"Talking Dead" host Chris Hardwick led the discussion that started with the creative crew of showrunner Scott M. Gimple, executive producer and creator Robert Kirkman, executive producer Gale Anne Hurd, executive producer Dave Alpert, and special effects makeup supervisor and executive producer Greg Nicotero.
The host reminded that Season 7 starts with an eight-episode run beginning in October, though AMC will be showing a preview special in late-August to reveal some new footage.
The question of new uber-villain Negan came up early as the cliffhanger finale of last season which left some fans upset was addressed. "You're going to love who he killed! It'll be great!" Kirkman joked. But the panel promised that the resolution of the moment would be worth it when Negan finally swings that bat.
Moving forward, the panel promised to bring in more elements from the comics including the locale of The Kingdom. Hurd said that they're working to expand the world of the show in major ways, saying, "We'll see leaders who have different style and which ones really work...whether they're benevolent or not so benevolent."
Nicotero spoke to the position the cast is in when Season 7 kicks off with the premier that he directed, saying, "Where we left, Rick was basically with no control...you think he's hit rock bottom, but we haven't even gotten close to what the bottom is."
The panel then showed an extended trailer for the new season which started with Negan's "eeny meeny miny moe" taunt with clips from happier moments of each core member of the group playing up the tragedy of who might die. But then things quickly cut to a look at the new communities through they eyes of Carol who everyone is aware wasn't on the chopping block. The most exciting piece of new footage was seeing comic character King Ezekiel on screen for the first time -Â including his pet tiger. The part will be played by well-known voice actor Khary Payton who many fans know as the Teen Titans' Cyborg.
After that, the panel welcomed the cast including Andrew Lincoln, Norman Reedus, Steven Yeun, Lauren Cohan, Danai Gurira, Chandler Riggs, Sonequa Martin-Green, Michael Cudlitz, Josh McDermitt, Ross Marquand, Christian Serratos, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who carried Negan's bat with him and taunted Hardwick with a smile.
"I've only been on the show 12 minutes thus far," Morgan said, but once his first episode aired "I've never been stopped on the street so much in my life."
Lincoln said that their new castmate was enjoying playing the sadistic killer far too much, but that the premier will be one of the darkest entries in the series. He said that the cast had agreed to reveal no spoilers, but that if fans stick with the show, it will deliver the best showdown since "Terminus."
Yeun spoke to the terrible fate that finds Glen in the comic book and whether the show will walk the same path. He said that reading issue #100 of the series was a strangely satisfying experience for him after investing himself so much in the character and that he's open for whatever journey the writers want to take him on. Cohan said that filming the premier of Season 7 was one of the most physically difficult experiences she's had on the show so far, but the exhaustion they felt only helped make the scenes more terrifying. Gurira spoke about Michone's relationship with Rick, saying that the crew of the show actually called the twist in past seasons as they watched her tough character warm up to Carl.
The chummy nature of the cast came out in full force as Reedus showed a video of a prank he played on Lincoln where a glittery confetti bomb covered the star in the sweltering summer heat. Lincoln tried to turn the tables on Reedus with his own confetti popper on stage, but most of the glitter just got into his beard. Meanwhile, McDermitt joked that his character Eugene is becoming a weird sex symbol as he's starting to see cosplayers of both genders taking up his infamous mullet.