To close out a busy Saturday at New York Comic Con 2013, AMC brought the cast and crew of “The Walking Dead” to the Javits Center in anticipation of the season four premiere of the acclaimed drama. The panel was moderated by surprise guest and “Community” star Yvette Nicole Brown, included cast members Andrew Lincoln, Danai Gurira, Steven Yeun, Laurie Holden, Chad L. Coleman and Norman Reedus; executive producers Gale Anne Hurd and David Alpert, creator Robert Kirkman, Scott Gimple and a zombie-made-up executive producer Greg Nicotero.
“This is the greatest week ever to be a ‘Walking Dead’ fan,” said Alpert. “Right after this, there’s going to be ‘The Walking Dead’ escape on the Intrepid and topping it all off is the season four premiere tomorrow.”
“We’re here because of you, the best fans in the world,” said Hurd. “So give yourself a big round of applause because you have made us the number one television show on TV.”
The executive producers introduced a brand new clip kicking off with Daryl in the front of a convenience store with Michonne and another character. The new character said Daryl is a part of the “council” and compared Daryl to a “homicide cop.” Michonne actually laughs. As the three survivors stand outside zombies slam against the window. Tyreese and Sasha head in as Bob stands above a disembodied leg. Above the store is a downed helicopter and a bunch of the shambling undead.
After the cast hit the stage (and Norman Reedus threw stuffed squirrels out into the audience), Brown asked about being invested in the new characters.
“You should be invested!” said Gimple.
“Before we start, this is amazing!” said Yeun of the assembled fans. After the cheering died down, Kirkman fielded a question as to whether there’s a particular scene that he wants to see. “There are things this season that made me tear up when they came together,” he said, and went on to describe some things from the comic that he hopes makes it into the show. “I think the new character Negan is pretty cool, hopefully we’ll be around that long. There’s a big wish list.”
In terms of threat, the creators were tight-lipped, but teased a bit of what to expect.
“Squirrels have grown immune to Daryl Dixon,” said Gimple. “So watch out for that.”
Nicotero said the key this season is catching the group off-guard and unaware. “The clip that you saw written by Mr. Gimple is the precursor to something –” said Nicotero.
“A lot of bad shit is going to happen,” said Hurd.
“Beware within, I think is something [viewers should think about],” said Gurira.
Lincoln said it “was good to be back” at NYCC, and discussed cutting off Herschel’s leg in season three. “That was very surprising, believe me,” said Lincoln of the experience. “I had to do ADR on that line. I don’t watch the show, because I have to live it. But I watched that bit and that [noise] I made, it wasn’t scripted and I was absolutely appalled by what I was doing. My wife called me up that night, and we had to chop his leg off twice.”
“The blood literally hit the lens,” said Nicotero.
“I had to chop his leg off! What was I supposed to do? It was infected!” said Lincoln.
“They told us to go home because we were wrapped,” said Yeun. “And we said, ‘Oh, hell no! We’re watching this shit!”
Gurira, whose character began almost totally in silence, is now opening up — as evidenced by her laughs in the clip — but it’s harder for the actress to be silent. “I like to express myself, I use my words,” she said. “It was interesting because she was so — there was a lot of intensity in what she was doing. It was easier to be more released, but the whole idea of emotional, I thought there was more emotion inside when I didn’t talk. … There were so many reasons she was [guarded or defended], and she was so on edge to do everything she could do.”
Cohan got one of the most difficult questions — who would she choose in a life-or-death situation: Herschel or Glenn?
“I think dad would want me to pick my boyfriend,” said Cohan. “Steven, who would you pick, me or Herschel?”
“I would make her pick Herschel and then float away on a piece of driftwood,” said Yeun.
So much of the show is dependent on Nicotero’s amazing effects, and the executive producer said there’s a walker coming up that will surprise viewers. “We’ve done a lot with the walkers this season … I do a lot of stuff in the episodes I direct with the walkers,” said Nicotero.
Coleman, who plays fan-favorite from the comics Tyreese, said coming into the role was helped by the fact that Kirkman felt he could “fill these shoes.” “That gave me a lot of confidence,” Coleman said. “It’s an amazing cast and so far, so good, right?”
“I actually wanted Chad Coleman to play Tyreese in a ‘Walking Dead’ show before there was a ‘Walking Dead’ show,” said Kirkman. “The fact that it came together is amazing and I think you’re going to love what’s coming up.”
Reedus discussed Daryl’s emotional state following the events of season three. “He’s grown up a lot since then and I think he’s finding this sense of self-worth through these people,” he said. “He’s growing up to be the man he wouldn’t have been before. He’s going into full-blown wolf mode.”
Brown admitted to shipping Carol and Daryl and then said there’s a “Richonne” situation going on, a phrase that Reedus coined. “He said that Andrew looked Danai up in a scene,” said Brown.
“He did!” said Reedus.
“I’m going to defend!” said Gurira. “He was looking introspectively at the ground. But I do appreciate that people seem to want Michonne to get some.”
“Sarah Wayne Callies will kick my ass if this goes down in season four,” said Lincoln.
“Walking Dead orgy, season five — how’s that?” joked Reedus.
As the new show runner, Gimple wasn’t able to say very much about the upcoming season, but he did note that each character will have a story this season. “By the end of this season, I think you’re going to know all these characters even more,” said Gimple. “I think you learn more about Sasha, you learn more about Tyreese [in the premiere]. We shot it in may, so we’re dying for you guys to see it.”
“It’s really exciting, we get to see where all the characters are,” said Nicotero.
In terms of weapons, Gilmple said there’s a lot of action at the fence. “There’s a lot of walkers at the fence and they have to tend to the walkers at the fence,” said Gimple. “In the comics, Glenn had come up with a novel way to take care of walkers at the fence, and we’ve taken it a step further.”
Before moving on to questions, David Alpert announced that Josh McDermott will play Eugene on the upcoming season of the show. “And he will be fully mulletted,” said Alpert. At that point, a man walked up and very antagonistically demanded to Gimple that he include Abraham in the show, and it turned out to be Michael Cudlitz of “Southland” fame, who will be playing Abraham on the upcoming season.
The panel opened itself up to questions after the exciting announcement, and one of the first was a young girl who wanted to meet the cast and she came up to the stage and got to sit with them for the rest of the panel. Reedus immediately put her on his lap.
Gimple also spoke about the strength of Carole as a female lead and her development from season one.
“Carol in season one — I think she displayed a lot of strength braining her dead husband’s head,” said Gimple. “in the beginning of season three, Rick says she’s become a good shot. This season we see her teaching kids about knives. She had a daughter that died, and she’s making sure that she’s not a victim, but she’s also making sure the kids aren’t victims.”
“This season, you’re going to see so much extraordinary work from [Melissa McBride],” said Lincoln.
The new show runner has a unique position, and said he didn’t enjoy writing Merle’s death as a member of the writing staff, and both Gimple and Nicotero said that Michael Rooker didn’t get a lot of notice before knowing that he would be leaving the show. “He really wanted Merle to go out kicking and screaming,” said Nicotero. “Michael was really, really dedicated to making Merle’s death meaningful.”
Lincoln has been on the show since the very first frame, and said that as long as the show honors the characters’ deaths, it strengthens the show. “When they go, it’s heartbreaking, we all feel it,” said Lincoln,” but hopefully it makes the story stronger.”
As for Carl, Lincoln was excited about Chandler Riggs’ performances this season. “Chandler is going to kick ass this season,” said Lincoln “Wait for episode nine. There’s a spoiler, I don’t care. I just said it.”
Amongst the other questions were a young man who was enamored with Lauren Cohan’s portrayal of Maggie, and said that Maggie was such a badass, and wondered why Glenn needed to protect her, which got huge amounts of applause from both the cast and the audience.
Lincoln said there’s a script this season that he read that he couldn’t speak for a full ten minutes after reading it. “We are going to get in so much trouble for this episode,” said Andrew. “It’s going to be amazing.”
“Sophia coming out of the barn was the amazing moment for me,” said Nicotero. “The writers pitched the first eight episodes and I was literally sitting on the edge of the chair.” The executive producer said he was heartbroken during the part of the pitch for the season where Sophia comes out of the barn.
Reedus recalled his experience reading the pilot and his initial reaction. “Just get me on this at all,” said Reedus. “It’s different not being in the comics, but I’ve offered to wash Robert’s car, I’ve offered to sleep with him, but anything to get on this book! It feels like this is our show. We’re fortunate to have such awesome bosses on this show, it’s such a collaborative job and it’s so fun — it feels like it’s ours.”
Greg Nicotero showed a picture of “The Moss Walker,” who has grown into the ground, which came from the brain of Robert Kirkman.
The panel wrapped with a final new clip teasing season four of “The Walking Dead” cheered on by the audience raising the decibel level of the room several levels. A video from later on in the season then played with Daryl, Michone, Tyreese and Bob in a car. The quartet picks up a voice on the radio and as they fiddle with the knob, Daryl swerves to avoid walkers in the road. The car skids to a stop and the walkers begin to converge on the car. Not one, not two — but a whole horde of them as far as the eye can see. Daryl attempts to back the car up, but it gets stuck on bodies of walkers. The back wheels spun helplessly on corpses as the clip ended.