‘The Walking Dead’ Author Jay Bonansinga Interview (Exclusive)

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Telltale’s The Walking Dead: Michonne (Photo from Telltale Games)


JD: I wanted to ask you about the connection with the Telltale video game series, as I’m not sure how familiar you are with them.

JB: I’m very familiar with them. I worked on the newest one. It’s a three episode mini-series for Michonne. I was a storyline consultant on it, which was really cool. And for that I’ve got a quick, inside anecdote.

Related Story: 'The Walking Dead: Michonne' is Depressingly Satisfying

I’ve always told Robert Kirkman, ‘My favorite character is Michonne, so if you ever do anything with Michonne, please keep me in mind.’ He would always laugh and go ‘Yeah, whatever’. But then last year in Los Angeles, he literally takes me into a dark corner, and he goes, ‘Okay, you’re gonna get your wish.’ I had no idea what he was going to talk about. He said, ‘Yeah, you’re going to get to work on Michonne’s story. The Telltale game is going to do a Michonne mini-series.’

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It was so fascinating, and cool. I didn’t really have much to do with the narrative that the Telltale game takes, I was more there like a consultant on the mythology of The Walking Dead, as far as what is kosher. It has been an amazing experience for me to get to that point. I have written hundreds of thousands of words in this universe. It’s not rocket science, but it is a defined universe with rules, and it’s fascinating to be one of the writers for this franchise. It’s a great experience.

JD: I bet, I had no idea you were involved in the Telltale games as well.

JB: Yeah, I was involved in another game called Road to Survival, a mobile game.

JD: I was going to ask you about that, too. I’ve noticed that some of your characters are in the mobile game, from some of your novels. Such as Reverend Garlitz, Josh Hamilton, and some others I recognized. So I figured you were involved.

JB: Yeah, I worked more on the story for that one. I was really on the ground floor of the actual narrative of the mobile game.

JD: Going back to the Telltale game, before I forget. Originally in the first season of the Telltale game, they had a Lilly character who was intended to be the same Lilly from the comics, the one you described earlier as one of the Governor’s soldiers.

Lilly in Telltale’s The Walking Dead game (Photo from Telltale Games)

Then when your The Road to Woodbury novel came out, it featured Lilly from the comics as the protagonist, meaning that Telltale’s Lilly couldn’t be the same one after all. Kirkman then had to clarify that your Lilly was the “real” comic Lilly, and Telltale had to change their game for their Lilly to compensate. As a nerd with too little time, I’ve always wondered what happened here.

JB: Yeah, that’s kind of a fascinating wrinkle to The Walking Dead. Actually it’s kind of brilliant. Kirkman likes to have characters morph in different mediums. If you’ll remember, there was a Lilly in the TV series for a short time. But neither the Lilly from the Telltale game nor the Lilly from the TV show were what I think of as the true Lilly, or at least the Lilly that was in the big battle from the comic. I think they were more like homages to that Lilly.

The one on the TV show was part of the family the Governor runs into on the road, and even they were more like the Chalmers family from my book Rise of the Governor, including the sisters April and Tara Chalmers. They took Tara, and kind of cannibalized her out of that family, and she’s the Tara on the show. They replaced April with Lilly, but it was a similar family. The fathers were the same, they were both sort of emphysemic guys, and they run into the Governor on the road. And there’s even some teasing about Brian Blake in that episode. And it’s all a part of the mythology.


JD: It is interesting to see how the different mediums in The Walking Dead inspire each other. As the writer of Rise of the Governor, what was it like seeing your storylines adapted into episodes of the TV series? For example, including your backstory about the death of the Governor’s wife on the show?

JB: That was one of the coolest things that’s ever happened to me as a writer. I can’t tell you how cool it is to be a fan of the show, and have an actor of the caliber of David Morrissey sitting across from Rick Grimes and it’s sort of like DeNiro and Pacino. They’re having a sitdown, there’s a gun under the table. And to have as good of an actor as Morrissey go, ‘I remember that time the phone rang in the night, and it was the hospital. And they said ‘Bad news, Mr. Blake. Your wife was in a terrible accident, she didn’t pull through.’ And literally my wife and I are jumping up and down celebrating, as it was like straight out of the novel.

And then almost a year later, I became friends with David Morrissey, and he told me ‘When I read Rise of the Governor, it became like my bible.’

JD: I’ve seen him mention the book in interviews as a source of inspiration for the character.

JB: Exactly, he used it as a sort of grid for the character, to sort of build the backstory and texture. It was really fabulous. In one convention, he was at the panel, and he was asked if he ever read the comic. And he was like, ‘No, I don’t read the comic, but I recommend everybody read the Walking Dead novel series book one Rise of the Governor.‘ And then within an hour we sold out.

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