AMC’s hit zombie drama The Walking Dead is currently in production on season four. There have been a few photos and details revealed already, and you can be sure we’ll get at least a few more announcements this next week from San Diego Comic-Con. But that didn’t stop Robert Kirkman, creator of the comic books the show is based on, and executive producer of the series, from dishing a few juicy details about the upcoming season.
Kirkman sat down with the Hollywood Reporter for a nice long chat, and talked shop. Some of the information we already know. For example, we know there will be a substantial gap in time from last year to now. It won’t be as long as between season two and three, and while Kirkman claims they aren’t “nailing down the exact number of days or anything like that,” the title of the first episode of this year is “30 Days Without an Accident.” Make of that what you will.
What has the biggest impact is what Kirkman says about new showrunner Scott Gimple. When asked how the new man in charge’s approach will differ from Glen Mazzara’s, he had this to say:
It’s a much more character-based story. It’s going to be more focused on who these characters are and what they’re going through. To a certain extent, we got away from that a little bit in season three. Coming into season four, we’re definitely going to know a lot more about these people so it will be that much more gut-wrenching and worse when we lose these characters.
Gimple’s emphasis on character is readily apparent in his writing. He penned the season three episode “Clear,” one of the strongest in the entire series, and maybe the best since the pilot. There is almost no action, and very little emphasis on the undead menace the survivors face. For almost the entire hour, all the focus is on Rick’s (Andrew Lincoln) interaction with Morgan (Lennie James). It’s heartbreaking and powerful, and really showcases what The Walking Dead can be as a series.
Kirkman goes on to talk about how Gimple has been a fan of the comics, even before there was a television show, and how much love he has for these characters and these stories. He continues by talking about where the show will both diverge and intersect with the source material:
We are definitely going in some new directions and this will continue to be a different take on the material form the comics but there will possibly be some scenes that are a little bit closer to the comic than we’ve done in the past. Season four probably has the most number of scenes that are adapted directly from the comic series or very close to what we did.
It’s Gimple’s new role that has me most excited, interested, and optimistic for the potential direction of season four of The Walking Dead.
Moving forward, the characters will continue to have to cope with a number of high profile deaths, including Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies), Merle (Michael Rooker), T-Dog (IronE Singleton), and Andrea (Laurie Holden). But they’ll also have to deal with a familiar villain, David Morrissey’s The Governor, who is still out there lurking in the woods. As Kirkman says, however, “we’re going to see him in a new light and he won’t appear until we least expect it.”
There are also some new additions to the cast. Tyreese (Chad Coleman, The Wire) has been bumped up to a series regular, all of the leftover citizens of Woodbury have joined Rick’s ramshackle group at their prison fortress, and Lawrence Gillard Jr., another Wire alum has joined the gang. Gillard plays Bob Stookey, which may offer some insight into what we’ll see from The Governor. Fans of the comics may remember that Stookey helps save the tyrannical leader after Michonne (Danai Gurira) tears him to bits. But Kirkman plays coy about what exactly that means, calling him the same character you know, but also saying maybe that means they’re adapting his stories, maybe they’re going in another direction. He says they’re, “definitely not married to doing those stories and could do different things there.”
There is a lot of this maybe, maybe not, approach in the interview. You can almost see a mischievous smile on Kirkman’s round, bearded face. Such a tease. Like when he’s asked about leaked photos of Rick with a bandage on his hand. That could indicate one of the key moments from the comics coming to pass in season four. He says it could be what you think, or it could be people misinterpreting the image, seeing what they want to see. “There are some very cool and memorable aspects of the comic book series being adapted into season four,” he says, but doesn’t confirm any specifics.
The Walking Dead returns to AMC for 16 new episodes this October.