Saturday, October 15, 2011

Walking Dead Panel at NYCC - Saturday

Yesterday, members of the Deadcast and crew (including creator Robert Kirkman) swung by the New York Comic-Con for a capacity-crowd panel. Everyone was pretty mum, spoiler-wise, although Kirkman explicitly stated his wish to get one fan-favorite character from the comic books into the show. (Conspiracy theorists will be sad, or perhaps happy, to hear that there was nary a mention of departed Dead showrunner Frank Darabont.) The panel was moderated by Chris Hardwick, host of the spin-off talk show The Talking Dead. Read on for a full report, and be sure to check back tonight for my full Walking Dead episode recap:

Kirkman and Hurd kicked off the panel by discussing how excited they were to expand the world of The Walking Dead with a 13-episode second seaosn. Hurd applauded Nicotero's work on The Walking Dead Webisodes and announced that the zombie make-up guru just directed an episode for the new season. Kirkman assured fans that Nicotero and his crew have created even more gruesome zombie effects this season. "All the crazy stuff you think you saw in the first season is going to be even better and more exciting this season," Kirkman said. He added that he was excited to explore storylines from the comic in a different way in the second season. The writer nodded to Shane, a character who dies early on in the comic book.

Fans were then treated to an exclusive scene from the new season, featuring the characters hiding out from a herd of hundres of zombies. The crowd gasped as Andrea dispatches a zombie with a screwdriver and a major character suffers a grisly injury. (Who? Watch The Walking Deadthe sneak peek clip yourself to find out.)

–Executive producer Gale Ann Hurd kicked off the event with a piece of information that was like an arrow straight into geek hearts everywhere, describing Kirkman’s expanded involvement in the show’s second season. She explained, “We lured Robert from Kentucky to the wilds of Los Angeles, so he can participate in the writers’ room every day.”

–Kirkman’s involvement in the series is intriguing, since the first season deviated significantly from the original graphic novels. (Spoilers for this season and the Dead comic ahead). Kirkman noted that the early episodes of this season would focus on Herschel’s Farm, a setting from the second volume of the series. “Readers of the book will know that Shane [Jon Bernthal's character] was dead by then, in the comic. His character existing in this world changes those storylines and makes them richer and adds different levels. It’s a lot of fun for me because I wrote these stories a long time ago, and getting to do things in a different way is a lot of fun.”

A persistent topic of conversation was the scale of the production, which this season involved shutting down an entire section of highway in Atlanta. But in between all the special effects, it’s important not to doubt the actors’ commitment to the show. Discussing a zombie attack in tonight’s premiere, Laurie Holden (Andreas) said, “I dislocated four ribs filming that scene.”

–Norman Reedus was the clear audience favorite, earning wild applause every time he spoke up or made any facial guest whatsoever.. He described his character, Darryl Dixon, as a man who needs a hug, “But if you try to hug him, he’ll try to stab you.” When he said this, a loud cry went up throughout the room, as if ten thousand women were all screaming once, “Stab me! Stab me!” (Judging by the general audience reaction at the biggest panels at Comic-Con, Hollywood should cast Norman Reedus and Tom Hiddleston as brothers in an emo-badass action franchise right away.)

Chandler Riggs -- who plays the young Carl Grimes -- was a hit with fans, wearing sunglasses and discussing how he is "the coolest kid in school" for being on the show. He revealed that early on in the show, he would think about his dog who had died to achieve the intense emotions required by the scripts. Now, he can get to a place where he can cry on cue.

Before the panel closed, Hardwick opened up to fan questions, among them which weapon each cast member would prefer in a zombie apocalypse. Crossbows (like the one Daryl uses), bo staffs and razor-tipped boomerangs were mentioned as favorites, but Riggs trumped them all with his choice: "flamethrower with a bayonet on it."

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