The Walking Dead panels at San Diego Comic-Con are usually more akin to a revival meeting than a wake. But a gloomy specter weighed over the usually raucous proceedings on Friday, as the cast and crew were still reeling from the unfortunate death of stuntman John Bernecker.
Bernecker passed away on July 14 after falling 22 feet during an otherwise routine stunt he was performing for the show's upcoming eighth season. The cast and crew immediately took to social media to mourn Bernecker, and canceled all press appearances at the Con other than the panel and a booth signing. But with six thousand plus fans packing Comic-Con's massive Hall H, this was a perfect time to more fully remember Bernecker.
Chris Hardwick noted the passing at the start of the Fear the Walking Dead panel, which preceded the Walking Dead panel, asking the crowd to join him in a moment of silence. He added that they want to celebrate the shows, and give back to the fans; and with producers Robert Kirkman, Gale Anne Hurd, and Greg Nicotero -- who produce both Fear and TWD -- about to hit the stage, it was important to note the passing as soon as possible, versus letting it loom over the proceedings.
Then at the beginning of The Walking Dead panel, TWD showrunner Scott M. Gimple also paid tribute to Bernecker.
"John was a stunt performer. You've probably seen his work before, but you just didn't know it," Gimple said. "John passed away this week, after he was injured doing something he loved: telling stories that helped people escape, and that entertained. ... He was living his dream, and helped other people do the same."
After that, it was into the panel, and back to Comic-Con -- but Bernecker will be missed.
The Walking Dead returns on October 22 at 9/8c, on AMC.