‘The Walking Dead:’ A Brief Showrunner History

After recent changes, we’re taking a look back

Last Updated: February 3, 2018 @ 11:33 AM

It’s no secret that “Walking Dead” fans are super invested in the show’s leadership — even notoriously so. With the new shakeup, we thought we’d take a look back on the show’s showrunners and the impact each of them left.

Scroll on! (there may be minor spoilers ahead, so beware).

Season 1: Frank Darabont

Darabont was fired in July 2011 because of “his volatile and disturbing interactions with the staff and talent,” AMC’s lawyer said at the time. Darabont responded by suing AMC $280 million in damages in 2013.

Last summer, AMC released supporting documents as part of their filing to have Darabont’s lawsuit dismissed. Among the documents are emails Darabont sent to executives and other staff… and boy, are they a doozy.

“I deserve better than a heart attack because people are too stupid to read a script and understand the words,” he said in one. And, “If it were up to me, I’d have not only fired them, I’d have hunted down and f—ing killed them with a brick, then gone and burned down their homes.”

Sounds like something Negan would do.

Another: “Congratulations, you all accomplished what I thought was impossible. You’ve turned me into a raging a-hole. Thanks a lot, you f–ers. Everybody, especially our directors, better wake the f– up and pay attention. Or I will start killing people and throwing bodies out the door.”

But Darabont stood by his harsh correspondence, saying each email needed to be taken “in context.”

“They were sent during an intense and stressful two-year period of work during which I was fighting like a mother lion to protect the show from harm,” he said. “Not only on my own behalf, but ironically also on behalf of AMC.”

“Each of these emails was sent because a ‘professional’ showed up whose laziness, indifference, or incompetence threatened to sink the ship of production and added unfair and unnecessary burden to their colleagues in the cast and crew,” he wrote in an affidavit response to AMC’s filing. “My tone was the result of the stress and magnitude of this extraordinary crisis. The language and hyperbole of my emails were harsh, but so were the circumstances. As for the enormous problems they describe, I stand by these emails to the last detail.”

His lawyer called the emails an “irrelevant distraction from the real issues in the case.”

AMC said that because Darabont did not complete his job as showrunner through Season 2, the contract that owed him 15 percent of profits from the show was breached.

Season 2-3: Glen Mazzara

Mazzara took over after Darabont was ousted, and he led the show through two seasons in which it would become one of TV’s highest-rated dramas.

“I was sort of the hired gun coming in to support the creator of the show, and through odd circumstances I ended up becoming showrunner,” Mazzara said during a NATPE panel in 2013. Ultimately, he said he left because he didn’t have complete control but added he was happy to contribute what he did.

“When you’re the creator, you can say, ‘This is what the show is,'” he said. “I  didn’t create the show. I didn’t create the comic book, so I’m just glad I was able to contribute.”

Since “TWD,” Mazzara created, executive produced and was showrunner on A&E’s “Damien.” He also has a supervising producer credit on the upcoming series “The Dark Tower.”

Season 4-8: Scott Gimple

There’s no easy way around it: fans are mad at Gimple for killing off Carl Grimes (Chandler Riggs) in Season 8. The character doesn’t die in the comics, so the move confused many and even had several other stars of the show voicing their sadness to see Carl (and Riggs) go. Fans were so fired up that a Change.org petition circulated calling for Gimple’s termination as showrunner, gaining nearly 85,000 signatures.

AMC has managed to appease fans that wanted Gimple out of his showrunner role without actually firing him. Just last month, the network announced a promotion for Gimple to Chief Content Officer, putting him at the top for both “The Walking Dead” and “Fear the Walking Dead.”

Season 9: Angela Kang

Veteran writer Kang is stepping into Gimple’s shoes as showrunner beginning in Season 9. She has show credits dating back to Season 2, and has written notable episodes like “Judge, Jury, Executioner” (when Dale died), “Still” (the Daryl/Beth episode) and “Coda” (the episode with Beth’s death).

Stay tuned for more on what’s ahead for “The Walking Dead.” Season 8 returns to AMC Sunday, Feb. 25. with an extended runtime.

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