AMC’s adaptation of The Walking Dead is undoubtedly one of the biggest attractions at the 2010 New York Comic-Con, as evidenced by the near-riot that took place outside the theater where the panel was being held.
Fans were led through a maze of cow herders, but unlike the stoic bovine meant to be led through those partitions, Walking Dead fans went berserk, knocking down the herders to make an every-man-for-himself dash for the theater door.
After a twenty-minute delay spent re-establishing order or curtailing potential violence, fans were finally admitted to the IGN theater (ever so slowly) so that The Walking Dead panel could get underway.
The first big announcement of the panel – we would get to see six minutes of exclusive footage from Walking Dead episode 2!
THE FOOTAGE & SHOWRUNNERS
- The footage starts with Rick Grimes trapped in a tank surrounded by “Walkers” (the zombies). He got a call on the comm line from a mysterious benefactor who advised him to “make a run for it.” Rick arms up with a Beretta and a grenade and makes his run for it. Gore and mayhem ensue.
- Rick meets his benefactor, Glenn, who cracks a joke about him being the new Sheriff riding in to clean up town (“Nice moves Clint Eastwood.”).
- Rick and Glenn make a run for it through an abandoned building. Zombies cut off their escape until Glenn’s friends intervene. We meet Andrea and other survivors; they aren’t too fond of Rick attracting zombie attention with his gunshots. Now the “Walkers” have uncovered their position in an abandoned department store, and are closing in [END OF FOOTAGE].
- In attendance were series creator Frank Darabont, Walking Dead comic book creator Robert Kirkman and producer Gale Anne Hurd.
- Kirkman asked the crowd, “Is there any doubt left?” about the quality of the TV series. The crowd’s cheers conveyed a resounding NO.
- Hurd said Zombies, Kirkman and Darabont are what brought her to the table; she joked that they are going for The Simpsons record of TV seasons.
- Darabont said he’s doing zombie TV because zombie movies “have been done.” The potential length of the series and the story/characters were also attractive.
- Hurd said she sold AMC by pointing out that they already have drama – but would they be interested in The Walking Dead? AMC (to her complete surprise) responded, “Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead?” SOLD.
- Kirkman said he almost teared up the first time he saw Glenn onscreen. He could never have imagined how big this Walking Dead phenomenon would get. Darabont thanked the crowd for their support.
- Darabont reiterated that while they are following the basic story of the comic books, the show won’t restrain itself from going in its own direction – longtime fans of the comic will still be surprised. Kirkman said he supports that format and that it will make The Walking Dead show “even cooler” than the comic book.
- Kirkman wrote the 4th episode of the show; Darabont added, “It’s really good!” Kirkman said it’s great to go back and revisit all the characters who have been killed off in the comics.
- Hurd described the type of zombies they wanted on the show – “Not the Usain Bolt sprinter zombies.” She said makeup artist Greg Nicotero was instrumental in creating the zombies. They shot the show on super 16 film. She was serious about making the zombies look real – no camp.
- Darabont loved George Romero’s Day of the Dead (“It’s underrated”), but Night of the Living Dead is his favorite. Kirkman loved Shaun of the Dead. Darabont shouted out Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive.
- Hurd denied the claim that “Zombies are the new vampires.” She said, “Zombies are better than vampires.” Darabont said he’s worn out with vampires. An audience member yelled “Too Sparkly!” Darabont responded “Too sparkly – too sexy!” He then apologized for going overboard [Laughter].
- Kirkman wanted to see Axel and The Governor return in TV form. Darabont was excited to see Shawn and that he “gets to go back to prison!” with the Governor story from Vol. 3.
- Kirkman and Darabont said that people will be shocked with how far they can push things in terms of violence and gore. Hurd confirmed this. Darabont said they’ll make Breaking Bad “Look like p@#$!*s!”
- Footage: They ran another clip featuring the ensemble cast, including Andrea’s sister Amy (Emma Bell) Grimes’ wife and son, his partner Shane and others, as they make contact with Andrea and the others survivors trapped in the department store, as seen in the first clip.
- Darabont said certain actors were immediately considered for certain roles, while others – like Lincoln for Rick Grimes – were recommendations that turned out to be perfect fits. Hurd added that auditions were held in Darabont’s garage.
- Cast in attendance included Andrew Lincoln (Rick Grimes), Sarah Wayne Callies (Lori Grimes), Laurie Holden (Andrea), Steven Yeun (Glenn), Jon Bernthal (Shane), and Norman Reedus (Daryl Dixon).
- Callies joked that Lincoln’s Brit accent is “totally fake.” She says that people probably won’t like her character in the first few episodes, but for them to “hang in there.”
- Bernthal’s character was booed by the crowd when announced. He thanked them for that reaction, “God bless you NY – they didn’t do that in San Diego. That’s how it’s suppossed to be done!”
- Holden described her character as “A gal just trying to find her family…and survive.” Darabont added that she’ll get really good with guns.
- Yeun said Glenn is a boy who grows into being a man; Reedus said Daryl is a badass ex-con who finds where his loyalties truly are. Callies added that his entrance into the show is great.
- Grimes said he read the first 100 pages of the graphic novel then didn’t want to read anymore (no SPOILERS!).
- Callies confessed that she never told Darabont that she has never seen a zombie flick, but picked up the comic and then ran back to get more issues. Holden read compendium 1 when she got the role – but like Grimes, didn’t want to read too far (NO SPOILERS!).
- Yeun said he read a couple issues – but didn’t buy them. He was too poor at the time. He was a fan though, and was happy to see that the show creators “were doing it right.”
- Bernthal didn’t buy the comic until he got the role. When he read the comic he was disappointed that [CENSORED SPOILER] and that his character was, as one audience member yelled, “a douche.”
- Hurd said that Season 2 of the show depends on the support they get for season 1 – so SUPPORT IT.
- Lincoln and Callies described the irony of a Zombie apocalypse saving their Rick and Lori’s marriage and how the couple have to get to know one another all over again once Rick wakes up.
- Holden spoke about the Dale/Andrea relationship. She says Jeff DeMunn is a “yummy” man who shows Andrea a love and kindness that she’s never known.
- Reedus described his character with an analogy of angels acting like devils and devils acting like angles when the world is ending. “Zombies aren’t the only enemy.”
- Yeun described his first day on set filming an action scene where he sprinted and hopped obstacles while lugging two big bags of guns. He ended up passing out after either several takes, or one take – the story varies with the teller. Darabont confirmed that it was hellishly hot in Atlanta while they were shooting.
- A fan asked how they will handle the Lost “Walt Problem” with young Carl Grimes (Chandler Riggs). How will they film multiple seasons when the kid is still growing. Darabont said that they will “cross that scary bridge when we get to it.” Kirkman jokes that Riggs is actually 33 years old.
- Kirkman says it was great to win the Eisner award for his comic. He’s humbled by the accolades.
- Darabont says his secret to success as a screen writer is to sit down and write for twelve hours a day, and rewrite, rewrite, rewrite.
That’s it for the panel – get ready for the worldwide premiere of the The Walking Dead on Halloween Night! Check out a trailer for the show HERE. You can also see our coverage of the The Walking Dead panel from the San Diego Comic-Con HERE.