#SDCC 2013: The Walking Dead - Casting News and Up-Close Insight into Season 4
After attending “The Walking Dead” roundtables at the SDCC, we came away with some casting news we hadn't heard yet, a few inklings of what's in store for fans of the show come October, and a bit more info about the tone of Season 4.
First to join our table were new showrunner Scott Gimple, comics creator Robert Kirkman, and the dreaded Governor himself, David Morrissey. If you watched the new Season 4 trailer (and if you didn't, do so immediately – we'll wait) and have also read the comics, you probably noticed a lot of elements from them in the footage. Gimple's philosophy in that regard is to incorporate big moments from the source material with different characters and different contexts but keep them recognizable. They have to change, of course, due to the fact that we have characters who are now dead but still living in the comics and vice versa as well as characters like Daryl who exist only in the TV world.
One question everyone had after watching the trailer is: Where's the Governor? What's his mindset now? Morrissey said he's in a “deeply traumatic place.” His actions have had consequences on his soul and are a burden. He still has some great, complex things to do, but past events have taken a toll. For instance, after killing his own people, who is he?
Kirkman added that one of the things he's most excited about in the new season is, of course, the return of the Governor, but also the presence of Tyreese, who will be stepping up and taking a more central role as the character is integrated into the cast. He did say the best part about adapting the earlier issues of the comics was the opportunity to revisit the Governor.
We asked about how they're bringing in all the new characters from Woodbury, and Gimple mentioned one of them, Zack, will be played by Kyle Gallner (A Haunting in Connecticut, Jennifer's Body) and have a romantic relationship with someone (we're thinking possibly Beth).
But the biggest thing they talked about (without actually talking about it) was a “new threat” being introduced this season. You can't stab it in the face like a zombie or reason with it like a person – it could very well be the “most deadly” thing our survivors have faced yet.
When asked about taking on his new role as showrunner, Gimple said it's really all the same stuff he was already doing, just more of it, with time management being his biggest challenge.
Next we chatted with Lauren Cohan (Maggie), Steven Yeun (Glenn), and Scott Wilson (Hershel). You might have noticed Hershel getting around a bit better than we've previously seen him in the trailer. Wilson confirmed that Hershel is adapting to the loss of his leg and is becoming more agile.
Cohan and Yeun described Maggie and Glenn as facing Season 4 “solidified, united, and together.” Maggie is stepping up a bit more as far as helping out Rick and the others. She's more capable than ever and renewed, with Rick able to rely on her, filling the void left by Andrea's death. Yeun mentioned that for Glenn, it's a more civilized environment they find themselves in, but danger's always around. He's especially anxious to see what happens with Carl and what he's turning into. People are put under pressure, and how they respond to it is not necessarily what you'd think. He believes Glenn reached his breaking point – or at least very close to it – but he has resiliency and is able to come back from it.
Then we were joined by Chad Coleman (Tyreese), Andrew Lincoln (Rick), and exec producers Gale Anne Hurd and David Alpert. Chad said how thrilled he was to film his scene in the trailer, which is of course a total homage to the comics. He described the new season as “epic and gut-wrenching,” with Hurd nodding vigorously in agreement. She said Season 4 is a true hybrid of past seasons: “character-driven with seminal moments of horror, scope, and action but all in service to the characters.”
Lincoln told us with regard to Rick's mental state that they are reeling him back him so he can reclaim what he once was. He's a man “trying to be a single dad in the apocalypse.” We'll get a little sense of the old sheriff he was. The death of Andrea and Carl becoming a murderer are the catalysts to his return to who he was. He's a man “wrestling with lots of things,” but he's a born leader so that hasn't changed but his responsibilities have.
Coleman chimed in that “conflict makes drama,” and we'll see Tyreese wrestle with the rules of engagement around him and how he fits in. He'll be tested as “no one goes unscathed.” Lincoln (despite Hurd kicking him under the table to watch what he's saying) told us to watch out for Episode 3 as Chad does some especially excellent work.
As for how the zombies are evolving, Lincoln warned that they are behaving in different ways. But again, Hurd mentioned how this season there are “threats from within and without.” Lincoln added that we'll see “more horrifying things that have nothing to do with fighting zombies.” The horror element is back more than ever with no safety in the world of the living or the world of the dead. There will be constant tension between deciding whether to keep moving or stay put and attempt to build some normalcy. Andrea's death gave them the opportunity to look at the story from a different angle and approach, and best of all, nothing is a repeat of what we've seen so far.
Our last group was the always entertaining special effects makeup supervisor/exec producer Greg Nicotero and fan favorite Norman Reedus (Daryl). As we already knew, Greg directed the first episode of the new season, and he promised as the episodes unfold, we'll see dozens of new sculpts, puppets, and even some zombie mouths that move. The zombies are decomposing more and getting really nasty. All the new gags are intrinsic to the storytelling.
As for that “new threat” everyone kept mentioned, Nicotero said we'll find out what it is by the end of the first episode.
Reedus was asked how he thought Daryl felt after finding his brother, Merle, only to have him taken away so quickly. He said that he had already accepted Merle's death, and yes, to lose him again hurts, but after being in this world so long, he loses people all the time.
And how does Daryl feel about Tyreese, another Alpha male, joining the group? Reedus said it's not really like that; it's more about how to continue on rather than who's going to be the leader. As for Daryl's leadership style, Reedus said it's different. If things needs to be done, he'll do them, but he's not a “look in your eyes, tell me your feelings” kind of guy.
Nicotero said the overall theme of Season 4 is: What will you do to keep someone you love safe? How far will you go? Norman gave us the two-word description: “sympathetic loss.” Nicotero left us with the reminder that everybody has had to do terrible things to survive. Can you come back from that? Do they make you less human by doing them?
I guess we'll find out come October, and we can't wait!
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