Who paid a lethal visit to Club Negan? This is a cliff-hanging question from the season 6 finale that has intrigued — or is that vexed? — fans of The Walking Dead all spring and summer. When the stars and producers of the hit zombie drama took to the Hall H stage at Comic-Con Friday, one of the first orders of business was to reassure fans the show will indeed deliver the goods when it returns for season 7 on Oct. 23, and resolution will be quickly offered as to which character Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) brutally murdered. “The frustration will end soon,” Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman told the crowd.
Asked by moderator Chris Hardwick whether the season premiere lives up to the build-up, Kirkman deadpanned, “No, it’s a big letdown,” before declaring that the “fantastic” season premiere is “absolutely worth the wait.” He added: “I think everyone is going to be blown away… You guys are all going to love it.”
Star Andrew Lincoln, whose Rick is technically in jeopardy with 10 other characters, described the return this way: “It’s a really s—ty start to the season, but hang in there, guys,” he said, noting that the show was “headed to one of the greatest showdowns we’ve had on the show since [season 4’s] Terminus.”
He also noted that Jeffery Dean Morgan was “having way too much fun playing this dude.” There was no denying that fact this afternoon, as Morgan entered the stage in full-on Negan mode, club in hand, hamming it up. “Are we pissin’ our pants yet?” he asked to great cheers. “You motherf–ers! You can breathe. You can blink. You can f—in’ cry. Oh, hell you’re all going to be doing that!”” he continued, referencing his character’s iconic speech while looming over Hardwick. “Or you can lead us on a little moderation.”
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A trailer for season 7 was unspooled in the room, revealing that King Ezekiel and his pet tiger Shiva will indeed leap from the comics onto the small screen. And not only will we visit the Kingdom, we dare venture inside the Sanctuary, home of the Saviors. Executive producer Scott Gimple noted that Khary Payton, who is playing Ezekiel, was a bit younger and more svelte than the illustrated incarnation of the character, but “he came in and he owned it,” and “Robert [Kirkman] went bananas.”
“We’re expanding the world,” executive producer Gale Ann Hurd said of season 7, noting it is more “complex,” and that we will meet characters “both friend and foe,” and observe “different types of leadership… benevolent and not-so-benevolent.”
Meanwhile, exec producer Greg Nicotero offered up this take on Rick and his friends: “Rock bottom, we haven’t even gotten close to where people are going.”
In other highlights:
• Nicotero revealed three images of walkers from the new season, including one he dubbed “crispy blister,” who boasted two different textures on his face that resembled “half pizza, half burnt pizza.” Another zombie was nicknamed “Hitchcock” because the portly fellow’s eyes were pecked out by birds.
• Lincoln talked about how his mother, a Walking Dead superfan, was trying to psych him up and give him some acting tips before he returned to work on this season. He and co-star Norman Reedus talked about their prank war, including the famous glitter gag. The prank video was shown, in which Lincoln gets blasted by glitter in his car (“It’s still going,” he said to the camera while being filmed. “How much did you f—ing put in there?”) Lincoln sought revenge during the panel with his own glitter attack on Reedus, but it backfired, with much of the glitter ending up in his own beard. (He also lamented that he has picked up the nicknames “Sparkles” and “Glitter Boy.”)
• Asked about the budding Rick-Michonne relationship, Danai Gurira discussed how the seeds for this romance — and burst of humanity — were planted back in season 3’s “Clear,” as Michonne bonded with Carl (Chandler Riggs). This “allowed her to start putting down all those layers and all that armor,” she explained.
• Michael Cudlitz (Abraham) defended his dumping of Rosita (Christian Serratos) in favor of Sasha (Sonequa Martin). “He still loves Rosita and would do anything for Rosita, but there comes a time when you can’t deny feeling,” he said, getting a little choked up.
• Appearing via video messages were Lennie James, who joked about starting a hashtag #morganlives, as Morgan wasn’t one of the survivors with Negan, and Melissa McBride, whose character, Carol, was with Negan and therefore also spared from his wrath. McBride deadpanned to the handheld camera that she was glad to be away from the psychopath with the bat, and then it was revealed that Morgan himself was holding the camera.
• Also: Cudlitz and costar/master impressionist Ross Marquand (who plays Aaron) did an impressive pep-talk mash-up routine about the dangers ahead for their characters, but told through the lens of Rocky (Cudlitz) and Mickey (Marquand.)
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