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7:00 PM - And so The 28th Annual Paley Festival begins - with a clip from a 1997 episode of "South Park" featuring, you guessed it, zombies.
7:06 PM - The Paley Center's Pat Mitchell greets the audience and intros tonight's moderator, TV Guide's Michael Schneider. And after his obligatory Charlie Sheen and Larry King jokes (the series is "winning" in adults 18-49; now that "Larry King Live" is off the air, "Dead" is the only zombie show on television; ba-dum-bum), he brings out "The Walking Dead" creator Robert Kirkman. He notes he really wishes they had something new to show us but instead he's brought episode five of the series, "Wildfire."
8:00 PM - After the screening, Michael returns to bring out tonight's panelists: Emma Bell (Amy)! Steven Yeun (Glenn)! Laurie Holden (Andrea)! Jon Bernthal (Shane)! Sarah Wayne Callies (Lori)! Andrew Lincoln (Rick)! Gale Anne Hurd! Robert Kirkman! Frank Darabont!
8:04 PM - Darabont gives a shout out to House of Secrets, the comic store in Burbank he frequents for turning him onto Kirkman's comic. "[It really lended itself] to something I've been toying with. It was sort of a perfect answer to question that I had been asking myself. And so following that I started inquiring for the rights."
8:05 PM - "Half the time they had stupid ideas," Kirkman says about the various Hollywood courtships over the years. "'Oooh we can have super zombies! You know, what if there were dogs that turn into rocket ships!' And stuff like that... I just wanted to do the comic." He adds that the comic was paying the bills so he wasn't desperate to accept the first offer. Frank first reached out over four years ago (before "The Mist" came out, Kirkman jokes) and said all the things he wanted to hear.
8:06 PM - "It's my fault," Hurd jokes about the show's lengthy gestation period. Darabont and Kirkman say it's the complete opposite: as soon as Hurd signed on, they were a go at AMC. "It was developed previously in a different incarnation [at NBC], that would have resulted in quite a different show I think," Hurd notes.
8:07 PM - "I'm still convinced I only got that gig because my son had just been born and I hadn't slept for 12 days," Lincoln says about his audition for Rick. "I looked like I survived a zombie apocalypse."
8:09 PM - "No one was going to get involved with this because, 'Oh, I'm going to look pretty in this!'" Callies notes about how she came to the show. "The people who get involved in this, these are going to be actors. These are really going to be incredible folks."
8:10 PM - "I couldn't believe the storytelling and the characters and how dark it was," Holden says about the comic. "And how I was up until four o'clock in the morning and how I was actually crying reading a comic book."
8:11 PM - Yeun gives my favorite answer to the "how did you get involved" question since it's obviously the truth in most cases: "I wish I could say... 'I picked [up] the script and I really liked it so I thought I'd put my name in [the running].' For me it was like, 'I need to book a job!'"
8:13 PM - "I had an inkling, because in the comic book she dies." Bell notes about her character's death. "Although they haven't stuck to the comic book for everything."
8:16 PM - "You do second guess every, you know, murderous decision you make," Darabont says about killing off characters. Adding, "What's canon in the series versus what's in the comic book is what I think it supremely cool. The stuff that Robert has laid out is a fantastic pattern, it's a great template. There are some things in it that are just too cool not to do."
8:19 PM - Darabont reveals the CDC story was entirely his creation. "When we're done with the CDC," Darabont says. "We will then veer back onto the path that Robert has established. We don't want to limit ourselves in the just box of making the comic book fans happy. We're making a show for everybody." He adds that Kirkman has encouraged that line of thinking from the beginning.
8:22 PM - So now with the TV show established, is Kirkman implementing any of its new developments back into the comic? "Yeah, fucker!" Darabont jests. "We'll see," Kirkman says, turning to Darabont. "Is it cool or are you going to sue me?" Adding, "They're very much different animals for me just because... it's a mostly different cast because a lot of people die in the comic book series."
8:26 PM - Kirkman and Darabont say they've just returned to the writers' room this week. So where will season two begin, right after the explosion at the CDC or sometime there after. Darabont professes leaning towards the former, not being a fan of "one month later" cards and the like. "I think that's where we're going to start: 'Darn it, what do we do now?'"
8:28 PM - Looking ahead, Callies says "I think the most dangerous thing that happened to Lori last season was hearing the words 'I love you' from Shane. What's interesting about the context that they've put this love triangle into is not just a domestic - the consequences of this could be the end of my marriage, there could be an alimony - thing [etc.]. I think the danger of the secret that I'm holding, it involves everybody because these are our two great protectors for the whole camp, everyone one of these refugees. And if I say something to either one of them that causes them to fight, that causes one of them to leave, I could not only be leaving myself unprotected but my son unprotected and everyone else around there." Plus, it's hard to keep secrets in a place without walls.
8:30 PM - So will that involve a pregnancy? Kirkman jokes that pregnancy is kind of a thing on AMC shows lately so perhaps the edict will come down from the network itself. As for other comic-related plot developments, Darabont affirms that - despite fan speculation - Merle Dixon (Michael Rooker) will not prove to be The Governor, one of the book's notable villains. "Merle will not be The Governor because, you know, what a lame, obvious choice that would be," Darabont says. Whether we'll see Merle or Morgan Jones (Lennie James) again remains to be determined.
8:32 PM - One storyline Darabont isn't shy about wanting to incorporate is the prison one. "It's the joke of my career now," Darabont says. "I keep getting sent back to prison!" In all seriousness, he adds "it's such a damn good idea though isn't it? That was a moment in the comic where I read it and went, 'That's too damn cool not to do.' It's such a great idea: 'Oh look, safety!' Cut to the worst possible place in the world."
8:34 PM - The cast professes being excited about tackling what's in store for them. "I'm not excited about maybe shaving my head," Yeun dissents. "I'm going to tell you right now: I have a really ugly head."
8:36 PM - Darabont says he's not too concerned about Rick's son Carl aging too quickly. "We're definitely on puberty watch," Kirkman innocently adds, before the crowds laughs take it in a different direction.
8:38 PM - Will we learn what Jenner whispered to Rick in the finale's closing moments? Or what was the deal with the helicopter over Atlanta? "Well sure," Darabont says. "What kind of horrible communist turds do you think we?" Adding, "We're not like other shows... the 'truth is not out there.'"
8:40 PM - Darabont says, in what apparently is an unorthodox move, he invited each of the actors to come to the writers' room to talk about their characters and pitch ideas. One of Sarah's suggestions: people will die in the show's world of things besides zombies as with the apocalypse comes the death of modern medicine. As she notes, "What are the consequences when there's no Theraflu?"
8:43 PM - So why isn't the word "zombie" used in the show? "It always occurred to me that the best way to do it was to just imagine we're in an alternate dimension where zombies didn't exist," Kirkman reveals. "Because it's kind of ridiculous to have the characters go, 'Well I know to shoot 'em in the head because I've seen it in the movies before!'"
8:47 PM - Kirkman adds that he stuck with standard zombie lore for the show's mythology. "I added a few things. Like it never made sense to me that zombies could tell the difference between humans and, you know, each other."
8:51 PM - Time for audience Q&A. "She was the cutest zombie ever," Holden says about Bell's character. "But she was like a sick baby and I think that's what broke Andrea's heart even more." Darabont adds, in perhaps the most wonderful encapsulation of the series, "You realize [in that scene] it's such an irretrievable loss. And it's bad enough losing someone you love but what if they come back just long enough you can look them in the eye and try and say you're sorry for having failed them in life... and they couldn't hear you [say it]. That's fucking cool shit!"
8:55 PM - Everyone gives props to Gregory Nicotero for his contribution to the show. "That was a big thing for me," Kirkman said about make-up wizard. "It did really help with the decision [to go with Darabont], a lot more than people might expect."
9:00 PM - Will we ever learn the origins of the zombie outbreak? "In the comic book series I have vowed never to explain [it] and the fanbase seems to have accepted that," Kirkman says. "And maybe you guys should get on board with that." Darabont adds that they've "nibbled around the edges, but there's no real answers. And I dig that."
9:02 PM - A fan asks about the show's upcoming action figure releases. This prompts lots of teasing of Yeun about his ugly head.
9:05 PM - "I want to hear about a small indiscretion," Lincoln says about his hopes for season two. "I want not to have that conversation," Callies shoots back.
9:09 PM - Darabont closes by saying they'll start shooting season two in May for an October premiere.
9:10 PM - That's all for tonight! Jim will be covering tomorrow's "True Blood" panel.
And for more PaleyFest coverage - past and present - visit our Paley Center topic page.