The Walking Dead kicked off its PaleyFest panel in Los Angeles, California on March 17, 2017 in a packed Dolby Theater on Hollywood Boulevard.
The pane; is kicked off with a highlight reel of The Walking Dead's seventh season. Scenes which see Rick teling Maggie he is ready to fight, the junkyard gang surrounding his group, Carol and Daryl reuniting, Eugene taking charge in the Sanctuary, Rick and Michonne killing nine walkers, and Morgan telling King Ezekiel about Richard's plan round out the footage.
On hand: Melissa McBride, Andrew Lincoln, Seth Gilliam, Ross Marquand, Tom Payne, Lauren Cohan, Sonequa Martin-Green, Alanna Masterson, Josh McDermitt, Christian Serratos, Austin Amelio, Robert Kirkman, Greg Nicotero, Scott Gimple, and David Alpert.
The panel begins with Scott Gimple talking about the ground the season has covered. "The first episode was traumatic, for you guys, and for everybody here. My mother. And to get from that point to a point where these characters can smile again, now granted that smile is about the prospect of kicking maybe his ass, and I mean Austin [Ameilo]," Gimple said. "It was seeing these people come alive again and earning the place where they are now.
The moderator wants to talk about Negan actor Jeffrey Dean Morgan.
"We had Jeffrey for two nights during 6x16," Gimple said. "Jeffrey had to come out in front of several kneeling cast members and deliver and enormous dialogue that Robert [Kirkman] generously wrote." They knew after the first takes that he was one with the cast.
"We have an amazing cast, as you all know," Nicotero said. "When Jeffrey came on set, he had 12 pages of dialogue." He goes on to point out that some cast members were fans of the show prior to joining as a character and they'll get excited to Rick Grimes.
Kirkman says he is most impressed by Morgan's ability to make Negan, such an evil character, likeable.
Greg recalls reading Glenn's death in the comic for the first time. "It really easy the situations and the things that just, it broke my heart when I saw that, and I thought, 'God, I hate to imagine being the guy who shoots that scene.'" He jokes that he ended up shooting it. The darkest panels in Kirkman and Charlie Adlard's comics are what have haunted him the most.
"I remember shooting one particular take of Steven [Yeun] and I sent it to Robert and he responded, 'You're f---ed up!'" Nicotero said.
"I love Steven! And I'm like, 'Oh, it Greg, sending me pictures of my dead friend!'" Kirkman said.
The following slides are updated live with the panel...
The moderator turns his attention to Dwight, asking about what he has done to Daryl yet still gets sympathy.
Austin Amelio says the script which saw Dwight's emotional side was "Refreshing" because he wasn't popping out from behind a tree. "People are gonna get to see what he truly cares about and what he's fighting for was exciting."
As for redemption, Amelio says, "I hope so."
"Read the comic!" Kirkman yells.
Now to Seth Gilliam. "I love Father Gabriel," Gilliam says. "I love that he's a man who didn't live up to his idea of himself and has to face that everyday. I think he's journey on the show is fantastic that he's had an opportunity to try, in some ways, to make up for it."
"I think everything that he is about right now is trying to prove that he is present, that he is there, that he will be account able for his actions moving forward."
Christian Serratos is up next. "I'm learning from [Rosita]," Serratos said. "She's remarkably brave and we're seeing that this season."
"We're a family so watching them go through something tramatic is terrible but she experienced that trauma and we're seeing the repercussions about that. And what I love about the show is that we're seeing no two people can experience trauma the same way," Serratos said. "She's still always true and honest to who she is, which is a little rougher around the edges."
Alanna Masterson discusses working on the show while pregnant. Scoot Gimple told her about Episode 6 being entirely about Tara and she wondered if he qwas aware that she just had a baby. "We just went for it," Masterson said. She was up for the risky scenes. "For me, I felt like it was Tara's time to shine. I love playing her and I think she's got a lot of heart and I hope she's holding the torch for Glenn."
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More Cast Chatter
Ross Marquand discusses Aaron's role in the show. He was a fan before joining the cast. "Now, he's seeing this breakdown in society and he's still trying to maintain that dignity but it's not working with the Saviors. That diplomacy does not work," Marquand said. "He has to put some of that diplomacy aside and actually take up arms and fight."
The moderator compliments Josh McDermitt's portrayal of Eugene to an eruption from the crowd. He is reluctant to discuss Eugene's true plan. "I can't read, so I don't read the scripts," McDermitt said. "The way I look at it with Eugene is, I don't really feel like he's playing a game. He is out for himself. He's trying to protect himself." When he read Eugene saying, "I'm Negan," he asked Gimple not to tell him what happened next. "A lot of his fear is coming from this man Negan so he's out for himself," McDermitt said. "He's trying to protect himself and why not align yourself with the man who is causing the most fear in his life?"
"Since the time we've since him on the show we've seen him adapt and change," McDermitt said. "We may see him change and adapt if he lives on in the series."
"He's like a cockroach, man."
The crowd erupts when it's time for Lauren Cohan to speak. She is asked about gaining strength from losing people she loves. "I think that the only way she can comprehend these things happening, is that she's now come to undestand it's not about her. It's not about any of us as individuals. It's about them as a whole, them as a greater good," Cohan said. "What other reason would there be to experience such loss than to have life inside of you?"
"We're just pieces in this puzzle now and I think that when you still have light to share and you still have a flame to pass the next torch on, that's just who you are and that's what you have to do," Cohan said. "The more people she loses, the more fire that burns in her."
"I just came here to find out what he's up to," Cohan joked while pointing to McDermitt.
Tom Payne begins to speak about his Jesus character's role in reuniting the groups. "It's a lot of fun," Payne says about playing Jesus. "You get to join a TV show where you're jumping around kicking zombies in the face and I didn't even know I could grow a beard."
"Neither of those places have really worked out," Payne said. "He's trying to do the best that he can! He's been on his own a lot. He spent a lot of time on his own."
"With the arrival of Maggie and Sasha and Enid, he sees the opportunity for a real human relationship."
Sonequa Martin-Green is up next. "What is it, if not a miracle, just to be a part of this experience, this world, this story, this family, this extended family? We're all in this together," Martin-Green said. "I appreciate everything I've been able to go through as Sasha. All of the loss. I've gained from it."
"For me as Sasha, I feel like all roads have lead here. It's not about me," she said. "It's about solidifying a future that we can create because we're leaders."
Nicotero chimes in. "For me, the haart of the [Episode 7x01] is the morning after," he said. "When Maggie stands up on her weak legs and she walks towards Glenn. I remember doing the first episode and thinking about how it played out. The deaths were brutal and swift and they felt unnecessary.
"But it was the morning after and it was these guys and what they did," Nicotero said. "The moment where Christian walks over to Sonequa and kneels dwon and says, 'I'm gonna take him with me,' and the look on these two exquisite actresses faces... It was pain, and anguish, and love..." He describes their beautiful portrayal of the sense of loss and says he remembers that moment every time there he looks at the actresses.
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The crowd erupts for Carol actress Melissa McBride.
Andrew Lincoln discussed the Season 7 premiere and his brilliant cast beside him.
Gimple talks about where the series going.
"I don't know," Gimple jokes. "Episode 8x01 is gonna be the 100th episode. The first episode is less about that we reached 100 episodes -- it's more about setting up the next 100 episodes. It focuses on Eugene's shorts. No, the end of this season is very much the end of a chapter. It's very much a conclusion that promises this epic challenge ahead. The first episode of Season 8, it's jsut when you're working on it, sometimes you feel the eyes over your shoulder and now I'm looking at them... It's about setting up this gigantic, epic tale to come, not only in Season 8, but beyond."
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Exclusive footage from Episode 7x14 is shown. Description below...
The thriving Hilltop community mills about as Maggie looks on. Blacksmiths prepare spears and tridents. Maggie trains Enid, Eduardo, and others on throwing weapons..
Elsewhere, Sasha draws a map of the Sanctuary. In a doctor's office, Maggie sees her baby on a monitor. Maggie writes a note about supplies reading, "Scrap metal, batteris, new generator, ask Eduardo?, emergency exit, and horses??" Enid prepares some vegetables for them to eat. Maggie digs in but quickly keeps writing.
The next day, Sasha prepares the community for fighting by showing them how to wield a knife. Maggie and Jesus sit beside the group, planning. Sasha approves of the progress before heading to Abraham's grave to mourn him. In the house, Maggie sleeps as Hesus writes out more plans on a book. He notices her sleeping and quietly approaches Sasha to hand her to filled out map of the Sanctuary. Enid knows that Sasha is going to leave and looks a bit sad. Sasha highlights the fact that there are a lot of walkers in front of the Sanctuary.
At night, Daryl sits alone with a knife as Maggie prepares food at a grill. She notices him and heads his way, offering a plate and condolences before heading back inside. On the way, she stops to wipe tears before walking dead. Later, Sasha is at Abraham's grave, once again.
The next day, Gregory looks on from his window as he throws back a shot of gin. He sees Rosita walk through the gates, indicating this has all been a flashback to before we saw Rosita approach Sasha with the mission. The scene plays out where Rosita tells Sasha, "I'm here because I need your help."
The panel is opened to fan questions.
The first question is for Lauren Cohan: is she surprised people love Negan?
"I was burning inside while I heard how charming he would be," Cohan said. "Yeah, it bugs me! I love Jeffrey Dean Morgan, so I get it, but Negan..."
Next is for Gilliam: what supernatural entity does he want to tackle next.
"I'd like to do some sort of project with aliens," Gilliam said.
Next is for Lincoln: what was it like to shoot the honeymoon scene with Danai Gurira?
"It was amazing to work, and it has been since the get go, with Danai," Lincoln said. "She's so committed to this role. To explore that part, they pull so many different qualities out of each other. That episode was just weird! To be laughing, to be smiling, and to be so joyous."
"I don't watch the show so I don't know what the cut but we sort of improvised a few scenes in the van. You know what I'm talking about. I thought they went rather well."
Next is for the cast: if they could write and director a final scene, how would they envision their character ending in the final episode?
The cast looks to Gimple.
"I got one," Lincoln said. "I'm gonna say this now, this is how I want Rick to die. Do you want to hear it? I was gonna say it anyway. So, e're going through a desert somewhere and I jump off the bus." He told this to Nicotero previously. "In a very heroic act, Rick jumps off, 'Cororororal.' He's still alive. Maybe it's the last thing I say."
"I jump off and I'm like kung fu kicking, earn my action figure, half way through I get bit... Ow! Doesn't matter, keep going!"
"Anyway, I deal with that, and I'm dying on my own. Just waiting to die. I wait and I patch up and a day passes."
Melissa McBride can't stop laughing.
"I patch myself up, I don't die. The final shot is, "Holy s---! Maybe I'm the cure!' High shot, the whole thing. High shot. Herd of zombies coming. Rick gets up, follows the tacks to go see Coral, walking, the herd comes towards him, and they separate. He walks through. Boom!"
Sonequa Martin-Green weighs in. "How about last shot, last everything, whoever's there, we get to the coast, you pan out, and you see all this ships blockading, in which you find out that it's just America," she said, with an idea from Larry King.
Next is about a conspiracy regarding Rick's coma dream.
"Nope!" Kirkman said.
"I really would be very upset," Lincoln said. "I'd have words."
Next is for Lincoln regarding Rick being broken down but rebuilt by Michonne.
He says he sees a "Rickockracy" instead a "Ricktatorship."
"I think that the story certainly, my character obvisouly, was a man who had been completely dimiinshed," Lincoln said. "Certainly, Michonne is the key. The thing I love about playing this guy, he's been beaten down to the canvas so many times and he pulls himself up for other people. This time, he hasn't done that and she is the absolute key in his return."
The last question is for Lincoln: will Rick and Michonne ever have a baby?
"I mean, we've gotta repopulate the world," Lincoln said.