As one of the biggest shows on TV, The Walking Dead was simply too large to be confined by the New York Comic Con at the Jacob Javits Convention Center. That’s why the annual Walking Dead panel was once again held at Madison Square Garden’s Hammerstein Ball Room.
Talking Dead host and Nerdist founder, Chris Hardwick served as the panel’s moderator. He was joined by cast members Norman Reedus, Danai Gurira, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Steven Yeun, Lauren Cohan, Sonequa Martin-Green, Seth Gilliam, Michael Cudlitz, Austin Nichols, Alanna Masterson, Lennie James, and Melissa McBride. Director Greg Nicotero, executive producer Gale Ann Hurd, and showrunner Scott Gimple were also on hand with series co-creator, Robert Kirkman.
With the season premiere just a few weeks away, and several of Negan’s potential victims present, no one was ready to spoil who died in the sixth season finale. However, Gimple confirmed that the victim would be revealed in the season premiere. He went on to tease the arrival of new characters, including Ezekiel, as played by Khary Payton. Ezekiel was briefly glimpsed in earlier trailers next to his tiger, Shiva.
Hurd noted that the larger world of the show will continue to expand, and she thanked Kirkman for his work on the comic book series that led to the show. After a brief clip from The Walking Dead: The Journey So Far recap special, Reedus read a letter to the fans from series star Andrew Lincoln, who was unable to attend New York Comic Con this year. This turned into a brief aside with the cast about the prank wars on the set which continue to lighten the mood, in part to deal with the more depressing events of the show.
Reedus noted that he hated filming the final season of the season finale, because his character and the others were so helpless. Gurira said that the Governor was small compared to Negan, who is a better prepared adversary. Gimple went on to praise Negan as one of the show’s best villains, as he and his forces are simply outnumbering and outgunning Rick’s group of survivors.
Morgan went on to describe Negan as a showman who has become cocky, and he showed a little flare of his own when he briefly assumed his character’s voice to the delight of the crowd. He said that he’s played villains before, but none of them were as scary as Negan is. Gimple added that Negan’s frequent use of “F-bombs” were “strategically placed.”
Hardwick turned the discussion towards the show’s relationships, starting with Glenn and Maggie. Yeun was effusive about the romance of his character and Cohan’s, and noted that they are greater together than apart. Cudlitz and Martin-Green were similarly complimentary about each other while discussing Abraham and Sasha’s burgeoning relationship. Masterson noted that Tara doesn’t know about the death of her lover, Denise. But she seemed to indicate that we’ll see that reaction this season.
James teased a darker direction for Morgan, who may be over his aversion to killing. McBride was less specific about Carol’s direction this season, but she raised the question of why the characters want to survive in this world despite the circumstances packed against them.
Nicotero noted that the seventh season will take the series up to 99 episodes, which means that season 8 will open with episode 100. He also spoke briefly about directing the season 7 premiere and teased some unexpected moments that he was particularly proud of in that episode.
Soon after, Hardwick and the panel released a clip from the season premiere in which Rick and Negan faced off in the aftermath of the murder. If you know your Walking Dead comic book history, you’ll note that this scene also seems to foreshadow a very dark turn for Rick from the comics, which his character on the show had previously managed to avoid.
The Walking Dead season 7 will begin on Sunday, October 23.