For a show obsessed with death, The Walking Dead sure has survived for a long time. When TV's biggest drama returns for its eighth season on October 22, it will kick off with an enormous milestone: the season premiere is also its hundredth episode.
To celebrate this momentous occasion, AMC invited a select group of press, including TV Guide, down to the show's Georgia based set during the filming of this landmark event. Through observation of scenes, extensive talks with the cast, and an in-depth tour of the set, TV Guide was able to glean some surprising secrets about the show's past, present and future.
With that in mind, I hope you have your s--tting pants on, because here are one hundred secrets I learned from The Walking Dead's hundredth episode:
1. It Takes A Village. I mentioned above that TWD is obsessed with death — and yes, the gore and shocking demises are part of the package. But the aspect of the show that hooks fans more than anything else? The sense of family, as Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and company navigate the zombie apocalypse together. That doesn't stop on screen, though. It's immediately apparent from the moment you hit the massive complex of sound stages, offices and practical sets that make up the production of The Walking Dead. It even extends to the guard gates: the day we visited was rainy and muddy and overcast, but the guards were decked out in "We Are The Walking Dead" t-shirts, and custom hats with "TWD" followed by the "100" emoji. And everyone had a big smile on their face.
2. Dead Inside, Inside. The first thing that greeted me in the production office? The actual doors emblazoned with "Dead Inside" that greeted Rick when he woke up after a coma to find himself in the middle of the end of the world, from the premiere of the show. Did I take a picture? Yes, I did.
3. Retirement, Walking Dead Style. Just across from the lobby of the office is a screening room. More on that in a moment, but around the walls of the screening room are photos of the show's many, many fallen characters, with headshots of the actors and a number. That number is each actor's call number — given how many members of the cast there are, rather than yelling "Shane" or "Jon" or whatever, each actor is assigned a unique number; and just like a jersey number in sports, when the character leaves the show, that number is retired.
4. See The Fabulous Conjoined Twins! The only double picture is one marked "Jotis," which ostensibly commemorates Otis (Pruitt Taylor Vince), the doomed farmhand from Season 2. The reason for the double pic? He's paired with a crewmember named Jody Winslette from the transportation department, who looks exactly like him. Winslette, as far I know, is still alive.
5. Keepin' It Simple. Everyone imagines a massive, international franchise like Walking Dead that the production complex would be full of bells and whistles. A golden chocolate fountain, perhaps? But time and again, I learned that nobody has let success get to their heads. That starts with the screening room, which is relatively small and simple (in memoriam wall aside), and doubles as both the area for table reads and production meetings. The sound mixing for the show, as well as ADR (automated dubbing replacement, a way of redoing dialogue when it's lost or garbled during filming) is done nearby in Atlanta — but otherwise, everything is done in house, including the FX.
6. The Sound Stages of Destiny. "I don't believe in destiny," Walking Dead Executive Producer Tom Luse told reporters during a bus tour of the expansive grounds. But over 30 years ago, the Lombardi family decided to build a movie studio in relatively remote Senioa, Georgia. Though a few productions were shot there, the 140 acres of land, sound stages and offices lay relatively dormant for decades. Luse shot a few projects there, but while scouting for Hershel's farmhouse in Season 2, he rediscovered the complex. Now, Walking Dead is the only resident, and shoots, mixes and works on the show there "365 days a year."
7. Thanks, Senoia. Another theme I heard over and over? That without the incredibly patient residents of Senoia, Georgia, the show would be impossible to create. I'll get to this more later, but good chunks of the set — particularly the entirety of Alexandria, the current home of the Grimes Gang — are smack dab in the middle of residential neighborhoods. If TWD wasn't respectful of their neighbors, giving them heads up on when, say, there is a zombie attack, or massive gunfighting; and in return, the residents agree to not leak every detail of the uber-secretive show, the relationship wouldn't work.
8. The Leftovers. Immediately outside the main production offices is a graveyard. Actually, that's not exactly right... It's more like a spare parts shop, as nearly nothing is thrown away on the show, and everything is recycled. Every car, every bus, every bit of metal is left over to be used in some other set, or set piece.
9. House of Morgan. On the flipside, they aren't against reusing other folk's spare parts: Luse previously worked on a show called Past Life, and he used that show's main set, repurposed, for Morgan's (Lennie James) house back in Season 1.
10. Welcome to the Neighborhood. With 140 acres, some areas are extremely remote; but there's a tight cluster of sets right around the production offices. That includes the Sanctuary set, home of Negan's (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) Saviors, as well as what's left of the Prison from Seasons 3 and 4 — and now the junkyard set, home of Jadis' (Pollyanna Mcintosh) weirdos.
11. The Heap Across The Street. In fact, the junkyard (called The Heap) is essentially just across the "road" from the production offices, meaning if you shoot that set the wrong way, you're going to see some very confused staffers wandering out of the building.
12. Location, Location, Location. That doesn't mean everything is filmed on set. There are a lot of fields, woods and roads in the studios, as well as several key sets — but as mentioned, Alexandria is a short drive away. And The Kingdom, home to Ezekiel (Khary Payton) and his tiger Shiva is Fort McPherson, an old army base north of the Atlanta airport. [Note: I did not visit The Kingdom.]
13. Gimme Some of That Sweet Green. "We have the best greens department we've ever seen," Luse noted driving past the Heap. Though Senoia seems lush enough, TWD takes place several (unspecified) years after civilization has fallen... Meaning it doesn't make sense to have nicely trimmed trees and weed free roads. Many of the plants are cultivated in house, mostly to supplement what already exists on set. "Greens are so important, because greens hide civilization," Luse continued. "Greens hide a million sins."
14. A Kodak Moment. Where most TV shows are moving to digital, TWD is decidedly marching in the other direction. Staying true to the vision set down by Frank Darabont in the pilot, the show is still filmed on 16mm — a format relatively rare for broadcast television in the United States. Because of that, TWD has a special deal with a Kodak lab in Atlanta to develop their film for the episodes.
15. Let's Be Practical About It. Also because of the 16mm film, and the general aesthetic of the show, they only very rarely use digital effects. Almost everything from makeup to explosions are done "old school," according to Luse. For example, when they had to shoot a Season 5 episode set in a barn during a storm, the production staff coordinated with barn owners who had already marked trees for cutting down — so that the shots could be created with downed trees, enhancing the look of the destruction.
16. Junkyard in the Trunkyard. We mentioned earlier that The Heap,, first introduced in Season 7, is right next to the production offices. What's wild is that the entire set had to be built in three weeks, after showrunner Scott Gimple moved up the schedule. And also true to the practical aesthetic, the entire thing — from the top of the heap, to the pipe arena — is real, made of actual mud and steel. In fact, the set decorating team has to regularly go through the set (which will be seen again see in Season 8, by the way), tying everything together and replacing any mud washed away during rainstorms.
17. Jadis Interruptus. Though The Heap will feature in Season 8, it won't be in the season premiere: McIntosh told me later on that while she was on set to say hello to press and chat about her role, she won't be showing up until later in the season. Sorry, guess Rick is gonna have to wait until later for that weird roll in the hay she demanded in the Season 7 finale.
18. Lake Fear. Remember the lake Aaron (Ross Marquand) and Rick had to ferry across in a leaky boat in Season 7, in order to get supplies to give to Negan? One of the zombies is still floating in that lake (not one of the actors, of course; one of the dummies), as is the boathouse. Not only that, the lake is full of real poisonous snakes, which makes for tricky shooting. So given that the set hasn't been broken down, will the mysterious lake house show up in Season 8? Luse was mum on that point.
19. The Spot Where it Happened. There were a lot of mind-blowing moments on the tour, but one location twisted my guts like nothing else on the visit. Driving down a road, the bus emerged in a small clearing, that was mostly empty except for a few out of the way trailers. I didn't even need Luse to tell me where we were, because the location was so iconic: the clearing where Negan killed Glenn and Abraham (Michael Cudlitz), in the Season 7 premiere. I don't want to get too spiritual, but I could feel a change in the air when I entered the clearing. It was quieter, emptier than the rest of the forest we had traveled through. Seeing the ground where Negan had lined up everyone in the Grimes Gang, a location that — as a viewer — I had spent so much time in, with so much tension inherent, was grueling. Luse, and the rest of the crew, clearly feel the same. "This is pretty much hallowed ground for us, I don't think we'll shoot here again," he said. "I think we're done with this space. This was one of the most difficult shoots we did." Luse paused for an extended period of time after this, just letting the moment sit, before continuing that Steven and Michael were "personal heroes to us... This is a shrine to them."
20. Take Church To Me. Okay, shake it off, you guys! Fun fact time: the clearing where Negan murdered fan faves was also the clearing where Gabriel's (Seth Gilliam) church used to be located. When the gang left that location and moved to the Alexandria Safe Zone, the crew picked up the church and used the "bones" to build his new church. So much recycling!
21. Okay, Time For Some Game Theory. Here's a puzzle: with 140 acres of land, and one of the most secretive shows on the planet, how does Luse and company prevent people from wandering on and literally grabbing spoilers? Turns out there are two main ways, one tech based, the other natural. The set is littered with game cameras, according to Luse, which are motion triggered — meaning there's a good chance anyone sneaking around will be caught long before they accidentally wander into Rick's death scene. But beyond that? There's a small river, and a swamp that borders the property, meaning the main gate is really the only safe way in.
22. The Hilltop is Alive. I saw a number of impressive sets as part of the tour, but arguably the most jaw-dropping location was The Hilltop, the community discovered back in Season 6 formerly led by Gregory (Xander Berkeley) and now led by, in everything but name, Maggie (Lauren Cohan). The reason? It's real. (Or, as real as can be while allowing for filming.) From the plantation house that anchors the community, to the vegetable gardens, to the walls — which I asked, are permanent; they're not flyaway walls that allow for rolling camera shots — it's all flippin' real. And when I stepped out on the balcony? I could see for miles.
23. Home, Made. After scouting around for locations, the crew didn't find anything that fit the iconic look of the Hilltop from Robert Kirkman's comic book series, which the show is based on, so they decided to build the community from scratch. The construction took three and a half months to finish!
24. Gregory Is Empty Inside. The only part left unfinished is the inside of Gregory's house. It has multiple floors, and the outside is finished; but the inside looks like a half constructed unit. That part of Hilltop is the only set on The Walking Dead where interiors, and exteriors are filmed separately.
25. Keepin' It Real. The reason for all this construction and creation — which frankly, isn't necessarily best from the production side, because creating thirty foot tall walls that can't move isn't an ideal situation — is that the actors prefer having real sets. It helps them feel grounded in the scenes, and gives the horror inflected end of the world scenario some of the real world gravity it needs.
26. The Graves. In case it wasn't clear how much Glenn/Yeun and Abraham/Cudlitz meant to the show, when I walked around the back of the plantation house, through beds of the thick red clay native to Georgia, I found their graves. Even when the crew isn't shooting there, key greensperson Denette West maintains wildflowers on the twin beds, giving them a completely different look from the wild grass that grows around the area. Again, I want to emphasize: these fictional characters meant so much to the crew, and their loss so profoundly impacted everyone involved that they maintain their pretend graves. That's devotion.
27. The Ol' Honky-Tonk. Okay, this is a tease, but Hilltop isn't exactly out on its own in the middle of nowhere. Luse noted there's an old honky-tonk bar nearby that the show shot scenes in. What scenes, and whether it was, in fact set in a bar? Well, that's a secret. For now.
28. Oceanside is On Your Side. Next location reporters visited? Oceanside, the sapphic utopia Tara (Alanna Masterson) visited last season, before bringing Rick Grimes' own special brand of hell down on them. The set is still intact — "We intend to use it some day," noted Luse — though unlike Hilltop, the main scenes are filmed off-site on Jekyll Island, Georgia; and other than the main house, most of the "town" is just facades. In order to get the island look in the middle of the Georgia woods, they brought in sand, and planted bamboo.
29. That Oceanside Smell. And possibly of note, the house set, which I went inside and is still in the same condition Tara and co. last left it, smelled very nice, almost sweet. "That's what Georgia smells like," joked Luse. At least I think he was joking.
30. Is This Real Life? While exiting Oceanside, Luse mused on the luck the production has had in terms of finding locations. "The show, I'm convinced is a fantasy I'm living," Luse said, recalling that when they needed a location with a huge hole in the floor, they found one easily; and that Atlanta's original name was Terminus, which was also the name of a major location in Season 4 and 5. And when they went looking for a place to shoot, again, found it easily. Arguably, Kirkman or the comic's artist Charlie Adlard, may have based Terminus on the real building, but who am I to question Luse's sense of kismet?
31. We Have The Control. "This kind of control is crazy," Luse added, on the amount of cooperation and freedom The Walking Dead has to shoot exteriors in Georgia. He estimated that about 50% of the show is shot off set, which leads to some incredible situations like clearing 13 city blocks for Rick to ride his horse in Season 1; but also some stickier ones. For example, the nearby town of Griffin is "perfect for The Walking Dead," but because they shot there so much, in so many different locations, they can't use the town anymore. Sometimes, too much permission means you run out of fresh locations.
32. Slow Motion Car Crash. No, really, I watched an accidental slow motion car crash. While Luse and the reporters headed next location, we stopped to step out of the way of a car pulling out of a driveway, only to see it slowly scrape a hole in the side after getting too close to a parked truck. Turns out though, that's totally okay. Luse noted that it was a picture vehicle, meaning it's an on-camera car ready to be wrecked anyway, and, "something really cool happens to the car." Hopefully it involves already having a large hole in it.
33. Sanctuary! Sanctuary! Next up was Negan's Sanctuary stronghold, which is almost as big as Hilltop — but also stretches over multiple sound stages and locations. The main market area is enormous (more on that in a sec), while the maze of tunnels that made up The Prison were repurposed to become The Sanctuary. Stage 3 holds Dr. Carson's former office, as well as hallways, the cells Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) were held in, and Eugene's (Josh McDermitt) room. The main bulk of the Prison, though, used to be at Stage 1, and is now gone.
34. Negan Lies When He Cries. Also of note? Unlike the Hilltop, Sanctuary's walls are false to allow for a switch from day to night when filming; though the entrances are real, allowing the production to shoot "360," including a scene I'll get to in a moment.
35. Market Prices. Remember the "slave market" at the center of the Sanctuary, where Negan's Saviors trade goods for points? It's mostly real. Most of the food, from salsa, to grains are all real; while the canned goods have fake prop names like "Greathouse" chunky beef. There's even a working bread oven! Sorry, Eugene, there aren't any jars of pickles, though.
36. Sci-Fi, Channeled. A deeper dive towards the back of the market unveiled a fun Easter Egg: VHS tapes of old, cheesy sci-fi shows like Mutant X, Scare Tactics, Andromeda, Cleopatra 2525 and more, all stacked up and ready for sale. I checked to see if these were old shows worked on by Executive Producer Greg Nicotero (who is known for his effects work), but no dice. Either they were picked up at a yard sale, or someone on staff is missing their prized possessions.
37. Dr. Carson Lives! After discovering the smelter in the Sanctuary actually works, I asked if Dr. Carson was actually thrown into the furnace at the end of the season, given how practical all the effects are. He was not. Actor Tim Parati is alive and well. Whew.
38. Death to All, But Metal? Remember those metal dipped Walkers Eugene worked on, the ones covered in molten steel in order to prevent unwanted guests from killing the Sanctuary's line of defense? Not that I thought they were actually covered in metal, but those headpieces are super floppy IRL.
39. Walker Evolution. At [location redacted] we met up with Nicotero, the effects guru who has helped create the look of the show for over 100 episodes, and is directing this season's premiere. Pulling aside a double-jointed actress named Katy he has nicknamed "fun-size walker," who has played a Walker on the show almost 50 times, he pointed out a gross gag where loose muscle is placed around a pole, making it look like her arm is impaled outside the Sanctuary. Over time, the Walkers are suffering from wear and tear, and the look has become more pronounced. Pointing out another Walker, he noted that they build out their cheekbones and mouth areas to make them more exaggerated, looking more skeletal and less like undead humans. "This whole season, we're adding a cartoony element, exaggerating it if we can, so it looks good from far away," Nicotero clarified.
40. It's a Year Round Thing. I mentioned earlier that Walking Dead shoots 365 days a year, and I wasn't joking. Laying out the schedule, Nicotero told us that it takes eight days to film an episode, nine for finales and premieres. There are only five days of break between the first half of the season and the second half (even if they broadcast in October and February, respectively), they shoot through November, post-production continues into January, then the writer's room opens again in February. All Dead, all the time.
41. Nicotero's Hogan's Heroes. Pulling out his phone, the excited Nicotero showed us what he called "my Hogan's Heroes shot!" Sorry, I can't describe what we saw in the scene — suffice to say it's really cool — and Nicotero told me later that he's been playing with more '70s style filming angles. This fits right in.
42. Easter Eggs, Without All The Winking. Though the hundredth episode will pay homage to the past of the show, it won't do so with a sly wink and nod... it'll be part of the package. "There's gonna be some moments that people who have watched the show from the beginning will see and be like, oh, okay I see what they're doing here by paying tribute to specific moments over the last seven years," said Nicotero. "But, we're always cautious about that because you don't want to take people out of it."
43. Dwight Joins The Fight. Then it was time to watch a scene being filmed. In it, Dwight (Austin Amelio), still wearing Daryl's jacket, talks into a walkie-talkie while standing on the balcony of the Sanctuary. Though Nicotero noted (perhaps jokingly) that, "There's seven spoilers, if you've been looking around," the scene mostly seemed to indicate that Dwight's firmly moving into a leadership role now that the war between Negan and Rick has begun in earnest. And with Dwight playing double agent for Rick's side, that's a dangerous role to be in, indeed.
44. Walking With The Walkers. Any time I've been on the set of this show, and any time I've talked to anyone who has been on the set of this show, there's one detail that stands out: it's super weird when Walkers are just casually doing stuff. Take, for instance, when I left the Sanctuary, and just saw a bunch of Walkers, er, walking around with backpacks on. Or when the reporters sat down to lunch and there were groups of Walkers chowing down on, presumably, not human remains. It's just part and parcel with the bizarre nature of a day job that's set in a zombie apocalypse TV show.
45. Mad Props. Up next? The props department, which was chock full of some stuff I can't tell you about (sorry!) but thankfully the props-master had carted out almost every major prop used previously on the show, for our perusal. So from the iron used to burn Dwight and others at the Sanctuary which is fitted with a red light to make it look like it's hot, to Michonne's (Danai Gurira) extremely heavy katana, to Rick's surprisingly light gun, I picked them all up. And yes, of course I held Negan's bat, and Daryl's crossbow. Both heavy, btw.
46. Batter Way Up. Speaking of Negan's bat, the iconic shot of Negan playing the world's worst game of Eeny Meany Miney Moe with the Grimes Gang was almost shot an entirely different way. In order to force the perspective, they built a five foot tall version of the bat, that would have been pointed directly at the camera to make it look enormous. Ultimately they went with the regular size bat, but the enormous one remains as a trophy in the props department.
47. Daryl And The Stolen Knife. Though Daryl is probably best known for his crossbow, he carries an equally iconic knife. Turns out it was a unique Damascus Steel knife owned by the props-master that had been sitting on his desk forever... until Norman Reedus walked in asking for a knife to use and said, "that knife." In fact, even showrunner Scott Gimple didn't want to use it because the design on the handle made it difficult to digitize. "Norman won," the props-master joked.
48. Michonne's Rare Sword. There are only four of Michonne's custom katana in existence: two are used on screen, one is on tour, and one has never been touched — in case anything ever happens to the screen versions. It's also (in case the custom didn't make this clear) unique to the show. One of the swords was briefly lent out to make a mold for toys, but the four made by TWD are based on the comics — and the only four in existence.
49. Beth Joins The Cast. Here's how intense it is to create something as simple as a cast on The Walking Dead: when Beth (Emily Kinney) broke her arm, they created multiple casts that they would apply to her arm every morning, cut off at lunch, then add again after lunch. All in all, they repeated these for sixteen shooting days, leading to an entire room filled with broken and bloody casts.
50. Bullets For Charity. TWD gives a lot back to the community, but here's one surprising way they help raise a little money: the bullets left over from scenes are given to charity, to sell. Hey, swords to plowshares, right?
51. All Out Wardrobe. Next stop, the massive wardrobe department, which was organized by area (Kingdom, Alexandria, etc). One fun bit? The staging wardrobe area, which is where they store costumes ready to go on set, is called The Graveyard.
52. I Hope You Have Your Shooting Pants On. Then it was over to another stage to watch Morgan and Gilliam stage a classic comic book scene that's already been shown in the trailers. Father Gabriel runs in with a gun, panting and scared. From the darkness, he hears a voice say, "I hope you have your s--tting pants on." "My what?" answers Gabriel. "Your s--ttin' pants. I hope you're wearing 'em right now," repeats the voice, before stepping out of the darkness to reveal that it's Negan. "Because you. Are about to s--t your pants." It's a pretty tense scene, but Morgan and Nicotero kept joking back and forth while shooting... Which makes it pretty clear that as tense as things get for viewers at home? The TWD crew is having a LOT of fun.
53. Prepare For Action. Where previous seasons have focused on set up in the first half, and pay off in the second half, Nicotero told us that the first half of the season is "all action, I think people are going to be blown away by it." I'm ready, are you?
54. Who Wants A F--k Take? After watching this scene be filmed with a few different angles, the reporters were about to leave when Nicotero jumped out from behind the camera. "Aw, you're leaving before the f--k take?" he asked jovially. As I found out later, most of Negan's lines are filmed two ways. One with safe for TV salty language, and one with a potty mouth worthy of the comics. So of course I stayed, and of course the extra "Because you are about to s--t your f--king pants" take killed. Good job, you f--kers!
55. Captain Morgan. Jeffrey Dean Morgan has had a lot of credits to his name before Walking Dead. Despite that, the family atmosphere and sense of sense of camaraderie that fills the set even extend to Mr. Movie Star himself. "When people come in like Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who are big stars in and of themselves, they totally embrace that, they're on board," producer Gale Anne Hurd told me later, when we met up at one of the houses in Alexandria. She added that most of this comes from Andrew Lincoln's leadership behind the scenes as well as in front. Nobody has a big trailer, or dedicated work out equipment. Everyone, she said, is humble and helps each other out — a rarity for a show this size.
56. Shiva Lights Up The Room. Remember up top I noted that the crew all seems to love working on the show? That continued with the lighting crew, who have a dedicated shirt with the tiger Shiva on it, and the slogan, "Yeah we have a gawd damn tiger." My question: Do I also have to get a tiger before I can have one of those shirts?
57. More Like The Walking Delicious. Okay, look, this might seem like a silly behind the scenes secret, but I've been on a lot of sets and the food served is usually okay, at best. The Walking Dead craft services is delicious. From freshly made barbecue, to a red velvet cake made to look like Walker hands reaching out of sand to grab a big lettered "Happy 100," everything was amazing. I realize this may not be helpful to anyone who will never visit the set, but my kudos to the chefs.
58. Alexandria Is Real. The Alexandria Safe Zone is a five minute drive away from the studios. And it's real. By which I mean, it's actually a small neighborhood in Senoia that people live in year round. The set houses are real houses (for the most part), and stand side by side, or across the street from real houses with real people living in them. In fact, there are only four houses that are sets in the entire town — and as mentioned earlier, it's entirely due to the coordination and patience of the residents that Walking Dead is able to shoot there. The cast and crew aim to be as respectful of the actual residents as possible, giving them a heads up when there will be a zombie attack or explosions; and always making sure to clean up after themselves.
59. Hiding In Plain Sight. The production uses a large truck outside the main entrance of "Alexandria," which blocks out additional cars and houses from the main stretch they shoot on. But imagine living in Senoia and chilling out after a long week while Norman Reedus shoots an RPG into the river right next door. That would be pretty nuts, huh? Yeah, pretty nuts.
60. The Houses Are Real, Too. I can't emphasize enough how bizarre the whole thing is. Walking into the house shared by Rick, Michonne and Carl (Chandler Riggs), I wiped my feet on the mat and walked into their kitchen. I sat in their living room on the same couch Michonne and Rick first smooch-a-rooed on, and like in the Sanctuary, the jars of preserves, the fruits and vegetables are all real. Heck, even the toilet worked. Because, you know, it's a house. Still weird, though.
61. Alexandria Is Next To Woodbury! One of the more surreal moments I had on set was walking out of Alexandria, on to the main street of Woodbury. The home of the late Governor (David Morrissey), Woodbury is right outside the Alexandria city gates, versus the miles apart the two areas are on the show.
62. Eat At Governor's. The former Woodbury is also home to Nic & Norman's, a restaurant and bar owned by Norman Reedus and Greg Nicotero. Literally hot tip: the Mexican burger is ridiculously spicy, so much so that I was coughing and sweating while eating it; but also very good. That is all.
63. Walking Dead Doesn't Forget Its Roots. The comics were everywhere on set, from a huge stack in the production office, to art on crew clothing — to even the cameras, which held cards with Adlard's art and info about each camera. Many shows as big as TWD eventually outgrow their source material (looking at you, Game of Thrones), but this is a show that's doubled down on remembering where it came from as it's gone along, which is kind of a beautiful thing.
64. Good Old Rick. "Whatever you think you're seeing, whatever you think is happening, may or may not be happening," AMC's PR rep told reporters before witnessing the scene glimpsed in the trailers of Rick, with a long beard, grey hair and a close cropped haircut waking up in his bed. Fans of the comics definitely think they know what's happening there, and having seen a whole lot more of the scene than has been glimpsed in trailers, the assembled press folk on set were thrown. But suffice to say, this is a scene a lot of people will be talking about once it airs.
65. Episode 100 Doesn't End With Episode 100. One of the more mysterious things Hurd told us? That Nicotero is shooting scenes for multiple episodes while shooting the season premiere. "It is the most ambitious episode we've ever done," Hurd said. "There will be elements shot that will be used in succeeding episodes. It will be that big." Walking Dead hasn't shied away from playing around with the timeline before, but as to exactly what this means? Of course, Hurd wasn't telling.
66. No Really, You're Going To Love It. When I sat down with actor Tom Payne, who plays Jesus, he copped to the fact that everyone always says "fans are going to love it," every year. "I read the interviews everyone does every year, like, 'the fans are gonna love it, it's gonna be amazing, they're gonna be so excited,'" Payne said laughing, "but I really think they've done a great job with these first two, and it's so completely different, and different in a way that I think fans will be very happy with."
67. Jesus Gets Tested. Talking about his character in Season 8, Payne noted that beyond being a badass we haven't actually delved into his character too much. That'll change this year. "You'll see a little more of him, a lot more of him," Payne said. "He hasn't been tested yet. What's interesting is to see a character like that, who is a bit more controlled in situations than other characters being pushed somewhere else. And I'm excited to play that."
68. Jesus Goes All Natural. And one big thing that will be different for Jesus — and Payne — this year? He's got all his own hair. Where he initially wore a fake beard and extensions. The Season 8 premiere marks the first time Payne will have his own beard, and own long hair on screen, which he credited as making a big difference in terms of his natural acting style. "We started this year, I looked in the mirror and said, that's the guy," Payne recalled. "We're there now."
69. Where's Gregory? As for what's next for Jesus' former boss in Season 8, reporters got a nice tease about that. Last fans saw, he disappeared from Hilltop, so where'd he go? Berkeley told us that fans should, "follow the breadcrumbs," to figure out where the self-centered leader headed. Though given he was holding a map to the Sanctuary, those breadcrumbs are more like gigantic baguettes.
70. Do the Math. Here's something that is pretty unique about the season premiere that doesn't need a set visit to understand — but is surprising nonetheless. One hundred episodes is always a milestone, but given the shortened seasons for TWD — Season 1 was only six episodes long, for example — makes this a real accomplishment. "To get to episode 100, with a show that isn't a 22 episode season is a feat," McDermitt noted when we chatted with him on set.
71. Enid Isn't Leaving. "She's definitely started to get ahold of herself," Katelyn Nacon, who plays former tortoise eater Enid on the show told us. Though she's wandered off in the past, her connection to Maggie will keep her at Hilltop during the fight with Negan. "She's definitely here to stay," Nacon continued, though added that "JSS" — her philosophy of just surviving somehow — is something that will never leave her.
72. Is Enid Heading To the Kingdom? Well, not necessarily, but if Nacon had a choice, she'd try a new form of transportation after Enid and Carl had a roller-skating date in Season 7. "I really want to ride a horse," she said, laughing.
73. No Time For Romance. Since Season 8 starts with all out action, it sounds like there won't be time for our favorite teen couple (that would be Enid and Carl) to make out in tree trunks this year... At least for the first few episodes. Nacon does hope they get back around to the relationship eventually, though. "It can't be all bad, can it?" she asked rhetorically. "Come on, just a little bit of happiness?"
74. What's Scarier Than a Zombie? Turns out, that roller-skating scene was actually more terrifying than fighting the undead for Nacon, who didn't know how to roller-skate. "I was like a deer learning how to walk," she recalled, adding that they started at the top of a hill, ending with her falling to the ground and bodily rolling on the grass at the bottom to stop.
75. Season 8 Will Cure What Ails Ya. Khary Payton, who plays King Ezekiel, noted that Season 8 was huge not just in terms of scale, but also emotionally, and not because people are going to be sad, like in Season 7. "We built this f--king depression of a story, and this is us digging our way out to the sunlight," he said. "It's a very cathartic experience."
76. Ezekiel? More like Secre-zekiel. Payton straight up laughed when asked for info on Ezekiel's Season 8 arc. But not because he couldn't share spoilers; it's because he doesn't know. "You'd be surprised how in the dark they keep us," Payton said laughing. He also noted that during a conversation with Lincoln, they realized halfway through that they were basically writing fan fiction. Neither of them had any clue where the season is going.
77. Rick And Ezekiel, Sitting In A Tree. Now that The Kingdom has officially signed on to Rick's war, there's potential for serious friction between the King and the Grimes. But Payton says it's not so! He noted that Lincoln's "fire" is so big, it helps keep Ezekiel feeling normal and on par, versus arch and ridiculous. "It gives you the freedom to go for broke," he added.
78. They Call Him Mr. Ezekiel. Yes he's the King, but Ezekiel is also a normal human being, something we glimpsed last season while he was chatting privately with Carol (Melissa McBride). "You'd be remiss not to use that in some way, shape or form," Payton said, on the possibility of Ezekiel showing up in Season 8, sans the hyped up character.
79. The Can't Turn Off. Telling a story about Andrew Lincoln and Lennie James, two Brits doing Southern accents on The Walking Dead, Payton noted that they do their Southern-fried speak even off set. He discovered them talking about sports one day, and it was well into the conversation when they realized they weren't actually using their real accents.
80. Hey, Mr. Blue Screens. One of the funniest moments in Season 7 happened off-screen. In the climactic finale, the CGI tiger Shiva jumped out and started eating one of the Saviors, kicking off the war in earnest. But it was actually a guy in a blue-screen suit, jumping on a trampoline. Guess what: he's not on set all the time, crawling around... He's really only brought in for those big action sequences when Shiva is eating someone. Sorry, blue-screen guy!
81. When You're Here... At the end of last season, everyone — from Alexandria, to Hilltop, to The Kingdom — came together for the first time to fight Negan. Stronger together, right? "This season, we start to become family," Payton said. "It happens pretty quickly."
82. Morgan Almost Didn't Make It. Lennie James was in the very first episode of TWD, but never thought they'd make it the distance. In fact, though his Morgan returns in the comics, at no point did James think he'd actually come back to the show. And that's been his M.O. ever since. When I sat down with him in a house in Alexandria, he said, "I didn't know we'd make it to episode 100 until I got the script the other day. To be absolutely honest."
83. It's All About The Rick(jamins). For most of the character Morgan's life-span, it's been all about Rick. His first two appearances were almost solo episodes except for Rick Grimes. And when he finally got to Alexandria, the plots were all about Rick vs. Morgan, dawn of justice. Last season, that changed when he moved to the Kingdom and started interacting with Ezekiel and Carol. Or did it? "Everything that's not about Rick, is about Rick," James noted. "Any relationship he has... Has to do with the connection to Rick." So in Season 8? "That continues."
84. In The Kill Zone. Morgan, after a lot of back and forth, started killing people in Season 7, a plot turn that has led to some real world weirdness — including a mom who yelled "glad you're killing people!" at James while passing him on a London escalator. But despite all the sweet, sweet murder, it's still something Morgan will wrestle with in Season 8, as he struggles with his choice, slipping back and forth between a killing machine — and a conflicted killing machine. "Morgan's having a really f--king tough time at the moment," James mused.
85. No Time For Meditation. Making matters worse for Morgan? In the first two episodes, at least, there's no time to sit and get his head straight. "There's not a lot of time for contemplation," James said. So is that going to push him even farther over the edge? "Yeah, it is," James added, laughing. "He's in, whether he likes it or not."
86. Jailhouse Rock. Morgan spent "an age" building a cell in Alexandria, which has been home to a number of characters, but comics readers know that one major character currently on the show ends up in a similar cell for an extended period of time. "I hope the cell doesn't get wasted," James teased, "but I can't tell you for sure when it gets used."
87. Red Daryl, Curse Of The Saviors. When Season 8 opens, Daryl is no longer being tortured, no longer being held prisoner, he's ready to kill 'em all. "Yeah, last season sucked," Norman Reedus told us. "He's seeing red right now... He wants, f--king revenge."
88. F--k him. That includes Matrix Eugene, who went dark and turned sides to join Negan's Saviors towards the end of Season 7. "Yeah, him too," Reedus said when asked if he wanted to actually kill them all. "F--k him."
89. Daryl Is Ready To Bury The Hatchet. "Yeah, in his forehead," Reedus said angrily, about whether Daryl and Dwight are best buddies in Season 8 — now that the latter has switched sides and is playing double agent for Rick. Reedus has talked about this extensively before, but seeing Amelio on set wearing his costume was physically painful for the emotional, earnest actor. Sounds like despite working together, things haven't changed too much.
90. Daryl Isn't Ready To Date, Though. Reedus is not a fan of 'shipping, but did note that there may have been something in the past with Carol, and maybe with Beth. Season 8 won't be season date though. He's not in the right head space for romance, and ultimately, "I don't know if Daryl would recognize it when it's happening."
91. Daryl Isn't Jerky. This has nothing to do with Season 8, but since I was one surprising secret about Season 8 short, I asked if — given Daryl is pretty much the Mickey Mouse of The Walking Dead — whether there was ever any products he refused to grant his likeness to? "Jerky," Reedus said. Hey, as long as it's not Bob's Leg brand, we're all good, right?
92. The Premiere Is(n't) An Intimate Affair. "It's funny, I was trying to make it a little smaller, a little more intimate," showrunner Scott Gimple while seated in the screening room on the Season 8 premiere. He mentioned this to Luse and Nicotero, who were then horrified to see the script, wondering how they, "can do this in nine days." Though he actively tried to work against the "one hundred" of it all, "there's a certain pull to the characters."
93. Easter Eggs (Redux). Earlier I mentioned (or at least Nicotero mentioned) that there would be homages in the premiere. But according to Gimple, it doesn't stop there. "In a lot of ways, this whole season pays direct references to the past stories," Gimple said, adding that there are subtle visual references — and even exact replicas of older scenes. "It very much has to do with the cumulative nature of the story."
94. We're Getting The Band Back Together. Part of what was so hard about watching Season 7 — beyond two beloved characters getting their heads pulverized by a wire-wrapped baseball bat, of course — was the whole group getting separated. Turns out that was by design, to build the anticipation for Season 8. "We knew we were going there," Gimple said, adding mysteriously that there are aspects of Season 8 that are setting up what happens in Season 9. "It's going to be very, very different."
95. No Breaks For The Wicked? Unlike Season 6, which took a break for Morgan's quieter episode, there are no pauses in Season 8. OR ARE THERE? "There's a little something in there that might feel a little deescalation one-off," Gimple teased, "but people might ask, it'll be like, wait, how did that happen?" No, it's not a one-character story, it's "a bit of a left turn," and the episode is mainly there to explain "how the hell" something else happened. Hmmm...
96. Flashbacks, Going Forward? Though TWD has sparingly used flashbacks, Gimple laughed when asked about utilizing the device in the future. "It's one of those things I'm holding on to," Gimple noted saying that he wouldn't elaborate — but they do have ideas on how to show the characters' pasts.
97. Truthiness. When Gimple was asked about the theme for the season, he deferred, and insisted that the actors also shouldn't be talking about the theme as of yet. The closest he was able to say? "Characters are going to have to face some big, big truths about them," Gimple noted vaguely.
98. Out Of Their Comfort Zone. Though the "All Out War" storyline in the comics allowed for some side missions, and B-stories, Gimple didn't feel that really worked on TV. Instead, he needed a propulsive vision for the season that broke up emotional storylines over several episodes, a process he copped to making him, "super uncomfortable" — but loved that he got out of his comfort zone, at the same time.
99. The Walking Dead Will Never Die. Look, this is well worn territory, but Gimple doesn't see an end in sight for The Walking Dead. Or at least, if it ends, it'll all depend on the comics. "We want to keep doing it at least as long as Robert keeps doing it," Gimple said. "We're ready for the long haul."
100. Really. Never. Not only that, but Gimple doesn't see a Game of Thrones problem with the show where the TV series laps the source material — mainly because Kirkman keeps cranking out that "fortifying material." Hey, if he does, we'll see you back here again for Episode 200.
The Walking Dead returns to AMC on Sunday, October 22 at 9/8c.