‘The Walking Dead’ Lawsuit: Creator Frank Darabont Claims AMC Mistreats Employees

Don’t assume just because a show is a smash-hit everything is a peachy keen behind the scenes. Frank Darabont, former showrunner for The Walking Dead, alleges AMC has a ‘habit’ of treating its employees poorly. Darabont details his experience with the network in a revealing lawsuit against AMC. The former employee describes his experience with the network, explaining the poor treatment started way before his sudden 2011 termination.

The Hollywood Reporter reported on Thursday that the former showrunner Frank Darabont claims that the AMC executives reduced his profit sharing during season two of The Walking Dead after he was terminated, in turn, essentially “stealing” tens of millions of dollars from him.

The reduction in profit sharing was not the only problem he listed in the lawsuit. According to the deposition obtained by The Washington Post, despite the show’s huge fan base, the show has struggled with harsh budget cuts, which Frank believed affected the show’s integrity. He claimed the network cut the budget by 20 percent, which made it tough to create the primetime zombie drama. Frank explained reducing the budget by $200 thousand made it extremely difficult to keep up with the structural integrity of the show.

Darabont filed his lawsuit against AMC in December of 2013, citing breach of a contract and cheating him out of millions in profit sharing. To give you an idea how much money AMC swiped from Frank, the primetime drama fetches an average of 17 million viewers each week. Frank claims that in a conversation he had with the AMC executives, they were not concerned with the success of the show. They wanted to reduce the show’s budget from $3.4 million per episode for production to $3 million. Darabont noted that it might not seem like much of a change for most people; however, the show used every dollar in the budget.

Frank Darabont explained he approached the executives about the budget cuts and asked if they could find the money to keep The Walking Dead budget intact. Frank was told, in no uncertain terms, that he was to reduce his staffing and production costs by the new budget. He recalled AMC executives told him about the budget change in a cold, matter-of-fact- tone.

Frank told The Hollywood Reporter that the executives could have shown the cast and crew the respect they deserved, shown up on the Georgia-based set, and stayed a few hours to experience what it was like to put the series together in 110-degree weather.

“When they did rarely show up on the set, they would drive in from the airport in their air conditioned car, race into the air conditioned tent we had there so the actors could have a break and not pass out from the heat, poke their heads out on occasion, and half an hour later jump back in their car and fly back to their air conditioned office in New York.”

AMC released a statement about Frank Darabont’s lawsuit and hoped to squash any rumors that they mistreated their employees.

“Frank Darabont has made it clear that he has strong opinions about AMC and the events that led to his departure from The Walking Dead. The reality is that he has been paid millions of dollars under the terms of his contract, which we honored, and we will continue to vigorously defend against this lawsuit.”

Glen Mazzara noticed on the set that Robert Kirkman (The Walking Dead creator) and Frank Darabont had an underlying personal conflict that affected the show’s integrity. In the end, Frank was let go, in part to create a much less hostile work environment for the cast and crew. Mazzara noted that if Darabont continued to lead The Walking Dead after season two, he would have killed the show.

It looks like AMC made the right decision to ax Frank Darabont. One of his main complaints is that he agreed to ten percent profit sharing and because he was let go mid-season two, he only received 7.5 percent profit sharing for the season. The 2.5 percent difference translates to millions of dollars.

[Photo by Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic]