Robert Kirkman has a crucial – but "awkward" – role with The Walking Dead: As both creator of the AMC show and writer of the ongoing comic series, he has an up-close view of other screenwriters dismantling his old work in the adaptation process. "It's me in a room with eight people, and I'll go, 'We did this in the comic,' and they go, 'I don't know if that's going to work' or 'It would be better if we did it this way,'" Kirkman told Seth Meyers during Thursday's episode of Late Night. "And oftentimes they're right. But it's eight people tearing apart work I did five years ago, so it can be awkward at times."
Most writers of TV or movie source material have the benefit of detachment, but not Kirkman. "I don't get to be like Stephen King, like, 'Stanley Kubrick, you messed it up!'" he joked, referencing the geniuses' different approaches to The Shining. "I watch the show, like, 'I shouldn't have done that.'"
The Dead mastermind also told Meyers, "one of the real fans, an early adopter," about his original vision for the series: making "a zombie movie that never ends." "I'm a huge fan of zombie movies," he said. "I love the [George] Romero movies, especially. But I don't like the way zombie movies end. Most zombie movies are about a group of interesting people doing interesting things – fighting zombies. And then the time runs out. They're like, 'Well, that was a lot of fun. We're all gonna die now. We're gonna run off into the sunset. You'll never see us again.' So I wanted to do a story about how these people continue to survive and find food and how messed up it makes them over a long period of time."
Kirkman, who also co-created the AMC spinoff Fear the Walking Dead, also shared his mixed emotions about running across real-looking zombie extras on the Dead set. "As close as we are now, they still look real," he said. "Even though it's all rubber and stuff, you don't see the seams – it looks terrifying. But at craft services, they take the teeth out. So oftentimes it's a horrifying, terrifying zombie but with a human mouth inside. 'Hey, how ya doin'?' It's like the old Conan skit with the mouths. It's terrifying and funny at the same time."