At this year’s San Diego Comic-Con panel for The Walking Dead, there wasn’t a dry eye in Hall H after star Andrew Lincoln confirmed his departure and said good-bye to the fans (more on that below). So of course that was also the first order of business when several members of the cast and crew assembled for a press conference later in the day.
On hand were Lincoln, Norman Reedus, Lauren Cohan, Danai Gurira, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan as well as executive producer and new showrunner Angela Kang, exec producer Scott Gimple, and exec producer/ director/special effects make-up supervisor Greg Nicotero. The Walking Dead Season 9 premieres October 7th.
When asked if maybe Rick could leave the rest of the group without being killed, Andrew reminded us that Lennie James is a perfect example of someone who got out alive – there is “that way” and, of course, “the other, which we’ve done a lot.”
And why did they decide to confirm that he’s leaving considering how top secret things usually are with regard to TWD? He said that obviously, it would have been “perfect for people not to know”; but once they did, they thought it best to just “address the fans directly.”
And might he finally lose his hand like his comics counterpart? Angela refused to divulge any spoilers, saying only, “You have to watch and find out.”
Lincoln brought up how TWD is basically the story of “this man waking up,” and now it’s expanding to a family perspective with Danai saying they hope to “honor Rick” as the show moves forward without him.
Greg mentioned how super proud of the trailer everyone is, and they can’t wait to “come out of the gate” with the new season. It’s another reinvention and “one of the most exciting times on the show… it’s different.”
Scott said the slightly new timeline gives them a chance to focus on some new character combinations. Even he has “never been more of a fan [of the show] than now,” which Greg echoed, praising the “level of commitment” of the actors.
When the dispute between Rick/Michonne and Daryl/Maggie with regard to Negan was brought up, Lauren said that while we might see them in disagreement, they’re still a family. We should expect some “deep and involved scenes” as they work through their differences. Lincoln called it a “fracture.”
Danai explained it as “so much tension… more fraught” than anything since “they want to be on the same page but aren’t.” It’s a “family feud… volatile and dangerous.”
As Nicotero said, “Remember the agreement they had” to kill Negan. Maggie is now “feeling betrayed, like ‘I’ll bide my time, but I’m not done with it.’ Daryl either.”
And speaking of the man we all love to hate, Jeffrey was asked if Negan can be rehabilitated and replied, “I think there is [a chance]. We haven’t filmed anything [like that],” but people should see “a different side of Negan as the season starts.” Look for “big growth” in the character.
As for any influences from new showrunner Kang, Norman said he appreciates that it’s a “very female-driven season [with] stories told in a different way.” He compared it to a western with feeling. He also reiterated that no one can “take Rick’s place. Everyone is playing their same character… there’s no new leader.”
For her part, Angela said S9 narrows the focus to the “core cast” who’ve been with the show for multiple seasons, but the scope of the show is still “huge and epic” but with more screen time for relationship deep dives.
As for the question on every fan’s lips: Will we ever learn what happened to Heath (Corey Hawkins), who disappeared many episodes ago but is still possibly alive somewhere in the Walking Dead universe? Scott said the “best answer is ‘yes’ if circumstances play out right.” It might not be on The Walking Dead or Fear the Walking Dead, but they want to work with Corey again. The way he left, “there’s still a story there.”
With the release of the new trailer came some interesting casting news… Samantha Morton has joined the group as “Alpha.” Someone asked if that meant “Beta” will arrive soon also, and Greg said, “Beta will be close behind,” but the focus is on the first group of new characters announced and what’s hinted at in the trailer.
Another perennial favorite question is the state of Daryl and Carol’s relationship (sadly, Melissa McBride wasn’t there to add her always insightful comments); but Norman mentioned how similar the two characters are… but also “like two magnets.” They will “forever have each other’s backs… it’s real.” They “go on a journey” in S9 that’s “not about them.” They interact, but it “goes down a rabbit hole into something else.” One episode in particular has a “sweet, heartfelt moment” between them.
And our other favorite couple, Rick and Michonne? Lincoln explained that their “dynamic has changed” during this time of relative peace… it’s “deeper, more grounded.” They’re in the “new phase of a loving relationship.”
Signing off, Norman mentioned that in Episode 4 of the new season, “Andy and I have a scene that is epic… it could have gone in so many directions,” but they are both so very proud of the work they did.
Below is Lincoln’s farewell, courtesy of Variety, who also have a few more details from the panel.