or cross back-and-forth to your story?
Robert Kirkman: It'll probably be crossing back and forth, and there are different plot threads and different characters. There are different things they do in the show that they do in the comics, but as far as tone goes, the show might as well be issues of the comic. It's not that different, all the characters are in line with what you expect from the comic. Anyone who enjoys the comic will enjoy the show, but they won't be bored. All the material of the show is respectful of the comic, and none of it veers off in a weird way. A lot of the cool things that happen in the comic that people want to see on film will happen, but we'll do it in a little different way so it won't be too telegraphed or too obvious.
You kill a lot of characters in your book. A lot! TV is more reluctant to kill of its characters. Is the show going to keep more people alive, or will we see the rampant bloodshed from the comics?
Robert Kirkman: I can't really say, I don't want to give anything away. Some characters may live longer than they do in the books, some characters may live less than they do in the books. As far as characters dying and the cast growing and changing over time, we're going to keep in line with the comics.
I'm going to be very upset if this isn't the bloodiest thing on TV. Please tell me I'm not going to be upset.
Robert Kirkman: If this isn't the bloodiest thing on TV, I'll be surprised. It will definitely be the bloodiest thing on TV outside of HBO and Showtime, and will be on par with something like Dexter. I certainly don't think people are going to be watching this thing saying, "Oh, you know, I could have used more gore!"
I might actually. I'm going to give you a chance to talk up the man who is playing Rick, Andrew Lincoln.
Robert Kirkman: I'm so sick of talking about him. I'm over Andrew Lincoln. Steven Yeun, that's what I'm all about now! [editor's note: Yeun plays the role of Glenn. And we do believe Kirkman was joking about Lincoln.]
There were rumors that Jonny Lee Miller, Jaime Bamber, and Mark Pellegrino were also up for the role of Rick. Are any of those true?
Robert Kirkman: If I didn't get a job, I certainly wouldn't want people talking about it. I can say some of the rumors about people being cast were people who were being considered, but it didn't work out. Whether it be scheduling or they just weren't right for the role. My favorite was the Brandon Routh rumor. I love Brandon Routh, I would have loved him to be in the show. I thought that was kind of funny.
I was involved and I saw the screen tests, and I think it was just one of those things. Andrew Lincoln was one of the later screenings and he came out of nowhere. Everyone was really blown away with what he did. Same thing with Jon Bernthal [editor's note: Bernthal plays Shane], as soon as they saw his screen test they said, "This guy has to be someone on the show." It's a great cast. And there were people like Jeffrey DeMunn, I don't think anyone else tested for Dale.
What can you say about the look of the show?
Robert Kirkman: The appearance of the show will match the tone of the show, there won't be any bright red shirts or yellow cars. They keep things toned down and muted; it's not quite black and white or sepia toned. It's not as washed-out as something like Saving Private Ryan. Frank [Darabont] was very mindful of how to portray the show visually and what kind of mood he wants to set in the look of the show.
Let's say the zombie apocalypse was starting in two hours, what should be our gameplan?
Robert Kirkman: If you've ever read The Walking Dead, I think that your game plan should be tie a noose and hang yourself. Or find a window in a tall building and jump the f*** out of it. I would not want to be around when things start to go bad. People are going to run out of food--people are horrible. Zombies being out there is one thing, but being outsmarted by a group of savages that are trying to get your stuff? I'm out. People ask, "How long would you last in the zombie apocalypse? You write The Walking Dead, you would know what to do! You'd be fine, right?" And the answer is, "No!" I'm an overweight comic book writer, I would last about four seconds. I would be the first person jumping off a building if that were to happen.
Maybe one quick stop at the liquor store first.
Robert Kirkman: For me, it would be raiding a Dunkin Donuts.
The Walking Dead premieres Sunday night at 10pm on AMC. The show's UK debut is on FX at 10pm on Friday, October 5.