What can fans expect from The Walking Dead Season 5, which kicks off on October 12?
Now, we're here with highlights of our conversation with Chandler Riggs (Carl), Andrew Lincoln (Rick) and Danai Gurira (Michonne)...
Will there be lighter moments in Season 5? Riggs had some pudding during the panel, but he was happy to have had a normal portion rather than the 120 hours he was required to eat for the show. Even though those lighter moments help break up the darkness of The Walking Dead, Chandler doesn't see many coming any time soon.
How do they get away with the violence? Lincoln loves the extremities of the show - the two girls being killed and the throat bite (by Rick in The Walking Dead Season 4 Episode 16) --and how they're "played off by incredible moments of unity and hope." They get away with a lot because of those extremes.
He especially appreciated the incredible trauma that played out between Carol and Tyrese that gave her the courage to confess to what she had done at the prison and gave Tyrese the grace to forgive her for it.
Will a sense of family tame Michonne? Gurira had the opposite experience of Lincoln and Chandler, whose characters became ass-kickers as the storyline required; Michonne was an ass-kicker first and became a fully fleshed out human being in The Walking Dead Season 4.
"It was lovely to be able to start nurturing relationships as that other part of her starts coming out," she said, though don't expect her newly created family unit to make her softer, as Gurira compared Michonne to a lioness.
She has some experience with them as she and her sister went on Safari in Zimbabwe and stumbled upon a lioness with her cubs. They enjoyed the scene, only later realizing through photos there were two other lionesses lying in wait to pounce just a short distance away if they made a wrong move.
Gurira's brush with death gave her a better understanding of maternal strength and believes Michonne will be even more vicious if someone tries to harm those close to her.
What kind of Rick can we expect in Season 5? Lincoln said the series will return with "a more complete Rick, someone that has no doubt of the brutality and the humanity within him." They're balanced and he's no longer conflicted.
"He's incredibly pragmatic and very uncompromising and, as a result, an incredibly formidable leader," the star previewed.
Rick is still a great father with moments of tenderness, but knows both of those things are equally important: "The nature of family and unity, if you stand alongside Rick, if you stand beside him, you're family, but if you stand in front of him, you're a problem." The themes this season are about that - both within and outside of the group.
As a man who knows he will bite someone's throat out - he's willing to go that far - Rick is looking around to see who's with him. Lincoln believes Rick's cold, simple and very direct nature will open up a lot of the other characters. Among the cast, they've decided their group is still alive because they are a true democracy.
"They carry the future and that makes them incredibly strong," Lincoln said, drawing the line at admitting they're reunited with Judith. That could have been any baby, he joked.
How has Carl grown as The Walking Dead progressed? Riggs was very insightful about the progression of Carl: "From The Walking Dead Season 4 Episode 9, he's learned to respect Rick fully. He's really able to see what he's going for and that Carl really does need Rick to survive."
At the end of The Walking Dead Season 3, Carl just shoots a kid in cold blood and does it because that's what needs to be done, but by the end of Season 4, he thinks he's a monster for doing that, "which means, he's able to do the things that he needs to do, but he's conscious of what he's doing at the same time, which a lot of characters don't have. Making him the ultimate weapon for the zombie apocalypse," Riggs laughed.
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Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Broadcast Television Journalists Association (BTJA), enjoys mentoring writers, wine, and passionately discussing the nuances of television. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.