If you’re worried that The Walking Dead can’t possibly live up to the hype surrounding its upcoming Season 7 premiere, you can stop.
“It’s absolutely worth the wait. It’s a fantastic start,” executive producer Robert Kirkman promised at the AMC hit’s San Diego Comic-Con panel on Friday.
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After Jeffrey Dean Morgan hit the stage with his character’s murderous baseball bat Lucille and greeted everyone with, “Are we pissing our pants yet, motherf—kers?” the new series regular talked about how his brief appearance in the Season 6 finale has led to him being stopped on the street more than ever before in his career.
Of course, on screen, Morgan is, to put it mildly, less approachable. All of Alexandria is gunning for Negan. And he doesn’t have any fans at The Hilltop, either. So “we’re heading toward one of the greatest showdowns we’ve had on this show since Terminus,” leading man Andrew Lincoln said.
Beyond resolving the “Who did Negan kill?” cliffhanger, the upcoming episodes will reveal where Tara and Heath have been and introduce “more people living in the apocalypse” – of both the “friend and foe” variety, EP Gale Anne Hurd previewed. Also coming down the pike are new, nonhuman creatures and “different types of leadership,” which could be “benevolent or not so benevolent.”
Among the newcomers is the eagerly anticipated King Ezekiel, played by Teen Titans Go! voice actor Khary Payton. The Kingdom’s leader will look “a bit younger [and] more svelte” than his comic book counterpart, given Payton’s casting. But “he came in, and he owned it,” EP Scott M. Gimple shared. “When I showed his audition to Robert, Robert went bananas.”
Other highlights from the panel:
* There will be a lot of walkers outside of Negan’s compound.
* After a fan praised the show’s portrayal of the interracial relationship between Michonne and Rick, a thoughtful discussion followed. “I wasn’t aware that it would have the impact that it did,” Gimple shared. “I think it was because I was thinking of these people as characters” and not labeling them by race. “In the apocalypse, a lot of the things that separate us… just fall away. People are just measured as who they are.”
Added star Danai Gurira: “I’m really thankful to be part of a show where humanity is pursued before any of that [other] stuff.”
* Speaking about the Season 7 premiere, which he directed, EP Greg Nicotero said, “The first episode was intense. It affected me.”
* Although it seemed like Rick had it bad last year (R.I.P., Jessie, Carl’s eye), “We haven’t event gotten close to where people are going,” Nicotero hinted.
The Walking Dead returns for Season 7 Sunday, Oct. 23, at 9/8c on AMC.