On the eve of the season five premiere of AMC’s monster skein “The Walking Dead,” the show’s executive producer Greg Nicotero described the mood perfectly: “Tomorrow feels like Christmas.”
The core cast, Nicotero, graphic novel creator and producer Robert Kirkman, executive producer Gale Anne Hurd and showrunner Scott Gimple kicked off PaleyFest New York Saturday with a panel with an aud filled to the brim with eagerly awaiting fans. Like a zombie herd, the fans were so rabid, some journalists weren’t able to get to the red carpet.
“I decided if I do one thing wrong [tonight] I’m closing down my Twitter account because I know you all will let me have it,” said NBC News’ Tamron Hall, moderator of the Yahoo! live streamed event.
Prior to the panel, AMC treated the aud with the first four minutes of season five’s opener, which immediately hit AMC’s website following the debut. However, the panel was still incredibly tight-lipped about what’s next for our favorite band of apocalypse survivors, only hinting at possibilities and giving insight into the characters and behind-the-scenes.
“Tomorrow’s episode is a movie. It’s really epic what everybody brings to it,” Nicotero said.
Kirkman also chimed in to put a few fears to rest, “Any questions that you have about Terminus or this season, we answer right out of the gate.”
“This season is following the comics closer than ever before,” Kirkman added for the comic fans, but also noted that, “We never want people to guess what’s coming next. I don’t think people are really anticipating how cool this world is going to get. ”
Hall asked Hurd to describe this season in five words or less.
“Absolutely heartbreaking. Utterly relentless. Kickass,” said Hurd, further confirming that fan favorites may bite the dust early on in the season, possibly even Sunday’s episode.
Steven Yeun joked, “I’m pretty sure every season the producers say ‘What can we do to take a dump on Glenn?’”
“I don’t know how long it’s going to take you to realize you get a very different script than everyone else,” replied Kirkman.
The show that could has come a long way since its first PaleyFest in LA in 2011, with the cast and producers promising that this will be the best season yet.
Andrew Lincoln, who plays central character Rick Grimes, insists that the writing and level of character development is top notch and best featured on the show yet.
“I’m more excited now than I’ve ever been,” he said.
Lincoln, Norman Reedus and Nicotero also said that the cast’s dynamic and closeness contributes to what fans see onscreen.
“I’ve lived in this character with them for five years. It’s the longest that I’ve ever shared with any character,” said Lincoln. “We don’t rehearse sometimes.”
“We finish each other’s sentences half the time,” Nicotero added. “The actors know their characters so well — their instincts are spot on.”
Naturally, there will be new characters introduced to help move along the core cast’s storylines and Kirkman noted that “all of them are played by former ‘Wire’ cast members.”
Things got a little silly after Michael Cudlitz answered his question marvelously — so marvelously in fact he dropped the mic and walked out of the auditorium to applause. (His response to the question of whether he will fall in line with the group: “Right now, he has a very specific mission. But what lies before all of them is a very different mission and they’re all joined together to take care of this first problem as a group first. Later on, he has to continue on with his mission whether or not any of this group is going to come with him or not, will be decided by the group. But it’s not dependent on whether or not the group comes — the mission will continue anyway.”)
Hall then opened the floor up for questions with Nicotero running into the audience for question No. 1 and then passing the mic off to Reedus at Nicotero’s behest, much to the delight of the female fans in the aud.
Cudlitz popped back up for another comedic moment pretending to be an aud member with a question.
“First time caller, long time listener. Mr. Gimple, when are you going to introduce Abraham?” he asked.
“This is a tough bit to get in on here but he’s on the show… played by you,” Gimple answered.
All jokes aside, Gimple and Hurd closed the panel with some heartfelt sentiments for the fans.
“This is the kind of stuff, interacting with the fans, that gets us through the next to months,” Gimple said, referring to the last push in production and long hours.
“It’s about the fans. And honestly, we appreciate them so much that’s why everybody is part of the #TWDFamily,” said Hurd.
“The Walking Dead” season five premieres Sunday, October 12 at 9 p.m. on AMC. Watch the panel in full at Yahoo Screen.
(Pictured: Danai Gurira, Norman Reedus and Andrew Lincoln at “The Walking Dead” PaleyFest New York panel)