'Walking Dead' Showrunner on Taking Over from Fired Frank Darabont: 'It Was Scary'
AMC's popular zombie series The Walking Dead offers plenty of chills, but for Season 2 showrunner Glen Mazzara, the drama playing out offscreen offered some terror-inducing moments of its own. In The Hollywood Reporter's drama showrunner Emmy roundtable, Season 1 writer Mazzara reveals that taking over from fired series creator Frank Darabont was a "scary" experience.
"It was scary. I went to the show to work with Frank, and I know what it’s like to lose a show that you’ve create," Mazzara says, who was taken off his own series -- Starz's Crash -- after only one season. "I knew it was a painful situation for him, the cast and the crew," Mazzara said. "I know what it’s like when all of a sudden the creator’s not there."
Mazzara's approach to handling a delicate situation -- he claims not to have seen Darabont's ouster coming -- was not to pull rank on the cast: "I went in, listened to [them] and said, 'I’m not going to be the new sheriff in town. We all have to pull together, get through this crisis, and I’m not going to try to be Frank Darabont. That’s not fair to Frank; that’s not fair to me. There’ll be a script coming down the road that will be in my voice.'”
His speech drew cautious support from the cast, but when Mazzara's script was delivered a few weeks later, it caused "a big panic," as Mazzara recalls -- but the new showrunner was open to input.
"I listened to all of the notes, rewrote it and listened. I think that made them feel better, and the next script was OK. I went back to the writers room, which is in L.A., and I said, 'You know, everyone expects us to fail. We have to pull together.'" That led to an all-night writing session with the other Walking Dead writers, which produced multiple drafts until the script was in shooting shape.
And when the second season eventually premiered to record-breaking ratings, there were no told-you-so's from the new series boss: "I was just happy to be out of the woods," Mazzara says. "I never wanted it to be a competition between me and Frank."