The hit zombie drama's creator, who abruptly exited the show in July 2011, has filed a lawsuit against AMC accusing the cable network of breach of contract and withholding millions of dollars in profits, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Filed Tuesday in New York state court, the suit hints that a standoff over Darabont's profit participation, which has been ongoing since February 2011, may have played a part in his dismissal from the series months later early into production on Season 2, according to THR, which obtained a copy of the suit.
AMC never revealed publicly why Darabont was let go, or to the writer-producer himself, according to the suit. "AMC's conduct toward Frank to date has been nothing short of atrocious," Darbont's lead lawyer, Dale Kinsella, tells THR. "Unfortunately, the fans of The Walking Dead have suffered as well by being deprived of his creative talent."
Since Darabont's exit, two other showrunners, Glen Mazzara and Scott M. Gimple, have filled his shoes. The show will return for the second part of Season 4 in February.
In his suit, Darabont and his agents at CAA claim that they have never even received $1 for his promised profit participation in the series, which is the No. 1 show on TV in the adults 18-49 demo. The suit claims that because AMC both produces and airs the show, that deal likely prevents Darabont from ever receiving money. AMC, however, has claimed the show is running a $49 million deficit.
Darabont also says in the lawsuit that AMC initially agreed in September 2009 that The Walking Dead would be produced by an unaffiliated studio and that Darabont would receive as much as 12.5 percent of the show's profit after standard industry deductions. Then, when AMC decided to produce the show in-house, Darabont repeatedly asked AMC to spell out the terms of his profit participation, but the company waited to see how the show would perform.
AMC "fired Darabont without cause shortly before Season 2 aired precisely in order to avoid its contractual obligation to pay him increased profits (which vested fully at the conclusion of Season 2) and to avoid its obligation to negotiate to hire him as showrunner for Season 3," the suit claims.
In addition to what he says are tens of millions of dollars in profit from The Walking Dead, Darabont is seeking a cut of The Talking Dead talk show and the as-yet-untitled scripted companion series AMC is currently developing.