Q&A with Robert Kirkman of 'The Walking Dead'

ssloan@herald-leader.comOctober 28, 2010 

Kentuckian Robert Kirkman, center, writes The Walking Dead comic strip series, which AMC has turned into a TV series that debuts Sunday.

  • ON TV

    'The Walking Dead'

    What: The series is based on the comic series written by Cynthiana native Robert Kirkman.

    When: Premieres at 10 p.m. Oct. 31 on AMC. The first episode is 90 minutes; later episodes will be one hour each.

    Where: AMC is Channels 24 and 610 on Insight Communications, Channel 890 on Dish Network and Channel 254 on DirecTV.

    Learn more: AMCtv.com

Robert Kirkman, 31, the Central Kentucky native who has written The Walking Dead comic series since its inception in 2003, recently took time to talk about the television adaptation of the series and his plans.

Question: Tell me about the decision in the comic to locate the main character's home in Kentucky.

Answer: The artist on the first six issues went to high school with me in Cynthiana, so it seemed like a convenience thing to be able to get reference photos and things like that. Some people have a misconception that it's cooler to have things set in New York, Los Angeles or Chicago, but I feel like stories can be set anywhere.

Q: How often does Kentucky show up throughout the rest of the series to this point, and has the state been used in your other works?

A: I've been doing primarily superhero books, and I don't think I've used Kentucky locations in those books as of yet. I can't say I won't in the future. And there are a few points in The Walking Dead where they come back to Kentucky for various reasons.

Q: In what capacity are you working with the television series?

A: In the first six-episode season, I only wrote the fourth episode. ... I'm also an executive producer. I do whatever that it is, but I'm still not 100 percent sure.

I go on set and observe. I've been in the writers' room working with them. Every so often, I get to approve a marketing promotion thing, or they ask my opinion on something. It's a very nebulous thing.

Q: Are you interested in doing more television or film script writing?

A: I definitely would like to do more of The Walking Dead if it gets approved for a second season, and things are looking good on that front.

Now that I'll be living in Los Angeles, I'll have opportunities to work on various shows. I've made a lot of contacts there, but I don't plan on quitting comics any time soon. I just plan on dabbling a little bit in TV writing, because it has been a lot of fun.

Q: How does writing for television differ from writing for comics?

A: It's a much more collaborative medium than comics. ... There's a lot of hands in any television script beyond the person credited for the episode. ...

In comics, I'll sometimes have a conversation with an artist and say, 'Are you cool if this happens, and I make you draw this?' But besides that, comic writing is almost completely solitary. I'm alone in a room typing and doing whatever I want.

Q: Without giving away spoilers, how closely does the television series mirror the comic book's story progression?

A: If you've read the comic book series, there's a lot of that stuff that you'll see in the show. We just don't necessarily arrive at it in the same way.

There are also things added into the show that aren't in the comics to keep things interesting. ... The television show will still be completely compelling for someone 100 percent familiar with the comic book.

Reach Scott Sloan at (859) 231-1447 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 1447.

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