San Diego Comic-Con’s Hall H The Walking Dead panel began with moderator Chris Hardwick (of The Talking Dead) introducing executive producer and showrunner Scott Gimple, executive producers Robert Kirkman, Gale Anne Hurd, and Dave Alpert, and special effects makeup supervisor and executive producer Greg Nicotero.
Hardwick asked Gimple if the cast finally make it out of the train car they were stuck in at the end of season four. Gimple said that he brought a clip that might offer a hint to that. The clip opens showing Rick with long gray hair and beard playing cards with Glenn, who’s also fully bearded. We then see Maggie, who looks like an old lady with gray hair in a bun, knitting. Back to Rick and Glenn, it turns out they are playing for food — the remains of their comrades!
Gimple said that “Once the cast lost Herschel they discovered that they can’t go back, but those changes made them more formidable. You’re going to see them each grow as characters.” Kirkman said that “Terminus was a major departure from the comics, but fairly quickly in season five it’ll fall back in place with the storyline in the comics. All the characters are now prepared to deal with the threat of Terminus.”
Gimple noted that while season four ended with Rick saying, “They’re screwing with the wrong people,” the Blu-ray will feature the line accurate to the comic, “They’re fucking with the wrong people.”
Hurd said that this year the locations will feature more suburban locales directly from the comic book. They’ll be some pretty spectacular scopes.
Dave Alpert said that new cast will feature Seth Gilliam (Det. Carver on The Wire) joining the cast. Nicotero said that this year they’ll top last season’s walker scenarios by putting our team of hunter/survivors in set-pieces that they haven’t dealt with yet, such as a flooded basement filled with waterlogged, rotting walkers. He said they’ll visit some old places, but they’ll be a lot of new landscapes to explore. Hurd introduced a video featuring the first sneak peek of season five.
After the preview Hardwick introduced the cast, which included Andrew Lincoln, Norman Reedus, Steven Yeun, Lauren Cohan, Danai Gurira, Melissa McBride, Chad Coleman, Emily Kinney, and Michael Cudlitz.
Hardwick said it’s nice to see angry Rick back, to which Lincoln agreed, “It’s great to be sweaty and dirty again.” Hardwick asked, “How do you get prepared for the process of being angry Rick?” Lincoln said that it’s a quiet process. Hardwick said, “Well, we have a clip showing your process.” The clip was a reel of outtakes showing Lincoln thrashing around the set in frustration, before and between takes.
Hardwick noted to Yeun that the apocalypse has made Glenn a man. Yeun agreed that now that he’s got love, a family, and someone to protect, he’s got a lot to lose. Last season Glenn held out hope when he lost Maggie and this season he still holds out hope for the whole team.
Cohan joked that since last season’s blood-splattered scenes with Maggie that she sometimes preps for this season’s scenes by pouring blood on herself. Newcomer Cudlitz said when he first saw his character Abraham in the comics, the image seemed unrealistically intimidating to live up to. The cast made it easy for him to feel a part of. The first season he described like sleeping on a couch as a guest, and this year it’s like they’ve built him a room.
Gurira said it was initially more challenging to meet the physical demands for playing Michonne, and now it’s more challenging to stretch her character emotionally since Michonne is so vulnerable now.
Hardwick presented Melissa McBride with a bouquet of flowers, a reference to the scene where Carol tells Lizzie to look at the flowers so she could shoot her. She tried to give the flowers to other cast members on the panel, but everyone wisely didn’t want to look at them. McBride said that Carol felt grounded after the episode with Lizzie because she feels justified in her actions to protect the group.
Coleman said that for his character he finds that if you don’t have hope, you don’t have heart, and that allowed him to forgive Carol for what she did to Lizzie. Carol did an incredibly brave thing in a harsh, twisted world. That’s what hope looks like.
Emily Kinney said that although she can’t say anything about where Beth is, she’s gotten stronger, and Daryl has taught her survival skill that she’ll use in season five.
Hardwick asked Reedus if he had any inkling at the beginning of season four that this would be the emotional journey Daryl would take. He noted that none of the characters are who they started as at the beginning of the season. Lincoln said that all the characters have been on an emotional journey, but none more than Chandler Riggs, who plays Carl, At that point Lincoln introduced Riggs to the panel. Riggs brought an open industrial-sized can of chocolate pudding to the stage. He said that growing up on stage has been so much fun, it’s been a third of his life, and he’s had some great mentors to learn from. He also noted it’s his first time at Comic-Con.
Hardwick then opened the panel up to questions from the audience. Someone asked Reedus how much of himself he sees in Daryl. He said “There is definitely a whole bunch of me in Daryl and a whole bunch of Daryl in me,” then apologized for how awkward that sounded. He said they’re cut from the same cloth.
A disabled audience member asked if there might be a disabled walker in an upcoming episode. Gimple said that there was one in episode six of season four when went Rick went to get the propane tanks. Gurira added that on occasion she works with amputees in many of the scenes with Michonne’s pets.
A zombie-dressed member asked what the cast and crew are doing to raise awareness of the infected. Cohan joked that in August there’ll be a marathon, “Walking for Walkers,” McBride said he should just “look at the flowers.”
Season five of The Walking Dead premieres October 12.