"The Walking Dead" cast descended upon the Big Apple like the zombie apocalypse at New York Comic Con to discuss the shows return and the upcoming 100th episode milestone. Cast members Andrew Lincoln, Norman Reedus, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Melissa McBride, and Lennie James along with show runners Gale Anne Hurd and Greg Nicotero met with members of the press to discuss hitting the milestone, what fans of the hit series can expect in the coming season and the show's enduring appeal.
Why is the horror genre so well received particularly on television right now?
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Hurd: I think we live in fearful times. And I think this is a safe way to get some sort of catharsis from a world that seems to throwing things at us that we don’t know how to deal with. In horror, you can get that jolt of adrenaline and then you realize actually I'm safe. I'm at home. I'm watching my computer or TV and your problems seem tamer...at least for a little while.
Andrew can you talk to the challenges of playing Rick last season through all of the emotional ups and downs the character went through?
Lincoln: Essentially a new character took over as lead of the show once Neegan was introduced. I think they needed to break me down in order to come back stronger. I feel what's coming up is the payoff for last season, certainly for Rick. The thing I love about doing the job is it's eight years and 100 episodes and they keep pushing and pulling and hurting this man in new and fresh and unimaginable ways. I think they just enjoy watching me cry.
What version of Rick will the fans see this season?
Lincoln: I think Rick is ready for battle. He's very much like a shark in that he needs to keep moving or he dies. And I think kicking Neegan's ass is as good a reason as anything to get him focused. He's a man that is willing to die and put everything on the line now so in that sense he's free. It’s a basically the polar opposite of the Rick at the beginning of last season and I’m sooo happy to be playing that man and not last season's Rick.
What issues do you face keeping the show fresh after eight seasons?
Nicotero: We have tried to change up the style because we want it to look fresh. Whether it's the storytelling or visual effects we’re constantly aware of what we’ve done in the past and we're constantly trying to top ourselves. And it's hard to do. But the actors bring it and we have an obligation to try and up the game for the show because it's been eight years and we want people to not feel the show is suffering from any sort of viewer fatigue.
Can you talk about the character development of your roles over the course of the show?
James: I don’t think any of the characters set out thinking they’re going to be the ones who survive. People have evolved. If you go back... now that we’re at the 100th episode... if you go back to the first season and look at who those characters were at the beginning you would not have picked out Carol for example as one who is most likely to survive... the one that Morgan describes as "our greatest warrior." But that’s what she's become. If it happened now we don’t know who would survive the zombie apocalypse. We don’t know what it would bring out of us. And that’s whats most exciting about playing the characters. You get to discover their strengths.
What advice would season eight Carol have for season one Carol?
McBride: There's really nothing that early Carol didn’t know that Carol now knows... except maybe she just didn’t have the faith in herself. I would just tell her to hang in there. Have faith in yourself and trust.
Will Carol still have moral struggles with jumping into the war against Neegan?
McBride: We may see a little bit of both. She’ll fight because she has to, but that doesn’t mean she wants to.
Morgan: (Laughs) You don't have to fight you know. You could... just make cookies.
Jeffrey what has the fan reaction been like considering the brutal way your character was introduced?
Morgan: The fans have been remarkably generous to myself and Neegan. I think they've created this character in the comics that people love to hate and most people are taken aback by Neegan's charm and there is some wisdom to him that this world needs. And he does fit in. His introduction, as brutal as it is, I think the fans have been remarkably generous to me. I am amazed. I mean I still get the finger flipped to me from time to time and the occasional 'We hate you, but we love to hate you.' But it's been mostly been good.
Anything your character did last season you wish you could take back?
Morgan: For me it was the scene where he pushed Rick to cut off Carl's arm. Man, that was rough scene. For me as a dad too you can't help but think about that stuff every now and again. That was a rough way to go. Even rougher than the killing of Glenn and Abraham. That being said (laughs) I don’t really take it back it. It was important for character development. And I'm talking about Rick's character development.
For those of you that have been on this show from the beginning what's the journey been like?
Lincoln: We’re very lucky in that we have such an amazing group of people that work in front of and behind the camera. And one of the luxuries of this job is that you feel free to try fail. It’s a safe space. It's one of those environments where you get to flex your muscles because it's not just a procedural drama. You get to deal with big issues of life and death.
McBride: It feels really crazy. It wasn't a thought in our heads we'd get to 100 episodes. I remember thinking I'd be happy if we got to three.
Reedus: We we have a room back in the studios that has all the fallen members of our cast from season one on and its we know we didn't get here alone. It was them and more than anything the fans that made it possible.
Jeffrey: It’s a big thing in this day and age for any show to take a full year order much less do 100 episodes. I'm the new guy but you can’t be more proud and still to have the passion and the love every single day to show up to work that you did eight years ago is a pretty cool thing.
"The Walking Dead" returns to AMC on Oct. 22.