Robert Kirkman: ‘The Walking Dead’ Without Zombies? It Almost Happened

Robert Kirkman joined Oscar winning writer Jim Rash to discuss The Walking Dead on The Writer’s Room Friday night on Sundance TV.

In addition to revealing Norman Reedus’ character Daryl Dixon as his “favorite element of the show,” Kirkman also described a dramatically different scenario for The Walking Dead had it aired on the network that originally pursued it before landing with AMC:

“It actually did almost get made at NBC. When the pilot was turned in, the famous story is, one of the executives said, ‘This is awesome. I really love it. Does it have to have zombies in it?'”

Robert also went on to describe Norman Reedus’ character Daryl Dixon and his origins. Based on the best selling comic book series The Walking Dead, the show has faithfully stuck to the original material for the most part. But in the case of Daryl Dixon, Kirkman mentioned that his character was created exclusively for the show:

“Norman tested for Merle, but we were very intent on having Michael Rooker play him. When we saw Norman Reedus, all the producers got together and were like ‘We love this guy. We have to get this guy on the show.’ Suddenly Merle had a brother named Daryl.”

Kirkman also went on to talk about the origins of The Walking Dead comic book series which he created in 2003. “It came from my love of zombie stories in general,” Robert said. He then went on to elaborate further on the idea of using a zombie apocalypse as the back drop for the story:

“It always occurred to me that an apocalyptic setting is such an interesting place to explore humanity and tell long form stories about survival. I always wanted to see where people went at the end of those movies. What they did next.”

Kirkman gave his thoughts as to why audiences across the world are seemingly drawn to zombie stories like Walking Dead, describing zombies as “the physical representation of everyone’s natural fear of death.” But did Kirkman know he was about to unleash a pop culture phenomenon on the world with The Walking Dead? Not really:

“I just wanted to tell a cool zombie story,” he told Rash. “It’s not like I calculated this whole thing (laughs).” Robert added: “Everything I’d done up to that point had been a massive failure. [I thought] ‘This is not going to work.’ Go figure.”

You can catch more of Robert Kirkman’s zombie hit The Walking Dead on AMC when it returns in October.