EXCLUSIVE: This is a quite a bombshell — I have learned that Frank Darabont, the creator, executive producer and director of AMC’s smash hit The Walking Dead, is stepping down as showrunner of the series, which is now in production on its upcoming second season. The news is even more surprising given the fact that Darabont was on hand for Walking Dead’s Comic-Con panel just this past Friday alongside fellow executive producers Robert Kirkman, on whose graphic novel the series is based, and Gale Anne Hurd and appeared excited about Season 2. There is speculation that Darabont might be off the show completely, but I hear talks are still ongoing about him possibly staying on in some capacity. Darabont, who spent five years trying to get a TV version of the zombie saga off the ground and wrote and directed the AMC pilot, hails from the feature world, and I hear that he never quite adjusted to the daily grind of producing a TV series. Last December, he considered forgoing a writing staff for Season 2 and assigning scripts to freelancers but ultimately went for the traditional writing staff model recommended by the network and tapped Glen Mazzara as an executive producer and his No. 2. It is unclear if The Shield alum Mazzara, who has showrunning experience, would now step in to run Walking Dead. I hear that the behind-the-scenes turmoil has not affected production on the show, which continues as scheduled. Season 2 of Walking Dead is slated to premiere Oct. 16. In addition to huge ratings, the series has garnered awards recognition for its freshman season, including a best drama series Golden Globe nomination as well as DGA and WGA noms. In a Deadline Emmy Q&A last month, Darabont raved about his transition to television. “In TV, you have to get ideas across in a more economical way,” he said. “But the process is fundamentally the same (as features), just accelerated. There’s no time for second guessing. The wheels are in constant motion. I love that about television. If I’d known how much fun it was, I’d have done it years ago.”