PaleyFest 2011: 'The Walking Dead' Cast Talk Love Triangles, Action Figures and Season 2
by Laura Prudom, posted Mar 5th 2011 12:00PM
'The Walking Dead' started PaleyFest 2011 off with a bang (or was it a cry for "braaaaains"?) in Beverly Hills last night, as the cast and creators of the hit AMC show took to the stage of the Saban Theatre to answer -- or artfully sidestep -- many of the fans' burning questions.
The undead drama was the first of many popular shows to be honored by the Paley Center for Media at its 28th annual television festival, with upcoming events set to spotlight 'True Blood,' 'Parks and Recreation,' 'Supernatural,' 'Community' and 'Glee,' to name a few.
Though writer/director/producer Frank Darabont and creator Robert Kirkman were infuriatingly tight-lipped about much of what season two has in store, we were able to glean a few tasty tidbits to whet our appetites for the fresh batch of episodes (13 in total) before their October debut. Join us after the jump for more. Heavy spoilers for the comics and light spoilers for the series ahead.
Though he was nursing a cold -- or perhaps the onset of a zombie virus -- executive producer Frank Darabont was in fine form at the festival, breezily rebuffing any attempt to extract infomation about season two from him.
"You actually expect me to answer that?" he drawled more than once, whenever a question veered too far into spoiler territory, though his reticence might be due to the fact that the writers have only been back at work for one week, so although they're "kicking things around," no scripts have actually been completed yet.
Darabont did admit that upon first reading the comics (and in referring back to them later during the writing process) he was surprised at how quickly certain characters, such as Amy and Shane, "bought it," especially after getting to flesh them out and grow attached to them in the series.
"You second-guess every murderous decision you make," he joked, lamenting that it was a shame to kill off Amy (Emma Bell). Poor Bell was the only member of the panel whose character had died on the show, so every question that was addressed to her was met with a sympathetic "aww" from the audience and her castmates.
On the subject of deciding which storylines to keep from the comics and what to embellish for the show, Darabont shrugged, "What is canon in the series is what I think is supremely cool from the comics. Some moments are just too awesome not to include."
Robert Kirkman, creator of the comic books and executive producer of the show, admitted that he doesn't like to be too precious about which arcs should feature in the series, because the more they divert from the comics' canon, the more "it keeps people guessing." He wants fans of the comics to be able to enjoy the show without being able to predict every twist that's coming, but did joke that "Shane's days are numbered."
It's obvious that Kirkman's work is a great template to base the series on, but when asked if the show has inspired him to add anything into the comics in return, Kirkman admitted that he's so far ahead of where the show is now, he's writing a mostly different cast, since "most of them die." He did reveal that he plans to write Norman Reedus' fan-favorite character, Daryl Dixon, into an upcoming arc.
Darabont dismissed the notion of doing a time jump at the beginning of the second season, admitting that he wants to see the characters "still in the reactive phase -- like, 'what do we do now?'" after the explosion at the CDC.
One aspect of the comic book that will play an integral role in season two, is the love triangle between Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), his wife Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies), and his best friend, Shane (Jon Bernthal).
Lincoln teasingly covered his ears at the first mention of Lori and Shane's affair, while Callies admitted that "the most dangerous thing for Lori last season was hearing 'I love you' from Shane," because Shane and Rick are the group's two greatest protectors, so if Lori says anything to upset the balance between them or cause them to fight, that could leave her and her son, as well as the group as a whole, more vulnerable.
Callies was also quick to point out that since Lori and Shane were continuing their affair in a "tent village" with no walls, there's no telling who else could know about it, and who might decide to tell Rick ...
In regards to the love triangle, though the panelists were careful never to confirm the possibility outright, Darabont did allude to Lori's pregnancy storyline from the comics, while Kirkman pointed out that AMC seems to have a track record with female characters becoming pregnant in the second season of their shows: "'Mad Men' ... 'Breaking Bad' ... I'm just sayin', I don't know what they're doing at that network!"
Many fans have been eager to learn whether the villainous Merle Dixon (Michael Rooker) will reappear in season two. "We're investigating the possibilities," Darabont enigmatically revealed, confirming that the writers do have plans to bring back Merle and the father-son duo of Morgan (Lennie James) and Duane Jones (Adrian Kali Turner), but that Merle would not be the mysterious Governor, a major villain that will appear later on.
Given Darabont's track record with stories set in jail (he wrote and directed 'The Shawshank Redemption and 'The Green Mile,' after all) it's no surprise that he's eager to visit 'The Walking Dead' version of prison, where our survivors will take refuge. He admitted that he loved the idea of one of the worst places to be trapped under normal circumstances could become one of the safest places to hide in case of a zombie apocalypse.
He promised that whatever Dr. Jenner (Noah Emmerich) whispered to Rick at the end of season one would definitely be revealed in season two, because 'TWD' isn't like other shows that string their audiences along (there may have been a subtle dig at 'Lost' and 'The X-Files' at this juncture).
Kirkman promised that he will never reveal the cause of the outbreak in the comics, and it seems that the show intends to go the same route -- their brief diversion via the CDC is probably as close to an answer as we're going to get.
In terms of character progression in season two, Lincoln observed that he doesn't think any person could go through what Rick's gone through without there being "some deterioration," and admitted that he's eager to "get dark" -- although he's not quite ready to lose a hand just yet.
Wayne Callies noted that one of the joys of acting is being able to develop a character over time, so she hopes "all of our characters [will] become unrecognizable by the time we leave the show."
Bernthal predicted that Shane is going to be "a pretty lonely guy" in season two -- "the people that he loves are right there and he can't be with them the way he wants to be. He's gonna try desperately to get them back."
Laurie Holden, who plays the troubled Andrea, shared that her character would also be a bit of a "lone wolf" in season two, and that she'll be feeling very apathetic in the wake of sister Amy's death. "She's going to give Dale a little hell for a while," she laughed, since Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn) was the only reason she chose to leave the CDC before the explosion, since she would've been happy to join her sister in lieu of struggling on with nothing to live for.
Steven Yeun admitted that he was excited to see Glenn "grow up" and hopefully "find something to live for" -- could it be a girlfriend? No comment! He's not, however, excited to shave his hair off, since he vehemently insisted that he has "an ugly head". Otherwise, anything that they want to do to his character is "all good."
Darabont then divulged that he had recently invited Lincoln and Wayne Callies into the writers' room to discuss their characters, offering the actors an opportunity to share their insights and ideas for Rick and Lori's progression in season two -- he admitted that he wasn't sure whether other shows and writers do this (I'm fairly sure that most don't, although they probably should!) since he's making this stuff up as he goes.
The director also confirmed that they'd begin shooting in "May-ish" for their October airdate, and that the cast just spent the day being scanned for their first action figures, a process that Yeun described as "super awkward" for him, since he went first, but entertaining for everyone else.
Are you excited for the return of 'The Walking Dead'? What do you hope to see from season two? Are there any moments you'd love to see included from the comics, or do you enjoy watching the show diverge from canon? Share your thoughts below!