The Walking Dead panel at MCM Birmingham Comic Con (March 2015)

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“It was a little zombie show. We didn’t know what this was going to be,” explained Laurie Holden on signing up to play Andrea on The Walking Dead. “There was just a bunch of us that signed up because we believed in Frank Darabont. We didn’t know if anyone was going to watch it. Especially the first season, we were in 110 degree heat, exhausted, and we were just like, ‘God, I hope somebody watches this.’”

Sunday’s panel on The Walking Dead saw a packed MCM Theatre, with every seat taken as Laurie Holden, Christian Serratos (who plays Rosita) and Tyler James Williams (who plays Noah) took to the stage.

For those of you that are not up to date with The Walking Dead, do note that there are spoilers. Even Tyler himself informed the crowd at MCM Birmingham, “Don’t go to a convention where we’re here and not be up to date, because it’s going to be terrible for you!”

Questions were opened to attendees straight away, with the first directed to Laurie, asking if she preferred her character as quiet in season one, or more kick-ass in seasons two and three. “I loved all of it,” responded Laurie as she spoke about how her character initially appeared angry and suicidal. “I loved the whole journey. I preferred not to have to show up to work and vomit or cry, but I wouldn’t have changed anything because I liked the evolution of Andrea.”

Tyler was asked about his graphic death sequence and what it felt like watching it back. “It was cool,” he laughed. “I guess it’s the nature of this show. It’s really bizarre and aggressive to kinda see yourself getting ripped apart, but it was great in the sense that it was a memorable death.”

“It’s bittersweet,” added Laurie. “Because you get the great story arc and moments, but you know that there’s a death at the end of that road. Because anytime they write well for you, you die at the end!”

A question had the three being asked what it was like working with the rest of the cast. “I never worked with either one of these two,” laughed Laurie.

“It’s a great atmosphere,” said Tyler “Folding into a show that already had a great core cast, people who have come and gone, like Laurie, they established a great atmosphere for us to come into.”

“Everyone on the show is incredibly talented, wonderful, hardworking and down to earth,” said Christian.

Walking Dead MCM Birmingham 7092When asked if they ever kept anything from the show, Christian said, “I kept some jewellery from season four. It wasn’t gifted to me by any means, I just kinda snuck out with it. If and when I go on the show, I definitely plan on taking Rosita’s hoops,” at which point Christian pointed to her ears. Laurie mentioned that she was gifted a watch from AMC as a thank you, while Tyler added that he received back problems from “limping around for six months.”

One attendee wanted to know what they would do if there really was a zombie outbreak. The question drew a lot of laughs, but there were even more when Laurie simply replied, “We’d kill them.”

The next question asked what was more draining for them, filming an emotional scene or a death scene? “They’re both draining,” said Christian.

Laurie felt that emotional scenes were the most exhausting. “When you act, if you really, really build it strong enough, it’s real to your body,” she said. “So when you go to a very dark place emotionally, your body is under tremendous stress and a lot of people in the cast had post-traumatic stress because of it, because we really go there. That’s a level of emotional exhaustion that takes weeks and sometimes months to get over.”

Christian was asked a strange question about whose death she would choose to have from all the characters in the series so far, if given the opportunity. After thinking she said, “I think I would have Laurie’s death. But don’t be wishing that upon me!” She then told Tyler just how much the death of his character affected people, saying, “Your death was so gruesome, but it had to be because you’re young. It affected people more having somebody so innocent, wonderful and young have this terrible death.”

Laurie was then asked if she was aware of the fan reactions about her character’s decisions and actions before her death. “We had a showrunner at the time who made decisions for my character that I didn’t agree with,” she said, referring to Glen Mazzara who was the showrunner midway through season two and left after season three. She also added that the rest of the writing staff didn’t really agree with his decisions either. “It wasn’t supposed to happen,” said Laurie of Andrea’s death. “I had an eight year deal. It was a strange decision made in the eleventh hour and it broke my heart. There was so much more that Andrea was supposed to do and could have done.”

Laurie Holden (The Walking Dead) S3E16 (2)Laurie explained that she did her best as an actress to justify Andrea’s actions before her death. “When Andrea knew that The Governor was a loony toon, she wanted out of there,” she said. “She was there to broker peace. The problem was that the way the scripts were written, the audience knew more than the character did, so it made her look stupid when she wasn’t stupid; she just didn’t have all the information. It was frustrating to me for the fans to doubt her that way and to think that she was just being a silly girl running around with some psychopath and betraying her friends, because that wasn’t the situation at all. But the way that it was unfolding in the storytelling, and with the audience knowing more than her, that’s what it looked like.”

She added how it was made sure that Andrea’s motives were clear and that she died with dignity as season three drew to a close. “I felt like I couldn’t have had a better end,” she said. “I’m very grateful for the way that I went out, with dignity, with my friends, with my heart out there, trying to broker peace between [Rick and The Governor].”

Tyler also chimed in on fan reactions to shows in general, saying, “Our job is to justify the actions that are on the page, and there’s really not much we can do about that. I see it happening all the time, where we not may agree with it as much anyway, but our job is to make it the best it can possibly be.”

“It is funny how people don’t know the difference between us and our characters,” said Laurie as she mentioned the reactions she received from fans following what Andrea did on an episode. “When Andrea did things that the audience liked, people were like, ‘I love you Laurie Holden, I love you.’ Then when Andrea was sleeping with The Governor, the nastiest things were thrown at me. I’d walk down the street and it was like, ‘I hate you, I hate you, slut.’ I was like, ‘Oh my God, I’m just an actress; this is my job.’ Anyway, they’re all loving again, thank God.”

Laurie also noted how the fan reactions were an interesting commentary on bullies. “I hate bullies,” she said. “I got a lot of real hate on the Internet, people wishing I was dead, death threats, you name it, I heard it. It was hurtful. Then when I died I got all this flood of… ‘Oh, now I feel like a bad person, I was wishing you were dead, I thought you were horrible, and now I’m like sad, and I kind of love you, and I’m sorry.’ It’s like, maybe you shouldn’t bully so much. Maybe you should get to know people before you pass judgement. I’m not just saying that as a fictional television character, I’m talking about life.”

Christian Serratos The Walking Dead 04A question for Christian, asked if she was aware of her comic book counter-part and if she took any inspiration from it. “I tried completely to emulate what she was in the comic book,” responded Christian. “That’s what we’re trying to do, we’re trying to make the fans of this comic book incredibly proud and happy with what we’re doing on the show.” She mentioned that she does add a little of herself to Rosita, but made sure to research and incorporate what fans liked about her the most. “I realised that they love her strength, her sassy-ness and her ‘take no bullshit’ approach, and I try to maintain that as best as I can.”

When asked about the differences between the comic book and the TV series and comparisons between them both, Tyler noted that the biggest difference is that the development of the comic book is largely decided by one person, whereas with the show there is a lot of creative input. “With us, there’s so many people who have to give their input into the character, even before we get a hold of it.” He also added how the show has characters that don’t even appear in the comic book, such his character Noah.

Laurie was asked what the most memorable part was during her time on The Walking Dead, given her character arc on the show. “That’s hard,” she responded. “Things are memorable for me for different reasons.” She singled out the season two finale, when Andrea is separated from the group and running through the woods, eventually encountering Michonne. “I thought that was a pretty special moment. It was a moment in time where it was like comic book Andrea, it was TV show Andrea, it was… Andrea. All the elements were in place. I loved that she was a fighter and survivor, and it was raw.”

Tyler and Laurie were then asked how it felt seeing the reactions from fans regarding their characters deaths on the show. “I created a character that went on such a journey that I am particularly proud of as a woman,” responded Laurie. “She was a victim and then she became a survivor and this leader. It means a lot that people were sad that she went, because it means that all my hard work was seen.”

Tyler James Williams Walking Dead“Yeah, it’s a beautiful thing,” responded Tyler. “It was interesting to see, three weeks earlier, all my social media responses were completely disrespectful with Tyreese’s death, and then within three weeks it completely turned around to this great reaction for the death.” Of Noah’s death he described it as one “people could connect to and say that it wasn’t necessarily deserved. It’s good that people felt what we felt when we shot it, that it was emotionally taxing, gruelling and gruesome.”

Tyler then explained how he hoped certain scenarios from the show translated to audiences on a personal level in real life. “Sometimes there is no right answer for people. That’s what this show does really well. These people are just trying to do good in this world, and it sucks. There’s never really a right answer. I really hope that people can see that, within the course of three episodes, or within the arc of a season, that you can go from not necessarily liking someone’s actions to then realising that maybe all that targeted hatred wasn’t necessarily justified. Sometimes it takes the death of a fictional character to understand that. You just don’t know what people are going through at the time.”

“Exactly,” said Laurie, who expanded on Tyler’s point. “My dad used to say that if you looked into the eyes of your enemy, and you really knew his problems, that you would embrace them as your best friend. I feel like we live in a day and age where have gotten very slap happy on the internet and very aggressive. You have no idea what anybody else’s issues are, what they’re going through. I’d like to hope that because The Walking Dead is a morality tale, a story of the human condition, maybe it’ll help us be a little better, kinder to one another, more tolerant.”

Walking Dead MCM Birmingham 7095A question from an attendee wanted to know, if given the opportunity to play another character, who would they play? “I don’t know that I’d want to give my girl up,” said Christian, adding that she has such a kinship with Rosita, which has become a part of her. However, if pressed she would probably play Lizzie or Daryl. “To play somebody who’s kind of lost their mind a little bit seems like just the most incredible release.”

“I’ve got this death grip on Noah, like he’s mine, no one else can have him,” said Tyler, feeling that he couldn’t really play anyone else. “I can’t even imagine getting into somebody else’s skin in that world.”

“Everybody is so authentic and so perfect for their parts that you can’t imagine anybody else in their parts,” said Laurie, adding that she couldn’t imagine herself playing anyone else but Andrea.

They were then asked how it feels joining a show knowing that their characters could die at any point. “It’s quite exciting,” responded Christian. “If I think about the sad part I’ll just be sad, but going in a positive direction I would say it’s very exciting, because we gain new family members all the time. Hopefully when you go you feel like you’ve done your character a good service, that you’ve fulfilled what your need there was.” She explained how she moved to Atlanta, Georgia when cast on The Walking Dead and had not seen her family for over a year. “It’s a huge sacrifice to do this role and to fulfil these characters for the fans. You’re giving up a lot. So when you find out that you’re going… you don’t know where to go. You want to stay there.”

“That’s the nature of this show and I think that’s why people love it so much,” said Tyler. “It’s because of how invested everyone gets.” He mentioned that his contract on the show was initially for three episodes only for it to be extended. “Every moment that you get on this show is precious. When it’s time to go, you realise, ‘Oh, this has been my life. I’ve done nothing else. I’ve been getting up at 4 o’clock in the morning to go out to the woods, be there all day, then come home and just go to sleep.’ It’s weird to try and find yourself again afterwards.”

The three were then asked which cast members death was the most unexpected for them. “Mine,” said Laurie, without hesitation.

“They’re kind of all unexpected, aren’t they,” said Christian. “I was really shocked at Tyreese.”

“I think the double hit of Beth and Tyreese was a big thing,” responded Tyler. “I think that’s something the show had never really done before. I just think season five in general has been a bloodbath. But yeah, like you said, every death is unexpected.”

Walking Dead MCM Birmingham 7103As the panel came to a close stage host Stuart Claw mentioned that one attendee, Melly, had requested to see The Walking Dead cast at MCM Birmingham for her 15th birthday. She went on stage to have her photo taken with them and received a goody bag with gifts from TokyoToys, Universal and Amazing Cake Company.

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