THE WALKING DEAD PANEL

San Diego Comic-Con 2017
First published in Press Pass LA on July 28, 2017

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Back-to-back panels are an expectation for anyone lucky enough to snag a seat in the infamous Hall H. Admirers of the undead were treated with a Saturday afternoon session of Fear the Walking Deadand The Walking Dead, the hit AMC franchise inspired by a comic centered around an apocalyptic world of zombies and survival.

After a short break from the Fear panel, Robert Kirkman and Scott Gimple returned to Hall H to moderate for The Walking Dead. They started off with a small biography for the late stuntman, John Bernecker who was fatally injured on set July 14, 2017. The cast and crew wanted to show the fans everything that Bernecker had been working so hard on, and risked his life for. With that, they introduced us to the gripping and suspense-filled exclusive trailer for season eight of The Walking Dead.

When the lights came up after the compelling teaser, cast members Andrew Lincoln, Norman Reedus, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Lauren Cohan, Danai Gurira, Melissa McBride, Lennie James, Chandler Riggs, Seth Gilliam, Alanna Masterson, Khary Payton, and writer Gale Anne Hurd were greeted with a resounding applause. 

Kirkman then announced that the first episode of the season will be a commemorative 100th episode for The Walking Dead. As a call back to the previous seasons he showed a special Comic-Con exclusive recap of the most memorable moments of the last 99 episodes. Scenes from all seasons filled the screen: the first time Rick stepped out of the hospital, the journey out of Atlanta, the altercation with Shane, Hershel’s Farm, Woodbury, Alexandria, the death of Glenn, the war brewing with Negan, and the introduction of the Kingdom. These flashbacks stirred emotions throughout the whole room.

Once the lights were on, Kirkman switched straight to the Q&A. One question involved how the role of the late character Sasha would have played in Negan’s organization. Morgan says his character Negan saw exactly what made everyone special in Rick’s group: their resilience and strength. Had Sasha stayed, he knew she would have been a great asset to Negan’s camp, and one hell of a shot.

Of course everyone was put to tears from a fan that wanted to know what Glenn would have wanted his unborn baby to know about him as he grows up. Naturally, Cohen answered, stating that Glenn (played by Steven Yeun) would want his child to know the bravery, impulsive, comedic energy that he brought to the world. She wished that the people who do survive along the child will provide many stories about their father that will help them survive the harsh world that they live in. Of the actor, Masterson mentioned that Yeun’s friendship really helped her get accustomed to being a part of The Walking Dead family. She recalled that her first season with the show was the most memorable because of his kindness.

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As the Q&A continued, child fans stole the show with their questions. One memorable kiddo asked what Morgan liked and didn’t like about playing Negan. He said he loved everything about playing Negan- except for the part that he has to wear a thick leather jacket in the Georgia summer (which can reach sweltering temperatures at all times). Later this received callback from Kirkman when a fan asked if we would see other parts of the world in the show. He jested and said, “We can have The Walking Dead Sweden, The Walking Dead Death Valley, The Walking Dead Serengeti… and everyone wears leather jackets!”

The best inquiry of the evening, however, was how Andrew Lincoln has perfected his American accent over the years, and if it has affected the way that he says “Carl” in the show. The unaffiliated may not know that his character, Rick, is infamous for screaming out his son’s name, pronouncing it as “Coral” instead of “Carl” with a long “A” sound. The sound is so prominent and memorable that memes dominate the internet around it. 

Surprisingly, Lincoln was quite oblivious to the joke and the crowd helped him hear how he actually says it by shouting “Coral” all around. With a chuckle he said he’ll keep working on it and hopefully by season nine he’ll get it right. James then joked with the crowd, asking if they’ve played the drinking game where everytime Rick says “Coral” they have to take a shot. After many fans shouted a resounding “Yes!” he proceeded to quip with a sheepish smile, “Did you all survive?”

The overall tone of the panel felt like a big family reunion of the Dead fandom. A lot of reminiscing was done, including Riggs telling the fans how he felt when he got the part at just ten years old, and how Lincoln felt stepping out onto the Comic-Con floor for the first time eight years ago. In terms for what’s next for The Walking Dead, Kirkman explained that the new season would be fast-paced and explosion filled, counting at least four just from the trailer alone. He also emphasized that the show is not about the scientific progression of the infection, instead it’s about the perils of human interaction in such a turbulent world.

Eager fans can catch the new season of The Walking Dead when it premiers on October 22, 2017. Until then, fans at SDCC enjoyed their booth, that was complete with roaming walkers.

Follow Stef B. on Instagram: @Stefa_Knee