Comic-Con 2016: What We Learned About ‘The Walking Dead’


AMC’s flagship zombie drama The Walking Dead made its annual pilgrimage to San Diego Comic-Con last weekend, and although their Hall H panel featured every member of the cast who was present for Negan’s infamous “lineup” in the Season 6 finale, fans are keenly aware that at least one character won’t be surviving that encounter.

As far as which character that might be, it’s anyone’s guess at this point: the cast and creators aren’t saying a word, and even though the first trailer for The Walking Dead‘s seventh season introduces several new characters – including comic book favorites Ezekiel and Shiva – the footage doesn’t reveal so much as a hint of which member of the group got up close and personal with Lucille.

In addition to answering (and in some cases, dodging) questions from fans during their Hall H appearance, the cast and creators of The Walking Dead also participated in a press conference with journalists, and you can check out some of the highlights of that discussion below.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan on shooting the first appearance of Negan:

I was a little bit nervous going in, but I remember right before I walked out of the trailer for the first time, this weird calm came over me. Which oddly enough, I think the character needs, but I remember it was a spot that I don’t know I’ve ever settled into as an actor before. I torture myself. I don’t sleep the night before. Andy [Lincoln] I know does the same thing. We’re very hard on ourselves and nothing is fucking right ever.

I remember right before I walked out the door, it was okay. I knew what I had to do. Eerily, it was weird and it’s been like that by the way, the whole time. This role for me is something really special and with everybody here helping, it’s finding its cool place.

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Greg Nicotero on choosing Negan’s victim:

I think the biggest challenge is you know it’s coming. Ever since issue 100, we were at breakfast four years ago today when that issue was out. I remember reading it and just thinking how brutal and unexpected and senseless it felt. So we’re going into that moment where we know it’s going to happen.

I think that is the trickiest aspect of the first episode is living up to, number one, the expectation of that moment and then what’s even more interesting for me as the director of the episode was how that changes the direction of the survivors forever. When we shot the episode, that to me was as critical as the actual moment which is the five minutes after, the ten minutes after, the 20 minutes after. When the smoke clears in the battlefield sort of scenario. So it’s a fascinating exercise in emotion because shock and denial, all these things play into it.

Andrew Lincoln on Rick’s sense of responsibility and his emotional state:

I think hubris was very much part of the back eight in Rick. I think it was probably a good strategic, as Danai [Gurira] said in the panel, it was probably the right thing to do but with too much pride behind it. I think he’s powerless for the first time since he woke up from the coma. He’s truly terrified for his and his child’s life and his fellow family. And everything that he’s fought and bled for and had family members die for and everything they’ve worked for two years to get to has been shattered in 24 hours. So it’s not a good look by all accounts. He’s not in a good space. I think if he makes it through the first episode, he will be a different man. He can’t not be.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan on the fan response to Negan:

Right now, this Comic-Con is going to be okay. It has been. I think next year it could be a little different. That’s what I think. I think next year’s gonna be a salute of middle fingers and language when I come out onto the stage but right now it’s been great and being with these guys, because I know it’s a hard deal. It’s what the show is drawn to. It’s been hard. Being the cause of that in kind of a way it also has sucked. That being said, I feel like I’ve been embraced by the cast and I sure embrace them. But it’s going to be hard. It’s going to be hard until it’s not anymore and I don’t know when that’s going to be.

Scott Gimple on filming alternate, uncensored takes for Negan:

[We’re not doing] every single scene, but the notable stuff. We’re not going to be doing two takes of each scene where we just add the word “fuck.”

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Robert Kirkman on adding Ezekiel to the cast:

We’ll always be bringing in characters from the comics. We’re reaching that point where Ezekiel is in the storyline, so it’s just a natural progression. As we move through the story, we’ll be bringing some characters up sooner, some characters up later, but there will definitely be other characters that you can see this season, and some surprises coming up. So be on the lookout for that, but right now, it’s all about Ezekiel and Shiva, as far as new characters.

Scott Gimple on the expanding world of The Walking Dead:

We have these groups in these different areas, and some of these groups we’ve only seen hints of, like the Saviors. They exist in their own society and we see that. We’ve talked about The Kingdom, that’s their own place. We saw Tara and Heath in some weird place. There’s Alexandria. These places have different characters, have different situations, different ways of life. So we’re expanding, literally, in these different locations but also in the types of characters we see and the kind of lives that they lead.

Robert Kirkman on the choice to make Shiva a completely CG character:

I was asking Scott “how are we planning on doing this thing?” Gale pointed out that it’s not particularly humane to have a live tiger on set, and is also very dangerous for the actors. So I was like “great, no real tiger, I can still come to set.” That sounds awesome. Because I would not have gone to set if there had been a real tiger anywhere near set. So there’s no real tiger involved. It’s all magic.

Lauren Cohan on Maggie’s pregnancy:

Maggie’s a hopeful character. She’s decided that it’s a good idea, and that the future and the world will hold a place for her child. In the group, in the repeated rising from the ashes that we’ve all experienced, I think the lesson that I’d take from character progression is that there will be suffering, and that is inevitable. But who do you become, what do learn, and how much deeper is your spiritual connection to those that you love, because of how you’ve suffered?

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Robert Kirkman and Scott Gimple on the romance between Rick and Michonne:

Kirkman: That was something that Scott began talking about in Season 4. I think it’s clear in the episode where Michonne and Rick and Carl encounter Morgan, we were discussing that kind of stuff all the way back there, and there were seeds planted in that episode.

Gimple: I wasn’t in charge of the show then. During that time, there were a lot of little things I did that were almost like fan fiction, or like telling stories to myself. I absolutely respected that it was someone else’s decision at that point, but I was just planting seeds because if I pitched it, I wanted the seeds there. It was extremely gratifying to be able to do that, but I will say there’s something that happens on TV shows, where even if you have a story in your head… when you feel the chemistry in the moment, that’s one of the intangibles in planning TV. I believe in planning way too much, but you’ve gotta leave room for chemistry, and there was [chemistry] between those characters.

Andrew Lincoln on the similarities between Negan and Rick:

I think the blurring of lines between who’s the hero and who’s the villain is part of the DNA of the show. In the same way that the first zombie that I killed, seeing the human behind the monster and the monster behind the human, I think that those are great themes that play out. I would never dare to riff about someone’s character choices when they’re just arriving on set. That’s his business. Of course, you can read into things what you want but I tend not to do it. I tend to react to what’s in front of me. I don’t know about Jeffrey, but that’s my way.

The Walking Dead returns for its seventh season in October, exclusively on AMC.

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