"The Walking Dead" Cast Talks Season 3 at PaleyFest

AMC's "The Walking Dead" opened PaleyFest on March 1, and the cast and crew showed up in full force to promote the hit television series. There are only four episodes left to air in Season 3, and Robert Kirkman, the book's creator and an executive producer on the series, teased that the upcoming season finale is going to surprise fans.

"The pressure is always there to top [Season 2's finale], but we also strive to do something different and something unexpected, and I think that we've succeeded in doing that," he told CBR News on the Paleyfest red carpet. Executive producer David Alpert added, "I also think we've been looking for some emotional closure and wrapping up some storyline, and I think that we're going to visit some dark places, but there's also a ray of hope and optimism that's going forward."

Hopefully that means Andrew Lincoln's character Rick will be able to come out of his downward spiral in Season 3. Lincoln said seeing Morgan again in this past Sunday's episode "Clear" should have been enough to get Rick out of his funk.

"The show moves so quickly that people don't have time to catch up with the trauma of what's happened to them, so I think for the first time, the audience is sort of living the trauma with Rick. I think that it takes time," Lincoln said. "All I will say is this episode ['Clear'] is an extraordinary episode, one of my favorite episodes, but also I think you see something happen and it holds up a mirror to Rick of a place he could go if he stayed isolated and lets his emotions overwhelm him, so I think it is a shifting point, certainly."

Season 3 has lost quite a few central characters, both new and old. While Lincoln found it hard to say goodbye -- and then hello again -- to Sarah Wayne Callies in "Home," he also stood up to try to save Lew Temple's Axel from his death in the same episode.

"Andrew Lincoln made a very kind stand for me to the producers and writers and said, 'We can't do this. I think this is a mistake because we're bringing in and investing in players -- and actors -- that bring something to this world and we're starting to connect, and their time is too short,'" Temple recently told Entertainment Weekly. "But in the wisdom of the show -- and again, this is why the show connects so much -- in life, sometimes just as we get to know somebody, they pass through our graces."

CBR asked Lincoln for his take on the story on the Paleyfest red carpet, and he explained his motivations. "I think he's a great actor, and I didn't fight, you know, I'm not sure about that, but I was very -- it was just sad to lose someone who was just kind of [new]," the actor said. "It's hard. I really like him as an actor, I think he's an amazing actor, and I thought what he did, as everybody does, he came onto the show and drew this beautiful, funny, enigmatic kind of character that you didn't quite know who he was, what he was, and unique, a completely different flavor."

As for having to act opposite Callies after her character, Lori, had already been killed off, Lincoln said he found out that showrunner Glen Mazzara had brought her back at the last minute. He explained that audiences could see how painful that reunion was for him personally when they watched his portrayal of Rick in "Home."

"It's hard because you say goodbye to someone. It's a tough damn show. The one thing that is the only downside about it is that you lose such great friends and great actors," he said. "Interestingly, I didn't witness [Lori's] death, but then we had to do it again in sort of my own mind, so it was really hard and painful and exactly what you see on the screen. No one really wants to leave the show."

Rick isn't the only one who's had a difficult time in Season 3. After being captured and tortured by the Governor and Merle in the season's first eight episodes, Steven Yeun's character Glenn has descended into an all-consuming anger that has negatively affected his relationship with the prison group and his girlfriend Maggie.

"It's cool to show a different side, but also it's interesting to kind of make it not so one-noted angry, of him also coming to learn a lesson," Yeun said of playing this new version of Glenn. "His anger isn't going to be something that's ultimately validated off the bat, you know? It's something that he continues to learn and grow from."

Scott Wilson, who plays the character Hershel Greene, also likes how his character has evolved in Season 3. Though he lost a leg -- "It doesn't really get easier" working on one leg, he told CBR -- he did get to find a role as the voice of reason in Rick's group.

"I've tried to be really active with him, even though [he's crippled]," Wilson said. "He's a patriarchal figure. He's had more years behind them than everyone else. When you're young, you don't think that's important, but as you get older, you do. [Laughs] I guess you're trying to find a place for yourself."

Lincoln said of Hershel's sympathy for Rick, "I think [Rick's] had a complete breakdown, and I think he's suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, sleep deprivation, grief; there are all of these things playing on him. Hershel realizes as a doctor, as a carer, as a man of medicine, that people need to process."

Hershel has fared pretty well for himself in the safe -- or relatively safe -- confines of the prison, but would he be able to survive if the group was cast out into the wilderness again? "I think that that could be an interesting situation," Wilson said. "We would find out if he could survive. He's been resourceful so far, and tough. He's a tough old bird, so maybe he could. Who knows?"

Greg Nicotero directed the recent "The Walking Dead" episode "I Ain't A Judas," and he made sure he put his stamp on it by having Laurie Holden's Andrea gruesomely face-stomp a zombie. The special video shown during the Paleyfest panel demonstrated exactly how Nicotero created the effect, and he told CBR how much fun he had making it.

"In the original script, Andrea creates the walker and then Tyreese shows up and kills it right away, and Gale [Anne Hurd] and I were like, 'Wait a minute. Why would we kill this walker? Let's allow Andrea to take the walker all the way to the prison and then release it there,'" he recalled. "It was actually played by one of my best friends named Gino Crongnale, who's a make-up effects guy. So I had head molds of him already, so as soon as I read the outline I was able to start building the puppets and building the makeup so that I had the prep time that I needed, so that when it came time to shoot it, we just brought it out, splat, stomp and go away."

Chris Hardwick's post-"The Walking Dead" show "Talking Dead" has become a great way for fans to connect with the series, and executive producer Gale Anne Hurd told CBR that making sure the fan community's feedback is heard is "absolutely critical" to it being a success.

"We are the luckiest show on the planet because our fans are the best, most committed on the planet," she said. "I mean, even against live shows that everyone in the business people said, 'Oh, up against the Grammys, they'll collapse. Up against the Oscars, it's over,' and it isn't. That's because the fans are so dedicated, and we want them to appreciate what we're doing because we appreciate them so much."

"The Walking Dead" airs on AMC Sundays at 9 p.m. ET. Season 4 starts production in Atlanta on May 6.

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