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AMC continued its The Walking Dead tradition, using the show’s Comic-Con stage to unspool the first look at its upcoming season. But before the new footage was screened, showrunner Scott M. Gimple and the cast took the stage with no introduction and went directly into a dedication to stuntman John Bernecker, who died July 12 after plunging headfirst from a balcony on the show’s Georgia set while attempting a seemingly simple 22-foot fall. Production on season eight was briefly shut down, and multiple investigations are underway. (Spinoff Fear the Walking Dead, which paneled before the flagship, also featured a moment of silence for Bernecker.)
“We didn’t know if we should do this panel today. But we wanted to be here for you and do something for John,” a somber Gimple said after noting Bernecker’s countless credits and how much the stuntman loved his job. “John was someone who was beloved in the stunt community. He was living his dream, and he helped other people do the same.”
Gimple then introduced the show’s season-eight trailer. Watch that below.
Following a season that featured the deaths of fan favorites Glenn (Steven Yeun), Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) and Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green), the Robert Kirkman-created zombie drama set the stage for the long-awaited All Out War arc from the comic book series on which the show is based. In a nutshell, it’s Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and company versus Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and his violent and controlling Saviors.
Season eight, which returns Oct. 22 at 9 p.m., will also see Rick and his Alexandria community (finally) unite with Ezekiel (Khary Payton) and his Kingdom residents as Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and the Hilltop Colony look to remove the shifty Gregory (Xander Berkeley) and join the fight against Negan. And then there’s Jadis (new series regular Pollyanna McIntosh) and the so-called Heapsters who outmaneuvered Rick and pledged their loyalty to Negan.
“We have all kinds of great stuff planned. Our next season … will be very action-packed and very fast-paced. I counted six explosions in the trailer alone,” Kirkman said of the upcoming eighth season.
Kirkman also recalled the impact that the late George A. Romero had on him as a child and shared a story of being a kid and seeing Night of the Living Dead on TV for the first time. “My first experience watching Night of the Living Dead … and just going on that ride for the first time and seeing what a zombie story could be … I was instantly in love with the genre and the man as a filmmaker. … I couldn’t be more upset about that loss,” Kirkman said of Romero.
Cohan got emotional when asked what Glenn would want Maggie’s baby to know about his father. “How jubilant and heroic Glenn and Steven is in all this, and what he would have wanted to expose the baby to is that bravery and comedy and impulsive energy that he had,” said Cohan. “I hope that everybody of the family that is alive is going to pass those things on and tell those stories to this new little girl or guy, as well as who Hershel was and who Beth was and Abraham was.”
When a fan — who traveled to Comic-Con from Sweden — asked if the series would ever explore another part of the world, Gimple confirmed it’s on the writers’ to-do list. “It is entirely possible that that could happen. … It’s something we want to see,” he said, later adding that there would be several new and interesting characters populating the world in season eight. The franchise has already launched a spinoff, which originally took place in Los Angeles before moving to other locations after the outbreak.
Another popular topic of discussion was Negan’s popular F-bombs from the comics. Morgan was asked what producers were allowed to get away with and noted he’s allowed “seven shits, one God damn and zero fucks.” Fans, naturally, loved it.
The Walking Dead will return with its landmark 100th episode, and Kirkman, whose comics the AMC drama is based on, noted there would be a lot of activations to support the milestone.
(There was no mention during the panel of former showrunner Frank Darabont’s newly revealed emails to AMC and other executive producers or of anything to do with his lawsuit against the cable network.)
For more Walking Dead coverage, bookmark THR.com/WalkingDead.
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