Wednesday, October 19, 2011

NYCC '11: The Walking Dead & Season Premiere

The Dead have returned and Grateful they are not.  In the wake of New York Comic Con we also have a brand new season of AMC’s The Walking Dead to celebrate.  This weekend I got to see the cast, writers and effects artists all talk about the new season, and also got to watch the premiere last night along with the rest of America.  I’ll give you the rundown of what went on at the panel, including some insight into the future of the series, then we’ll also take a look at the first episode of season two.

The panel started out with show & book writer Robert Kirkman and producer Gale Anne Hurd.  They talked a bit about how well the first season was received by fans both new and old, and Robert talked about how writing for the series has opened up some opportunities for more or different development of the characters and story.  One thing that was said last year before the series aired was that the main story from the book would be followed very closely and be used as a roadmap for the series, but some of Mr. Kirkman’s comments this weekend sounded as if he was distancing himself from those comments.  It’s clear that they are still loosely following the book’s plot, but he did comment on how much fun it has been to rethink situations and how the group would react.

The panel also included the show's makeup and zombie effect wizard Greg Nicotero who talked about his process for creating the zombies for the show.  He talked about how they have a group of actors that they reuse as zombies and just use the prosthetics and makeup to make them different for each episode.  He also described how he sees people in his day to day life who would make great zombies and he has to resist the urge to say it out loud.  Kirkman and Hurd both gave high praise to the effects for the new season and from what we’ve already seen the show may be well on their way to their second effects Emmy.

The cast, writer, producer and effects artist of The Walking Dead at NYCC 2011

Next they brought the cast on stage.  In attendance was Jon Bernthal (Shane Walsh), Laurie Holden (Andrea), Steven Yeun (Glenn), Lauren Cohan (Maggie), Chandler Riggs (Carl Grimes) & Norman Reedus (Daryl Dixon).  There was a lot of talk about how it’s been to work together and what is coming for their characters, but by far the person who stole the show was 12 year old Chandler Riggs.  Chandler talked about how much he’d learned during the first season and how he looked forward to playing a much more active role in the second season.  He talked about how this season will see Carl transition from a scared young boy, to someone who is trying to find their place in the terrifying new world they live in.  He was also very complimentary of his fellow cast-mates; he was regularly thanking them and saying how great they were to work with.  While every answer he gave was met with “oohs” and “awws” from the crowd, he also would respond to that with more heartfelt sincerity.  The panel moderator, Chris Hardwick, noted that Chandler was also probably the most eloquent of the speakers there.  It was also fun to note that throughout the panel while other cast members were talking, Chandler and Norman (Daryl) were talking and taking pictures with their phones.  It was a very funny interaction to see and showed a real companionship between the two.

The only real companionship you can have with a 12 year old.
The other news that came from the cast was the introduction of new cast member Lauren Cohan, who will be playing Maggie.  Without giving too many spoilers, it has already been said that the second season will focus on “The Farm”, which is where we’ll meet Maggie.  It was also hinted that this season would be a very exciting one for Glenn, fans of the book gave lots of hollers at this.  She said that joining the cast has been like “jumping into a tornado”, but has been a great experience.

Lauren Cohan: She's really excited to be on the show, or...
practicing her zombie face.

So, we got to hear lots about the new season and all of that got me real psyched up for the premiere last Sunday.  Episode 201 was a special 90 minute premiere that picked up pretty much right after last season.  Now I won’t give any spoilers, but I will give my impressions as a fan.  This episode rocked!  It had everything that was promised and then some.  The thing about the book that was always the most appealing was that it wasn’t about zombies, but about people living in a dangerous world where society has collapsed.  This episode was strongly focusing on each member of the group’s ability to cope and survive.

Andrea and Shane were probably the two people most affected by the events of the first season and they’ve already started to make some major decisions based on what they’ve been through.  There’s a lot to look forward to this season, with new characters and more tales of survival.  Considering how the story has continued to branch out from the book, even I can’t be sure what will happen next.  I’ll be right there along with the rest of the fans wondering who will be the next to go and when the next zombie will attack.  

I’ll leave you with one last comment from the panel, it’s actually a question I’ve heard at every Walking Dead panel I’ve been to.  When will we see Michone?  Well, fans of the book ought to know that staying in continuity would mean we still have a ways to go, but Robert Kirkman did hint that we may at least hear something from her later this season.  Keep your swords sharp and make sure your zombie escape plans are ready, it’s going to be another wild ride.

The Walking Dead airs Sunday nights at 10pm ET on AMC.

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