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

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Author: Stefanie Bautista

Back-to-back panels are an expectation for anyone lucky enough to snag a seat in the infamous Hall H. Admirers of the undead were treated with a Saturday afternoon session of Fear the Walking Dead and The Walking Dead, the hit AMC franchise inspired by a comic centered around an apocalyptic world of zombies and survival.

After a short break from the Fear panel, Robert Kirkman and Scott Gimple returned to Hall H to moderate for The Walking Dead. They started with a small biography for the late stuntman, John Bernecker, who was fatally injured on set on July 14, 2017. The cast and crew wanted to show the fans everything Bernecker had been working so hard on and risking his life for. With that, they introduced us to the gripping and suspense-filled exclusive trailer for season eight of The Walking Dead.

When the lights came up after the compelling teaser, cast members Andrew Lincoln, Norman Reedus, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Lauren Cohan, Danai Gurira, Melissa McBride, Lennie James, Chandler Riggs, Seth Gilliam, Alanna Masterson, Khary Payton, and writer Gale Anne Hurd were greeted with resounding applause. 

Kirkman then announced that the first episode of the season would be a commemorative 100th episode for The Walking Dead. As a call back to the previous seasons, he showed a special Comic-Con exclusive recap of the most memorable moments of the last 99 episodes. Scenes from all seasons filled the screen: the first time Rick stepped out of the hospital, the journey out of Atlanta, the altercation with Shane, Hershel’s Farm, Woodbury, Alexandria, the death of Glenn, the war brewing with Negan, and the introduction of the Kingdom. These flashbacks stirred emotions throughout the whole room.

Once the lights were on, Kirkman switched straight to the Q&A. One question involved how the role of the late character Sasha would have played in Negan’s organization. Morgan says his character Negan saw what made everyone special in Rick’s group: their resilience and strength. Had Sasha stayed, he knew she would have been a great asset to Negan’s camp and one hell of a shot.

Of course, everyone was put to tears from a fan that wanted to know what Glenn would have wanted his unborn baby to know about him as he grew up. Naturally, Cohen answered, stating that Glenn (played by Steven Yeun) would want his child to know the bravery, impulsive, comedic energy he brought to the world. She wished that the people who survived the child would provide many stories about their father to help them survive the harsh world they live in. Of the actor, Masterson mentioned that Yeun’s friendship helped her get accustomed to being a part of The Walking Dead family. She recalled that her first season with the show was the most memorable because of his kindness.

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As the Q&A continued, child fans stole the show with their questions. One memorable kiddo asked what Morgan liked and didn’t like about playing Negan. He said he loved everything about playing Negan- except that he has to wear a thick leather jacket in the Georgia summer (which can always reach sweltering temperatures). Later this received a callback from Kirkman when a fan asked if we would see other parts of the world in the show. He jested and said, “We can have The Walking Dead Sweden, The Walking Dead Death Valley, The Walking Dead Serengeti… and everyone wears leather jackets!”

However, the best evening inquiry was how Andrew Lincoln had perfected his American accent over the years and whether it affected how he said “Carl” in the show. The unaffiliated may not know that his character, Rick, is infamous for screaming out his son’s name, pronouncing it as “Coral” instead of “Carl” with a long “A” sound. The sound is so prominent and memorable that memes dominate the internet around it. 

Surprisingly, Lincoln was oblivious to the joke, and the crowd helped him hear how he said it by shouting “Coral” all around. With a chuckle, he said he’ll keep working on it, and hopefully, by season nine, he’ll get it right. James then joked with the crowd, asking if they’ve played the drinking game where every time Rick says “Coral,” they have to take a shot. After many fans shouted a resounding “Yes!” he quipped with a sheepish smile, “Did you all survive?”

The overall tone of the panel felt like a big family reunion of the Dead fandom. A lot of reminiscing was done, including Riggs telling the fans how he felt when he got the part at just ten years old and how Lincoln felt stepping out onto the Comic-Con floor for the first time eight years ago. In terms of what’s next for The Walking Dead, Kirkman explained that the new season would be fast-paced and explosion filled, counting at least four just from the trailer alone. He also emphasized that the show is not about the scientific progression of the infection. Instead, it’s about the perils of human interaction in such a turbulent world.

Eager fans can catch the new season of The Walking Dead when it premiers on October 22, 2017. Until then, fans at SDCC enjoyed their booth, which was complete with roaming walkers.

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