‘The Walking Dead’: Why Frank Darabont Was Fired & The Chaotic Aftermath

Published 4 years ago by , Updated August 6th, 2013 at 2:00 pm,

The news of Frank Darabont stepping down from AMC’s hit series The Walking Dead took everyone by surprise. This feeling grew even more when it was revealed that Darabont didn’t step down, but was actually fired.

With fans seeking to find out why the man who championed last year’s television phenomenon was unceremoniously fired days after appearing at Comic-Con 2011, The Hollywood Reporter is presenting the facts as they know them – including the chaotic mess in which The Walking Dead season 2 currently finds itself.

Shortly after his appearance at Comic-Con, Darabont returned to Los Angeles to work on editing an episode of the upcoming second season of The Walking Dead. With the cast in Atlanta to continue filming, Ben Davis, AMC vice-president of scripted programming, gathered the cast together for a lunch meeting. In this meeting, he broke the news that Darabont had been fired. With a simple explanation of “This isn’t working,” sources close to the series said that “It’s a crushing blow” and that “Even when you have a hit, they can still destroy you.”

Even though The Walking Dead proved to be a hit – and it is the only series that AMC owns completely – the network had already announced to the producers that they would not only be cutting the budget of the series from $3.4 million to $2.7 million, but that they would also want 13 episodes produced instead of 6 episodes that made up its first season. To make matters worse, AMC also told the producers that the 30% tax credit that the series receives from filming in Georgia would go directly to the network, and not make up for some of the money that was taken out of the production budget.

The Walking Dead @ Comic-Con

AMC’s fiscal irresponsibility and their lack of appreciation for those who make The Walking Dead is largely what led to Darabont being fired. Originally taking the announcement of a second season budget cut in stride, the producers of the series decided to wait until the first season premiered. After The Walking Dead began breaking ratings records for the network, the producers assumed their budget wouldn’t be cut as much as originally thought.

Unfortunately, this is exactly what happened – and Darabont wasn’t too happy about it. Known as a man who fights for what he believes in, a confrontation between AMC and The Walking Dead producers occurred. With the head of original programming for AMC, Joel Stillerman, sticking to the cut budget, the network than began to overstep their bounds and attempt to tell Darabont how to produce the series.

Instead of long, sprawling outdoor scenes, the network wanted the second season of The Walking Dead to occur 50% outdoors and 50% indoors (indoors being cheaper to film). Another note asked whether or not the audience had to always see the zombies – couldn’t they simply hear them sometimes.

Head of Original Production for AMC Jack Stillerman (on the right)

It’s been said that Darabont was involved in constant battles with the network to maintain the creative vision that drew so many fans to the series in the first place. On top of that, sources say that Darabont “doesn’t like to see the cast and crew overworked and underpaid.” Even with record ratings on their side, Darabont would repeatedly enter meetings with Stillerman where he would simply say, “Ratings have no bearing on this conversation.” Stillerman is somewhat known for not being the “best person” to deal with. With rumors persisting that he has poor relationships with most of AMC’s series creators, insiders have begun to say that “Joel [Stillerman] thinks he is responsible for the success of shows on AMC, and not the creators.”

With AMC making a leap into the forefront of scripted television, there’s always been a sense of the network going through growing pains. Not only is AMC doing it on their own (they have no parent company to support them), but they’re also trying to maintain a quality which rivals that of their pay-cable counterparts, HBO and Showtime.

Unfortunately, AMC only makes 60 cents for each cable subscriber, which isn’t enough to maintain the level of quality they were once able to do when they weren’t expected to pay the same amount as the other networks for programming. That being said, it’s hard to really stand up for a network that’s being championed by someone who’s a complete contrarian to the creative process.

walking dead comic cast The Walking Dead: Why Frank Darabont Was Fired & The Chaotic AftermathThe cast of The Walking Dead

Even if AMC was trying to do what’s best for the network (without having to operate at a loss – something that HBO does, but is evened out by HBO being owned by Time Warner), there comes a point when taking a loss for the quality of the product is more important for the long term.

As the saying goes, “Good things come to those who wait.”

AMC has been waiting a long time to make it this far. Jumping from simply replaying old movies to creating original content – this all comes with a price. While not everything will make the financial return that you’re hoping for, it rarely does when you’re first starting out. And for AMC, they’re most certainly starting out.

Hopefully AMC will make it through these growing pains intact. If not, you can sure bet that there are many other cable networks willing to take over in the place (and have the money to do it).

Now that Glen Mazzara is taking over for Frank Darabont, we’ll have to wait and see what happens when The Walking Dead season 2 premieres.

Fingers crossed.


The Walking Dead season 2 premieres October 19 on AMC

Follow Anthony on Twitter @anthonyocasio

Source: The Hollywood Reporter

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  1. Thats gonna lose alot of fans … He was one of yalls best STARS … Im upset about this and dont know if i will continue to watch it

  2. I really enjoyed the first season lost interest come the new ‘director’
    – the direction of the series is on a massive downslide… It’s gone from a meaningful plot to such a drama, soap with little righteousness left in any of the characters!
    Get your decent director back or don’t even bother wasting any more money!
    A BIG mistake by AMC – I am letting all my mates know, my partner and I will not be investing in purchasing any more episodes….
    I hope many other fans are following suit … thanks AMC for ruining the show, ruining a great directors glory and for ruining a great source of future entertainment!

  3. wow! thats just great i was wandering why the show seemed different and not so entertaning!!! this is stupid, it costs money to make money!!!! next theyll wanna fire all the actors and make it animated! geesh thanks alot amc

  4. This is a mistake! Good job at really f*cking up.

  5. Now it makes complete sense why the show went downhill. I wondered how bad the series was compared to the graphic novel; I never read it. How many of the characters that were “killed off” were just cheap firings, and not in keeping with the consistency of the story itself? Some of the actors were great performers from previous Darabont projects…for example, was “Dale” being killed a “resentment firing” from AMC?

    • “Dale” being killed off was because Jeffrey Demunn wanted out of his contract after Darabont was fired.

      • Is that true?! Hm. The way he went was in keeping with it actually–a democratic rountable before a gnarly death scene causing devastation and anger at the senselessness of losing someone so good. I am kind of shocked and happy that Demunn and AMC both chose to do that.

  6. Well what do you expect, these networks are run by money hungry Jews.

    • hey azz hole, nazi comments really necessary? p.s. Darabont is a Jew.

      • Why does calling a Jew a Jew make him a Nazi? You should shut up if you don’t know what your talking about. Calling anyone you don’t like a Nazi lowers the revulsion of the actual Nazi’s and their atrocious actions.
        Jews should also stop making out that they were the only ones to suffer at the hands of the Nazi’s. Far more Russian’s were killed than Jews, they just were not killed in special factories, they were just left out in the freezing -40 degree weather to freeze overnight and forgotten about. Not to mention the criminals or mental retards or many others from the East that suffered, the suffered but to hear them talk you would think they were the only targets of the wrath.

  7. Frank Darabont is the a-hole that directed the Mist, which is the worst movie ever.

    • And the guy who directed the Green Mile and The Shawsank Redemption. Get a life loser.

    • Two out of three King novels adapted perfectly with stellar casts ain’t bad, and The Mist ain’t as bad as people like you make it out to be. Still have a soft spot for Thomas Jane. He doesn’t get any slack in Hollywood, and he’s a damn good performer.

      • Well two novels, and a novella.

      • Darabont originally wanted Thomas Jane for the role of Rick but AMC said no because they wanted an unknown in the starring role so they could keep costs down.

        • Hey ritchie did u just post that on yahoo? I googled ur comment and it brought me here :P

    • i loved that movie, the ending was so shocking i have never forgot it, so i guess it’s an undead movie:)) haha , anyway i think they should stop destroying the show , i mean i hope they are not mistreating the actors and not paying them properly , i stuck with the show but hes, season 2 was weird , i wonder what ROb Kirckman has to say in this .

  8. Why are there always people that just can’t let something thats good just be good sometimes simple is just that da

  9. I just love the theme why would u change it keep it real

  10. Wow, how could you treat your prize horse like a jackass(donkey).

  11. The drop in quality is really apparent in the last 2 episodes (Season 3 Episode 11 & 12) In 11 it seems more like a side story than a continuation of the series and in 12 I felt like it’s out of sync.

    I love the first season and the second one was alright but lately it’s becoming dull.

  12. the show is more better then its ever been if it followed the comics it wouldn’t be as good and the show is having the highest ratings its ever had how is it going downhill

    • More better? Learn some English pal, and maybe I won’t mistake you for a rambling 13 year old in sped class.

  13. LOVE THIS WEEKLY but please please stop the commercial [pleeeeeeez]PLEEEEZE
    Too many commercial deter from wanting to watch this so cut them down please!

  14. Why they (amc) keep changing their schedules? They piss me off. They did this for the new year xombie marthon and now for this one they cut off thursday, it was supposed to be 3/25 – 3/30/13 from 8pm-1:30 everyday, which they lied cause its only 1 episode on thursday and after that they want to force you to watch their new show freakshow. I don’t want fvcking freakshow I set aside time for the zombie marthon, stop changing u r damn schedules AMC!!! And they changed the start times on fri tomorrow. i AM pissed off at amc right now.

  15. The show is losing site or has lost site what really made this show great the the Zombies and survival, that’s what intrigued the audience, now it’s all about the Governor. The Zombies have become some side thing that nobody’s afraid of anymore, almost ever episode you have at least 1 person leaving their camp and walking around in the woods like there’s nothing to it.

    • VERY true! Thanks for saying what so few have.

  16. Season 1 was phenomenal. Season 2 was sloppy, the attention to details disregarded and it failed to
    Offer that adrenaline rush that was fluid throughout the first season. Just finished season 3 and as a
    loyal viewer watching the decline is heartbreaking. Stillerman’s greed is costing the show of the qualities
    that have made it a global phenomenon. Viewers were never invested in Woodbury. With the exciting of a few
    characters. We were forced to watch episode after episode focusing on it and the Gov. who was terribly
    miscast. in the meantime the characters we love to watch became a sideline of the story.

    Killing off Meryl was sheer insanity. We were robbed of seeing the results of his journey from
    dirt head loser to a humane, caring member of the group. What a waste. Characters and actors
    Like that are rare.

    Maybe the fans need to start a writing campaign to get Stillerman’s bumped from having any further
    Influence on the show or boycott the advertisers. if he continues on this path we will lose one way
    Or the other.

    • i agree, we should make a complaint or something to get darabont back and stop the sh*tting around

  17. The serie was ruined in t3 last episode.
    You are overthinking on this, you are destroying it.

  18. Season 3 was the best season yet. Love the prison. This show is beyond phenomenal!

  19. Agree. Bring back Darabont. Season 1 managed to hook me, a mom of teens, into a ” zombie” show! My 18 said I need to try this show and he was right, who knew. Well written, love the actors, but it was the director that made this show. Bring him back. The 3rd season is a slippery slope downhill. I’m in the middle of that now. If they kill off Daryl I’m outa here.

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  21. Compared to the graphic novel the show sucks. Deviate from the source material if you will, but don’t destroy the characters and the story in the process. Andrea’s character was so vapid near the end, most people cheered her destruction. I’m not watching the new season solely because the last one was so bad.

    • I dislike some of the liberties taken with the characters and story. Yes, it makes a property that is not a retread of the books, but what is so wrong with creating faithful adaptions. If nothing else, with a Walking Dead, or a World War Z, the readers of the material would love to see the most faithful presentation in a live action media of their desired project because how many times will they actually get a chance for such. There won’t be an HBO’s Walking Dead, not anytime soon, that goes nearly line for line, so I understand the disappointment of seeing characters like Andrea or Dale written so different from their book source that they lose favor, lose their relation to the original, that character traits are plucked from one person and added or subtracted from another, or that some are just red shirts so why develop them until ready to kill them.

      • I actually enjoy the liberties taken with the characters and storyline. If they were to follow the comics exactly (I have followed them since the beginning) there would be no shock value. Whats the point of knowing whats going to happen?

  22. Wow and from that point, the Walking dead just sucked and sucked

  23. Well… After watching tonight’s episode (Season 4 – Episode 3) I am very doubtful the show will ever go back to that “shock and awe” from season one. I’m not sure if I am impressed with Gimple’s efforts yet. I miss those sprawling outdoor scenes from season 1. There’s just something missing. It’s the way they are filming it. Everything is just so up close. Even the zombies aren’t as good. Writing as times is corny. (Example: Last week’s episode with the Harry Potter kid and Daryl. Just overall stupid dialogue when he thanks him for the deer.) I get they are setting up story lines but it seems like too much is being crammed in. And tonight’s episode failed too. They used to do overhead long shots. Now everything is from the ground perspective. (Example: the 7500 walker herd) Yuck. Budget cuts hurt! The creative juices are dying. (Although they did give us zombienato -with walkers falling thru the store ceiling.) The closest they came to a “shock and awe” was when Rick encountered the crazy lady in the woods. I wish they had introduced a hybrid zombie. I almost peed in in my pants with the thought of that. Even Chris, from the Talking Dead after show mentioned he thought is was half walker/human. They should have ran with that idea. That was a jaw dropper and lot of people thought that. Of course, a friend kept insisting that it was just Rick’s hallucinations coming back. LOL. And I am not liking that they are not following through with answers. You basically have to watch the Talking Dead to conclude what is happening. (Example: Crazy Lady in woods had a her husband’s head in a bag. Or that it’s swine flu that is making the camp sick.) Will keep my fingers crossed the next episodes improve. Tonight’s was —eh– so, so.

  24. The show has been an up and down thing for me, especially having read the first compendium of the written source. I liked the 1st season but thought six episodes was not enough to flesh out the characters as well as present the world. Rereading the things, the hoops that the cast and crew had to go to make it, well I appreciate it more. Hindsight. And though I may not have enjoyed Darabont’s movie style through additional seasons, I can’t help but wonder what his vision would have brought to the table. AMC seemed poised to destroy its self owned creation with its executive decisions, . . because the ‘sales’ department really has its finger on the pulse of creativity . . yes it was an executive, but these head office meddlings often ruin vs inspire . . destroying your must see tv with series cancellations or odd flights of this will be more commercially viable though creatively destructive. AMC, you have a hit you kinda don’t deserve to have.

  25. I agree season two was slow, but season 3 brought back a lot of season 1′s brutal, terrifying moments. I’ve also read a few of you talk about how season 3 was all about the governor and that it would have been a preference to see more zombies. Well considering that the governor is one of the antagonists in the comic book series, I highly doubt that it would have been a smart move to completely write out the governor from the tv series. Get your facts together newbs. BTW I like the direction the show is heading in so far for season 4. It’s what I imagine being stuck in a prison during a zombie apocolypse would be like…disease, bad conditions etc.

  26. Amc please kill the damn govener off he is ruining show

  27. the first season was so breathtaking well made , i think if he didn’t do the first season none would watch this, we keep sticking to it because of the characters and our attachment to the show, if i were a new viewer and watched the second season i would want to keep on

  28. Things make a lot of sense now. I thought season 1 was a tight little ball of dynamite at 6 episodes. Then I read that season 2 jumped from 6 to 13 episodes. Season 2 felt stretched out, and season 3 even more so. The shorter the better. Always serve the story. But of course when people make money, things change. Season 1 was the best season in every way. It’s hideous that they axed Darabont.

  29. No point AMC ran it into the ground now it’s just more TV garbage