The cast and producers of AMC's "The Walking Dead" reunited Friday night at the Dolby Theatre to discuss that grisly season opener, the Negan regime and what's next for our heroes in the last remaining episodes of Season 7.
The panel discussion, moderated by the Los Angeles Times’ Greg Braxton, was part of the Paley Center for Media’s annual PaleyFest TV festival.
Series stars Andrew Lincoln, Melissa McBride, Sonequa Martin-Green, Lauren Cohan, Josh McDermitt, Christian Serratos, Alanna Masterson, Ross Marquand, Tom Payne, Seth Gilliam and Austin Amelio joined executive producers Scott Gimple, Greg Nicotero, Robert Kirkman and David Alpert.
Here are a few key takeaways from the panel:
Even after seven seasons, Scott Gimple doesn't see the show ending anytime soon.
Without spoiling anything, Gimple said that the season finale will be "very much the end of a chapter."
"It's very much a conclusion that promises this epic challenge ahead. … It's about setting up this gigantic, epic tale to come, not only in Season 8, but beyond."
The first episode of Season 8 will be the 100th episode of the series, Gimple revealed. "The first episode [of Season 8] is less about that we reached 100 episodes, it's more about setting up the next 100 episodes."
It actually really annoys Lauren Cohan that the villainous Negan, played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan, is a fan favorite.
"I was burning inside when I heard Robert [Kirkman] talk about how charming and likable Negan is," she said. "It bugs me, it bugs me, it bugs me. I love Jeffrey Dean Morgan so I get it, but Negan, whatever," she said before flipping the bird.
This is how Lincoln, who plays hero Rick Grimes, predicts the series ending:
Lincoln described a scene that sounds pretty far-fetched, even for a show about the undead.
While traveling through the desert, our heroes are swarmed by walkers, leading Rick to jump off the bus “in a very heroic act,” he explained.
“I jump off and I'm kung fu kicking — earn my action figure — halfway through I get bit. ‘Ow! Doesn't matter, keep going!’"
After dispatching the walkers, Rick resigns himself to what is sure to be a slow death followed by the inevitable transition into zombiehood.
"I'm dying on my own. Just waiting to die,” he continued dramatically. “I wait and I patch up and a day passes.”
“I patch myself up, I don't die. The final shot is, 'Holy [moly]! Maybe I'm the cure!'”
But that’s not all, folks. In a final scene that Lincoln imagines being shot from on high, a herd of zombies approaches Rick, who gets up, ready to face certain death.
“The herd comes towards him, and they separate,” Lincoln finished. “He walks through. Boom!"
Sonequa Martin-Green revealed former cast member Michael Cudlitz' series finale prediction:
"How about [in the] last shot, whoever's there, we get to the coast, you pan out, and you see all these ships blockading [the coastline], in which you find out that it's just America” that has been infected.
Lincoln also shared his thoughts on Rick and Michonne potentially starting a family:
"I mean, we've gotta repopulate the world," he said with a laugh.
“The Walking Dead” airs Sundays on AMC at 9 p.m. and the seventh season finale is slated for April 2.
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