The cast and producers from AMC’s zombie drama THE WALKING DEAD, reflected on death in the post-apocalyptic world during the show’s bloody sophomore second year and looked to the future Friday during a lively panel at The TV Academy in North Hollywood:
AMC’tv’s THE WALKING DEAD Showrunner Glen Mazzara, EP/comic creator Robert Kirkman, EP Gale Anne Hurd and co-EP/effects supervisor Greg Nicotero were joined by cast members Andrew Lincoln (Rick), Jon Bernthal (Shane), Sarah Wayne Callies (Lori), Laurie Holden (Andrea), Steven Yeun (Glenn), Lauren Cohan (Maggie) and Scott Wilson (Hershel) during the two-hour panel where they looked back on the season that was and dropped cryptic teasers about Season 3.
Here are some highlights which do include small-ish to rather large spoilers for season 3. It, as it has to some degree all along, depends on if you’ve read the comic book(s) by Robert Kirkman or not. It’s more fun if you do.
Jon Bernthal reveals that Shane’s death was always in the cards, Dale’s offing was “one for the walkers” and Season 3 will continue to take twists and turns from the comic series.
Shane’s death was always in the cards. “This end was always going to happen,” Bernthal said, noting early conversations with former showrunner Frank Darabont about Shane’s trajectory allowed him to be strategic with the way he played the character who walked the line between hero and villain for two seasons.
Shane Walsh (Jon Bernthal) in Episode 12Photo by Gene Page/AMC
Getting the call to go see makeup artist/co-producer Nicotero is the kiss of death for a character–unless you get a last-minute stay like Scoot Wilson did.. Bernthal and Wilson both recalled getting the word that they needed to pay a visit to the effects whiz to be outfitted with makeup as their characters were being killed off. “When actors get a call from me it’s, ‘Oh s—!’” Nicotero said with a laugh. The cast, meanwhile, have a “death dinner” to bid farewell their on-screen family members after shooting the episode.
Producers reaffirmed that they opted not to kill off Hershel as they’d originally intended because it didn’t move the story forward.
“We were just stepping over a body; it felt too violent, too gratuitous,” Mazzara said. But nobody told Wilson as much as he’d already had the conversation with Nicotero that he was being axed and the actor just continued to get scripts. “I said, ‘It’s been fun,’” Wilson said, to which Bernthal immediately joked: “That’s how you stay on? You say, ‘It’s been fun’?…
Dale’s death was one for the walkers:
Mazzara noted the series “really needed a zombie death” as it was running the risk of being safe and needed to have someone killed at the hands of the undead.
“Dale was the only worthy sacrifice; people would see Shane’s death coming but no one would see Dale’s death coming,” Mazzara told the audience, with Kirkman noting the loss of the group’s moral compass added more suspense to Shane’s eventual death in the following episode.
The loss of the character — whose comic counterpart outlived him by a mile — will continue to be felt, mostly by Andrea and Glenn, Holden said.
A fun fact: the scene in which Dale died wasn’t rehearsed, at the request of episode director Nicotero.
A second fun fact: The actor playing ‘Dale’ is one of fired TWD showrunner Frank Darabont‘s stable of actors. He’s worked for Darabont on multiple projects and when he heard of the sudden firing of his friend last July he asked to be released from the show (from which we have no reason to believe he would have been killed anytime soon). It is said that Jeffery DeMunn reconsidered his assertion and agreed to stay on The Walking Dead but by then, the story goes, he had already been written out. Interesting too as it is explained that they ‘needed one for the walkers’ when that very one could have be “Hershel.’
Carl is the anchor of the series, Callies said. Rick and Lori’s continued struggle over how to raise their son in a post-apocalyptic world remains a source of contention for the on-screen couple…. “Every day it’s a sense of being unearthed and uprooted from yourself.”
…Calling Shane’s death a “necessary execution,” Lincoln says the troubled couple are not at a particularly healthy point right now and questioned whether Rick has a breaking point. “His strength and resilience is extraordinary,” he said…
The “Ricktatorship” was the end game for Season 2. After spending the first half of the season playing by Hershel’s rules and rounding up zombies to keep alive in the barn, Rick had to make the transition from naive to practical. “You have to keep evolving,” Lincoln said. “How do we define ourselves? How do we re-establish humanity?”
Kirkman is testing AMC to see if the cable network has a limit with how disgusting the zombie kills can be. “It’s my goal to get to that point, I want to know that limit,” he said… “The good stuff is coming,” according to Kirkman. “For comic fans, they know the good stuff is coming, the really intense stuff with Michonne, The Governor and Woodbury [prison] really defined the comic book series and we haven’t even gotten to that stuff yet,” he said. “So now that we’re getting to that stuff in Season 3, it’s really going to change the show quite a bit.”
T-Dogg (IronE Singleton) will continue to trend on Twitter during every episode — “in a good way,” Mazzara said. Acknowledging that the fan-favorite character is considered to have been underused this season, the showrunner explained that
T-Dogg has been intentionally quiet as he watches the insanity unfold around him.
The epic way in which Dale died in the comic series could still make its way onto the AMC drama — for another character. In the long-running Image series, Dale winds up being bitten by a walker, kidnapped by cannibals and having his infected leg cut off and consumed before being set free and dying at Andrea’s side. “There will be cases where something memorable like that will be displaced and given to somebody else,” Kirkman said. “I’ll hint that that actually happens in our first episode back in Season 3 — there’s something memorable that happened to a character in the comic is happening in the show in our first episode back and it’s not the same character.”
Daryl (Norman Reedus) will continue to grow…as… Rick’s right-hand man in Season 3. “It’s interesting to put him in a position of power,” Nicotero said.
The Walking Dead returns in October 2012.