The Walking Dead returns!
While AMC's hit zombie series' second season won't air until fall(!), its cast, producers and fans celebrated their show's phenomenal success by kicking off PaleyFest 2011 Friday.
The writers room just opened its doors this week, but cast and producers did hint at what we can expect when the full 13-episode second season returns this fall...
Hershel's Farm: Sheriff Rick Grimes and his dwindling band of survivors are "heading out of the city, to the countryside to a farm," star Andrew Lincoln told us before taking the stage last night, confirming that season two of The Walking Dead will "stick relatively close to the narrative of the graphic novel." Comic book creator and show producer Robert Kirkman confirms that the survivors will spend "a good portion" of the season at the farm. Sarah Wayne Callies (Lori Grimes) is glad to hear it, saying of her character's family, "I think we're going to find what feels like a home for a while. Whether or not that becomes someplace we can stay long term will be a big subject of conflict." And Laurie Holden, who plays badass Andrea, predicts: "I know we're going to arrive at Hershel's Farm, which is a huge part of the next chapter of storytelling. I think it's going to get sexier and more violent."
Sexy Time: The Rick-Lori-Shane love triangle will again drive the storytelling next season, say producers, but some of the other characters will be getting lucky, too. Kirkman told us, "Anyone who's read the comic book knows Hershel has a daughter named Maggie, and Maggie has a relationship with Glenn." (That would be the hilarious Steven Yeun, whose references last night to Edible Arrangements means we'll never enjoy those fruit baskets the same way again!) "That's something we're probably gonna do...There will be romances here and there. It's the end of the world, there's not a lot to do. People are going to be hooking up from time to time. We're gonna see some stuff like that in the second season." Laurie Holden is confident Andrea will be gettin' some, too: " I think that's definitely in the cards," she told us. "I mean come on, it's the end of the world."
Lori's Pregnancy: Because Mrs. Grimes gets pregnant in the comic book series, many have speculated that Doc Jenner is sharing this news in his mysterious season-finale whisper to her hubby Rick Grimes. Kirkman told us he'd "prefer not" to spoil this storyline, but at the panel he coyly alluded to a second-season pregnancy theme on AMC sister shows like Mad Men and Breaking Bad. Callies herself told us, "I think Lori has some big secrets to keep, [and] if she becomes pregnant it will become some ways more difficult to keep those secrets"—including the possibility that Shane (Jon Bernthal) is the father.
Whisper to a Scream: Whether it concerns a pregnancy or something else, the content of Jenner's message won't remain a mystery for very long, Kirkman says: "There's a difference between teasing your audience and torturing your audience, and we're going to lean a lot more toward tease than torture." At the PaleyFest panel, showrunner Frank Darabont expressed outrage at the suggestion that the whisper would remain a secret. "What kind of horrible Communist turds do you think we are?" he exclaimed.
Shane Lives!: Kirkman told us he's personally "most excited" about potential baby daddy Shane because "he's already outlived the comic book version" of the character. "Shane is now existing in stories from the comic book that he didn't exist in before. Just by having Shane be alive changes everything about the comic. The Hershel storyline is something everybody likes—[there are a] lot of cool moments everybody wants to see. We're gonna get to see little differences because Shane wasn't there before and he changes the dynamic of the whole ensemble. It's going to be really cool."
Love "Square": Callies told us she considers her character's love triangle with Rick and Shane to be "more of a square": "Stuck in the middle of all this is a little boy [Carl, played by the amazing Chandler Riggs] who loves his mama, loves his papa, and also loves Shane—who's been a friend his whole life, is probably his godfather and has taken quite good care of him. So I think the biggest concern for all three adults involved is trying to make sure the kid is OK no matter what." Bernthal agrees: "This new role that Shane takes once he thinks Rick is dead is not necessarily entirely about Lori. I think it's so much about Carl. I think being a father figure for this little boy is the most important role he's found in his life."
Friends and Enemies: When we asked who outside the core cast will return, Kirkman name-checked both Morgan (Lennie James) and Merle Dixon (Michael Rooker) but wouldn't confirm they'd be back. "Those characters are in the wind and we want it to be a surprise if they return, so we'll see," he said. Darabont was more forthcoming at the panel, refuting rumors that Merle would assume the sadistic role of The Governor. As for other new faces, Kirkman said, "There's definitely going to be some new characters" and suggests fans "look at the comics" for "a lot of hints about characters introduced around the time of the Hershel storyline."
Timeline: When season two opens, don't expect much (if any) time to have passed after the CDC explosion. Darabont said, "I want to see them still in the reactive phase of this heated and intense thing that happened"—which explains why star Lincoln told us they are waiting until "they get hot enough in Atlanta" to resume filming.
Can't wait until fall for more Walking Dead? Great news: Tuesday marks the release of the season-one DVD and Blu-ray, which is packed with special features. "The extras are incredible," star Andrew Lincoln told us about the making-of documentary, interviews, extra footage and Zombie School—"if you want to learn to move like a zombie and maybe come on set. "
"I live in fear of zombie school," Lincoln added about attending classes himself. "Everybody does. You can always turn into a zombie—it's one of those shows."