Photo credit: JM Wong for Geek Crusade
(L-R) Andrew Lincoln, Norman Reedus and Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Photo credit: JM Wong for Geek Crusade

The Walking Dead returns this week! After a six-month wait, we finally get to find out just who it was Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) was pounding with his trusty baseball bat Lucille.

Back in late July, I attended a press breakfast for The Walking Dead during the San Diego Comic Con. While the cast and creators were understandably tight-lipped about who saw the wrong end of Lucille, they did talk a lot about where their characters were at the end of season 6.

1That season 6 cliffhanger

Josh McDermitt takes the mike. Photo credit: JM Wong for Geek Crusade

One of the first things the cast was keen to talk about was how all of the actors stayed around to support everyone else during the shooting of that last scene, even if the camera wasn’t on them in that moment. According to Josh McDermitt (Eugene): “We wanna support each other, we know it makes the show better.”

Fan favourite Danai Gurira (Michonne) said that she was torn about the finale because it was hard to judge the group, even if they had brought that fate upon themselves.

“The thing that always drew me to this show…is that it is an exploration of a war zone in so many ways. It’s really hard to have really simplistic moral standards in dealing with a world this hostile…They didn’t realise the magnitude of who they were up against.”

Even with that in mind, Andrew Lincoln (Rick) and Norman Reedus (Daryl) both felt that their respective characters were not in a good place, mentally speaking. Lincoln described Rick as feeling “powerless for the first time since he woke up to the apocalypse”, and Reedus said Daryl knew he had slipped up a bit and felt guilty about it.

At that point, showrunner Scott Gimple was quick to jump in and defend Daryl, pointing out that the way Daryl felt was indicative of how far he had come along in his personal journey.

But this being The Walking Dead, don’t expect closure anytime soon. Producer and makeup designer Greg Nicotero said that the shoot for the Season 7 opener was so intense, it was the hardest shoot they had ever done by far in the series. Man, how much worse could it get for Rick and co?

2The cruelty of Negan

Lauren Cohan speaks. Photo credit: JM Wong for Geek Crusade

In person, Morgan seemed really laid back and cool, a far cry from the menacing Negan he plays on the show. He admitted that Negan’s first scene was hard to act, but other than that, the role itself felt like a dream come true for him. “It feels great to play Negan,” he said. “It’s the most fun I’ve ever had in my life, and it’s f***ing horrible for everyone else, but it is a blast.”

While answering a separate question during the Q&A, Morgan mentioned that from Negan’s perspective, he’s not a bad guy. Even though there is a sense that he’s likely to kill you at any given moment, Morgan was confident that the character has something about him that draws viewers in. Creator Robert Kirkman claims that this is because Morgan portrays Negan in a way that is “so warm and engaging, while threatening and terrifying”.

Even Gurira added that there is a horrible logic to Negan that is “really disconcerting and titillatingly complex”.

3One big family

Photo credit: JM Wong for Geek Crusade

The cast of The Walking Dead are famously close, and with good reason. Both Gurira and Lauren Cohan (Maggie) paid tribute to the support and love they get from their cast members.

Reedus may have put it the best when he said: “If you’re gonna care about people in the apocalypse, if they don’t care about each other, you’re not gonna feel it either”. Which was a point that I never really considered until I heard him say it, and he’s right. At the heart of it, TWD tells the story of people who are desperately trying to connect and stay together in the middle of hell, and it’s the emotional connections that really make The Walking Dead such compelling viewing.

Lincoln also talked at length about how none of the cast knew that the show would be so well-received at the beginning, and that they all had to take a leap of faith together. He also remembers the first time the cast presented a trailer at Comic Con:

“It’s cool being back here because I remember vividly the first time the trailer was shown 7 years ago, and I felt sick and nauseous…After 30 seconds I heard the noise from the hall and it was a resounding sort of positive reaction. I understood what Comic Con was about, I understood what our show was about in that moment, and the responsibilities we have to [the press] and the fans and the rest of the cast. It’s a beautiful journey that we’re on, man. I love it and I love the people on each side of me.”

4It still hurts when a character dies

Photo credit: JM Wong for Geek Crusade

Several journalists tried to ask sneaky questions in an attempt to tease out more information about who Negan killed, but the cast was having none of it. When asked about whether they still had a party for an actor whose character had died on the show, showrunner Gimple didn’t offer much information about the character that Negan dispatched, except that it was “an intense night” when they had that party.

And as for the most gut wrenching death scene in the entire series, most seemed to agree with Reedus’s answer of Sofia, when they opened up Hershel’s barn and realised that she had turned into a walker. However, Michael Cudlitz (Sgt. Abraham Ford) said that Hershel’s death affected him the most as he was still a fan at that time.

5Hindsight is 20/20

Photo credit: JM Wong for Geek Crusade

But the best reaction from the cast came when asked what advice their character, at this point in time, would give themselves at the start of the apocalypse. Amusingly, most of their answers seemed to revolve around the amount of clothes they had to wear in the Georgia heat.

Andrew Lincoln: Shane had sex with your wife.
Jeffrey Dean Morgan: Get a lighter jacket around the summer time.
Lauren Cohan: Wear shorts.
Michael Cudlitz: Don’t stop anywhere. Just don’t stop.
Chandler Riggs: Wear less layers. Not trying to trash the wardrobe [department], they do a great job but they put us in like, five layers of clothes. So many layers!
Greg Nicotero: But if you get bitten by a walker and they can’t bite through all the layers, you’d live. Even though the actors are sweating their asses off!

The Walking Dead Season 7 premieres on Monday, October 24 at 9pm (same day as the U.S.) on FOX (StarHub TV Ch 505 & Singtel TV Ch 330).