Comic-Con 2011: The Walking Dead

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It’s safe to say The Walking Dead is the best zombie show we’ve ever seen on television. OK, there’s not much competition. But the AMC series, adapted from Robert Kirkman’s comic books, has drawn in "regular" fans as well as less zombie-savvy viewers. After Friday’s panel at Comic-Con, we sat down with the cast and crew to discuss what’s coming up in Season 2, which premieres October 16.

To tide you over 'til then, here are some reflections from cast members Andrew Lincoln (Rick), Jon Bernthal (Shane), Sarah Wayne Callies (Lori), Laurie Holden (Andrea), Jeffrey DeMunn (Dale), Steven Yeun (Glenn), and Norman Reedus (Daryl), as well as comic writer Robert Kirkman, show creator Frank Darabont, producer Gale Anne Hurd, and makeup artist Greg Nicotero.

On the survivors splitting up…

“Basically what you’re seeing … is just an intensification of the situation that they’re in, and how it is affecting all of the different people in the group. So the group is going to be pulling apart in different ways. Different people are going to be coming into conflict. And it’s just going to be an overall sense of just the ordeal that they’re all surviving through together.” – Kirkman

“Andrea doesn’t want to be there, OK? She wanted to go with the CDC. That was not her choice. Dale manipulated her a little bit. … I think that if there is a leader of the group that wants to go solo, I think it’s the natural impulse to want to go with that alpha male.” – Holden

On the high stakes…

“What’s cool is, it is scary to arguably lose a job if you die, but all I know, the way that you go out is probably going to be awesome, so hopefully you do it justice. And then you get another show!” – Yeun

“One of the big themes that does come up in Season 2 is, is it worth it, this desire to survive? What are we living for? What’s the point of—we’re trying to do all these different things to get to this next point—but where is that next point? We’ve lost everything. The world that we knew is gone.” – Bernthal

On killing zombies (which they have a tendency to do in the show)…

“We were all on the same page going in. It’s really nice when the standards and practices guy gives us notes like, ‘That was a really cool zombie kill,’ as opposed to, ‘You can’t show that on television.’” – Hurd

“At the end of the day, it really does boil down to blunt head trauma, basically. But you can certainly slice them and dice them in very clever ways before you get to that point. And we’re trying to come up with everything we can.” – Darabont

On the grief…

“It’s definitely real. I remember last season, just laying in bed, like couldn’t lift my head … You put on certain shoes, you walk a certain way.” – Reedus

“I also feel like, in terms of the emotional journey, there’s a passing of the baton. It’s a difficult show. It’s hot. It’s high stakes. But like, I held a baton last year, with the death of Amy. I’ve passed it off this year, without giving anything away. Everyone has their moment of loss, and things that challenge them more than others.” – Holden

“In a sense, the job is becoming a lot easier for all of us, but in a way, it’s becoming a lot harder. … Andy and I did some work a few weeks ago, and we walked out after seeing to the end of the road, and we were just weeping like two insane maniacs. No cameras around.” – Bernthal

The Walking Dead Season 2 Trailer

On the Rick-Lori-Shane love triangle…

“Well, I think, first of all, it’s worth reiterating she thought she was a widow, and that’s significant to me. Because Lori may be many things, but I don’t think she’s an adulteress. … To me, there’s something very human about being surrounded by death and grief and loss and pain and terror, and wanting desperately, in the most primal way possible to affirm life. I don’t think this was about romance.” – Callies

“People in traumatic experiences often just desperately seek something that feels good. I don’t think it’s much more complicated than that—until [Rick] comes back, and then there’s a huge question of, do we sit down and have this conversation? And if we were to, how? We’re in a tent city.” – Callies

“In the second season, they’re exploring the situation, how that came about. And the enormity of the situation. … I’m not saying I forgive you or anything like that, but it is just much more complicated, and I think that’s what the writers are definitely exploring, the complexities where there are no right decisions. There can’t be in this world, because it doesn’t make sense anymore.” – Lincoln

On character development…

“[Andrea] doesn’t go from bereft suicidal woman to bad-ass warrior overnight. … She really does find her feet, and it takes some time, and she works through some anger. And I think people are a little wary of her. But she’s human.” – Holden

“It’s not that there’s one character who does beautiful things. Every single person gets to be ugly. Every single person. Every single person gets that chance at redemption, and it just keeps happening. You can’t ask for anything more as an actor.” – Bernthal

On new characters from the comics…

“We saw Herschel and Maggie in the trailer, and we’re also bringing in Otis … Anyone past that has to remain a secret for now.” – Kirkman

On keeping up with the comics…

“Before I started, I read up to what was current, and then I stopped. … I think, as a group, we collectively realized that the show, even though it follows the same vein and is the same story, it serves its own purpose. It’s a different entity.” – Yeun

“I actually didn’t read very far ahead in the comics. … I don’t know what happens to Dale, because I didn’t want to. And I don’t read ahead in the scripts!” – DeMunn

On the differences between the comics and the series…

“I wholeheartedly accept the fact that the television show and the comic book series are completely different things, just because I like to have two products that people can enjoy that can generate profits. I want people to buy the comics and people to enjoy the television show.” – Kirkman

“One of the things I’m adamant about is I don’t think we should cut Rick’s hand off.” – Kirkman

“The creator of the comic book, Robert Kirkman, is actually as much an engine behind the deviation as Frank is. I think he’s the keeper of the flame. He feels they’re two different mediums.” – Hurd

“[TV] is a much more complex art form. Not putting down comics at all, but it’s a much simpler, haiku version of the kind of storytelling we’re doing. So we’re constantly saying, well, ‘What is that stuff that’s memorable from the comic books that’s a cornerstone for some of our storytelling, and then what are the branches from that?’” – Darabont

On actor collaboration with the writers…

“Frank Darabont opened up the writers’ room to the lead actors, and we all had a chance to talk to these incredible writers, who I have to say, if you liked Season 1, Season 2’s gonna knock you out. Because these scripts are gorgeous. They’re like diamonds. But they sat down with every single one of us and asked us about our points of view and what we were feeling at the end of [episode] six, how we felt about other characters, hope, dreams, aspirations, all of it. … Now I pick up the script and I feel like they have all of our voices. It’s really quite wonderful.” – Holden

On doing 13 episodes instead of 6…

“When you have six episodes, we came in and we told a story, but to go from having that six-episode structure to a thirteen-episode structure—and already having all the characters and the relationships and everything established in that first season—we’re just able to build.” – Kirkman

“You set your mind into a different space. You say, OK, it’s more of a marathon. Last year felt like a marathon.” – Darabont

On the effect of The Walking Dead on the zombie horror genre…

“I hope it’s elevated the genre a little bit. I think it hopefully will enable people to look at it in a little different way.” – DeMunn

“Well, there’s a lot of zombie shows that they’re trying to make for TV. … I’ve read a slew of zombie scripts since the first episode.” – Nicotero

“Suddenly all the assholes who said no to this show saw our numbers and said, ‘I need a zombie show!’ It’s like, they could have had one. All they had to do was say yes to me. I have no idea what the substance of those shows is going to be.” – Darabont

On the end of the series…

“I say let’s go on forever! A good zombie just keeps walking. Hopefully we won’t just decay in our tracks.” – Darabont

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