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Scott Gimple sat atop The Walking Dead as showrunner throughout some of the series' most controversial deviations from the comics. While he's owned the decisions he's made, Gimple recently admitted he initially wanted to be super faithful to the source material, going on to say that had it not been for creator Robert Kirkman, he probably would have given fans a more direct adaptation of the comics:
Back when we started, Robert and I argued a lot because I wanted to do the book just as the book and he actually wanted to do changes because he had already done it. And, yeah, I wanted to see those moments that I saw in the book. And yet, as I worked more and more on it, because I was so familiar with those moments, I knew that making those little twists to give the reader, it's actually doing right by the people who read the book and know what's coming. You try to put them in a place where they don't know what's coming, which is what reading the book is like.
Initially believing that giving fans a precise page-to-screen adaptation would be the goal, Scott Gimple realized that by doing a direct adaptation of The Walking Dead comics for TV, viewers familiar with the source material would lose some of the experience that non-reader fans may have going into the show. Gimple and Kirkman didn't want that, so they started changing things around to keep book's fans on their toes. The tactic certainly works in that sense, as the show's major twists and turns have certainly kept both readers and fans constantly guessing what will happen next.
But that's saying nothing of how both sets of fans have reacted. To understate things, several of Scott Gimple's creative decisions for The Walking Dead have been met with mixed responses from audiences. This likely plays a part in why he told the crowds at the AMC panel for From Book To Screen (via Business Insider) that it can be scary to take major detours from the Walking Dead source material. Fans were largely fine with the show killing off Andrea (which happened before Gimple took over as showrunner) well before her time was up in the comics, since she was already so different from the original iteration. On the flip side, some fans were practically calling for Gimple's head when The Walking Dead killed off Carl Grimes, who remains alive in the comics.
Scott Gimple, who is now the CCO for all things Walking Dead-related, explained the show makes such decisions to pay homage to the source material while trying to hit the same story beats in updated ways. And it's not just about being different for the sake of being different. In his words:
Being a fan of it to start with, you want to do right by the moments that you've seen. But to do right by the moments you've seen, sometimes you have to remix them because people like myself who are familiar with the work know what's coming, So you're not going to get that surprise. You're not going to get that emotional twist. You're not going to get that build. So to do right by the book, to tell the book with absolute fidelity sometimes, you have to change it. That said, you're sort of like sneakily trying to get into the same exact thing that Robert [Kirkman] did, and to do that it takes a little bit of misdirection.
Scott Gimple also added that there are things that The Walking Dead comics can do that just don't translate to television. A character can be absent from the comics for 17 issues and then re-appear out of the blue, with little consequence to the reader; but if the show were to attempt the same thing, it's weirder. (Where you at, Heath?) Hilariously enough, Gimple's comment comes just on the heels of former star Jon Bernthal being confirmed to appear in Season 9. Gimple's point still stands regardless, of course, as it's not like anyone can deny the weirdness inherent to Shane returning to TWD in any capacity.
The Walking Dead will return to AMC for Season 9 sometime this fall. Those looking for television shows to watch in the meantime, be sure to visit our summer premiere guide.