It was a windy evening as cast, crew, and the undead converged on the historic Cinerama Dome in Hollywood yesterday to celebrate the premiere of AMC’s new series, “The Walking Dead.” Based on the comic book by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore and series artist Charlie Adlard, the Image Comics series follows Rick Grimes and a group of survivors as they attempt to make a life for themselves in an apocalyptic world where the living find themselves outnumbered and hunted by hordes of zombies. Yet despite all of the show business glamor and glitz on display, as far as Kirkman is concerned, a television show was never part of his plan.
“I really didn’t care if it happened, which is why I was able to wait and do it the right way. I turned down a lot of offers from people that wanted to do different things with ‘The Walking Dead’ that I just didn’t approve of,” he told CBR News. “When Frank came along, I knew from day one that he got the material and was going to treat it with respect and it turns out I was right. I just got into comics to do comics. I don’t really care about television or movies, despite the fact that I’m here. Never at any point was I working on the comic going, ‘Oh, please can it please just turn into a movie or a television show.’ I was happy just doing the comic. I swear.”
For actors Jeryl Prescott and IronE Singleton, being able to refer to the book turned out to be a tremendous help despite both of their characters being created for the television series. “It was such a wonderful find,” Prescott said. “We adhere to some of the stories as laid out in the comic. [Executive Producer] Frank Darabont also takes some liberties, which is great. [There are] some wonderful surprises for people who are already familiar with the comic.”
Singleton, still working his way through “The Walking Dead Compendium,” also credited “The Walking Dead” Wiki with helping him research the world. He said he is determined to finish the book. “I have the Compendium in my hotel room right now and I’m like, ‘Okay, eventually, I’m going to get through this thick thing.'” According to the actor, his character, T-Dog, is something of an enigma. “He has just not had that moment where he explains who he is, his past life [or] if he has kids and all that,” Singleton explained.
Steven Yuen, who plays Glenn on the show, admitted to being a follower of the comic before his role on the show was even thought of. “I was a fan since about 2005. My friend put me on to it,” he recalled. While having a part was a primary reason for auditioning, his knowledge of the material made it more of a plum gig. “I was so happy to have a shot at it, and to be on it is an absolute blessing.” Being a longtime fan of the book did mean he had to give up the series while filming, however. “I didn’t want to get too twisted up into that plot.”
“Every character can be its own show; they’re very well written,” said Norman Reedus who plays Daryl Dixon, one half of a pair of ex-con brothers. The other, Merle, is played by Michael Rooker and both are also new creations specifically created for the television series. Reedus pointed to the nearby Kirkman and said, “Hopefully this man will write me into the comic book sooner or later. I heard a rumor.”
Asked about his first thoughts when he read the script, Kirkman laughed and responded, “A lot of jealousy; a lot of, ‘Damn, why didn’t I think of that?'” He credits Executive Producer Frank Darabont – who also wrote and directed the pilot – with transforming the initial story. “There’s, like, three points in particular in the pilot where I just wish I had thought of doing it his way, because he changes a bunch of the scenes in a way that makes them shockingly better,” the creator offered. “I feel like I’m learning a lot working with Frank. It’s really a kind of exciting process.”
With the screening about to begin, series star Andrew Lincoln took a quick moment to answer a single question: Is Rick comfortable being a leader? The actor responded, “I don’t think he necessarily wants to be the leader. Rather, instead of the guy stepping forward, it feels like everyone is stepping back and he just seem to be the guy that keeps coming up with the goods.”
Zombies also appeared on the red carpet, but proved to be a tough interview. Asked about their portrayal in the series, they simply responded, “Muhhhhhhh” and wandered off. They were part of a world-wide zombie crawl which began in Taipei and continued to such places as Venezuela, Turkey and Germany before landing in the United States at Boston, Washington DC and other major cities.
Now very familiar with the pilot, Kirkman offered up his plans for Halloween this Sunday. “I will eat the shit out of my kid’s candy that they gather for me all day and then I’m going to pass out,” he said before retvidering and suggesting, “I might watch the commercials just to see who’s advertising on the show, because that’s interesting to me.”