If the zombie apocalypse had broken out yesterday, the main stage of New York Comic Con may have been the safest place to be. Gathered in front of thousands of fans was the cast of The Walking Dead, AMC’s insanely popular series which premieres its fifth season tonight at 9 p.m. (and which we’ll be live tweeting).
But while the room may have been well protected by the zombie-killing cast, the same may not be said for their characters in a season executive producer Gale Anne Hurd described as “kick-ass, relentless, utterly heartbreaking.”
Led by moderator, and Talking Dead host, Chris Hardwick, the panel included showrunner Scott Gimple, Hurd, creator Robert Kirkman, effects master (and frequent director) Greg Nicotero and actors Andrew Lincoln, Steven Yeun, Lauren Cohan, Michael Cudlitz, Danai Gurira, Melissa McBride, Chad L. Coleman, Sonequa Martin-Green and Norman Reedus.
Along with screening the first four minutes of the premiere -- embedded here and which picks up immediately after the end of last season -- the cast reflected on past seasons and spoke about what’s in store for Season Five. Here’s what we learned:
Andrew Lincoln: Expect a lot of “psycho looks” from Rick Grimes this season. Also, he said he wishes he hadn’t killed Shane (Jon Bernthal) because he “was onto something.” But expect a brutal but determined Rick this season: “I kill sooo many people.”
Scott Gimple: There will be recent flashbacks for the characters, and some “playing with time” in order to get into everyone’s backstories much in the same way Season Four did with Michonne. “We're going to look at the recent past in some very deep ways, to know why some characters are the way they are.”
Robert Kirkman: Fans will see more parallels w/ comic than in the past, and there will be “big moments … pulled into the show this season.”
Greg Nicotero: The premiere, which he directed, will have all the feels from the last four episode. "Every emotion you've felt in the last four years, you will feel in this one episode."
Lauren Cohan: Maggie’s reunion with Yeun’s Glenn was similar to a soldier coming home from war, but then he heads back into battle immediately. She added that Maggie has renewed strength that “everything else is possible” because “we actually found each other.”
Steven Yeun: Maggie is equally a soldier to Glenn because of her battle. Glenn has emerged a stronger, hopeful character in the bleak apocalyptic world after waking up in the prison alone and setting out on a journey to find his wife and friends. “We can strive for hope,” he said. “Because it happened to me … I found every single one of them.”
Michael Cudlitz: Abraham is mission driven and simply trying to save the world. He added his breaking point is when hope seems lowest.
Danai Gurira: The women characters on the show are “unapologetically strong.” She said she is nothing like the Michonne we first meet because, unlike the katana-wielding warrior, she prefers to connect with people. Though Michonne has come out of her shell more she is still fierce.
Chad L. Coleman: Tyreese is on shaky ground following the events with Carol and the girls last season. He said he is “trying to figure it out” but that protecting baby Judith remains his mission. He said “the most noble thing a man can do is protect a child” (a quote interrupted with a fan shouting, “Damn, you fine!”).
Norman Reedus: He imagines Daryl’s backstories, even including sweet moments like a first kiss, to be filled with humiliation. “Nothing good” is in Daryl’s past with Merle, but the character is only now building good memories.
Melissa McBride: While tearing up, the actress said she is “honored” to play a character who has grown so much – and to engage with fans who love Carol so much. The moment led to Reedus rushing a tissue to her and Coleman wrapping his arms around her for comfort. Speaking of which…
Devastating, brutal, violent, bloody: Adjectives used more than once on the panel with Hurd’s “kick-ass, relentless, utterly heartbreaking” quote punctuating the sentiment. Kirkman joked that he looked forward to the day that Hardwick’s promo for his TWD post-show would just be the host weeping from all the tragedy in the episode.
Wild speculation: Carol is going to get killed off this season. Everything surrounding McBride’s comments about Carol, and the cast’s reaction, sounded like someone exiting a show – and her acting family.
Best/weirdest panel moment: A fan wearing a horsehead mask offered Andrew Lincoln a Coke during the audience Q&A portion. Hardwick eventually left the stage to retrieve the soda, but then Lincoln took to the crowd, grabbed it and returned to the panel. Ignoring the moderator’s warning not to drink it, the actor popped it open, took a drink and performed a perfect pratfall behind the table. It was a gimmicky fan moment that easily could have been awkward and drawn out, but Lincoln saved it.