Sleet was in the air on Monday, but you could still say the stars were shining bright in New York City because The Walking Dead‘s Scott M. Gimple, Lauren Cohan, Steven Yeun, Michael Cudlitz, Danai Gurira, and Melissa McBride were all at the 92nd Street Y for a very special fan screening and Q&A before this weekend’s Valentine’s Day midseason premiere. Some lucky fans were treated to a sneak peak four minutes of Sunday’s episode following a screening of the midseason finale before the cast and producer sat down to answer fan questions.
We here at Nerdist were lucky enough to get both an exclusive interview with producer Scott M. Gimple and the chance to talk to the stars in New York. No one was willing to tell us exactly how the gang is going to survive the horde of walkers currently shuffling through Alexandria, but they were willing to open up about the rest of the season in other ways. Here’s what we learned.
Nerdist: Can you tell us about adapting these huge arcs from the books and working with the changes that have already been made to the original story on the show?
Scott Gimple: The entirety of the show has become very different. The little changes, all the way back to the beginning, has created a butterfly effect that has rippled through the entire story. That said, I believe that we’ve been able to tell the spirit of each story, sometimes utterly directly, sometimes transferring things to other characters. I think, actually I know, we’re going to do be doing that again. There’s absolutely things, moments, that people will recognize.There’s moments have been crazily expanded out, moments that were one page in the book that in some ways are an entire episode. There’s some things that I believe we’re going to be saving for later than they occurred. There’s some things that are happening earlier than they occurred in the books. I guess the only other thing is that, you know in the books, Rick drives most of the stories. On the show, it sort of distributed out among all the characters to a degree. You know in greater and lesser ways. So we will see, I guess, a lot of different angles of the same story from the book but all these different perspectives. Whether we’re Rosenkrantz & Guildersterning or just showing what was happening just to the left of that panel in the book or just to the right. So, it’s the book remixed but also expanded upon.
[To Michael Cudlitz] N: What are you looking forward to the fans getting to see in the second half of the season? Do you have a favorite episode?
Michael Cudlitz: I have a couple of favorite episodes. I think the finale of this season is up there with – everyone always throws around the “best episode ever” – but the amount of tension and satisfaction and disappointment is unparalleled…So that’s my favorite episode. It is very intense. And we talk about this a lot through the show. It is intense and it gets better, and all these kind of stock answers, but the show really does, and he’s [Gimple] responsible for a lot of what’s going on here. Scott has such attention to detail and character development, and there’s such a payoff where these characters do go and when they triumph. There’s a lot of moments of great success throughout these next 8 episodes.
[To Steven Yeun] N: You’re going into the second half of the season as the husband who disappeared and now you’re coming back. How is that going to make or break your relationship with Maggie?
Steven Yeun: I think everything is, you know, it’s interesting. Maybe it’s what people want. They want to see drama in relationships. I think the beauty of Glenn and Maggie is that they’ve traversed maybe some of their most difficult moments up to this point. At this point, they’re pretty solid.
Everything that Glenn has done, especially this season, has been for the sake of keeping Maggie safe and keeping the baby safe. Even if there is a world where he does not exist, he’s going to make it so that they can exist in lieu of that. That’s why he was willing to sacrifice himself and be as reckless as he was because for him, it’s their safety over everything. While he’s doing that, he’s also trying to preserve himself as much as he can.
We don’t know what’s going to happen. The goal is to just get back. The goal is to keep them alive. I think that’s the thing that the baby has kind of created as a catalyst for Glenn is, to have a mission now. He has a purpose, an even greater purpose than he ever had before. If you look at early season one, Glenn was fumbling around. He didn’t have a purpose. He didn’t know why he was alive. Who was he to live for, if there’s nobody there? That’s why you see a reckless abandon approach to the way he lived life, at that point. Then he found Maggie and he realized there is something to live for. There’s love to live for. Now that they’re creating another life, that’s it.
[To Lauren Cohan] N: How will we get to see Maggie grow in the second half of this season?
Lauren Cohan: There is an opportunity for the group to go to places and to securities that is yet to have happened in the show. When Maggie sees the crack in that armor, she holds no prisoners. She doesn’t wait to take advantage of that opportunity… There’s still a little turmoil ahead. The place is overtaken. It’s not going to be easy. The dead are coming back. We’re not going to get everything that we need, but ultimately what comes this season is going to be pretty epic. There is some good news.
[To Danai Gurira] N: Can you talk about how you’ve taken Michonne from the wild child of the group with perhaps the least connection to her humanity, to Rick’s de facto second in command?
Danai Gurira: I love how my character’s grown. I really enjoy stepping into her and feeling her evolve. It’s really been exciting to actually see how she’s really become more of who she really, in a sense, is designed to be. What she’s really been dealing with is, “How do I handle my power?” Because she has so much power. She has such an ability to take care of things, to handle things, to do what needs to be done, be it brutal. She can step in. It’s a question really of navigating that realm for herself and saying, “I want this family to be safe and I want it to be in a place where there’s something stable or as close as we can get. I want these kids and these children to be able to have something stable. They’re growing, they’re alive and they’re here and we need to find something better for them.”
I really love stepping into that part of her, because it’s such a different humanity from where she was in season three. Seeing her open up and receive people and have them receive her. As a result, her walls have started to come down. Playing that, experiencing her walls break and break and break, it’s been really enjoyable. There’s still a couple walls left and we’ll see how those go in the second half of the season or if they do. She definitely has some really great things about her in terms of her womanhood and her maturity that I kind of now look at there and say, “Wow, she can stay really level headed in certain things. She’ll be insanely pragmatic, she can put emotion aside like that.”
Someone said to me … No actually, it was the idea of Rick and Michonne. It’s like, well, Rick is kind of the … She was talking about their friendship and how she had to knock him out. She was saying Rick is more emotional than her. I was like, “That’s so funny.” I love that about our show. That it plays with that concept. People would always assume women are more emotional than men, but that’s not always the case. We get to portray a very different scenario. She did knock him out, because it was a pragmatic thing to do. It was like, “I hate to humiliate you like this, but I need you to stop humiliating yourself more, so this is what must be done.” She just does what must be done. A lot of other people might, including myself, might hem and haw, “How do we handle this?” She’ll just step in and do it. I love that about her.
[To Melissa McBride] N: What is it like to get to play the wild card of the group? We’re always going, “Where’s Carol? When’s she going to show up? When’s she going to appear?”
Melissa McBride: This is the kind of material that I love to do. I love to explore. The more psychologically thrilling it is, the more excited I get. The more psychologically challenging it is, the more excited I get. It’s so much fun playing this character, and an honor playing this character. The second half of this season, I was just saying, is the most psychologically thrilling material that we’ve done.
If you’re interested in checking out the fan Q&A that was held following the midseason finale screening, you can watch the whole thing right here. Don’t forget to tune in on Sunday night to catch the premiere of the second of half the season and a new Talking Dead right after.
Image via Michael Priest Photography