This past weekend at San Diego Comic Con International, ComicBook.com had an opportunity to sit down at a small press roundtable with a number of the stars of AMC’s hit series The Walking Dead.
Based on the Image Comics/Skybound comic book series of the same name by Robert Kirkman and artist Charlie Adlard, The Walking Dead will launch its fourth season this October on AMC; last year it became the first cable series ever to post, over the course of its season, the best ratings of any show on TV including broadcast hits like The Big Bang Theory and NCIS.
The series is perhaps best known for its maxim that “no one is safe,” something we discuss a bit below.
Kirkman, along with the showrunner Scott Gimple and series villain David Morrissey (the Governor), joined us at the roundtable for a discussion on the upcoming season. You can check it out below, with reporters’ questions in bold and italic and the answers labeled by speaker.
Lauren Cohan: It completes the circle, I think. Definitely it makes you want to work that much harder when you go back out there. It's funny because it inspires you--we've said before that we're in somewhat of a vacuum when we're out there in Georgia but you really are, and we know what a success the show has become but it's become a conversation now, you know? We're seeing all of you again. It inspires us to drive the characters to new places.
Steven Yeun: I would love for everyone to get a glimpse of how hard everybody works. I know people say that but everybody goes so hard on this show. We're watching other people's takes, we're asking for one more to make it even better. Nobody's like, "Let me just say the lines and get out." It's just everyone's going so full-throttle because they want to push themselves and I think it does, like you said, complete the circle.
We're doing something, not for an audience immediately, and when we get here we see that awesome feedback so we're like, "Oh, great, we're not putting it to waste."
Scott Wilson: I think, to add to that, the crew's involved in it, too. Big time. It's amazing how much work gets put out in an eight-day shoot. It's phenomenal. If they weren't for what we were trying to do, and trying to make us better, the show wouldn't be what it is regardless of our efforts. But they're huge contributors.
Cohan: It's hard to encapsulate that synchronicity becuase when people ask why the show is a success or why it works, it really is kind of the harmony of all these little pieces.
Wilson: And I think everyone knows they have caught a lion by the tail. Do you let go? I don't know, or do you just ride it as long as you can?
Cohan: The interesting thing is that when you said picnic it made me think that when we first went back for the season, there have been some changes made to the prison and it's a bit more civilized. I tried to sneak out there and get some quiet time because you actually have this farm built by the prison; it's gorgeous. It's actually a very idyllic setting.
So it's an effort of taking little moments whenever you can. We shoot in the most beautiful, idyllic place and tell the darkest, most horrific stories.
I think we've all been able to find a bit more balance this year. We have a rhythm with the show so we have more of a social life? Slightly.
Yeun: As for the show, we push, we push, and it's great storytelling as well. It's going to be interesting to see what you guys all think.
Wilson: Steven's thinking of becoming a professional golfer.
Wilson: He missed a hole in one by about that far.
Yeun: We do golf a lot. We golf a lot, just thanks to [Wilson], thank God.
Cohan: Not issue #100.
Yeun: Yeah, no.
I think we say this all the time, but it's so true--with Robert in the room it is going to pay such huge respect to the source material but yet kind of be its own beast. I think being a fanboy of things in general, at first I was like, "Well, hey, we're not telling the story that's on the pages. What's going on?" Back in the first season, I was like "That's not what happened!" But then I realized that if you do the other one well, then it doesn't matter. Then it's its own beast and people can get on that. It's when you take the original material and make it worse somehow and you're like, "What did you do to that?" It doesn't make sense.
I think what's great about the show is that you can see a bit of a mirror into who you would be in the apocalypse. I think that people can attach themselves to Maggie or Hershel or Glenn or Daryl, if you're super-badass in real life--and then just follow that character all the way through until maybe their demise, who knows, and then you're like, "Oh, my God, that's exactly what I would do," or "that's not what I would do," and I think that's what keeps people coming in. If you could read it all, then that's not that fun.
Did you read forward? Do you have to resist that, or do you want to know what's going to happen to your character on the page?
Cohan: It's a fight to not read it, actually. I've read the first Compendium and not beyond there, even though they're going to send me the second one now.
It was definitely in a flash that I finished it but you have to remind yourself that you're also making this TV show. So you want to enjoy this thing but you have to stay focused.
Now, Robert told me last year that he was keeping his ideas for an ending away from the TV people so that the TV series and the comic will not end the same way. Is it something that occurs to you guys--how they'll end the series eventually?
Cohan: I'm curious. I haven't seen World War Z yet, but I'd like to see how the global scope is handled with the zombie apocalypse and I don't know how Robert deals with that, do you?
[Editor's note: Kirkman has avoided dealing with that issue in the comic book series, and recently said in the Walking Dead tenth anniversary panel that he has no plans to do so in the near term]
Wilson: Speaking for myself, I am too interested in what's happening now to be paying too much attention to what may or may not happen down the road. The moment is what you're trying to capture for me.
Do you guys have a lot of input into your characters? Particularly with [Glenn and Maggie] getting engaged, do you say that you hope you can at least enjoy being together as a couple for a little while or on a show like this does that kind of thinking not even really enter your head?
Wilson: Yeah, I think that that's important in the family dynamic....The entire group is a family but this is a family within the family.
Cohan: And now Glenn is so much more a part of the family. It is a pretty solidified thing. We're a couple that's official and we do try to live this season, not just survive.
What was the big excitement for you this season?
Cohan: I know for Maggie it was that everything that shook her confidence last season is what has completely changed her and shifted her focus this season. So she's very strong and kind of unshakeable, so it became a slippery slope for her in season three and that's revealed a lot of strength.
Having lived in this world of The Walking Dead where good people do bad things in order to survive, has that caused you to think in your own lives about right and wrong and about what you might do in a similar situation?
Cohan: It actually really makes me think that you never really know people. It makes me think that it's very difficult to sum someone up or compartmentalize them. Everybody will do something suspicious or something skeptical sometimes.
Yeun: If you want to get crazy about it, I guess it's like game theory. It's always a prisoner's dilemma situation where you both want something and you're like, "What does that guy want? Does he want the same thing I want?" And you reveal your true natures. That's what's cool about the show is I don't think it's revealed anything particularly new but it's definitely solidified the social ideals that we hit on, and that's what makes the show interesting. Because who's right? Is the Governor right? Is Rick right? Look at the past--the Governor did what he needed to do for his people, the ones that he cared about. Is that unreasonable, especially given the circumstances? Do you have to extend a hand to every single person?
Shane, Rick--those are great dichotomies.
Wilson: Well, it's interesting to me to see how the group dynamic has evolved into a working unit. In the first episode last season, there was a machine that went into that prison and cleared it out--going after the walkers and just taking care of business. It was fun to watch and by the way, Grace Walker who did the art direction on that building--it's kind of phenomenal what he did. If you had seen it beforehand, you would really appreciate what he did.
[Editor's Note: You can check out a little bit more about how that was done in the video embedded directly below.]
You mention how the prison is going to be a little more civilized. Will that give you guys a false sense of security? Will you guys be leaving the prison at some point this season?
[All three actors indicate nonverbally that they're not going to tell.]
Would you like to see them leave the prison this season?
Yeun: Oh, see what he did there?
Cohan: "Would you like to because you're going to?"
Yeun: It's the same question....Honestly, we can't talk about any of that, which really sucks.
Cohan: Yeah--we would like to see stuff happen and things change and people move around and--
Yeun: That's a great answer.
How much of the family dynamic carries over? When Mr. Wilson speaks, it's very compelling. It's impossible not to look him in the eye, so I can see a paternal, authoritative relationship developing very easily.
Wilson: These guys are so good, that--
Yeun: He says that.
Wilson: It's true.
Yeun: Not that he doesn't think that, but working with Scott is cake--just being in a scene with him, you know that if you fall he's going to literally carry the load for you. He'll make that scene beautiful.
Wilson: I wouldn't know; it hasn't happened yet.
Cohan: You want to be with him. Scott is just this radius of honesty.