Rick Grimes and team ready to wage ‘all-out war’ in ‘The Walking Dead’ season 8

“I hate that guy.” Andrew Lincoln made it quite clear how his character on The Walking Dead, Rick Grimes, feels about Negan, the show’s big bad with the badass bat named Lucille, who’s played with an evil panache by Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Continued Lincoln, “I really hate Negan, but I love Jeffrey.” Morgan put his hand on Lincoln’s shoulder and replied, “Well, you must love me, since you’re sitting real close to me here onstage.”

Thirteen members of the cast and creative team behind The Walking Dead appeared in front of a packed and raucous crowd at the Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York on Saturday night at New York Comic Con 2017. Those present included Lincoln, Morgan, Norman Reedus, Melissa McBride, Lennie James, executive producer/director Greg Nicotero, and TWD creator Robert Kirkman. They previewed a clip from the upcoming season 8 premiere, which airs at 9 p.m. ET on Sunday, October 22 on AMC.

GREG NICOTERO & ANDREW LINCOLN & LENNIE JAMES & TOM PAYNE AT TWD PRESS CONFERENCE
Mike Mettler/Digital Trends
Mike Mettler/Digital Trends

It also happens to be the show’s milestone 100th episode, and it signals the start to TWD’s next big arc, “All Out War,” where Grimes and a united front of community factions join forces to finally strike back against Negan’s oppressive ways, which took a huge toll on life and limb in season 7.

“It’s taken Rick Grimes 100 episodes to come up with a good plan”

“It’s taken Rick Grimes 100 episodes to come up with a good plan,” Lincoln said. “And this is it.”

While everyone was generally tight-lipped about how season 8 would unfold after the premiere, Kirkman did reveal that, at some unspecified point in the future, one character would be crossing over from either The Walking Dead or Fear The Walking Dead to the other show, even though he did decline to name which show the character was coming from or which one he or she would be going to. “This is a huge event in the world of The Walking Dead,” Kirkman acknowledged.

Prior to the panel, TWD held an invite-only press conference backstage, and Digital Trends asked how the team felt about how the show had evolved visually from episode 1 to episode 100.

“We’ve really tried to change up the style,” observed Nicotero, who directed episode 100 (the 20th of the series he’s helmed to date). “We want it to be fresh. We used a lot of zoom lenses this year, and there are not a tremendous number of crane shots. We’ve kept everything static. We wanted static, beautiful frames. If you watch something like [Stanley Kubrick’s] 2001, you could cut every one of those frames out and hang them on your wall, because they’re so beautiful and stunning.”

Nicotero feels TWD owes it to its fans to keep pushing the look and visual design of the show. “We’ve been going for really evocative frames without ‘discovering’ things with dolly moves, and things like that. That adds a lot more coverage and a lot more camera setups, which makes it harder on episodes that are huge anyway,” he noted.

“This season has the hardest episodes we’ve ever shot. We’re constantly aware of what we’ve done in the past, and we’re always trying to top ourselves — which is very hard to do,” Nicotero concluded. “We have an obligation to continue upping our game for the show, because it’s been eight years, and we don’t want people to feel the show is suffering from any fatigue.”

Added Lincoln, “The show has always had a very filmic quality to it. Most everybody who created the show and have worked on it came from film, and the intention was always to make it come across as a long-running movie. “But I do think it needs to change. The characters have changed, so why not the visual style? It’s a great idea.”

The Walking Dead airs on AMC at 9 p.m. every Sunday, beginning October 22.