And we’re back! With the eighth season premiere (and the series’ one hundredth episode) of ‘The Walking Dead’ airing last night, AMC decided to celebrate with a pair of cast and crew roundtables at New York Comic Con. We were lucky enough to attend both (you can find our coverage of the first roundtable here), and now we’re bringing you the highlights! The second and final ‘Walking Dead’ cast and crew roundtable featured actors Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Norman Reedus, Austin Amelio, and Melissa McBride, along with executive producers David Alpert and Gale Anne Hurd.
In what way do you think ‘The Walking Dead’ reflects our time then – when it first started – and now?
David Alpert (DA): I mean, I think that both Republicans and Democrats, nobody’s addressed the zombie problem in this country. So it’s up to us to pick up where those people have left off.
Gail Anne Hurd (GA): I think the show, obviously, deals with people’s fears. It’s one of the reasons it connects with an audience because people are afraid of financial collapse, they’re afraid of natural disasters. And it’s a show that allows people to connect with those fears, identify with the characters in it, and see if the person they most identify with has the answers or not. I think we’re all looking for answers and I don’t know that the show provides them, but it’s certainly a provocative look at the ethical choices people are making and the consequences from those choices.
Jeffrey, it’s the one year anniversary of the death of Lucille. How do you feel about that?
Jeffrey Dean Morgan (JSM): Death of Lucille!?
In the comic.
JDM: Oh! Oh. Yeah, don’t tell me that, man! Comic. Yeah. I mean, I hope we don’t do it. I hope the show varies enough that we don’t have the death of Lucille in the show. I’m very sad for the Negan of the comics. Poor fellow.
Norman Reedus (NR): How does Lucille die?
Negan beats someone with the bat until it breaks.
DA: Shame on you guys! Read the comic!
JDM: No, we do! You just threw me off. We do read the comic. I thought he meant the one year anniversary of Glenn’s death, and I was like “I feel real bad about it” [laughs] I thought he was going there.
Austin and Norman, what can we expect from you two in season eight?
Austin Amelio (AA): Well in Season Seven, Daryl comes in and he kind of gets an understanding – a little bit – of what I’m going through. But we’re still very much sussing each other out the whole time I think that’ll probably continue for a while.
NR: It’s a cat and mouse game between the two of us for sure. You have sympathy for each other’s characters because you do things in this world that you wouldn’t normally do, and so you understand it if you’ve been in it for a minute. But you go back and forth with, you know, “Can you trust him? Can you not trust him? You’re on our side, you’re not on our side.” It’s a whole thing. It’s like every relationship.
One hundred episodes is quite a milestone. How did you celebrate?
AA: Kept working.
NR: We just never thought it would be this big, and you know, go to a hundred. It’s a really tight family there, and thanks to you guys and thanks to everybody else, we’re still rolling. Thank you to everyone.
JDM: It’s a big thing for any show in this day and age to get a full year, much less do a hundred episodes. I mean, I’m the new guy, but you can’t be more proud. And to still have the passion and the love every single day when you show up to work that you did eight years ago? It’s a pretty cool thing. So I think kudos to the cast and to the entire crew. Everybody’s been there for the full run, so it’s pretty cool.
NR: You know, it’s kind of like your old high school albums when you see all the bad haircuts you had. You know? I get a lot of that.
JDM: No barbers in the apocalypse.
GAH: We have a barber on ‘Fear the Walking Dead’.
Did you have to deal with any fan backlash after taking on the role of Negan?
JDM: The fans have been remarkably generous to myself and Negan, I think. I think they’ve created this character in the comics that people love. I mean that you love to hate. And most people are kind of taken aback by, I think, Negan’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, and what’s to come this year, I think you find out more and more about Negan and a little bit of who he is. But the fans have been remarkably generous to me. I mean, I am amazed. I still get the finger flipped at me all the time and the occasional “We hate you but we love to hate you.” It’s been mostly good though.
Melissa and Norman, both of your characters went through so much last season, both emotionally and physically, losing important members of the group. What do you think your character’s mental state is going into the new season?
NR: Revenge, pretty much. You know, we always have a plan. We have one of those Rick Grimes plans, and sometimes they’re good plans, sometimes they’re not good plans. But I think there’s a bit of going rogue here, possibly, but it’s a one-track mind for Daryl.
Melissa McBride (MM): Yeah. Just fighting. Revenge. Fighting.
What would you say is your character’s biggest regret over the course of the last hundred episodes?
NR: There’s one in this season, for me, that’s pretty gnarly. God, I guess blowing up the bikers with the bazooka started the whole thing? But it was fun to do. That’s the thing about the show, it that there’s so many regrets that.
GAH: I think attacking the Saviors was… That probably set things off. But who knew?
JDM: Yeah, but I’m the bad guy! For me, it was the “Rick, cut Carl’s arm off” scene. That was a rough scene. For me, as a dad, too, you can’t help but think about that stuff. As much fun as I had that whole episode, that was a rough way to go. Even worse than the killing of Glenn and Abraham, I think was trying to make dad cut off his son’s arm. That said, I don’t really take it back. [laughs] It was important for character development.
MM: I kind of wish Carol had not been so snotty to Mrs. Neudermeyer. About the pasta maker. She should take that back. Sorry!
AA: I would like to have done less popping out from behind trees. And shooting people. Mainly this guy. [points at Norman] I feel like maybe I could have come up and whispered something. It was a little intense.
The ‘Walking Dead’ fandom is as diverse as it is passionate. What does it feel like to put something into the world that brings people together who otherwise might not think they have anything in common?
MM: It feels so good. And I meet people that go to some of the conventions and the people that have met each other from around the world that never would have had they not had the show in common.
NR: Same. I remember I tweeted out a link to a person’s hospital bill. They’d had something bad happen to them and their family was trying to raise money for it. This was during season two, I think. By the time I got home, they’d raised all the money, and I was like “Whoa, I can do that?” So from then on I just try to do stuff like that all the time. But the weird part is when they argue. I mean like, you can post a picture on Instagram of a kitten and someone will be like “Dogs are better! What’s wrong with you?” You know what I mean? So I like that side, the other side I don’t totally get. But it’s like Melissa said, I meet people all the time that it’s helped them get through stuff or their lifelong friends or whatever.
GAH: Yes, it’s why we have the hashtag #TWDFamily. It’s not everyone who’s up here, it’s everyone who’s a fan of the show. And as you said, it brings a diverse group of people together. I think we heard that it’s one of the few shows on television that’s equally popular in red and blue states. And I think more than ever we need a dialogue between people, and to find some commonality, to start to repair some of the tears in the fabric of our society. And if this show and the zombie apocalypse and all these great people up here can help do that just by existing and continuing to make the show, I think that’s fantastic.
Norman and Melissa, having been here since the beginning of the show, what does it feel like to finish your hundredth episode and your eighth season? And for Jeffrey and Austin, as relative newcomers, what’s in like being with the original cast for such a monumental episode?
MM: It’s crazy! We were talking about it earlier, that it never even entered the mind that we’d be doing a hundred episodes. And I was just happy to get three, you know?
NR: We have a room back in the studio that has all of the fallen members of our cast from season one on. And like Gail was saying, it’s all of us. They’re all with us for a hundred episodes. Like we know the people who helped us get here and they’re still there with us and still sprinkled throughout the show. But all my best friends are in Georgia, you know? These are like my besties. It’s kind of nuts. It’s great.
JDM: You used “besties” in a sentence.
NR: What’d I say?
JDM: Besties. [laughs]
NR: Did I? [laughs]
GAH: Before you guys got here, I saw Sonequa (Martin-Green, now on ‘Star Trek: Discovery’) walk by and you have this spontaneous… You run up and hug each other. And it’s the same thing with Jon Bernthal and Scott Wilson, I mean it goes on and on and on. It’s not that we feel they’ve ever even left, we just don’t get to see them every day. They’re ‘Walking Dead’ family forever.
JDM: And to join this family, it feels like you’re joining a family. I mean from day one, from the minute Negan walked out of that RV, as horrible as that was, these guys have been nothing but awesome to me. And it was an honor to be a part of their hundredth episode. It was really an honor because that’s a really hard thing to accomplish. And I’m not sure when you’re so close to it that you even realize it. It’s an amazing accomplishment.
AA: It’s extremely inspiring too. They got to a hundred episodes for a reason. When you step onto the set, their work ethic is insane and the bar is held so high. You know, it’s the most physical and emotionally demanding show or acting thing I’ve ever done, and they do it with ease. I feel very blessed to be a part of it. It’s awesome.
AMC finally gave you the greenlight to use the F-word. How pleased are you that Negan finally gets to express himself properly?
JDM: Fucking fuck! It’s a year fucking late! [pauses] That was all I have to add to that. [laughs] I’m real excited. I think we should have had that rule when Negan came out of the trailer.
GAH: There was a time when Rick had to say “Screw you.”
How much are we actually going to hear that? Is it just going to be one episode, one line, or…?
AA: You only get two every year, right?
JDM: Yeah. Boooo. So we’re going to be fighting for them. “Let me say that!”
We’ve heard that this season is going to be really action-packed. Has there been anything that’s stood out to you as making this year particularly spectacular?
NR: This is a huge season coming up. It’s very ambitious, it’s great writing and great acting, and every single episode this season is full-on. It’s a hundred miles an hour. So all the things that you like… This whole season’s peppered with them. It’s exhausting.
GAH: And everyone is bruised.
NR: Yeah. You’ll love it.
MM: There’s been a couple of times with Carol that I’ve said: “Ooh, we’ve never done that before.” That’s fun.
AA: There’s a lot of physical stuff going on. I remember shooting one episode, and the next day was the first time I’ve ever fallen asleep in the makeup chair. I was so exhausted. So it is, it’s going to be a crazy season. That’s probably why I’m so low energy right now.
The eighth season of ‘The Walking Dead’ debuted on AMC on October 22, 2017, with the hit show’s landmark hundredth episode. The new season stars Andrew Lincoln, Norman Reedus, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Melissa McBride, Lauren Cohan, Lennie James, Chandler Riggs, and Katelyn Nacon.
Be sure to check back with ScienceFiction.com for more on ‘The Walking Dead’ as it becomes available!