In a series of roundtables, a dozen of the creative forces behind the series spoke with reporters on a wide range of topics from plot to characters to shipping and on-set security.
First up: series stars Andrew Lincoln and Melissa McBride, along with executive producer and series premiere director Greg Nicotero.
Andy, what do you think of the Internet's obsession with the way you shout "Carl?"
Andrew Lincoln: I have no idea about it. I don't know anything about it. I have a flip phone.
There's supercuts of you shouting "Carl" all over the Internet.
Lincoln: I've never heard of this. "Carrrrrl." I'm thrilled! I'm absolutely ecstatic.
You don't think it's weird?
Lincoln: Well, I kill zombies for a living.
And they're doing it now at Dodger games for Carl Crawford.
Lincoln: Are you for real? Well, if that's the cultural legacy I leave for America, I'm thrilled.
I honestly have no idea. I don't do any social media, I can't even turn a computer on.
Greg Nicotero: Yeah, I sent a picture to his phone, he's like, "My phone doesn't open pictures. Can you just e-mail it to me?"
Lincoln: Everybody's sending me pictures this Comic-Con; I have no idea what they are. I'm like "Can you just send them to my computer? Or to my wife, because she can open them."
A lot of people are excited about the potential for Rick and Michonne in an actual romance. What would you think of that kind of pairing? Do you think they could survive as actual romantic partners?
Lincoln: I'm not sure. The thing that I love about playing scenes with Danai as Rick and Michonne is that they have a kind of jokiness to them; there's a gallows humor that's a bit cowboy, because they're both warriors, all the rest of it, and she's one of the few people I think who can take the piss out of Rick. She's the arched eyebrow, kind of smartass remark, and I love playing those scenes as well. But also she has a great kind of...point of contact.
But yeah, look: there aren't that many people in the apocalypse, so maybe when everybody is dead and it's just me and her left, let's get it on.
Can you talk about the Season Six zombies? They seem more decomposed in the trailer.
Nicotero: Yeah. Scott has one very specific thing that he is conscious of, which is it can't be a Ray Harryhausen. It can't be a walking skeleton. There always has to be muscle; there always has to be something that is motivating the movements.
But of course, I was like, "Yeah, but the ribcage, and just having the exposed bone..." You can see a couple of them in the Comic-Con trailer. You know, we're doing a few things this year we haven't done before, which is digital augmentation of a couple of walkers. Removing noses and putting a cavity there and taking the area under the ribcage and shrinking it down, kind of Bernie Wrightson-style.
For me, that's just fun and exciting becuase it just gives us more opportunities. I'm trying to think of what they use. "Decrepit" is a word that's been used in the script a lot this season. "An especially decrepit walker." So when they write that, that's basically like "Greg, figure out what it looks like and that will be great." But it's been amazing. Every season we refine. We keep changing it up and every season it's different and we're just sort of pushing a little bit more. We sculpted full muscle arms, and then we hang flesh off of them as if it's starting to drip off. It's always fun, it's always exciting to do stuff like that.
Gale says that the season premiere has more zombies than we've ever seen on the show. Does this episode mark your biggest challenge in that department?
Nicotero: Yes. Even moreso than in the pilot. When we were shooting at the tank, we had two days where we had 150 or 200 walkers. But this season, we had 300 walkers in one day, which is the most we'd ever done. The shots in the trailer of the swarm of walkers on the road, that was one of the shots and it's just about taking that thread of the walkers and putting it to the forefront.
When Scott pitched the season, he said, "This season, the zombie threat is going to escalate and elevate."
So do you see scale as the biggest distinguishing factor?
Nicotero: Well, no, but that's one of them. There are multiple factors.
At the end of Season Five, the conversation you have with Pete where you kind of stare him down and call him out, seemed like at least part of the catalyst of Pete showing up at the end. Was she trying to set him off and send him away?
Melissa McBride: I think she's genuinely giving the guy an opportunity. First of all, I think either way he's going to do himself in. Which way, we don't know, but inevitably he's going to do himself in. And I think that was an opportunity to straightforward say, "Look. You have an opportunity. I know you, I know people like you, I know how you are. This is who you are. In this world, we've been out there long enough: you have no idea what's out there. You have no idea how what's out there makes you now more of a coward than you are anyway. You have an opportunity here."
And it was fair warning: You do this, maybe you can live. Well, obviously he was a liability and he proved that to us. Maybe he was provoked, but you've got to know that.
So where's Carol now, going forward?
McBride: She's still making cookies. She's multitasking! She's got to carry that cover a little bit, you know? And she's still trying to find out where the vulnerabilities are. She's the eyeballs I think for Rick.
Lincoln: She's the puppeteer. She's definitely the general.
Nicotero: In 16, it's great when Michonne says, "Where did you get the gun?" And Carol's basically putting the answers into Rick's mouth and then later when it's just a scene with the two of them, Rick's like "I don't want to lie anymore." And I can't remember the line...
Lincoln: "Sweet cheeks" or something. I hated it when you said that.
Carol's got this great duality going on. Which side do you think is more dangerous for her?
McBride: I think they're both equal sides of the same coin. They're both as dangerous and both as necessary. Each one is necessary so far, but they're both who she is and each one is aware of the other. It's beautiful and complicated, but so simple. This is a tool. This is like one of her weapons is the mask. She's adaptable and one of her weapons is adaptability.
You don't get as much levity as most of the other characters. When you get that chance, do you really have fun playing it up? Obviously you had that scene with the kid and the cookies that immediately went viral online and became comedy gold..
McBride: What was so funny about that? That was horrible. What's wrong with you?
Yeah, that had dark humor and I had fun doing that.
What do you think Carol and Morgan's relationship is going to look like?
McBride: It's going to be interesting to see. The two of them, they haven't really interacted yet but I don't know how he's going to do with these people. "Life is precious?" Well, of course it is, but not a life that's getting ready to kill you. Your life is more precious than that one.
Does Rick take control in Alexandria now, or is there more of a power struggle?
Lincoln: I think people are probably quite concerned about Rick, the Alexandrians. I don't know necessarily that he wants control, but he's in a place now where he's not willing to compromise. He does something where his leadership is questioned severely this first half of the season.
Nicotero: It's funny because you always wonder if the Alexandrians had their s--t together, how the group's interaction with them would have been. If they were a lot more on point.
We talk about Aidan and Nicholas and about the fact that they weren't evil. They were just inept and cowards and they weren't seasoned survivors like these guys are.
Lincoln: I think Rick recognizes and admires Deanna's leadership and smarts and what she's built.0comments
Nicotero: They're poker players.
Lincoln: Yeah, and I think that there's a point at which if they walked into the community, were taken in, and [the Alexandrians] had their s--t together, Rick would have been like, "Yes, I'll be your chief of police. I'll be your general." And he'd be more than happy. I think that very much a theme within the season is "them and us." And there are certain people who are positioning themselves as "us," and "they" will always remain "them," you know? And I think that's going to cause conflict within the community and maybe within the survivors, the family itself.