'Walking Dead' Showrunner Spreads Televisual Virus

Glen Mazzara on his jump from freelancer to EP of the hit drama

Why This Matters

Glen Mazzara


AMC’s The Walking Dead, showrunner


B.A., English, 1989 and M.A., English, 1993, New York University

Employment Highlights:

Nash Bridges, writer, 1998-2000

The Shield, writer/ coexecutive producer, 2002-07

Crash, creator/executive producer, 2008-09

Hawthorne, executive producer, 2009-11

Current title since 2011


Born July 6, 1967; married to Sarah; sons Liam, 16, Malcolm, 12, August, 9

The Walking Dead zombies may want brains, but all
showrunner Glen Mazzara wants is eyes—lots of them.

That should not be too difficult, if past
is prologue when AMC’s hit drama returns
for its third season Oct. 14. The
show shattered records when it premiered
on Halloween 2010 to 5 million
viewers. Its popularity spread faster than
the zombie virus itself, with its second
season—the first with Mazzara’s name
attached as showrunner—
bringing in 9 million
viewers in its finale.

While fans are an integral
part of the show,
Mazzara says that when
he signed on as showrunner
in July 2011, he
was much more focused
on pleasing the crew.

“I was very concerned
with the story,” Mazzara
says. “I focused [on the
creative elements] with
the other writers, producers,
actors and directors
to make sure that what we were
going to put out was as strong and as
good as possible, and hopefully the fans
would respond.”

His deep concern was not unfounded.
Mazzara’s appointment as showrunner
came with much publicity, as
then-EP Frank Darabont was removed
from the show only a month after production
on the second season began.

When the time came for AMC to
appoint a new showrunner, network
president Charlie Collier says Mazzara
was “an obvious choice to lead.

“We’ve been so impressed…by his
writing and his general management,”
Collier says. “The beauty of Glen is
that he really lives the show from start to finish.”

Now that The Walking Dead has become
much more than just the series,
with its live after-show The Talking Dead
that airs on the network following each
episode (and on which Mazzara himself
has appeared) and Robert Kirkman’s series-
source comic books gaining popularity,
he has found himself
in the spotlight.

“Our fans are rabid,
and they are so hungry
for new information,”
says Mazzara, who often
takes to Twitter to
interact with viewers,
though he gripes that
sometimes the medium
makes him feel like
“customer service.”

That’s not particularly
a far cry from where
he started. Originally
from Queens, N.Y.,
Mazzara managed emergency rooms
and ICUs as a hospital administrator
while teaching himself to write teleplays
after graduating from NYU with
an M.A. in English. Mazzara did not
have any connections in the industry,
struggling for the most part until he
moved to Los Angeles in 1998.

In his first pitch meeting, Mazzara
met Carlton Cuse (Lost), Shawn Ryan
(currently at the helm of ABC’s new drama
Last Resort) and John Wirth (Nash
). Mazzara wrote a freelance
script for Nash and joined the show as a
writer and story editor.

Mazzara followed Ryan, with whom
he developed a friendship, to cop drama
The Shield. He joined as a writer,
moving up to executive producer.

Although Mazzara had spent much
of his television career with similar
fare, moving over to The Walking Dead
was like entering “fresh writing territory,”
he says.

Mazzara notes that each show he’s
worked on has offered him an invaluable
lesson. Such is the case with Starz’ Crash,
which Mazzara created as an adaptation
of the eponymous 2004 film for the premium
cabler as its first original drama.

“In one way, that show was a success
because I did learn how to be a
showrunner,” he says. “In other ways,
the show was not a success because
creatively, the material got away from
me at some point.”

That won’t be an issue for Mazzara
on The Walking Dead. Kirkman first
published the comic book series,
which now counts more than 100 issues,
in 2003; Mazzara, who reads the
new issue every month, “gets to steal
the best from Robert…and figure out
how to do it our way.”

Though culling the best of Kirkman’s
comic book series is an arduous task
(combining the show and the comics
results in more story lines than all
the zombies in Atlanta), Mazzara is no
stranger to the care and attention that
growing things require—he is also an
amateur bonsai cultivator.

“I find that it’s a lot like writing, because
it involves care, but not too much
care,” he says. “It’s about letting something
reveal its inner shape.”

Thankfully, Mazzara is more adept
as a writer and producer, as he “tends
to kill a lot of [them].” But with The
Walking Dead
’s third season premiere
shambling over the horizon, chances
are very good he’ll keep successfully
killing a lot more than just trees.

comments to
and follow her
on Twitter: