Friday afternoon at Comic-Con we had the chance to attend a press conference for AMC’s The Walking Dead. While everyone is still being extremely secretive about who met Lucille at the end of last season, we still got some insight into the work that was put into that crucial and pivotal scene, as well as a few hints on what to expect next season. In attendance were showrunners: Robert Kirkman, David Alpert, Greg Nicotero, and Gale Anne Hurd, as well as stars: Norman Reedus, Steven Yeun, Lauren Cohan, Danai Gurira, Sonequa Martin-Green, Michael Cudlitz, Andrew Lincoln, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Chandler Riggs, Ross Marquand, and Josh McDermitt.
- The big characters this season will be Ezekiel and Shiva—as many fans already know—and there are no plans to bring in any other new characters from the comics at the point. The decision to make the tiger CGI was based on an effort to be humane and also the fact that having a real life tiger on set would have been terrifying. Nicotero also made a point to remind us that the comics have always been a good starting point but not necessarily a road map to how the show will play out, so expect changes to be made in regards to Ezekiel, the Hilltop colony and their war against Negan.
Keeping the particular death of a character a secret has been very difficult because everyone is so focused on each of the actors’ whereabouts, and fans are always trying to piece together the mystery. “When you sign up to be an actor on this show you sign up for a specific lifestyle, which was an interesting thing that was new to me,” Yeun said. McDermott says the reaction from fans is ongoing and they’re constantly expressing their concern on social media, but he says it’s beautiful to share that connection with them.
- Gimple assured that he wasn’t afraid to end last season on that big of a cliffhanger despite the type of reaction they knew they would get from the audience. “You have to respect the reaction no matter what but I think it’s important not to be afraid.”
- The show always seems to take place during the summer and when presented with the idea of whether they’d ever show another season, perhaps winter and snow, Gimple responded. “I make no promises but I would be shocked if we didn’t. It would be special if we did.” Kirkman joked that if they could CGI a tiger, they could definitely do the same for snow.
- The group’s overconfidence in regards to Negan seemed to be one of their biggest flaws last season. They thought they would be able to take him on and were obviously proven wrong. Yeun points to the penultimate episode of Season 6 and Glen and Michonne’s calm response to being captured as a precursor to the group’s arrogance. “You see these characters the most scared than they’ve ever been,” Yeun said referring to that final scene. Cudlitz added that it felt like the characters were realizing how bad things were in real time, along with the audience. Gurira thought their overconfidence was “based on the fact that we’ve gotten over so much in the past and we are very agile mentally with our strategies and we all have different strengths.”
Cohan, like the rest of the cast, was coy when talking about Maggie’s pregnancy and her emotional state. Instead of focusing on Maggie’s final moments, she spoke about pregnancy in the apocalypse in general. “I think the lesson that I take from character progression and what we see on the show is there will be suffering and that is inevitable.” Regardless, she says there is nothing she would change or tell her character if she could go back, “[Maggie] needs to experience those things to be where she is now,” she concluded.
- Nicotero said the biggest challenge was deciding how brutal, unexpected, and senseless the big death was going to be. It was very important to live up to those expectations and how it was going to change the direction of all the survivors. “When we shot the episode, that to me was as critical as the actual moment,” he said. He understands there are various emotions at play—shock, denial—within the characters, “We’re changing the landscape of our cast.” Alpert added to that sentiment, “If a character is killed off and it doesn’t hurt or affect anybody then we are not doing our job.”
- Morgan expects his character to be hated and resented come next year but as an actor, he has been greatly embraced by everyone on the show. He pointed out the cast’s commitment and professionalism by praising their acting during the death scene. “To do that for a guy who is just coming in is a testament to everyone up here,” he said. Morgan also pointed out that everyone is very respectful towards each other when it comes to how they handle their characters. They don’t tell one another what to do or how to play out a particular situation. There’s respect and understanding between them.
- While everyone has their own particular way of preparing for a scene, Lincoln says their desire to always do their best on camera stems from the infectiousness of everyone around them. They feed into each other’s drive to do better. There is always a focus and energy dedicated to doing their best and that includes not only the actors but also the crew.
- Bringing a character like Negan to life is no easy task, but Morgan pointed out there’s a lot of changes that can occur during that transition especially because the comics give an actor a lot of room to work with. While he usually finds a way to connect with a character, Morgan says he doesn’t see a trace of himself in Negan at all. That has been a completely different experience for him. “I’ve changed the way I move and the sound of my voice. Things get seriously weird when Negan’s around.” He concluded.