Original "Walking Dead" showrunner Frank Darabont — who spent five years shepherding the Robert Kirkman graphic novels to TV — says he's still too heartbroken by his 2011 ouster from the show to continue watching the AMC hit unfold.
"I haven't seen an episode of 'The Walking Dead' since then," Darabont tells Rolling Stone.
"I had to take some time off after that to really reassess everything, to really get over the emotional devastation of having some truly malevolent people tear asunder a brilliant family that had gathered to create this hit for them. It was a very, very deep and loving family, the cast and the crew, and to have that torn apart was ... when somebody throws a hand-grenade into that situation, it's tremendously emotionally trying.
"So would I want to watch another episode of 'The Walking Dead' after that? Are you f---ing kidding me?" said Darabont, who, Rolling Stone reports, was asked to cut $500,000 from the budget of every "WD" episode. "No, you put that traumatic disappointment behind you and move on with your life."
Which is exactly what the big-screen and small screen drama master has done. Darabont, the Oscar-nominated screenwriter of "The Shawshank Redemption" and "The Green Mile," will premiere his latest TV series, the crime noir drama "Mob City," on TNT on Dec. 4.
The three-week series — two episodes air each night during the six-episode season — revolves around the men and women on both sides of the law in 1940s Los Angeles. Real-life figures like mobster Bugsy Siegel (played by actor/director Ed Burns) and LAPD police chief William Parker (played by "Justified" alum Neal McDonough) are major players in the action, while fictional detective Joe Teague is the central figure who ties many of the characters together (in some twist-filled ways, of course).
And to find the actor to play that key role, Darabont did go back to "The Walking Dead": series alum Jon Bernthal, best known for playing Shane Walsh, whose love triangle with Rick and Lori Grimes led to his death near the end of "Dead's" Season 2.
Darabont also cast "WD" alum Jeffrey DeMunn (whose Dale also became zombie chow at the end of Season 2) as LAPD mob squad head Hal Morrison in "Mob City." And while Darabont went on to refer to the powers that be at "The Walking Dead" as "sociopaths" in a Variety interview, Bernthal, for one, tells Yahoo TV he is still a fan of the zombie apocalypse adventure.
"The cast of that show and the crew of that show are my family, and always will be," Bernthal says. "I still keep in very close contact with them. I'll always be a fan. It's actually more fun being a fan, because I don't know what's going to happen."
Bernthal says he even makes sure his "Walking Dead" pals don't spoil storylines for him.
"I dig watching it," he says. "I'm doing a movie over here in England now. I think Andy Lincoln returns in a week or so. I get to be back with my friend Andy very soon, and I'm really looking forward to that.
"And when I see Norman [Reedus], when I talk to Norman and Andy, I just tell them, 'Before we start talking, I don't want to hear a damn thing,'" he laughs. "They follow the rules. They know not to mess with me on this."
But Lincoln, Reedus, and the rest of his former "Walking Dead" cast and crew cohorts aren't the only ones who earned Bernthal's unfaltering loyalty. He calls Darabont one of the best, and says he was flattered by and jumped at the chance to work with his "WD" boss again.
"Literally, I was on the set of 'The Walking Dead.' Frank and I, after he had left, we stayed in very close communication," Bernthal tells Yahoo TV. "He just called me up and said, 'Hey, pal. I've got something for you that I'm writing, stay available. Don't take another TV show.' I said, 'You got it, buddy.' I had no idea what it was. The show could have been about anything. As far as I was concerned, the chance to work with Frank again was all I needed to hear. It was just an unbelievable honor. I wasunbelievably flattered."
Darabont, whose firing sparked negative reactions from some fans of the "Walking Dead" graphic novels as to the direction the show took post-Darabont, was not the last "WD" showrunner change.
Currently in its fourth season, "TWD" is on its third showrunner, writer and producer Scott Gimple. Gimple, who wrote two of the series' all-time best episodes in Season 2's "Pretty Much Dead Already" and Season 3's "Clear," got the job in January 2013, following the December 2012 departure of second showrunner Glen Mazzara.
Mazarra's parting with the series was reportedly amicable — decidedly more amicable than Darabont's, anyway — with AMC issuing an official statement that "both parties acknowledge that there is a difference of opinion about where the show should go moving forward, and conclude that it is best to part ways."
"The Walking Dead" airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC.
"Mob City" premieres Wednesday, Dec. 4 at 9 p.m. on TNT.