NOTE: Spoilers about tonight’s The Walking Dead Season 7 premiere below.
“We are such a close family… we do suffer for this show and it means a lot to us, and to feel that from [the audience] is kind of awesome,” said a visibly emotional Norman Reedus tonight on The Walking Dead aftershow The Talking Dead. He was talking about the family dynamic of the cast and crew and the symbiotic relationship with the show’s audience. But he could easily have been referring to the shocking deaths of two major characters during the Season seven premiere of parent show tonight.
Of primary discussion tonight, the deaths of Glenn and Abraham at the hands of the villain Negan. With such big changes in store for the show, tonight’s Talking Dead premiere was similarly big, a super-sized, special outdoor event at Los Angeles’ Hollywood Forever Ceremony in front of a huge crowd of fans. Soon after the show started, the rain that threatened the TWD screening started in earnest before fading into a drizzle at the iconic cemetery, with umbrellas were brought on stage as could be seen on TV. Meanwhile, AMC and other VIP guests headed for tented areas to ride out the (relative to L.A.) downpour.
On hand for the post-bloodbath discussion were stars Andrew Lincoln, Norman Reedus, Steven Yeun, Lauren Cohan, Danai Gurira, Michael Cudlitz, Sonequa Martin-Green, Josh McDermitt, Christian Serratos, Ross Marquand, and of course Negan himself Jeffrey Dean Morgan, along with Scott M. Gimple (Showrunner and Executive Producer) and Robert Kirkman (Executive Producer). Meanwhile, among the fans and invited guests at the cemetery setting was AMC boss Charlie Collier keeping a close eye on the crowd’s reaction to both TWD and Talking Dead.
While speaking about the death of his character Glenn Rhee, Steven Yeun was as emotional as his castmates, but insisted he was fully onboard for it. “The death in the comic Robert (Kirkman) wrote was such a messed up, but at the same time incredible way to take something away, and make a story as impactful as it is,” he said. “When you read that comic you kind of don’t want that to go to anyone else. I think I even said ‘don’t give that to anybody else.”
Like Reedus, Yeun also talked about the dynamic of the cast and crew as familial. “I’m very lucky to have my castmates and my friends here to bounce things off,” said about the processing the end of his time on the show, also citing his wife’s support.
Michael Cudlitz came out after Yeun, sipping from a classy leather-bound cask as he sat down to talk about the death of Abraham. The death scene from tonight’s premiere has already become one of the show’s most iconic, thanks to Cudlitz’s last line – “suck. my. nuts” – uttered defiantly just before Negan delivered the killing blow.
“These guys [the show’s writers] had a tough time inserting any dialogue with abraham because of where we left last season,” said Cudlitz. “There was no interaction with the rest of the group, [so] to actually insert something in there was very very awesome.”
Immediately after, in tribute to that line and to the Cudlitz’-portrayed character, Hardwick led the crowd in a chant of “suck. my. nuts.”
The episode was live but on a slight tape delay – a wise move considering the occasional f-words that popped put of the cast members on stage as they talked about the episode and the changes in store for the series. Though Chris Hardwick didn’t care, noting that audiences had just watched two people get their heads bashed in horribly, so surely they could handle the occasional f***. “I’ll take the heat” Hardwick shouted, before dropping an f-bomb of his own.
Another highlight – for those able to attend in Los Angeles, Hardwick also joked with the audience during commercial breaks, telling them in one case how he liked being spooned.
Meanwhile, as the show went on the rain picked up again, becoming visible even on television as it poured down – well, by the Los Angeles definition of pouring down. Fans persevered however, mostly staying put as things got wetter and only beginning to leave in the last half hour of the 90-minute telecast. Near the end however, the rain almost won as Hardwick’s clip-on mic shorted out and he had to switch to a hand-held.