Although The Walking Dead is AMC’s most popular and successful TV series to date, its developer, and first showrunner, Frank Darabont is looking to get a piece of the zombie pie. Today, the writer/director/producer filed a lawsuit in New York Supreme Court against his former bosses. The reasoning behind the legal is that Darabont has yet to receive any money as a profit participant.
According to THR, Darabont accused the basic cable network in “self dealing,” a practice that includes setting an unrealistically low license fee. He also accused AMC for using questionable accounting practices, thus depriving profit participants of compensation. The suit alleges that he was wrongfully terminated and wants to continue to receive an executive producer credit. According to Darabont, he is entitled to proceeds from The Walking Dead post-show The Talking Dead, as well as the upcoming spinoff series. All told, Darabont believes he is due upwards of $10 million in royalties.
Darabont’s lawyer, Dale Kinsella said:
AMC’s conduct toward Frank to date has been nothing short of atrocious…Unfortunately, the fans of The Walking Dead have suffered as well by being deprived of his creative talent.
The lawsuit also alleges that AMC reneged on an agreement to license The Walking Dead’s episodes through an unaffiliated studio, but instead produced the zombie series in-house in order to maximize profits for itself. Darabont continues to accuse the network of keeping him out of a showrunner’s percentage fee, while waiting to see if the show was going to be a hit. Soon after, AMC continued to keep the series in a deficit to ensure that an episode’s cost would not exceed its allowed budget, so Darabont would never see any royalties, no matter how successful The Walking Dead might be.
About a month ago, Darabont opened up about his feelings towards AMC after he was fired at the end of July 2011. He called executives and the producers, “sociopaths who don’t give a shit about your feelings or the feelings of your cast and crew because they have their own reasons to screw everybody.” I don’t think it’s a coincidence that he vented like this then a month later filed a lawsuit. It seems that he might have to have signed a non-disclosure agreement that lapsed or ran out. In other words, he might have been contractually forbidden to speak out against AMC or The Walking Dead… until now.
Currently, Darabont is running a new TV series called Mob City for TNT, based on John Buntin’s crime book L.A. Noir: The Struggle for the Soul of America’s Most Seductive City. The series examines the L.A.P.D. and gangsters in the 1940s. Mob City features a few Darabont regulars, including Jon Bernthal and Jeffrey DeMunn, who were both on The Walking Dead.
The Walking Dead returns for the rest of season four in February.