Q: Tell us about the first few weeks on set. What’s excited you the most?
A: Well, the things that excited me the most I cannot talk about! There are a couple of big set pieces that were built from scratch and it’s amazing to see Grace Walker work his magic. I will say that the worst thing about going back to set is that our prison has been dismantled. I kind of wish I had spent a little more time in it. It sucks to see that gone, but moving on, we’ve got cool stuff going on in this season. The secrecy has been fun. There are some really great things coming.
Q: You wrote Season 4, Episode 9, “After” where we get a peek at Michonne’s past life and her family. Can you tell us more about what went into writing those scenes?
A: That had always been a story that was present in the comic book series, but had never really been established in the show — this idea that those pets she was walking around with were actually people she knew. One of the cool things about the show is how we adapt things and improve on them. I think coming up with this emotional story about her lover and her lover’s best friend who had actually caused, in a roundabout way, the death of her child was a pretty big add-on that has enriched Michonne’s character immensely. It’s really cool to be able to play with these characters in two different worlds. That was a big episode for Michonne and it was a lot of fun to write.
Q: Episode 9 was probably the single most faithful adaptation of one issue of your comic than any other episode so far. Will we see anything like that level of faithfulness in Season 5?
A: Scott Gimple, more than any other showrunner, is more familiar with the comic than I am. So, there’s often times when he’ll say, “Hey, I want to adapt that one scene,” and I’m just like, “Where is that again?” That happens quite a bit. There will always be these very closely-adapted moments that will always have tweaks. The beauty of The Walking Dead is that anyone who is 100% familiar with the comic can watch the show without spoilers and vice-versa. There will always be something new for both audiences. There are a couple of characters in particular coming up in Season 5 that will get very big chunks of their backstory revealed in a very cool way. Some of that is from the comic and, like always, some of it is not.
Q: Do you get attached to any of the characters you’ve created? Who has been the hardest to let go?
A: Well, I don’t play favorites. They’re all surprisingly hard and it is a very emotional. In a lot of cases, I’ve had to kill these characters twice, because I had already killed them in the comic. That happens from time to time, but it is the nature of the show. It is a good way to accurately portray how dangerous this world is.
Q: Have you discovered anything new or surprising about your own characters after all these years?
A: I’ll never get used to the fact that the actors know more about their characters than I do. In comics, there’s not this phenomenon where one artist draws each character so that they’re uniquely invested and know more about the individual characters than I do. So it’s fun to sit down with Steven Yeun and talk about Glenn and have him say things to me that I hadn’t considered; or sit down with Chandler Riggs about where he thinks Carl’s at and what his thought process is. It’s definitely one of the benefits that you get from working in television.
Q: How would you brave the apocalypse yourself? What’d be your weapon of choice?
A: I would not fare well. I would probably not last long, but my weapon of choice would probably be a truck. You can drive during the day, you can sleep in it at night, you can kill zombies with it…I think it’s practical. You’d probably run out of gas, so I’d want a solar-powered truck.
Q: What’s the one element from the show that you wish you had written into the comic from day one?
A: Daryl Dixon is definitely the big one, but that said, I think it’s great that there is something in the television show that you can only get from the television show. He’s a tremendously important character in that when we go to adapt stories from the comic, there’s always this X-factor that automatically makes us change stories in some way. The best part of doing the show is looking at my comic like a rough draft and sitting down with the writers to make it better.
Q: We’ve asked you this question every season: Have you changed your mind yet about not wanting to direct an episode?
A: [Laughs] No, I wouldn’t wish that on anyone! I’m not qualified for that.