WD Ensemble“This is the first time since Season 1 where they don’t have any protection,” The Walking Dead EP and director Greg Nicotero said tonight of the remainder of the show’s fourth season. “You get a sweeping sense of the world again, and our characters are thrust back in it,” he added without giving away any more than that.

Related: ‘The Walking Dead’s Season 4 Return (Video)

Just days before the AMC series comes back from its midseason break, Nicotero was joined at the TV Academy by creator/executive producer Robert Kirkman, EP Gale Anne Hurd, EP and showrunner Scott Gimple, EP Dave Alpert, stars Norman Reedus, Danai Gurira, Steven Yeun and other members of WD’s main cast. Unlike a similar appearance at the TV Academy around this time last year — when recently exited EP Glen Mazzara was suddenly a no-show — there wasn’t any controversy, but there was another notable absence. Lead Andrew Lincoln, who plays Rick Grimes on the show, was scheduled to be there tonight but ended up missing the evening due to a cold. “I am so sorry I’m not to be able to attend this event, but I am currently the walking dead tonight,” the actor said in a note to the audience read by Gimple in a terrible British accent.

WD LaurenOther than Nicotero’s comments about the overall arc of the rest of Season 4, it was primarily show-and-tell night, with the assembled cast revealing and discussing their favorite clips from the first half of the cycle. “Good bloody gory memories,” actress Lauren Cohan said to a big laugh in the packed Leonard H. Goldenson Theatre.

This has been a record-breaking season for the blockbuster zombie apocalypse series so far. The Season 4 premiere of Walking Dead on October 13 garnered a stunning 16.1 million viewers. With numbers like that and a couple of sacks of NBC’s NFL Sunday Night Football in the key 18-49 demo last year, it’s no wonder AMC renewed WD for a fifth season on October 29 last year. The remainder of the fourth season premieres February 9 after a more than two-month break — a break that started on a record-breaking high. The December 1 midseason finale pulled in 12.1 million viewers, a midseason finale record for WD. There’s no NFL more NFL competition this year, but Walking Dead will be facing the Winter Olympics on NBC for its first couple of Sundays.

Related: Frank Darabont & CAA Suing AMC Over ‘The Walking Dead’ Profits

One issue that was certainly not addressed was former WD producer and series developer Frank Darabont and CAA’s multi-tiered lawsuit against AMC for profit participation payments not received and wrongful termination. AMC are expected to reply to the producer and the agency’s complaint sometime later this month. (Photos: AP)