AMC Chief Responds to The Walking Dead Showrunner Disputes, Frank Darabont Lawsuit
The Walking Dead has been through three showrunners in four seasons, and two of the showrunners have spoken out. But finally someone from AMC is speaking out too — sort of.
Network chief Charlie Collier and programming head Joel Stillerman talked to Vulture about the state of their very successful network. AMC had a huge year in 2013, with the end of award-winning Breaking Bad, another bold season of respected Mad Men, and the highest-rated season yet for TWD, which is now the biggest show on TV for all viewers under 50.
However, AMC execs have a public history of showrunner battles, even beyond TWD. Original showrunner Frank Darabont is actually suing AMC for proceeds from The Walking Dead, Talking Dead, and even the proposed 2015 spin-off. That guy’s still mad as a hornet about the whole situation.
The AMC execs couldn’t comment to Vulture specifically on Frank, because of the pending lawsuit; but the site did mention the network’s past disputes with Mad Men’s Matt Weiner and even some troubles with Sony in putting together the final seasons of Breaking Bad. As Vulture put it, “There's this sense that AMC has had rocky relations with its showrunners, or that financial considerations outweigh the creative. Does this irk you?”
Charlie Collier answered, “Far more often than not, there is harmony. It's just not as good copy. The showrunner role is one of the hardest roles in our business — this need to create excellence on every level, both from a business and creative point of view. When things have gone public and have been less than good — what we're trying to do is [figure] out what's in the best interest of the show. If [reporters] wrote about everything equally, they'd see that the vast majority of our relationships have been productive and that far and away our batting average with these people has been better than the industry standard.”
He mentioned how Breaking Bad showrunner Vince Gilligan is returning to the network with the spin-off Better Call Saul, and TWD executive producer and comic book writer Robert Kirkman is bringing a spin-off of his series to the network in 2015. “I love that Vince is back for more,” Charlie continued. “It speaks to the relationship and the way we've worked together. And the same with Robert Kirkman.”
But Robert is not technically the showrunner on TWD. That was something that seemed to create issues for the second showrunner, Glen Mazzara, who took over after Frank abruptly left the series during Season 2 production. “You had to sort of grab the wheel as if we were going through a storm, and I’m happy to say I was able to contribute and we got through the storm,” Glen said back in January 2013. “But when I think people involved with the show are looking at the long-term plan, they want something different — and what those differences are, you would have to ask AMC.”
He added, “When you’re the creator, you can say, 'This is what the show is,' I didn’t create the show. I didn’t create the comic book, so I’m just glad I was able to contribute.”
Scott Gimple seems to be on solid ground; he’s not only the showrunner for Season 5, producer/special effects guru Greg Nicotero said Scott probably already has a plan for what will happen in Season 6.
Do you think AMC execs have taken too much heat for the showrunner disputes or are they just getting what they’ve earned?
The Walking Dead Season 4 returns with Episode 9 on Sunday, February 9 at 9 p.m. ET on AMC.