NYCC 2017: The Cast & Crew of ‘The Walking Dead’ Reflect on Seasons Past, Character Growth & Tease Episode 100!

The Walking Dead has hit a milestone! The season 8 premiere is the show’s 100th episode, which allowed the cast and crew to reflect on seasons past, character growth over the course of 100 episodes, and what fans can expect of season 8. Find out what they had to say at New York Comic Con this year.

Looking back on the show, Norman Reedus never thought it would be this big, crediting audiences with keeping them rolling for so long. He also joked that revisiting old episodes was like looking at “…your old high school albums when you see all the bad haircuts you had.”

Melissa McBride explained some of the show’s magic with, “The show deals with people’s fears, that’s one of the reasons it connects with the audience… it allows people to connect with those fears and identify with the characters in it to see if who they most identify with has the answers… I don’t know that this show provides them, but it’s a provocative look at the consequences of those choices.”

When reflecting on the first 100 episodes, one regret that Lennie James shared about Morgan’s past was that he didn’t put a bullet in his wife’s head. James thinks Morgan would be a different man even though, “…he didn’t pull it for the right reasons and he should’ve pulled it for the right reasons and his boy would’ve been alive right now and his heart would be a little less broken.”

Reedus revealed that there is a regret coming in season 8 that’s pretty gnarly, but his regret as Daryl Dixon may have been blowing up the bikers with the bazooka, which sort of started them all on the path to All Out War. Reedus felt that, “That’s the good thing about the show, there are so many regrets as you’re moving through that it makes all the characters seem really human.”

Meanwhile, Melissa McBride thought attacking the Saviors at the satellite base might have set things off, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. Her one real regret though? “I wish Carol had not been so snotty to Mrs. Neudermeyer about the pasta maker.” Carol had offered to teach the woman to make pasta by hand before she was killed by the Wolves invading Alexandria.

Austin Amelio’s regret was that he would’ve liked to have done less popping out from behind trees and shooting people. He joked that, “I felt like maybe I could’ve come up and whispered something to them, you know?”

Both he and Jeffrey Dean Morgan got the finger from fans after their characters appeared on the show. For Jeffrey Dean Morgan, he found that filming the scene where Negan attempted to force Rick to cut off Carl’s arm was rough for him as a father himself. However, “…that being said, I don’t really take it back. It was important for [Rick’s] character development!”

Not a regret, but some character growth for Rick, Andrew Lincoln felt that, “last season, a new character took over the lead of the show…” He thought that the show needed to break Rick down in order to allow him to come back stronger than ever before.

When Lincoln was asked if Rick would be willing to follow Maggie’s lead after all of these years of being in charge, he hardly blinked when he said that Rick was getting tired. Lincoln said Rick wasn’t a politician, he was a General. His interest is in getting things done so that other people can come in and take over. He doesn’t think Rick is being duplicitous when he says he wants to follow someone else’s lead.

He reminded everyone that Maggie was previously spotted by Deanna as someone who could have helped to run things in Alexandria. Lincoln described her as industrious, loyal, respected, and disciplined and revealed that Rick is ready to hand over the reigns once Negan is taken care of.

On the growth of other characters through the first 100 episodes, Lennie James said, “I don’t think any of the characters set out thinking they were going to be the ones to survive. If you go back and look at the first season, who those characters were at the beginning, you would not have picked out Carol as the one who was most likely to survive.” He reminded audiences that Morgan considers her to be their greatest warrior. Over the course of the show, audiences have discovered the characters’ strengths, desires, and reasons for surviving.

Katelyn Nacon spoke about Enid’s mindset transformation from, “Just Survive Somehow” to surviving somehow for the people she’s met and bonded with. Nacon credits that shift to meeting Glenn and what she learned from him. In fact, there was a scene that got cut out in which Enid told Glenn, “You remind me of my dad. My dad was an asshole.” It was a sweet moment, and a big one for Enid, where she acknowledged Glenn as a father figure and was shown to be opening up to people once more.

Unfortunately, anyone holding out for more backstory from Enid may have to wait for season 9. Nacon made mention that this season is about her progress into adulthood and womanhood. When audiences were introduced to Enid, she was an angsty teenager, but now she’s involved in a community and ready to become a stronger warrior in order to protect them. She hopes to one day learn more about Enid’s past, but for now it’s about moving forward.

McBride felt that there was nothing the Carol of season 1 didn’t know that the Carol of season 8 would know, but if she were pressed to give advice to her past self, it would be, “Hang in there, have faith in yourself, and trust.”

Jeffrey Dean Morgan revealed that, “The fans have been remarkably generous to myself and Negan I think. They’ve created this character in the comics that people love to hate and most people are taken aback by Negan’s charm.”

He teased that, with what’s to come in season 8, audiences will find out more about Negan and who he is. He also thinks that there’s some wisdom to Negan that the world of The Walking Dead needs in order to survive. Of course, he admits, “I still get the finger flipped to me all the time and the we hate you, but we love to hate you.”

Greg Nicotero directed the show’s 100th episode, his 20th overall, and explained that they were aiming for really evocative framing for this season’s episodes and admits that season 8 has some of the hardest episodes they’ve ever shot. Unlike past seasons, a lot of character storylines have been completed in one or two episodes, instead of letting them play out over the entire season.

He spoke more about shooting season 8, the special effects, and when and what type of walkers we might be on the lookout for. While the first episode is tame in setting the stage for All Out War, it does have a lot of nods to previous seasons – including a shot for shot sequence of an earlier episode’s scene.

There are plenty of callbacks and easter eggs for obsessive fans and a few tribute walkers that can be expected in the first three or four episodes alone. The cast and crew of The Walking Dead put in a lot of effort to reward audiences for sticking with them over 100 episodes.

According to Andrew Lincoln, “where we left off last season is an indication of where we’ll go this season.” Season 8 is the pay-off for last season. He also revealed that, “This season, more than any other, I’ve been really nervous about certain scenes. And to be nervous after 8 years is a testament to the writers room.”

When asked about Old Man Grimes, or “Future Rick” with the beard from the promos, Lincoln teased that, “maybe he’s just letting it all hang out.” The beard was designed by Nicotero, who found it interesting to see how Lincoln handled a new physical transformation to his character.

Austin Amelio and Norman Reedus discussed what audiences can expect of their characters in season 8, with Amelio teasing that Daryl gets an understanding of what Dwight is going through. Reedus explains it more as a cat and mouse game, going back and forth on whether or not they can trust Dwight. He also joked, “It’s like every relationship.”

Melissa McBride thinks it’s crazy that they’ve made it to 100 episodes, when she was so happy just to get three. She also made sure to remind audiences that past cast members never really leave the show, they just don’t get to see them every day now. They’ll be in The Walking Dead family forever. To add to that, Reedus said, “…we know the people who helped us get there and they’re still with us, they’re sprinkled throughout the show.”

Both Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Austin Amelio, who joined the show in later seasons, felt extremely honored and blessed to be a part of such an amazing accomplishment. Morgan felt like he was joining a family, despite the antagonistic nature of his character, and Amelio finds the work ethic and demands of the show to be insane in a good way.

Lincoln didn’t shy away from explaining Rick’s mindset going into season 8: “He’s ready for battle. Rick is very much like a shark, he needs to keep moving, otherwise he dies.” Rick begins and ends the season on his knees, but at the end of season 7, he has made the choice to put everything on the line to never bow down again. It was an incredibly emotional journey and Lincoln shared that he was happy to be playing that man and not last season’s Rick.

Nacon shared that Enid is trying to bring Glenn’s wisdom into her life, to take in everything that he taught her, in the upcoming season.

Both Norman Reedus and Melissa McBride agree that their characters have the same mindset going into season 8: revenge. Daryl has a one-track mind in following the Rick Grimes Plan and Carol is ready to fight because she has to. McBride claimed, “It doesn’t mean she wants to,” to which Jeffrey Dean Morgan reminded her, “You don’t have to fight! You can come and make cookies over here any time!”

Norman Reedus commented on season 8 by saying that it’s “a huge season, it’s very ambitious.” Every episode is full-on 100 miles per hour of all of the things audiences love. McBride joked that, “Everyone is bruised!” and Amelio revealed that after shooting one episode, he fell asleep in his make-up chair for the first time because he was so exhausted. It’s a crazy, intense season.

And finally, the most important issue that The Walking Dead will cover in season 8 will be the f-word. Sadly, AMC is only allowing two for the entire season, to which Jeffrey Dean Morgan jokes that they’re going to be fighting over them (“Carol will get it and she’ll say, ‘Fucking cookies!’”), and Gale Anne Hurd reminded everyone of the time Rick had to say, “They’re screwing with the wrong people,” instead of, “They’re <fucking with the wrong people.”

But Jeffrey Dean Morgan might have summed it up best when he said, “Fuck yes. Fucking fuck. It’s a year fucking late! That was all I got. I’m real excited, I think we should’ve had that rule when Negan came out of the trailer.”

The Walking Dead Season 8 Premieres
Tonight on AMC at 9 PM!