Over the Halloween weekend, the cast and crew of The Walking Dead assembled in Atlanta, the hometown of the show, for an annual Walker Stalker convention. Thousands a fans flocked to Georgia's capitol city for a glimpse of their favorite actors, some whose characters have perished on the AMC series and others who press on through the apocalypse.
Several panels took over the Thomas Murphy Ballroom and show room panel stage at the Georgia World Congress Center on Saturday and Sunday to offer inside looks at the upcoming season and recent episodes.
Jeffrey Dean Morgan takes the stage, Lucille in hand, followed by Greg Nicotero.
Nicotero started out by talking about the premiere. He says that he felt so bad about putting the actors through so much trauma to make the Season 7 opener that he allowed Andrew Lincoln and Jeffrey Dean Morgan hit him with the bat and spill prop blood on him.
Morgan says it is great to be here regardless of the hate mail. "Most of it has been really awesome," Morgan said. "No one stabbed me."
Morgan addressed whether or not he wants to be addressed as Jeffrey or Negan. "I think there might be benefits for both," Morgan said. "If you wanted me to answer as Negan you would get a full-on different response."
"One of the amazing things about casting an actor of his experience and cilbur is they come prepared," Nicotero said. "I think the hardest thing is that every scene that Negan's in, nobody else talks."
"Negan's a performer. He's on stage all the time," Nicotero said.
"Jeffrey was by and far, to me, the best choice for the role," Nicotero said. "You see it really, really great at the end of the first episode."
"He is, in my opinion, the best villain since Merle," Nicotero concluded.
"Robert Kirkman created this character that we read in the graphic novel," Morgan said. "We use the graphic novel certainly as a road map and a lot of the dialogue is going to remain as close to what Kirkman wrote as possible."
"There's a lot of stuff we're doing that's not in the comic book," Morgan admits. "You've gotta be careful of, what I've found, is Negan...this world that's been created...it's so gritty and it's so real. I can't come skippin' in as the guy with the baseball bat and the scarf like a cartoon character."
Nicotero reflects on reading Glenn's death for the first time in the comics. He says that it has always haunted him and he is able to remember the moment when he read it. Scott Gimple told him 7x01 would see Abraham die but then it would also see Steven Yeun offed. "To have a lot of people reach out to me this week and say, 'I didn't sleep for two days!' That's a tribute to this man," Nicotero said. "That's a tribute to everybody on the cast and crew."
Nicotero describes the filming of Glenn's death. They dug a hole and created a "meat turtle neck" to spread out over his buried head. It was really Steven Yeun's hand moving in the moments where his body flinched after the beatdown. "I've made my career building things that are as realistic as possible," Nicotero said.
"Steven and Michael, out of everybody for those two episodes...took it better than everyone else. They had more fun," Morgan said. "They were having a good time. Steven, with his eyeball hanging out, was putting on a comedy routine. The rest of the cast was huddled in the corner in tears."
"I was having fun but I had to go take my fun in the back of the RV between takes," Morgan said. "I'm only half kidding."
Morgan says he had no idea who was going to die when they filmed the scene regardless of what others have said. When they returned to set for Season 7, Michael Cudlitz asked if he knew all along because he looked at him funny but Morgan joked that he looks at everyone.
"The dick is here to f---ing stay," Morgan said. "That was Negan!"
Morgan compares Negan to Grey's Anatomy and P.S. I Love You and says this is "a dream come true." He loves the words but ends by saying he loved seeing Andrew Lincoln's performance on Sunday night, crediting Rick's fear for what makes Negan so scary.
Nicotero says the premiere built up to Rick's breakdown in the scene with Carl because it was the one thing people did not see coming in the episode. He goes on to discuss the aftermath of the kills, saying it was the sadness people were feeling more so than the brutality. More specifically, we saw Maggie and Sasha take intiative. "That really defines who those characters are from here on out," Nicotero said.
"The episode that airs tomorrow night is very, very different from episode one," Nicotero said. Morgan snores.
"Two of the characters that we love...Carol and Morgan...We're in the Kingdom, Nicotero said. "It was interesting because Scott [Gimple] literally said to me, 'I know that I emotionally destroyed you directing the premiere. Episode 2 is completely different.'"
"The first time I met Khary, we went to dinner," Nicotero said. "He literally exploded with enthusiasm."
Nicotero expresses feeling an obligation to keep the show great. He didn't expect the premiere to be so difficult given how the finale already set it up but the pressure and expectations for the episode made it very difficult. "It kind of wrecked me," Nicotero said.
"Zack and I go back to Watchmen days. So I've got a little bit of relationship with the DC losers. He called me a year before we shot that...I met Lauren. It was great. I still see Lauren. It was great and yea, is there another plan for that Thomas Wayne character? We'll see. I don't know. I would love to be the dark Batman. That's the darkest Batman there is. God knows I embrace the darkness."
"Flashpoint Batman would be like doing a comedy compared to being Negan."
When the premiere aired, Morgan was staying in a hotel room doing press. He stayed in a bubble for the premiere. He got a lot of hate for Negan's actions. "Jesus Christ, it's a f---ing character on a TV show."
Morgan, a fan of The Walking Dead comics, hopes to see the character realize an arc similar to that of the comics.
Morgan says playing Negan is "a f---ing win."
Nicotero and Morgan discuss the "f--- takes." Morgan says that the reactions we see from cast members are when he is going "full f--- in their face." He does "f-takes" for the big comic book scenes which will be on the blu-ray set. "If it's an iconic Negan moment, we do both versions," Morgan says.
Morgan promises we will see more charisma and other qualities of Negan that we will be able to accept getting past the events of premiere.
Nicotero emphasized how Negan always knows what he is going to do, as seen when he grabbed the alcohol from the RV. He manipulated Rick with the ax all along, knowing he would use it to break him later on.
A fan asks Morgan if he would like to return to Supernaturl. "I would hope at some point that John would come back," Morgan said.0comments
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on AMC. For complete coverage and insider info all season long, follow @BrandonDavisBD on Twitter.