San Diego Comic-Con 2017
First published in Press Pass LA on July 28, 2017

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Author: Stefanie Bautista

Zombie killers took over as AMC’s Fear the Walking Dead and The Walking Dead gave fans in Hall H exclusive sneak peeks and a lot of love on Saturday afternoon’s sessions. As they were back-to-back panels, each block had similarities and differences. Now approaching its eight season, The Walking Dead hosted a Q&A panel catering to the fans’ burning questions about characters they have been following for nearly a decade. In contrast, Fear was teasing the developing story as the series is still in its infancy with just three seasons. Still, both highlighted everything that all Deadheads of the highly successful Robert Kirkman series admire so much. 

Present at the first panel for Fear the Walking Dead were Kim Dickens, Frank Dillane, Alycia Debnam-Carey, Mercedes Mason, Colman Domingo, Dayton Callie, Sam Underwood, Daniel Sharman, Michael Greyeyes, Dave Erickson, Robert Kirkman, Gale Anne Hurd, Dave Alpert and special effects master Greg Nicotero. Of course, no Dead panel would be complete without our favorite moderator, Chris Hardwick, who also runs The Talking Dead, ushering all the emotions that must be assessed after every episode.

Starting with a somber tone, Hardwick addressed the recent passing of the primary show’s stuntman, John Bernecker. Bernecker was fatally injured on the set of The Walking Dead on July 14, 2017.  Facing the packed crowd, he explained that much of the cast and crew were still mourning, creating uncertainty about whether they should appear for San Diego Comic-Con. They concluded that, in the end, the best way to honor Bernecker was by keeping the fans in the forefront. It was important to them that everyone knew Bernecker passed while doing what he loved – bringing stories to life. From here, Hardwick asked for a moment of silence.

The memorandums continued as Nicotero, who brings our zombies to life, also paid tribute to George Romero, the legendary special effects pioneer. Nicotero gave us insight into the impact of Romero on both shows’ zombies. Fans learned that Romero once said to Nicotero that he “loves the imperfections of life” and that what makes effects special are, in many instances, the reaction of the human characters in contrast to the broken, rotting arms and faces of the undead. 

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Kirkman then opened the panel by joking that his goal is to create as much “false” news about the upcoming seasons as possible. He enjoys making light of the fact that devotees eat up showrunners’ statements like hungry walkers. This theme lasted the entire panel.

The first instance came from the development of Dickens’ character, Madison, and how she may be related to TWD’s Daryl Dixon since they are both from the South. Numerous fans asked if Fear will somehow cross the plot lines of TWD in the near future, and in an answer with a touch of annoyance, Kirkman says, “In the next season, Madison calls Daryl on his magic phone, and I’m sure fans will be happy to see that!” Hardwick warns the crowd, “Don’t believe that! It’s not canon, folks!” then turns to Kirkman and says, “You know these people hang on to your every word!” which ensues a huge roar of laughter from Hall H.

There was also much to joke about when the subject of the British invasion of actors in the casting of Fear came up. About 80% of the panel present are of British heritage, and Hardwick yelled sarcastically that they’re “taking jobs from us hard-working Americans!” The panel, in amusement, simply expressed their gratitude for being a part of a phenomenon of a series. 

The actors exclaim their excitement at their characters’ turns while the zombie apocalypse heats up. What was revealed as truth is that the third season will revisit many issues that make certain individuals want to keep going. Just like in TWD, audiences will see that the main roadblock in the zombie apocalypse is the other survivors. The new season of Fear the Walking Dead will include big surprises and a lot of betrayals.

As the cast said their thank yous and left the stage, Hall H took a short break as a volunteer to set up for the next panelists. Fan art was shown on the screen as everyone waited with anticipation for the original inspiration of the show, The Walking Dead.

For anyone who missed the panel but is excited to see the show, eager fans can catch season three of Fear the Walking Dead when it returns to AMC on September 10, 2017. 

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