MEET THE IMPROV COMIC WHO BECAME A WRITER/PRODUCER ON “THE WALKING DEAD”

TVWriter™ bud Curtis Gwinn’s gone and gotten himself interviewed again – about the “creative pivot” that took him from comedy to THE WALKING DEAD. He’s producing another show now – an even better one, we think – but that’ll definitely be another story:

Now THIS is an improv group!

Now THIS is an improv group!

by Joe Berkowitz

Anything can happen during an improv show. Anything at all. The comedians onstage construct tiny worlds out of thin air, populate them with nuanced characters, and thrust these folks into bizarre scenarios. Conjuring up a post-apocalyptic zombie wasteland is pretty much par for the course.

Until recently, Curtis Gwinn was one of the premier imaginary-world architects in New York City. As a founding member of the now-franchised improv group, Death By Roo Roo, he performed for sold-out crowds at the Upright Citizens Brigade theater every week–when he wasn’t carving out a name for himself with solo shows. After a writing stint on Paul Scheer’s cop show spoof NTSF:SD: SUV, Gwinn made a career pivot in 2013 when he came aboard AMC’s The Walking Dead as supervising producer and writer. Although performing long-form improv and creating hour-length zombie drama seem like polar opposites, apparently they two are within severed arm’s length from each other.

Now these are the eyes of a writer.

You have the eyes of a writer, m’lord.

“There’s a schizophrenia you have to have as an improv comedian,” Gwinn says. “You not only have to understand your own character but how it relates to other people’s characters. Being so immersed in a comedy community and a comedy style like that got me to appreciate how to voice all kinds of people, and come up with dialogue on the spot, spontaneously, without thinking too hard about it. That ability definitely serves me in the writers room now.”

During the 13 years he was steadily performing comedy, Gwinn remained an avid consumer of TV dramas. As the great wave of morally ambiguous shows like The SopranosDeadwood, and Breaking Bad began rolling out during that time, he became more and more convinced that he could write for these kinds of shows, and that one day he would. Actually getting there turned out to be a challenge, but it was Gwinn’s status in the improv community that ultimately helped make it happen.

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