With Breaking Bad over and the second half of Mad Men’s final season poised to wrap up next spring, AMC has struggled a bit to find original programming to match its early successes. That said, one new show hit really, really, really big. Entering its fifth season this fall, The Walking Dead is not only a ratings juggernaut on cable television, it also gives network favorites like The Big Bang Theory a run for their money in terms of viewership. Despite a sort of revolving door of showrunners and behind-the-scenes skirmishes, the ratings have continued to grow and its commercial popularity remains higher than ever. With a spinoff series in the works as well, The Walking Dead franchise is likely to keep AMC afloat for quite some time.
As they do every year, much of The Walking Dead cast (yes, even Norman Reedus) and executive producers Scott M. Gimple, Robert Kirkman, Gale Anne Hurd, Dave Alpert, and Greg Nicotero made the journey to Comic-Con earlier this Friday to preview the upcoming season and reveal the first trailer. Watch the first The Walking Dead season 5 trailer after the jump, along with my full Comic-Con panel recap. The series returns on Sunday, October 12th on AMC.
I was immediately elated (and not surprised) to see that Chris Hardwick was moderating this panel. If you’ve read our recaps from previous years, you know that Hardwick is consistently one of the most entertaining parts of Comic-Con. But on to The Walking Dead…
When asked whether the characters will ever leave the train car seen at the end of season four, Gimple said he’d rather show a clip from episode 15 of season five to answer that question. We were then treated to a sitcom-style clip of Andrew Lincoln and Steven Yeun with grey beards sitting in the train cart, eating pieces of their fallen cohorts. Glen offers Rick a piece of meat, and when Rick asks who it is, Glen says “I think it’s Carl.” Rick at first rebuffs the idea of eating his son, then subsequently chows down. It was a funny gag that I imagine will end up on a Blu-ray at some point.
- Gimple said season five will “define” the characters, addressing how they progress after having done terrible things.
- “You’re going to see the story of Terminus,” Gimple confirmed.
- Moving forward, Kirkman said that while Terminus seems like a major departure from the comic books, as the season progresses it will get more back on track with the comics. He says this will probably a season that’s pretty close to the comics.
- Hardwick noted that “Rick doesn’t seem like Old Rick, he seems like ‘Mega Kung Fu Grip Rick’”. Kirkman replied that he’s been “Mega Kung Fu Grip Rick” in the comics for a while, and now the show is catching up.
- Gimple said the line “They’re fucking with the wrong people” from the comic will be unedited on the Blu-ray, taking a cue from Breaking Bad.
- Hurd said the cast and crew are very grateful that there are “tick, chigger, and mosquito-free zone” shoot locations in season five that are “maybe” inspired by the comic book.
- Hurd said there’s some “spectacular scope” this season, and we’ll also see them take “bigger than ever” leaps with some of the set pieces and characters.
- “We have a long-standing objective to pretty much hire anyone who’s ever been on The Wire.” – Alpert on the abundance of former The Wire cast members on the show
- Nicotero said there’s a lot of really interesting Walker set pieces this season. One such walker has been in a flooded basement, and an image of the makeup shows what looked like a more emaciated, skinnier version of the “water zombie”. He can be briefly glimpsed in the new trailer.
- Nicotero said they’ll revisit a few familiar locations, but there are also a number of new sets and locations in season five.
- On the return of Beth, Emily Kinney said “I can’t tell you really anything about where she is next season.” She did add that she’s gotten a lot stronger since teaming up with Daryl last year. “She’s lived a little now, she’s not just an innocent teenager anymore… She’s taking a different strength into season five.”
- When Norman Reedus was asked if he had any inkling in season one that this would be Daryl’s emotional journey, he replied “I thought they were gonna kill me off in season two.” He added that none of the characters are the same people they were in season one.
- On the evolution of the characters, Lincoln said Carl “looked like a little Ewok” in season one.
- Chandler Riggs (Carl) came onto the stage after the rest of the cast, carrying a giant tub of pudding and making his San Diego Comic-Con debut. When asked what it felt like to grow up on this show, he was inundated with questions from Lincoln and Yeun, “How old are you? Do you drive? How diversified is your stock portfolio?”
- Could Glenn and Maggie ever settle down and have a normal life, if a cure was found? Lauren Cohan said there’d likely be other baddies out there to battle anyway.
- Michael Cudlitz said his character’s “a punk” in the comics, but said that the key to his portrayal of the character is attitude.
- What’s more challenging for Michonne, when she’s torn up physically or when she’s torn up emotionally? Danai Gurira said she was initially daunted by the physical aspects of the character, but added that it was challenging to convey the dark emotional issues that were hidden under Michonne’s harsh exterior.
- Hardwick brought out a bouquet of flowers for Melissa McBride, who then went down the line of the panel trying to give them away to the other cast members. Finally, she found a reluctant taker in Reedus.
- How does Carol keep grounded? McBride replied, “In the center she feels justified, and it comes from a place of caring. What’s the point of having to do these horrible things if that’s all there is?”
- Chad Coleman said there was no time that Tyreese lost sight of Carol’s humanity. He saw her as incredibly brave in this harsh world.
- The producers touted season five as bigger than ever, to which Hardwick replied, “There will not be more explosions on Talking Dead”.
When asked how he prepares to be “Angry Rick”, Lincoln said that he simply learns his lines like everyone else. After some giggling from Cohan, Hardwick unveiled an outtake montage of Lincoln angrily hitting things, screaming, and breaking wood on set right before the director calls “action”. It drew large laughs from the crowd, and after it concluded, Hardwick quipped, “I would watch an entire show of just that.”
Audience Q&A Highlights
- When asked how close he is to his character in real life, Reedus said “There’s a whole bunch of me in Daryl and a whole bunch of Daryl in me,” followed by “Wow that sounds really bad.”
- On departed characters, Lincoln said he called Scott Gimple at one point and said “I miss Scott Walker—I miss Herschel—so much,” to which Gimple replied, “That’s the point.”
- Asked whether Merle’s death was hard for Daryl or freeing, Reedus responded, “A little bit of both.” He recalled the day they were shooting the scene where Merle is stabbed in the face and Gimple said, “You’re not stabbing him because you’re mad at him, you’re stabbing him because you’re mad at the world.”
- When prepping to shoot the scene where she kills The Governor, Gurira said she had to go to some dark places. The crew had to touch up her makeup in between takes, and they later told her that she was visibly tense and they didn’t want to mess with her face too much.
- Lincoln said he listens to a lot of Prince to prepare for certain scenes. He said shooting the Lori scene was particularly tough.
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