'Walking Dead' Dissection: Robert Kirkman on the Governor's Wicked Dark Side

The Hollywood Reporter
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[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the "Walk With Me" episode of The Walking Dead.]

The Governor -- and Merle! -- have arrived.

Sunday's The Walking Dead (finally!) delivered the long-awaited debut of David Morrissey's The Governor, one of the comic series' biggest and baddest villains in its more than 100 issues.

AMC's version, at first pass anyway, seemed to be the political figure that goes with a nickname like the Governor -- protective of the community, kind to strangers and willing to do what ever it takes to help rebuild society. But after spending some time with the head of Woodbury, he's revealed to be more of a seedy politician, with a collection of zombie heads (with some still appearing to have life left in them) preserved in tanks in a secret room in his home.

So it's smart that his "prisoners" Michonne (Danai Gurira) and Andrea (Laurie Holden) are instantly suspicious of his motives for bringing the duo back to Woodbury and setting them up with fresh clothes, a place to stay and medical care. That, however, changes with the more time Andrea spends in the gated community as she begins to take a liking to the leader who, unbeknown to her, has whacked the lone survivor of a helicopter crash and the seven remaining members of his squad.

The Hollywood Reporter caught up with executive producer Robert Kirkman, who created the comics on which the AMC drama is based, to break down "Walk With Me," how Michonne's suspicious will hinder her relationship with Andrea, how long the duo will be in Woodbury and just what the Governor and his scientist cohort Milton (Dallas Roberts) are up to.

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The Hollywood Reporter What a lasting impression with the wall of zombie heads. What's the message that you're sending about the Governor with that epic scene from the comics?
Robert Kirkman: It's supposed to be something jarring. He's got Michonne's walker pets in one of the fish tanks and the pilot from the helicopter added; it's something the Governor's been collecting. You should get a sense, and if you've read the comics you know that this is something he does from time to time. The reasons why he has these heads and what it is he's actually doing while he's just sitting there staring at them remains to be seen. It's part of the mystery surrounding the Governor. There's much more from where that came from and as the season continues to unfold, we'll discover more possibly horrific things about this guy.

Several of the heads looked like they're still "alive." Is that hope that there's still a little bit of who each person was still there? 
That's a good segue in talking about Milton (Dallas Roberts). There is a question of how much of a person's personality is still contained within the zombies and that's something Milton will be dealing with. He's a curious character, he's someone who is saying, "This zombie threat isn't going away and we don't know anything about these things other than that they're dead people who are seemingly walking around for no reason." He's going to do everything in his power to get some answers. It's a fun plotline moving forward.

We thought you'd pan to reveal the Governor's zombie daughter, who was seen in a family photo in his home. Are you still leaving the door open for that by showing the family portrait?
His zombie daughter Penny is a big part of the comics. Whether or not she'll appear in the television show remains to be seen. But you may be on to something there (laughs).

The Governor has a strong inner circle, are any of his men familiar to readers of the comics?
Martinez is definitely there; he's the guy with the baseball bat in the opening scene taking out the zombies. The other people are additions to the show. Martinez and we saw Dr. Stevens who carries the same name as the doctor from the comics but is somewhat a different character considering she's female. There will be some more surprises in Woodbury as we go along.

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Shupert, one of the two men watching Michonne and Andrea, seems to be a bit conflicted about the Governor. Is everyone accepting of the Governor or might someone warn Michonne that she's right to be suspicious?
There's a lot going in on Woodbury. We haven't revealed the extent of what everyone's devotion to the Governor is. He's clearly the leader of Woodbury and he leads with iron fist to a certain extent. We've seen his dark side and will possibly, eventually see an even darker side. But how loyal his people are and what may occur in Woodbury remains to be seen.

The Governor kills the helicopter pilot as well as the rest of his squad. Why not bring them into the community?
We were talking in writers' room with [showrunner] Glen Mazzara and it was decided that one of the things that the Governor does in order to maintain his leadership is to eliminate any kind of threat to his hold over those people. So a national guard troop that has a mobile unit and is very capable and secure is something that could possibly lead people away from Woodbury; it could be an element that's added to Woodbury that could conflict with the Governor's plan for those people. That's something he would eliminate at all costs. Coming back with those supplies is a big win for him and shows his leadership and how necessary Woodbury is. It was very important for him to say, "This whole troop was out there and they got slaughtered and now we're able to use their supplies and that's great for us but it's so dangerous out there, you have to stay in Woodbury." That's another sign of his powers of manipulation and reveals how wicked this guy.

Is Merle (Michael Rooker) concerned about finding his brother, Daryl (Norman Reedus), or has he given up hope that he's alive?
We'll find more about that in the coming episodes. He hasn't written him off. We're teasing a reunion and we're very aware that as soon as Merle is reintroduced the audience is going to be saying, "When do we get to see these guys together?" What's interesting about that for us is we've never really seen them together in the show. In the dream sequence, the vision Daryl had of Merle in season two is the only time those two actors have shared a scene. We're excited about those two sharing the screen together and that's something we're building toward.

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Andrea questions why Michonne's pets were so important to her. Any plans to reveal their backstory -- as you did in the recent Walking Dead Michonne one-off comic?
Those two characters definitely have a backstory. Readers comics know who they were and what their relationship to Michonne was. Whether or not we're going to follow that exactly remains to be seen. We may learn what's going on or we may not. Those characters were somewhat important to Michonne and there's definitely something there.

Andrea and Michonne are already at odds over whether to stay in Woodbury. Why does Andrea ignore the warning signs? Was that a little flirting we saw between Andrea and the Governor at the end between them?
The audience is going to be very sympathetic to Andrea being wooed by the Governor. As far as noticing the warning signs, Michonne is a very suspicious character; she's not necessarily more astute than Andrea. Andrea was just deathly ill and could have lost her life and now she's faced with Woodbury, which is a completely different existence than she's experienced over the past year. Now she's faced with this town that's seemingly perfect. Andrea is someone who's been so put through the ringer, losing her sister, Dale, being separated from the group, living out on her own, that this oasis would very easily enchant her. It's something she so wants to be real and she so wants to believe that this is what it is and she wants to take it at face value that she honestly can't help herself.

What do you think of Woodbury and the Governor? Do you like the new additions to the series? Hit the comments with your thoughts. The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC.

Email: Lesley.Goldberg@thr.com; Twitter: @Snoodit

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