We have attended our fair share of panels at different cons, but ‘The Walking Dead’ panel at The Theater at Madison Square Garden took the cake. The house was packed, and the excitement in the room was electrifying.
The one and only Chris Hardwick (Talking Dead) took the stage as the moderator for the panel, which was a huge surprise for us all. The panelists included series showrunner Scott M. Gimple, creator and executive producer Robert Kirkman, and producers Greg Nicotero, David Alpert and Gale Anne Hurd. The main cast members included Norman Reedus (Daryl), Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Negan), Melissa McBride (Carol), Danai Gurira (Michonne), Steven Yeun (Glenn), Michael Cudlitz (Abraham), Lauren Cohan (Maggie), Sonequa Martin-Green (Sasha), Lennie James (Morgan), Alanna Masterson (Tara), Austin Nichols(Spencer) and Seth Gilliam (Gabriel).
Highlights from the panel:
Andrew Lincoln (Rick) was unable to attend the panel, but sent a letter via Reedus to read aloud to fans.
“Dear New York Comic Con,” Reedus began, “This is Andrew Lincoln here. I’ve occupied Norman Reedus for the next few minutes. I’m inside his mind. I’m truly sorry not to be with you all today, but to make up for it, Normskie has promised to read word for word this message on my behalf.”
Check out the video below: (Sorry for the shaking video! Carpal tunnel sucks!)
The million dollar question was, of course: “Who got a taste of Lucille?” And of course, no one talked. Grrr. But according to Gimple, we will indeed find out who Lucille lands on in the premiere. “I will sign whatever document you need,” he laughed.
Reedus recalled shooting that cliffhanger scene. “I’m thinking that we’re all gonna die, that’s what’s going through everyone’s head at that point,” he explained. “It’s a weird feeling to be powerless after we’ve always fought to survive… I hated shooting all that, actually. It was miserable.”
Why is Negan such a horrible threat to the group? Producer David Alpert said that Negan is a sign of the new world. Rick’s group thought they were the baddest people out there, and then they run into someone who is bigger, stronger, more organized, better equipped and seemingly has it together in a way they don’t.
What is it that you think makes Negan different from the Governor? “The Governor was small potatoes compared to this guy,” said Danai Gurira (Michonne). “Because he has a structure in place. He doesn’t just have one town like Woodbury. He has outposts in various places that we don’t even know about yet. We know there it’s more than one at this point. He’s also extremely smart. It’s becoming more and more evident how smart he is, with how he gets Rick on his knees.”
Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Negan) was asked if this character is unlike anything he’s experienced before coming on to this show? “It’s not even close. The show hasn’t even aired yet. There was 13 minutes last year. But this, and what’s about to happen? It’s already nuts, and we haven’t even started the year yet.”
“In order to approach a character like Negan and have somewhere to go, you have to believe in what you’re doing and what he’s doing as essentially the same thing these guys have been doing for the past seven years. He just so happens to carry a baseball bat that he loves dearly,” Morgan continued. “He absolutely thinks he’s right. He’s also a bit of a showman. This world is his stage and he owns it. You can call it cocky, but we watched Rick and these guys get cocky in the last seven years, especially last year. Negan coming in and flexing his justice on these people is his way of letting them know they were wrong, and it’s time to go down a notch or ten.”
Is a relationship in this world an asset or a liability sometimes, Hardwick asked? “Glenn and Maggie, they’re classic,” said Steven Yeun. “It’s interesting. Traditionally, when you look at the circumstances, you can argue that having someone is a danger. What Glenn and Maggie have is when they’re kind of together, they’re better and greater. You see the strength in Maggie and the strength in Glenn. You see the leaps and bounds they’re willing to traverse together. Personally, for me, I think they’re badass together.”
Lennie James discussed the evolution of Morgan: “The path he’s walking is a path he’s trying to walk. He’s not Eastman. He’s not locked away in a shed with a goat. The thing about it is, when he shoots that Savior in order to save Carol, I think one bullet would have done it… but he emptied the clip. Those people begging for Morgan to become a killer again? Be careful what you wish for.”
Melissa McBride on Carol’s journey: “Every step she’s taken up to this point has devastated her, she just needs to get her head together and try to find some sense — what we have to do is so monstrous and we’re becoming the monsters we’re fighting… what is it about this world that makes us want to survive so much? That’s a huge question, I love that question.”
“By the end of the season, we will have shot 99 episodes of ‘The Walking Dead.’ We’ve had 99 hours to tell their story,” said Nicotero.
*Pass the tissues, please.* Cohan became emotional by the time Hardwick got to her. “You all have been on such a huge journey with us. Thank you for caring and being mad when you don’t know things. This is larger than our lives. It’s larger than our show. It’s such a privilege. It’s such a great thing.”
Hardwick asked Cohan (Maggie) how Maggie would handle the Negan situation differently if she had been healthy? “I can never say how she would have handled it differently. That’s what so rare about this episode. That’s what’s so rare about this episode and what it propels everyone into. It’s so unexpected, jarring, and destabilizing in a bigger way we’ve never had. The story that comes from this year is insane. We were completely knocked off our feet, literally. We’ll see how people deal with what they could and should and would have done as we go through.”
‘The Walking Dead’ Season 7 premieres October 23, 2016 on AMC.