10 things we learned from The Walking Dead’s roundtable with The NY Times

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Jan 25, 2016, 4:21 PM EST (Updated)

The showrunner behind The Walking Dead, along with a few of the key stars, recently sat down for a chat with the New York Times in front of a room full of rabid fans. Here’s what we learned.

Showrunner Scott Gimple, along with stars Andrew Lincoln and Steven Yeun, touched on everything from season five (and six!) to how they joined the show back when it was still just a strange little pilot about zombies. The interview was conducted by New York Times culture reporter Dave Itzkoff as part of the “TimesTalks” series.

Check out the full video of the panel below:

In case you don't have an hour to watch it, here are a few things we learned from the event, which should help tide us all over until the season resumes this Sunday on AMC:

Gimple still geeks out like he’s writing uber-fan fiction

“This show has incredible source material, which we drawn from pretty directly. I came to this as a reader, and I'd wonder, about the Hunters, for example, in the books they appear and I wanted to know more about them,” Gimple said. “I wanted to see more about their background, so when it came to telling their story on the show, that's what we did. So what I'm saying is, I approach it as the world's most expensive fan fiction. Should I post this to the forum? No, I won't, I might become showrunner some day!”

Andrew Lincoln was skeptical when he saw the genre on the pilot script

“It said zombie survival horror, and I called my agent and said ‘really?’ Then I read it, and it was the best script I'd ever read. It was bold,” Lincoln said. “I went to the comic book store, and I asked about the comic, and they showed me this big wall full of covers, and I asked which it was, and they said 'all of them.' That was when it hit me what this could be.”

The back half of S5 will be like McCarthy’s The Road, until it ‘resets’

“This season, all the decisions Rick has made seem to be pretty good, but no one's listening! I think, certainly, we meet the gang at their lowest ebb [in the back 8]. We're dealing with the death of Beth, and we have to drag people forward,” Lincoln said. “I think that 9 and 10 are two of my favorite episodes, because they're very raw, and beautiful, and kind of sad. It reminds me of The Road by Cormac McCarthy. Then something happens that just changes it all, kind of resets things a bit.”

Steven Yeun would’ve taken just about any job when Walking Dead happened

“[I] never got to read the pilot! That's the level of my career that I was at. It wasn't, take a look at this script and see if you can do this, it was, ‘Read this well so you can eat!’ I just put that together. I kind of had my grad school on this show, the best ever. I've grown and I get to go through a master class every single season. It's really fun, and I never imagined this would turn into this... because I never read the pilot!”

Andrew Lincoln doesn’t actually watch the show

We’d heard this one before, but Gimple offered up a bit more intel on the fact that Lincoln doesn’t actually watch the show after filming it. Like, at all. It’s apparently part of his acting method. Here’s what Gimple added: “Let's just underline that for a second. We were going to do a DVD Commentary together, and I was excited that he was going to watch an episode! But we were doing it over the phone, and I'd point something out and he'd just say, ‘Yeah, yeah,’ and I realized he wasn't even watching then!”

Lincoln loves finding (and pushing) the balance of humanity within Rick

“In the back eight, something happens that challenges everything Rick has come to accept and believe. The thing that struck me about the tone of the comic book and which we're trying to do here, is you're following this guy who is the epitome of law and order, and you're on his side,” Lincoln said. “The thing about Rick that I love is the certainty to him, which people follow. It's one of his strengths, but also one of his weaknesses. There are morally ambiguous decisions that he makes. When Rick bites the guy's throat out, I read that and called Scott, and asked if we were crossing the line. But it makes sense. As long as it's grounded in the humane, you can do the incredibly inhumane.”

The cast has grown to accept the fact that they’ll all probably be killed off

“We all get together and celebrate the work they've done,” Yeun said. “You never want to go, but you also realize that the show has become so big, and made such an impact on the zeitgeist, you feel like if you're part of this, you've made an indelible mark. What ever your fate is, your mark is left and you've served your purpose.”

Yeun says we’ll see Glenn grow into even more of a leader this season

“I think that is a question we're exploring at this point. Not just their relationship, but what does this constant world do to you? Everyone responds differently on a spectrum - Rick will tear out someone's throat for his son; we don't know what Glenn would do to protect Maggie. We explore what their moral compass is, what they're made of as the world continues to batter them … -I played] plucky, comic relief in the beginning. And now to be considered a romantic lead or a leader, I've gotten to play that entire gamut. To even speak on another level, to be an Asian-American male and be able to play that is a big deal.”

Josh McDermitt’s audition was using fake pages about a high school reunion murderer

“To AMC's credit as well, they want to see new faces. It can be tougher to get established faces on there sometimes. I remember the Josh McDermitt process, which was wonderful,” Gimple said. “We don't use sides from the show during casting, we use phony sides that don't happen in the zombie apocalypse. His sides were a guy at a high school reunion - he killed them, and working with him on it and honing it, was such an exciting thing. It was a guy at his reunion confronting the popular kids.”

They are setting something up for Morgan’s eventual return

“It's just going to be credit tags, which get bigger and bigger until he gets the full hour,” Gimple joked. “What we've seen of Morgan so far has absolutely been leading somewhere. That's a little ambiguous, but all I can say.”