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."

Jason Momoa on 'Conan The Barbarian'

Conan The Barbarian will be among the many personalities attending this weekend's New York Comic Con at the Javits Center. Well, not exactly, but the 6' 4" Jason Momoa, who played the sword-slashing Cimmerian in the recent reboot of the series that came out this summer will be there -- though maybe not with blade in hand.

When the massive Momoa stepped into Planet Hollywood a couple of months ago to leave his big ol‛ paw-prints and fighting sword there, he could have been any big brute with a cowboy hat on. But once it was doffed and he flung around his locks, the former Hawaiian clearly displayed why he was picked for Conan.

Add in a resume that includes playing Khal Drogo, a powerful warlord from George RR Martins' Game of Thrones or fighter Ronan Dex from Stargate Atlantis, and Momoa certainly has the right creds to handle such an iconic character as Robert E. Howard's Conan. And if you make it to Javits on this Sunday at 10 am where he will appear on a panel with co-stars Rose McGowan and Stephen Lang, you can see and hear him in all his rippling glory.

Q: This movie could have easily been cheesy, but it doesn't come close to that. What did you do to make sure it didn't go that way?

JM: I wouldn't want to be a part of it if it did. I didn't want it to have that campiness to it.

When I was a little kid, I would read Robert E. Howard and look at a Frank Frazetta painting and they would reach out to me. I wanted to take the character and rip it right off the canvas and put it up on the big screen.

It deserved to have the grittiness and the dirtiness. [Director] Marcus Nispel [Texas Chainsaw Massacre] was fantastic about it. I thought he did a really good job at making that world.

Q: It's great that he is an actual barbarian, not the typical hero...

JM: That's the fun thing about Conan. He eats, he drinks, he's a thief, he's a pirate. The fun thing about him is he's not the saving-the-damsel-in-distress [type]. It's not very PC, and I think that's what Marcus didn't want.

He should be this barbarian towards a woman, in a sense. But what's beautiful about it is you see the vulnerable side, and he gets saved by a woman in the heat of the moment where he was supposed to kill.

So you get to slowly warm up to him. I think that's nice to have a little bit of humanity to the character, a sense of humor, that makes him relatable.

Q: Actor Stephen Lang -- who plays the evil Khylar Zim -- said that he stabbed himself in the ass at one point with a sword. Do you have any similar stories?

JM: I've got all kinds of horror stories. I almost died on a horse a couple of times. I broke my nose. I wanted to make it look like he was more barbaric, so I had a buddy punch me in the nose.

Q: They have makeup for that, too.

JM: Yeah, I didn't think about that.

Q: So you're all into it.

JM: Yeah, Conan should have a broken nose. He should always have a broken nose, I think -- a constant flow of blood coming out of his body somewhere.

Q: When you were getting ready to play Conan the Barbarian, was there a different workout regimen in getting ready for the type of fighting that you‛d be doing?

JM: Yeah, we did a lot of Bushido, basically a samurai training. I wanted to incorporate that Asian gracefulness to this barbaric character; I wanted to do the sword work.

But as far as working out, we did like six hours a day, stunt work and stunt training, and it was how to fall and lift heavy, heavy weights.

Q: A lot of the fighting looks like a dance.

JM: Yeah, absolutely, choreography. It absolutely is a dance and I think that's one of the great things about Conan: he speaks through his movement and his action. That's why I wanted to do all my stunts, because he speaks through that.

I studied a lot of lions and panthers, and I wanted to be able to move like a feral cat. When I read those stories about him, he just comes across as that nimble product of his environment, kind of king of his own jungle thing.

Q: Were there any stunts you wanted to do that they wouldn't let you?

JM: No, because by the time it was the ones I had to do, I was so broken [in] I was like "Dude, you've got this one. Take it. Take it, please." Q: What was the most difficult, the most challenging thing to get through?

JM: Trying to keep injury at bay. Like I said, there's a flow of blood coming out of your body at all times. For five months, you're always injured. It's just to be able to stretch and keep that motor running for that.

Q: Did you have any fears of living up to Arnold Schwarzenegger's Conan?

JM: Not at all. I think Arnold did a really great job. It's kind of like comparing Sean Connery and Daniel Craig. They're both amazing Bonds. Arnold's Arnold, and I didn't play anything like him and he really can't play anything like me, so it's two different perspectives, really.

Q: What's your thoughts on the romantic side of Conan?

JM: It was really fun. It's nice to see that side of him. I think, as a character, he's such a brute force that it's nice to go there, to see that softer side of him.

We weren't sure how to do it, because when we did Game of Thrones, it was so raw and passionate and at the very beginning it's raping and very barbaric. I felt it probably wouldn't be in the best interest to be doing that in this new Conan.

Q: Did you get to read all the books, the comics and all that stuff?

JM: Not all of them. I had six weeks to get ready. So aside from doing six hours of training every day, I did read a lot of source material, but I couldn't get through all of it.

Of all the comic books, I went to Dark Horse the most because that's what they tried to emulate, really, for the costumes and look of the world, I think Dark Horse was the closest.

Q: Of all the characters you've played, who would you like to meet?

JM: Drogo [the warlord] and Conan are great. I'd follow them into battle anywhere.

Q: With your characters on Stargate Atlantis like Ronan Dex and Game of Thrones, do you gravitate towards these warrior types or is that just something because you're 6'4" and huge?

JM: When I did Stargate Atlantis, I wanted to work and it was a great opportunity, four years of working on that.

I think when Drogo came along, that's a once in a lifetime chance to play anything like that. I've never seen a character like him in the movies or on TV. He's such a powerful, raw character. That role was the first time I've ever wanted a character in my life.

Because of that, the same casting director came on Conan so everything just kind of lined up that way.

I don't know, we'll see. Hopefully there's a rom-com in there somewhere coming up.

Q: Will it be tough for you to adjust to the cushy lifestyle if you end up doing a romantic comedy or something?

JM: Oh no. I look forward to it. I'm doing a job right now where I'm wearing a suit and playing a villain. I get to shoot people with a gun; it's so much easier. It's like , "Bam -- dead." It's so much better.

Q: Now you're now officially cemented in Planet Hollywood history. How does that feel?

JM: Really, really cool. Really cool! It's a trip. I'm working with [Sylvester] Stallone right now, so you walk in and this is his place!

Q: And you get to see him hanging naked from the ceiling.

JM: Is that what that is? What movie was it?

Q: Demolition Man.

NYCC: Dark Shadows Panel - Ann Falsarella's Quick Review of Saturday's Panel

The panel for Dark Shadows was packed with both fans of the Dark Shadows soap opera and the new movie debuting on May 11th 2012.  The newer rendition will be starring Johnny Depp, Helen Bonhem Carter and Michelle Phiffer and directed by Tim Burton (who is also a huge fan of the series).  The panel consisted of the original characters from the series Kathryn Lee Scott who played Maggie Evans and from the Skype webcam, Laura Parker who played Angelique Bouchard. The panel was mostly about the new movie coming out and their experiences on set.

Both women agreed it was an experience that they never expected. Some of the original characters were on set of the new movie including the original Barnabas Collins played by Jonathan Frid (now played by Johnny Depp).   Ms. Scott described both men holding the same cane from the series and Mr. Frid making a comment to Depp about his new hair style.  Ms. Scott explained that she never expected the set to be as big as they are in because when they shot the series back in the 70’s the set was about the size of the area we were sitting in (it was big but not for a big production like they did).

After the series, both women wrote books about Dark Shadows.  Ms. Parker wrote Angelique’s Decent, which is a sequel to the Dark Shadows: The Salem Branch (which also will be re-released with a different book cover print) and Ms. Lee Scott wrote about Dark Shadows. One most recently, Dark Passages, in which she was signing later on that day.

Personally speaking, I initially got into the whole 'Dark Shadows' phenomenon because I’m a huge Tim Burton fan.  From what I saw on the panel along with the rich history and information  I got from other Dark Shadows fans in the audience,  I’m going out to get the Dark Shadows series and hopefully be a fan of both the series and the movie!

Laura Parker from Skype cam at NY Comic Con.