“When people involved with the show are looking at the long-term plan, you know, they want something different. And what those differences are, you’d have to ask AMC. I was a hired gun coming in to support the creator of the show and, through odd circumstances, I ended up becoming the showrunner. … When you are the creator you can say this is what the show is. I didn’t create the show, I didn’t create the comic book so I was just glad I was able to contribute.”
The Walking Dead has had a hard time holding onto showrunners. Starting with Frank Darabont, who left the show acrimoniously during into its second season; and continuing with Mazzara, who is out at the end of season three, despite the fact that under his leadership, the show became one of highest-rated scripted series on television. In both cases, all parties involved used the generic Hollywood excuse of ‘creative differences’ to explain the change up, not that anyone believed them.
Most fans and the media laid the blame on AMC, pointing to well-publicized problems the network has had with showrunners on its other series as evidence. But there was also a rumor, most notably spread by Shawn Ryan (showrunner of Last Resort) and Kurt Sutter (showrunner of Sons of Anarchy), that the true cause of problem was Robert Kirkman, the creator of the comic book series on which the TV show is based.
According to the rumors, Kirkman insists on creative control of the series, and frequently clashes with showrunners when they dare to disagree with him. AMC’s fault in this scenario is not that they are hostile to the creative staff, but that they fail to support them.
Until now, all those rumors have come from outsiders; but if you read that last sentence of Mazzara’s quote, he seems to be confirming them, at least in part. “When you are the creator you can say this is what the show is. I didn’t create the show, I didn’t create the comic book.” Here, Mazzara is saying that the man who created the comic, Kirkman, is the man who says what they show will be (and presumably, what he said it would be is not what Mazzara wanted it to be).
Now, he doesn’t go as far as to say ‘that jerk got be fired;’ but by naming him as the person ultimately in charge of the show’s creative direction, it does suggest that all these ‘creative differences’ that the showrunners have experienced were with Kirkman, and not AMC.