BEVERLY HILLS – Friday (March 1) night’s panel for “The Walking Dead” was one of this year’s only PaleyFest panels that wasn’t live-streamed to the world. The reason? Fathom Events and the Paley Center are bringing the panel to movie theaters next Thursday night.
In order to make sure that theater-goers get value for their ticket bucks, the “Walking Dead” panel was short on footage and long on talk. The audience at the Saban Theatre got to see the first 10 minutes of Sunday’s episode and some behind-the-scenes DVD extras, but a solid 80+ minutes was spent on Q&A, with moderator Chris Hardwick orchestrating the bulk of that discussion.
That’s far more Q&A time than you get at typical PaleyFest panels, which sometimes can yield well under an hour of conversation from the stage. From an audience standpoint, that’s terrific. From a blogger’s standpoint, that’s a challenge, because I have to synthesize all of that information down to some bite-sized highlights.
That’s why if you click through, you’ll get 20 Things We Learned from the “Walking Dead” PaleyFest, featuring facts, quotes and other tidbits. If you aren’t caught up on “Walking Dead” or you’re thinking of paying to see the panel theatrically, turn back!
[Note: Some of these things you almost certainly know if you’re a “Walking Dead” fan, have tuned in to “Talking Dead,” have caught previous PaleyFest or Comic-Con panels for the show or have read interviews done by the myriad reporters — myself included — who write about the show.]
20) Sunday’s episode starts off *really* well. With the exception of The Governor’s attack on The Prison, I haven’t loved the first three episodes in the season’s second half, but the pre-credit sequence to Sunday’s episode is masterfully nihilistic and darkly hilarious, one of the best pre-credit sequences the show has ever done. The first post-credit scene ended with an action beat that had the PaleyFest crowd cheering. The rest of the episode may stink. Dunno. But things start well.
19) We don’t even try for “Walking Dead” spoilers anymore. Normally at events like this, either the moderator or the audience will attempt to stealthily elicit some kind of inside information on what’s coming. “The Walking Dead” has five more episodes this spring and after the 80-minute panel, I don’t know a *thing* that’s coming, other than a few very broad character arc hints. But… honestly… Is it a spoiler that Carl is going to continue to evolve?
18) “This season is really just the beginning of [Carl’s] journey.” Those are Robert Kirkman’s words. What? You thought “Walking Dead” was going to kill Carl? Nah. “Carl really is one of my favorite aspects of the comic and the show,” Kirkman says. “Watching this kid grow and change and evolve the way that he has and go from this kid who’s almost a burden to this kid who’s now a child soldier is just this really cool exploration of the world of ‘The Walking Dead,’ seeing how people grow or change over time.” Who would have thought that about Carl after Season 2? Not many TV viewers. “There’s a lot of cool stuff ahead for him,” Kirkman says.
17) Rick may be nearing a turning point. Well FINALLY, you’re probably saying. It’s been a tough season for Rick. He’s been answering phantom phone calls. His wife died under probably the least pleasant circumstances imaginable. Now he’s seeing her everywhere. Things got so bad that last week, Carl suggested maybe he shouldn’t be leading anymore. Ouch. Lincoln notes, “To be called out by your son is pretty tough at the best of times — thought my son is three and he calls me out many times — and it’s a bit of a moment where he realizes he has to step up. Something happens this episode this weekend that holds a mirror up to Rick… and starts to realize he has to come back from his wounds.”
16) Don’t come to a “Walking Dead” panel if you don’t know what has already happened. Hardwick was discussing Lori’s shocking death earlier this season and several people in the balcony were shocked, leading Hardwick to very aggressively shout down their decision to come to the panel in the dark on major plotpoints. [I think it’s possible that the outraged people thought Hardwick was referring not to the character of “Lori,” but to Laurie Holden and her character Andrea. He wasn’t.]
15) Andrea definitely wanted to kill The Governor in the last episode. “Let’s be clear up here. When she goes back and she sleeps with him, it’s not because she’s having a weak female moment and thinks he’s handsome. She really thought that she could follow through with Carol’s plan… I think that Andrea thought that she could do, tried to do it and I think sleeping with her disgusted him and I think that she woke up and it’s one thing to kill someone in self-defense and another to stand over someone as they’re sleeping in cold blood. Andrea’s never killed a human being before. You can call that weak, or you can call that strong,” Laurie Holden maintains.
14) Ladies love Norman Reedus. The emergence of Reedus and Daryl as the stealth “Walking Dead” sex symbol was slow and gradual, but it may be reaching a crescendo. Reedus received by far the loudest cheers during the introductions and throughout the panel and definitely received the most sexual harassment during the panel. He continues to see amused, bemused and a little embarrassed by all of the attention, but he also had some fun with it, making “Call me” gestures to several female admirers.
13) Reedus believes Daryl believes there’s good in Meryl, or at least that’s what he hopes. “He plays it this way where there’s a sensitivity to him, which I’m trying to play as well,” Reedus says of co-star Michael Rooker. “He knows there’s good in his brother, but then again he’s tried to kill half the people up on stage. I think he hopes,” Reedus says. Of course, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t potential tensions still brewing. “Daryl’s becoming the man he never would have become if this tragedy didn’t happen and having people rely on him for the first time is sorta giving him a sense of self-worth and that’s something that I think makes his brother a little jealous, something his brother wants that he’s never going to get,” Reedus explains.
12) Kirkman is slightly more bothered by killing TV characters than characters in the comic. “When we decide to kill a character in the comic book, it’s like ‘Eh. Not gonna be writing or drawing that imaginary thing anymore.’ It’s no big deal though sometimes it’s a little upsetting,” Kirkman says. “On the show, there are real people involved and this cast is a close family and taking elements out of that is difficult to do, but that’s the story we’re telling and we all know that that’s what’s required of us and we get through it somehow.”
11) The cast has Death Dinners to say farewell to departed characters/stars. “We have this ritual where we rent out part of a restaurant and we have a Death Dinner and we honor the beautiful person and character who was part of the show,” Laurie Holden explains. “I think we need to find a new venue, though, because every time we got, we get a fake cake and we’re like, ‘Yeah, it’s so-and-so’s birthday’ and we all come out sobbing. It’s like every time and I don’t think that’s normal behavior for a birthday party.”
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10) Emily Kinney is surprisingly wise. Asked if the frequent deaths of characters leave the actors never feeling safe, Kinney — she plays frequently singing Beth — was put on the spot first and she replied, “I just take it in steps. Each episode is like its own amazing thing. It’s just like the characters, you never know what’s around the corner, so I guess you just use is… So you just really make the most of every moment you do get to have.” The other panelists and the crowd clapped for her and declined to attempt to add to her answer.
9) Scott Wilson is not-so-surprisingly wise. Scott Wilson has been around for a long time. I mean, he was in “In the Heat of the Night” and “In Cold Blood” and “The Right Stuff” and he looks like Santa Claus crossed with a hippie college professor who also grows pot on the side. So when the previous question about never feeling safe got to him, first he complimented Emily Kinney and then he referenced John Donne’s Meditation 17, specifically the famous line “therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” He didn’t get the quote *exactly* right, but close enough!
8) Steven Yeun’s thinks Glenn’s dream situation involves Maggie and “a field full of food.” Huh? Well, things have been rough for Glenn and Lauren Cohan’s Maggie in recent episodes, after the horror they experienced in Woodbury. Glenn has had particular difficulties relating to Maggie and knowing how to respond to what happened to her. “He thinks that that’s how he’s supposed to be a man, but he’s still young and that love is still young and what’s great, though, is a love like that is hard to keep down, so that’s cool,” Yeun says. He adds, “In this perfect world what would happen is that the Governor would be dead and he would be happy with Maggie in a field full of food.” That came fairly early in the panel and was followed by many “field full of food” jokes.
7) Andrew Lincoln doesn’t know what Internet memes are. The very first question from the audience asked if Lincoln was amused or aware of the various Internet memes involving Rick, specifically “Stuff and Things.” Let’s just say that no, Lincoln is not aware.
6) Kirkman says characters from the “Walking Dead” game are unlikely to enter the TV universe. “I feel like, to a certain extent, having them cross over in each different one would sorta take away from the uniqueness of the television show or the video game or the comic, so I guess the short answer is ‘No,’ but who knows?”
5) Laurie Holden has heard your concerns about Andrea’s decisions this season. “Yes. I get it daily. I get it at the gas station. I get it at the Coffee Bean. Walking down the street. I get it at airport security… I get it all day,” Holden says. “I am protective of Andrea,” she admits.
4) Reedus wants Carol to make the first move. Back to Norman Reedus for a second. He knows that some of you want Daryl and Carol to make out and not just because their names rhyme. “I like these two damaged people graviting towards each other,” Reedus says. He adds, “If it happens, it might happen… I don’t want to make the first move.”
3) Robert Kirkman is not a world traveler. Talking about the pleasure of presenting the show to crowds like this, Andrew Lincoln recalled an experience with fans at an event in Madrid. He described this as the only time Kirkman had ever left the country. I don’t know if this is true, but Andrew Lincoln is British and therefore sounds trustworthy when he isn’t discussing taxing our tea and tobacco.
2) The show used to give Sarah Wayne Callies nightmares. One of the last questions from the audience wanted to know if walkers pursue the stars in their dreams. No. Or at least nobody active wanted to cop to such nocturnal insecurities. But Sarah Wayne Callies used to have nightmares, they all agreed, throwing the absent former co-star under the bus. Holden sometimes gets freaked out driving back from set at night. Danai Gurira got freaked out when she initially watched the series in a marathon before starting work. And as for Steven Yeun… Does he have nightmares? “No. I ain’t no bitch,” he cracked.
1) Is it possible The Governor is going to be the true hero here? Well, no. Probably not. But producer David Alpert is willing to defend the character. “What we see is that Rick and the Governor are facing the same problems — They’re both leaders, they’re both trying to keep the communities alive in tough times. Right now, certainly where we are, The Governor is doing a better job,” Alpert says. “Rick’s sorta falling apart. He’s in an unstable emotional state. I think The Governor, there is something in him that’s good. I think there’s a part of him that wants to take care of people and be that father figure. I feel like the situation with the zombie apocalypse has just unleashed the darkness and this darkness has allowed him to grow and prosper.”
Well there you go.
A last note would regard something we *didn’t* learn from the panel. Noobody said a single word about the recent “Walking Dead” showrunner change. I don’t want to imply that this is a sign that the panel was moderated by somebody under the employ of AMC, but it was something that could have come up in a number of different non-comfortational ways. For example, Hardwick could have just asked what fans can expect from Scott S. Gimple as the new showrunner. Easy-peasy. I know this wasn’t a press event, where that kind of thing would have been harped on endlessly, but somewhere between “endlessly” and “ignored completely” is the quantity I would have wanted it talked about.
Stay tuned for more PaleyFest coverage — live-blogs for panels, probably — on HitFix.