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Scott M. Gimple Explains Source Material Departures on ‘The Walking Dead’

Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

Over the past eight seasons, AMC’s The Walking Dead television series has taken some serious departures from its graphic novel source material. Perhaps the greatest departure from the original comics storylines came this past season with the completely unexpected demise of Carl Grimes (Chandler Riggs), a character who is very much still alive and well in the comics and with a major role to boot!

When adapting a comic or novel for television or film, it’s almost as if the crew is stuck in a catch-22 situation. Writers, producers, and directors want to honor the source material and want to do a story the proper justice it deserves. At the same time, when that source material is so beloved by its fan base, there is an added challenge of keeping the storyline fresh, new, and interesting for those who already know its details by heart. That’s exactly how Scott M. Gimple, former showrunner of The Walking Dead describes those source material departures on the series.

Earlier this week, Insider attended the From Book to Screen panel hosted by AMC during which Gimple addressed the numerous and controversial source material discrepancies that we’ve seen recently on the television series. Gimple confessed to the panel room that it was always a scary thing to produce a major departure from the original storyline, like the change we saw in season eight with Carl’s death, but ultimately, he’s looking for that perfect combination of honoring the story while keeping it fresh. Gimple said:

“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.”

According to Gimple, he wasn’t totally on board with changing the source material at first. Gimple wanted to do things by the book (literally), however, after some time, he realized there needed to be little twists and turns to surprise the source readers. Gimple continued:

“Back when we started, Robert [Kirkman] 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. 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.”

Gimple may have learned to accept the fact that some plotline changes needed to happen, but he said that the adaptation of the source material is something that he takes to heart and that he takes personally. Gimple said:

“I personally feel a responsibility. I wouldn’t be doing it unless this person sat down and did all this work that I enjoyed so much. It’s, in some ways, from an emotional standpoint, it’s easier because you have this amazing material. But there’s also this benefit of feeling the pressure of doing right by the person who started it. Robert [Kirkman] is someone I used to go see on panels – I used to stand in line to see and then, I can say he’s become a friend.”

Gimple’s role in The Walking Dead universe will be changing in the upcoming ninth season. Co-Executive Producer and long-time writer Angela Kang was promoted to Showrunner for the ninth season.  Gimple will now be Chief Content Officer overseeing the entire Walking Dead franchise including both The Walking Dead and Fear the Walking Dead

So far, the upcoming ninth season is promising nothing but source material departures. It has been reported that both Andrew Lincoln (who plays Rick Grimes) and Lauren Cohan (who plays Maggie Greene (Rhee)) will be leaving the series before the season’s end. Cohan was recently cast in ABC’s Whiskey Cavalier which was announced as being picked up to series during the recent 2018 television upfronts. Both Cohan and Lincoln are said to appear in just six episodes in the upcoming season.

In addition to Lincoln and Cohan’s departure, Jon Bernthal is said to be rejoining the cast in the upcoming season reprising his role as Shane Walsh for one episode. It is speculated that Shane may be returning as a vision or hallucination to Rick Grimes.

What do you think about The Walking Dead‘s departure from its source material? Do you wish the series stuck strictly to the comics storylines? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.

The Walking Dead will return to AMC this fall.

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A karaoke junkie, craft beer enthusiast and lover of all things pop culture, Denise enjoys all facets of entertainment from Broadway to box office blockbusters. In her spare time, she enjoys photography, concerts (lots and lots of concerts), volunteering, reading and playing with her rescue kitten, Samantha (who rescued who, right?). Denise currently resides in New York and is honored to be a part of the Fan Fest News team!