The Walking Dead stars Andrew Lincoln, Danai Gurira, Norman Reedus, Melissa McBride and Jeffrey Dean Morgan and executive producers Angela Kang, Scott Gimple, Robert Kirkman, Gale Anne Hurd, David Alpert and Greg Nicotero gathered Saturday at Madison Square Garden for New York Comic Con where they provided their hungry fans with meaty teases of what's to come in Season 9, aka Rick's final season.
Chris Hardwick moderated the panel, his first Comic Con panel since he was accused of sexual abuse over the summer. He received cheers, but not as big as the cheers that came when he introduced Andy Lincoln, who was making his final Comic Con appearance to promote the show he's been the star of for eight years. A spontaneous cheer of "AN-DREW LINC-OLN" swept through the theater as the cast and producers took their seats.
It quickly became a Lincoln lovefest, as the producers recalled their favorite Andrew Lincoln and Rick Grimes moments. Kirkman, the creator of the Walking Dead comic, admitted that Lincoln's intense commitment to the role makes him feel like he's not working hard enough on the comics and got a little choked up as he said "I love you, Andy."
Lincoln remembered the first two times he knew The Walking Dead was something special. The first was when he was filming the pilot and original showrunner Frank Darabont, who is not easily satisfied, said "I think we might have something here." The other time was when he went to his first Comic Con and heard the fan response to the show. He said that his relationship with the fans has been one of the best parts of the job. "This interaction is one of the most unique and special things," he said. He said he still gets nervous doing promotional stuff, but he loves being with the fans. "I will be staying for four hours to hug every single one of you," he said.
He said he's "still in a world of denial" about his time on the show coming to an end, especially since he's still doing promotion and recently went back to set to shadow a director, since he's planning to come back to direct in Season 10. But he is putting some distance between himself in the show; "I just watched my first-ever episode," the self-described "allergic to his own face" actor said, though it wasn't one he was in.
He described his last day on set as "amazing." At one point, he got so into a scene that he tore down the set and it fell down onto a cameraman and knocked him out. Norman Reedus had been slapping him in the face to amp him up, and he got carried away. It wasn't supposed to happen, but it did. And he told a story about his last scene, in which he lying in a bed and was supposed to smile and laugh a little bit. He was having a hard time laughing, so Reedus tickled his feet to make him laugh, which Lincoln jokingly called "unprofessional."
Later, showrunner Angela Kang confirmed that former cast members Jon Bernthal, Scott Wilson and Sonequa Martin-Green would be returning as their deceased characters Shane, Hershel and Sasha, respectively, though she did not say in what capacity.
Towards the end of the panel, a fan asked Lincoln what he'd miss the most about the show, and he said "these guys," pointing to his fellow cast members, "and everybody back in Atlanta, and you guys," as in the fans.
And then they screened the season premiere. We're not going to give you any spoilers yet, but The Walking Dead Season 9 premieres Sunday, Oct. 7 at 9/8c on AMC.