One day before the show's third season premiere, AMC hosted its Walking Dead panel on Saturday evening at the New York Comic Con.
Things began with a clip: a close-up of a cloudy zombie eye. There are two zombies standing in a house, almost domestic-like, when Rick and company bust in, dispatching both of them swiftly. Rick begins shuffling in, his flashlight waving in the darkness — on the other side of the door is Daryl with a crossbow.
Rick's young son Carl, complete with cowboy hat, takes out another zombie with a gun, while Daryl takes out an owl. The rest of the characters begin walking into the house, including the pregnant Laurie. They break momentarily to search for food, when they look outside — there are more zombies shuffling outside. They run to their cars (and in the case of Daryl, his motorcycle) and take off, with the horde still in their slow, inexorable pursuit.
Moderator and Talking Dead host Chris Hardwick then introduced the panel, consisting of series creator/executive producer Robert Kirkman and executive producer Gale Anne Hurd, along with cast members Andrew Lincoln, Norman Reedus, Chandler Riggs, Danai Gurira, David Morrissey and Michael Rooker.
Kirkman said that in this upcoming season, the action will be "nonstop": "We're really coming back in a big way." Lincoln said that there are more zombie killings in the first episode than there were in the entire first season. "We find out this season it's been brutal, it's been intense — it's The Walking Dead," Lincoln added. "Because we jump forward in time, we see this group of people, and they have evolved beyond all recognition."Riggs says that he is really happy to be playing a darker character, as Carl wrestles with adjusting to this new world. He described some of the scenes as almost "telepathic," as they move and interact completely in silence.
Reedus then led the crowd in singing Happy Birthday to his son Mingus, who just turned 13. Reedus said that Daryl is trying to keep his people alive, but "he's been away from the enforcement of his big brother over there." He said that he's more sensitive and more aggressive this season, as he really has adopted the survivors that rely on him as his family. Reedus said that sometimes he'll stare at Lincoln and whisper "love you," while Lincoln will whisper back "@#$@ you."
Gurira said that coming into a show and established cast like this is "like icing on the cake… it's an amazing product as is, so being able to come in like this is amazing." Describing the character of Michonne, Gurira said that "she's been through a lot… it's you do or you die, and her choice to do was a very intense, powerful choice that helped create her into a powerful force." She's always thinking five steps ahead, Gurira said, particularly when she essentially chains and domesticates her own zombies.
Morrissey then began to discuss his character, the villainous Governor. Does he see him as an evil character? He said he comes from a place where he's come to understand the Governor. He says that the community he runs "is a great place — if you abide by the rules."
Rooker was next, as Hardwick admired his biceps. "Hi everybody," Rooker said. Describing his character Merle, he said "I'm a tough a**hole. I used to be about love and peace… I've changed my ways."Audience members then rushed to the microphone for a question-and-answer session. A 12-year-old fan asked if the prison raid would take place like in the comics. Kirkman said a lot of crazy stuff would happen on the show, but he couldn't confirm what. Then he added: "You probably shouldn't be watching that show!" The kid then said he also reads the comics. Kirkman was aghast, promising he would clean up the comics immediately. Riggs said he started reading them at age 10.
Riggs then handles a question from a young fan about how some of the kids might interact — romantically. "Beth is 17, Carl is 13… you might see a little bit of that." Hardwick laughed, saying that question would have been a lot creepier from an older fan rather than a 10-year-old.
More young fans came up, which leads Hardwick to ask "are there any toddlers or fetuses who have any questions?" They then ask what their favorite weapons are, which range from flamethrowers to a Lancer (machine gun with a chainsaw).
A fan asked Kirkman if they thought that Daryl was going to be so popular, since he isn't in the book. Kirkman joked that he just ignores him and doesn't pay attention to him, before saying that he actually does have a lot of fun working with characters who aren't in the books.
Did Carl want to kill Shane, another younger fan asked? Riggs said that that scene was freezing: "I can't say if I wanted to kill him or not… I thought he got bitten." Hardwick then asked, if Rick got bitten, would Carl shoot him? "Yes," he said quickly, describing it as a mercy killing.Hardwick said he also sensed some chemistry between Daryl and Carol. Reedus responded, "I just think Darryl has no game, at all."
A fan asked if that if the zombie apocalypse took place tomorrow, what would the panel do? Hardwick said he would get as far away from NYCC as possible — Riggs added that with people dressed up as zombies, it'd be hard to tell who was infected and who was just a cosplayer. Rooker: "I'd clear out of Dodge, for sure."
An actress in the audience then asked what was the process for the cast in terms of characterization and their development from the first season to the present? Lincoln said that playing Rick is about change: "These characters are about change, if you don't change, you die." He said that the first season was about discovering the new world, and the second season was about leadership. This season is about "two men, two ideologies." Lincoln said he loves the moments where Rick just goes a little bit crazy. "I love the fact that he keeps going, keeps moving."
Riggs said that they sat down and talked about how the characters changed, but some of the scenes in Season Three were still particularly hard for him. "I didn't know how I'd be able to do this."
Is there going to be a cure for the Walking Dead? Hardwick and Kirkman answered with a flurry of sarcasm, before Hardwick said, "we can't tell you that!" "It would be incredibly boring," Kirkman said, if the characters were in a lab trying to crack the code of zombies. Survival is much more engaging, he said.
A question for Morrissey: Did you think you succeeded in playing the sort of twisted Governor we all know and love? He says yes. "You have to wait and see," he said. "It's in the script." Kirkman said "there's a lot of heavy stuff" coming up.
Will there be anything between Rick and Michonne, or Rick and Andrea? "There are events in the comic book that will occur… that doesn't mean they will be on the television show this season, or next season, or at all," Kirkman said. "We can all watch safely knowing that even if you've read the comic book you can watch the show and things will take place very very differently."
Has anyone gotten injured on the set while trying to take out a zombie? Rooker said that "nobody gets injured on set." Lincoln said he broke a nail. Hardwick said that the Walking Dead cast has a lot to deal with, carrying weapons and fighting in the Atlanta summer. Gurira said that Michonne in particular had it rough, that she had to work with a chiropractor. "It's really fun… I come home, I'm worn out. I earn my check," she said.Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!