As AMC’s The Walking Dead approaches its 10th season, reporters gathered Friday at Comic-Con International in San Diego to discuss the upcoming season of the perennial AMC favorite, and to talk about changes made to the show last season. On hand to discuss were showrunners Scott Gimple and Angela Kang, producer Gale Anne Hurd, and actors Norman Reedus (Daryl), Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Negan), Cooper Andrews (Jerry), Nadia Hilker (Magna), Eleanor Matsuura (Yumiko), Melissa McBride (Carol), Danai Gurira (Michonne), Ryan Hurst (Beta), Avi Nash (Siddiq) and Cailey Fleming (Judith).
The cast first addressed their feelings regarding last season’s grim and shocking ending, where several characters met their demise in a single scene. “It’s always been hard to lose a character on the show,” said Reedus, but joking, “It’s like losing a sofa, and now the living room is different.” Other cast members joked that it’s more like half the living room is gone after last season.
Matsuura added that even though some characters might be gone, what they brought to the show remains. “That person’s energy always stays on,” Matsuura said.
Reedus harkened back to Andrew Lincoln’s character Rick Grimes, who had already been written out of the show following Lincoln’s departure. “I’m sorry he’s not here - I don’t know where to send my room services charges,” Reedus joked. The actor then paraphrased Lincoln, saying, “That’s why I left the show.”
Another pending departure was also discussed – that of Gurira, whose departure was announced earlier on Friday at AMC’s The Walking Dead panel in Hall H. While Season 10 will feature the last appearance of Michonne, the fate of the character remains unknown. When asked if Gurira would be open to playing Michonne again at some point, she declined to answer. Hurst, however, proclaimed, “I would play Michonne,” much to the amusement of those in the room.
“She’s a joy to work with,” Reedus added. Gimple cryptically affirmed, “We’re not completely done with her.”
That most certainly seems to be the case, as the trailer’s final scene shows Michonne in possession of Lucille – Negan’s favorite weapon. “The return of Lucille in the trailer was amazing,” said Morgan, “Even if Negan doesn’t like to share.”
The trailer also featured a scene solely between Morgan and Reedus’ characters – the first such encounter since the introduction of Negan. “We were very excited to do a scene together,” said Morgan. “I think there have been changes within Negan. Judith has brought things out. Negan will always be Negan – he won’t bash you over the head with Lucille, but he’ll stab you with words. I think Negan has changed a little bit, but it’s not necessarily redemption for him just yet.”
“Negan always liked Daryl,” Morgan continued. “He wanted to lock him up and break him, but when he found he couldn’t, he liked him even more. The two have a kind of parallel path – both are outsiders. It’s fascinating and I hope we explore it more.” Morgan then laughed and apologized for his “long-winded response.”
When asked what the actors have learned about themselves throughout the show, Andrews said, “I’ve pulled a few muscles on this show, so I’ve learned to get better at avoiding that.”
Reedus chimed in, saying, “That I can take six Advil at once.”
As the actors grow and learn, so do the characters, Morgan added. “Scott Gimple and Angela Kang reinvent characters every year. We always learn and get to do new things. As an actor, you don’t get bored.”
“The cast is huge,” Matsuura said. “For example, I never worked with Negan’s character before. The size of the cast itself keeps it interesting.”
Gimple noted that the cast’s size gives the show an edge. “We have all kinds of stories to tell with different characters in many ways.”
As the show’s youngest cast member, Fleming also had something to say. “I’ve had a lot to do this season. Judith has gotten older, and I’ve gotten to use a sword and that’s exciting.”
Gurira commented on the growing bond she’s forged with Fleming, both on the set and as characters. “Cailey is pretty astounding,” Gurira said. “She’s such a pro, this young lady. And she thinks I’m pretty cool too.”
The young actress attempted to affirm Gurira’s words about their bond, eventually summarizing it as, “I’m agreeing – you know why I’m trying to say.”
McBride made comparisons between two other characters: her own character Carol, and that of Alpha, played by Samantha Morton, observing that both come from backgrounds of abuse, but emerged from it in completely different ways. Kang observed, “It’s interesting – we’ve been delving into these two characters, and how they’ve diverged. Both are two incredibly powerful women who happen to be on opposite sides of epic struggle.”
It wasn’t only the characters’ evolution that was discussed - the subject of how the walkers themselves might also be evolving was raised. Kang largely dismissed the idea of any kind of evolution, saying, “We’ve followed the rules for walkers set out by Kirkman in the comic, but with changes. We don’t use the more dormant lurkers from the comics, for example.”
The topic of the comic’s sudden and unexpected recent cancellation was also addressed. Hurd praised the series’ conclusion, saying, “I thought the ending to the comic was brilliant. It was hopeful. Kirkman thanked us.”
“But we have a long way before we get there,” Hurd added, but noting that the show doesn’t necessarily have to follow the comic’s path. “The good thing about our series is we can jump ahead if we want, or just let the final years play out on the show. There’s a hopefulness in discovering that maybe there are more people still in the world.”
Hurd closed the session commending all involved with the series. “When you’re a part of The Walking Dead family, that’s really something.”