NYCC 2011: The Walking Dead Panel

The Walking Dead, season 2 starts this weekend, the cast and crew just were at the IGN theater for this years New York Comic-Con panel to talk about whats in store for the handful of zombie apocalypse survivors. In attendance, show and comic creator Robert Kirkman, show producer Gale Anne Hurd, Emmy-winning makeup artist Greg Nicotero, and actors Jon Bernthal (Shane), Laurie Holden (Andrea), Steven Yeun (Glenn), Chandler Riggs (Carl), Norman Reedus (Daryl) and new cast member Lauren Cohan (Maggie).

They covered a lot of ground too, however a lot of pressing questions remained unanswered.

A break down of what was said and shown after the jump.

Via Screen Rant:

Kirkman started off by talking about his work on the comic, now that the show is a success. He still loves working on both – especially since the show has diverged from the comic in significant ways, which allows the showrunners and Kirkman to explore new ground.

Kirkman and Hurd enjoy hearing the fan conspiracy theories about the show’s plot. Kirkman reiterates (for the millionth time) that Michael Rooker’s character, Merle, is NOT THE GOVERNOR.

FOOTAGE – The footage screened in panel was from the excellent season 2 premiere. It involves a tense scene on the highway where the survivors are stopped at a graveyard of abandoned cars. Before they know it, a “herd” of Walkers (zombies) has barreled onto the road behind them. The survivors must hide under cars to avoid being detected by the zombie horde. Things go from bad to worse when T-Dog (IronE Singleton) injures himself, and Andrea (Holden) is sniffed out by a particularly enterprising zombie. Violence and gore ensue.

The moderator – Web Soup host Chris Hardwick – describes how that highway scene scared his friend (who is a big imposing guy) at the show’s LA premiere. He stated that The Walking Dead is like watching a great horror movie, rather than a TV show. Hurd praised the NYCC audience for their energy.

The highway sequence was a 4-day shoot on a real Atlanta freeway that had to be shut down. Approximately 150 zombie extras were used for the sequence. The filming of the scene gained media attention, as local Atlanta outlets reported on the massive inconvenience caused by the highway shutdown. Nicortero claimed that hearing the fans scream in fear at the footage was all the reward he needed.

Jon Bernthal thanked fans and praised his castmates and crew for making a truly great show to be on.

Holden actually got banged up filming the winnebago scene from the footage when she took on a zombie in close quarters. “I felt I earned my day’s pay,” she claimed. She went on to say that the zombie extra in that scene was too nice of a guy in real life – she couldn’t talk to him while doing the scene. She loves how real the zombies look because that makes her job easier being scared of them. It’s a combination of Nicotero’s makeup work and the “zombie school” all the extras go through.

Yeun said that Glenn has tried to become this hero in the post-zompocalypse world, but often does his heroic acts in a way that is reckless, like he doesn’t care about his life. He plays coy about his arc in season 2, which could involve a certain relationship with a certain new character…

(MILD SPOILER) Cohan let the cat right out of the bag by talking about her character Maggie’s forthcoming romance with Glenn. She says Maggie forces Glenn to look at life from a new perspective, now that he has something to hold onto. She had seen the show and loved it and was ecstatic when she got the part – which she describes as “jumping in a tornado.” She wasn’t ready for the ticks that are rampant in the Atlanta woods – “You’ve got hands in your pants, you’re checking [for ticks], forgetting to act.”

Chandler Riggs got the cute award when it was his turn to speak. He claimed that his castmates ‘make him better’ (Awwww!) and that he loves playing Carl, because he ‘gets to be two different characters.’ He started as a scared kid in the background in season 1, but in season 2 he gets darker, lying, stealing, and slowly adapting to the harsh new world he lives in.

Riggs said he used to have to imagine his dog dying to cry in scenes – now he can cry on command (Awww!).

Reedus on Daryl: “He can hunt, protect you – but can’t connect emotionally. If you tried to hug him he would stab you.” He said TV is hard because you don’t know your character’s full arc upfront. So it’s good if the writers have a vague idea where things are headed, so that actors can sow seeds of development into their performances.

On the subject of the show’s intense and graphic subject matter: Bernthal is amazed they can do all the gory, violent stuff they do; but he said the sexual stuff is trickier to work around.

Holden added that things getting even more intense in season 2 (as fans of the comics know all too well). She loves that Andrea gets feisty and won’t be a victim, and decides to be strong in this harsh world. Andrea will start watching the alpha male characters and will try to learn skills from them (like shooting).

Yeun on making the show: “We bleed, sweat and cry for this show.” He said coming to work is fun, and the cast is always pushing themselves – not one person slacks. He’s particularly amazed that some of the crazy ideas they shoot for fun end up in the finished show – “Who is censoring this thing?”

Nicotero is a fan of the comics and puts stuff in the show that he wants to see. He shoots all the gore he wants and leaves it to the censors to clean up; luckily, for the most part, they put all his work in the show.

Cohan: “I never knew TV could feel so much like theater.” She wasn’t ready for the intensity of the show, but is loving it – and the gorgeous outdoor locations they’re shooting on this season.

Riggs said that fame hasn’t phased his young mind: “I like it when I’m normal…and my friends are normal…I get that I’m the coolest kid around, though.” (Laughter)

Reedus confessed that his shoes were a mess because he had gone paintballing with his son and his son’s friends before coming to NYCC that day. “I shot the s*it out of those little kids.”

Kirkman dropped the tease that Michonne WILL appear sometime in season 2 – but wouldn’t say anymore than that.

No mention was made about how the reported budget constraints will effect the path or production values of season 2, nor was anything said about Frank Darabont’s departure (shit canning) from the show.

During the Q&A, Kirkman stated that there would be no ‘evolution of the zombies’ displayed on screen, however would look ‘better’ in season two. He also reminded the crowd that the zombies used to be regular people, adding to the depth of the psychology behind the show. Speaking of the look of the zombies, Nicortero apparently uses the the extra’s bone structure, physical attributes and resemblance to actual zombies from the comic artwork when doing the shows make-up. He joked about walking up to someone in a bar or a supermarket and telling them they’d make a good zombie.

To wrap up, the cast played a game of “what would you use to kill a zombie“.  Jon Bernthal’s weapon of choice, the Crossbow because it’s quiet and deadly. Laurie Holden says she’d stick with a gun. Steven Yeun was met with applause when he said he’d use  a bo staff (isn’t that stereotyping). New to the cast Lauren Cohan made the interesting choice of a bladed boomerang (you know, cause after the zombies rise, those will be EVERYWHERE.) The kid who plays Carl on the show, Chandler Riggs will do well for himself, he’d use a flamethrower with a bayonet and the crowd went wild (when the shit goes down, I want him on my team.) However, the clear winner was Norman Reedus, the redneck Daryl on the show, his weapon?  His Boondock Saints costar Sean Patrick Flanery. Well played sir, well played.

The Walking Dead season 2 starts with the 2-hour season premiere this Sunday night (October 16th) @ 9/8c on AMC.





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