Ray Richmond contributes to Deadline’s TV coverage.

Six weeks after suddenly exiting the show he created, executive produced and ran — AMC’s The Walking Dead — Frank Darabont is still in discussions to continue on with an unspecified role on the show. According to inside sources, Darabont will retain his executive producer title, but just what that will mean in terms of his creative input remains uncertain. Negotiations are ongoing, and it’s “in the hands of the lawyers” representing Darabont and AMC, the source said.

Asked this morning at a second-season premiere screening in Beverly Hills if Darabont would have a role on the AMC zombie hit going forward, writer/executive producer Robert Kirkman (who created the graphic novels on which the series is based) replied, “Not that I’m aware of.” AMC president Charlie Collier said at the same screening, “(Darabont’s) imprimatur is on the show in the second season.” Darabont, who is listed as an executive producer in the credits for the season premiere, departed Walking Dead shortly after taking part in the series’ Comic-Con panel on July 22, when he appeared enthusiastic for the season ahead. He was replaced as showrunner by second-in-command Glen Mazzara, who likewise attended this morning’s informal screening.

At the screening, Kirkman tried to leave the impression that everything is going smoothly with production despite the sudden change at the top. “Everything has transitioned really well with Glen,” he said. Kirkman also addressed Darabont’s publicly expressed displeasure with the show’s reduced budget for Season 2. “Anyone who has concerns about how the budget will affect things will be reassured after they see the premiere. All of our production values (from Season 1) are the same if not bigger.” But at the same time, Kirkman admitted that everyone was caught off-guard by Darabont’s swift exit. “Oh sure, it was tough,” he acknowledged. “It happened. It is what it is. But the truth is Frank remains very much a part of the second season. He was there from early February through the time he left (in July) mapping things out. His stamp will be all over it. But that aside, the attitude is good. Everyone’s 100 percent invested in making the best TV show that we can.”

The Walking Dead is AMC’s highest-rated series. It debuted with 5.3 million viewers last Halloween and drew an audience of more than 6 million for its December finale. In the 18-49 demo, that capper generated the largest audience ever for any drama on basic cable. Season 2 of the show will kick off with a 90-minute premiere Oct. 16.

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