Friday was a big day in Hall H for fans of all genres, so lines were massive to get into the packed hall. People who had been in line over 24 hours were dragging their feet, moving forward mindlessly. A panel on zombies to start the day seemed apropos, wouldn’t you say?
Chris Hardwick was the guest moderator for the panel and kicked things off by announcing that the premiere of “Fear the Walking Dead” will be on August 23 at 9pm. He let everyone know that he will be doing a “Fear the Talking Dead” special after the final episode of the first season, but there could be more Talking Deads for this spinoff if the show has levels of popularity that support it.
On the stage for the panel were executive producers Dave Erickson, Gale Anne Hurd, Dave Alpert, and Greg Nicotero. Robert Kirkman (creator of “The Walking Dead”) was unable to attend due to recuperating from throat surgery. They then brought out several of the actors from the show, including Kim Dickens, Cliff Curtis, Alycia Debnam-Carey, Frank Dillane, Lorenzo James Henrie, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Ruben Blades, and Mercedes Mason.
Erickson began by saying he had talked about a spinoff show with Kirkman originally early on, and when they did, they knew they wanted it set in a large town – something as different as possible from “The Walking Dead.” He explained, “It’s somewhat set during the time of Rick’s coma. FTWD is a family drama, and we filter the apocalypse through them.”
Hardwick then rolled out the full-length trailer for the show. The central family (made up of two divorcees and their kids) are struggling with normal blended family challenges when the zombies start appearing. The trailer shows how the news begins to spread, how people in Los Angeles react, and how things get bad quickly. The end of the promo summed things up succinctly: “When civilization ends, it ends fast.”
After the trailer concluded, Hardwick asked Dickens (who plays the mother of the blended family) about her experience on the show. She confessed, “I had nightmares after filming.”
The moderator then started to question Dillane (who plays one of the kids on the show), but he had a hard time answering without giving spoilers, so Erickson stepped in. “Nick (Dillane’s character) is one of the first people that sees what’s going on, so in some ways, he’s like a prophet.”
Alpert then began talking about how this cast and how they differ from those on TWD. “Rick is such an alpha. He’s a sheriff…it’s easy to envision him as a leader. But what if there’s not this obvious leader? What if there’s this high school English teacher and a guidance counselor? We’re going to see who’s going to become a diamond from coal and who’s going to crumble into dust.”
Hardwick next spoke about the zombies having a different appearance in this show. Instead of rotting corpses, they appear more like people who are ill. Nicotero said, “It’s not like the decomposition you see after two or three years…you still see a little bit of life in their eyes – you see their humanity. And since they appear this way, your first instinct is to help them, not shoot them.”
Next, the moderator called on Alicia, who is playing an older teenager. He asked how she might be different from Carl on TWD in how her character adapts to the entire situation. She admitted, “It’s a really amazing dynamic to explore. At the end of the day, she’s still a seventeen year old girl. Horrible things happen, but she’s still bothered about trivial items.”
Hardwick questioned the panel on how well they’re prepared for an apocalypse. The other producers said Gail is most ready, and she admitted to having “three years of food, water, and a variety of supplies.” The moderator admitted to gathering an assortment of items like this as well after beginning to work on “The Talking Dead.”
Rodriguez was then asked about her character Liza, as she’s part of the blended family, yet outside it. She explained, “She’s the ex-wife of Travis, and she’s very protective of her child Chris. She works in the hospital so she sees the outbreak at ground zero.”
Lorenzo (who plays Chris) is sixteen in the show, and talked about the familial bonds he’s had to form with others in the cast. “I literally met everyone first at the table read in Vancouver, but we all bonded quickly.”
Spindola then had a turn and discussed his decision to work on this show. “The first motivation for actors to work is unemployment. I was happy to take this role because Salazar is a very complex character. He came from a different environment to create a better life for his family. Events occur and it brings him back to a past he was trying to get away from.”
Ofelia (played by Mercedes) is the daughter of immigrant parents and thinks she needs to protect her parents. She said, “After the shit hits the fan though, she realizes that there are things she can learn from her parents.”
Questions were then accepted from fans. The first audience member at the microphone addressed Rodriguez and said, “I love you on ‘Orange is the New Black.’ How are the two shows different to you? Is it a time crunch doing both?”
Rodriguez explained, “In prison, we know the rules, we know who are friends and enemies are, and we know when we’re getting out. In this world, we don’t know anything and we’re learning as we go.”
She also added that filming for “Fear the Walking Dead” fell in a break she had from OITNB. In addition, Rodriguez said it helped that the producers on that show love “The Walking Dead” and were very happy for her.
The next question was one that lots of fans wanted to know: Will the two Walking Dead casts ever meet?
Erickson responded, “There are no plans for the two shows to crossover – I think they would kill me if I ever pitched that story. There’s no plans or reason for that to take place at this time.”
Another fan directed a question to Chris Hardwick. He asked if there was any chance Hardwick might appear on the new show since it’s set in Los Angeles.
Hardwick said, “Nicotero has offered to have me come down to Atlanta and become a walker. And I went through the makeup process on the show. But if you ever saw me on an episode, it would take you out of the show. So, while I’d do it if they really wanted me to, it’s better if I stick to my show.”
The panel then concluded, but before the cast and crew walked off, Hurd had an announcement: AMC Global will be showing the premiere of “Fear the Walking Dead” in over 100 countries at the exact same time. “This way, no one anywhere has to worry about spoilers!” Apocalypse averted.
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