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#SDCC16: Five Things We Learned About The Walking Dead Season 7

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This past Friday the new trailer for “The Walking Dead” Season 7 hit the Internet, and due to the way Season 6 ended, of course there wasn’t much revealed.  Afterwards, we had a chance to take part in the press conference for the show, which was attended by stars Andrew Lincoln, Norman Reedus, Steven Yeun, Lauren Cohan, Danai Gurira, Chandler Riggs, Sonequa Martin-Green, Michael Cudlitz, Josh McDermitt, Ross Marquand, Christian Serratos, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan plus executive producer and showrunner Scott M. Gimple, executive producer Robert Kirkman, executive producer Gale Anne Hurd, executive producer Dave Alpert, and special effects makeup supervisor and executive producer Greg Nicotero.

They were all pretty tight-lipped about what lies ahead, but we did manage to pry a little bit of info from them.  Here are five things we leaned:

– When asked whom we might be meeting in Season 7, Kirkman teased that there will be “more new characters, but right now we’re focusing on Ezekiel (played by Khary Payton) and Shiva (his pet tiger).”  Since it’s “not humane and also very dangerous to have a live tiger on set,” Shiva will be “all magic” (i.e., CGI). Gimple then joked that considering how good they’re getting at CGI, “one way or another, [although] I make no promises, we may see” some zombies in snow. Alpert explained that the Ezekiel/Shiva storyline “will not play out how you expect… [there will be] lots of swerves, zigging and zagging.” And is the “All Out War” of the comics coming?  Alpert, per usual, hedged, saying, “The show has to have a life of its own… this season and the plan to come is hitting [all the] milestones.”

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– On the mental state of our survivors: Yeun said they “were over-confident, but now they are more scared than they’ve ever been… ever.”  Cudlitz emphasized that they are realizing things are “really going sideways in real time.”  Gurira added that Rick had “confidence that almost teetered into cocky,” and they “were shown something quite different” than what they expected.  Lincoln echoed her thoughts: “Hubris was Rick’s downfall.” He was “probably doing the right thing” but had “too much pride behind it.” Now he’s “truly terrified for the first time since waking up” in the hospital.  “All he’s worked for, for 7 years, has been shattered.” Cohan succinctly summed up what’s been an overriding theme of the show since the beginning: “…there will be suffering and that is inevitable, but what do you learn and what do you become?”

– As for deciding on Negan’s victim(s), Nicotero explained that it was a huge challenge because “you know it’s coming… usually no one knows… but here everyone knows it’s coming.”  It’s important that it’s “brutal and unexpected and senseless” and lives “up to expectations.” The aftermath will be “how that [one act] changes the direction of the survivors… forever.” Hurd added that the “introduction to Negan is so important for people who don’t read the comic” so they’ll know “what a formidable, but somehow incredibly charming person he is.”

– Speaking of Negan, the equally charming Morgan said there’s “no trace of ‘Jeff’ there” in the character.  The role is like something he’s “never done before… I changed my movements and the inflection in my voice.”  It “gets seriously weird” when Negan is around, but he’s thankful since the role is “something really special.”  As for the fans’ reaction, he said, “Right now I’m okay… next year is going to be different.”  He expects a “salute of middle fingers” at the 2017 SDCC.

– Last, but certainly not least for us, we heard from Nicotero about the “amazing stuff” they have planned for the zombies this season.  Since Season 7 picks up immediately from the end of Season 6, not enough time has elapsed for any major changes to be required for the walkers, but he and his team “spent a lot of time finessing and fine-tuning” their look.  He said everyone working on the show is “still enthusiastic and committed… and take great pride that seven years ago there was nothing like this on TV.”

Below are some photos from our time with the cast and crew. “The Walking Dead” returns Sunday, October 23. After a mid-season break, the show will be back February 2017.

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