fear the walking dead comic-con

One thing was made instantly and constantly clear from the Fear the Walking Dead Comic-Con 2018 panel: this is a show in the middle of a serious reinvention.

AMC’s spin-off has never been as popular as The Walking Dead, but the most recent changes suggest that the network wants to transform it from second fiddle into “must-see TV.” Here’s what you need to know.

After three years in California and Mexico, Fear the Walking Dead has moved to Texas, and the trailer that premiered at Comic-Con worked that into the story. After all, it takes a Texas windstorm to literally lift zombies off the ground and fling them at our hapless heroes. The cast joked about what a pain in the butt it was to film this sequence – they even had to wait out a real rainstorm so they could resume filming in their fake rainstorm.

But the show’s fresh coat of paint goes beyond the location and the weather. Showrunner Ian Goldberg teased a bunch of new cast members, some who bring hope and humor and some who bring the opposite. One of the new characters is a disabled man in a wheelchair, played by an actual disabled actor. Exploring how he’s survived the zombie apocalypse should prove fascinating.

And while they couldn’t get into specifics, the panel also teased a human antagonist, someone who knows the crew of survivors better than they know themselves.

Still, it’s not entirely new faces on Fear the Walking Dead. Alycia Debnam-Carey is still around, playing the only character from the pilot who is still alive. Also on hand is Lennie James as Morgan, who exited The Walking Dead last season and found his way to this group of survivors. The panel had nothing but praise for James, who only had a four day break between leaving The Walking Dead and beginning his work on Fear the Walking Dead. “I can’t complain; the alternative is not working,” James joked. The producers promised lots of fresh conflicts for their new leading man: where does be belong? How does he belong?

Executive producer Scott M. Gimple shared the motto for the rest of the season: “Sad, funny, strange, beautiful…and add scary and screw them.” Gimple wanted this to be different from the first half of the season.

Executive producer and director Greg Nicotero was up front about this season essentially acting as a soft reboot. “It really is a new show,” he told the crowd. The time jump allowed their zombies to be less “fresh” and the new location allowed a number of new gore gags they can’t achieve in the humid Georgia, where regular The Walking Dead films.

The recurring theme of the entire panel was “new.” New characters. New setting. New central conflicts. New zombies. Honestly, the mission statement was a little transparent: convince Walking Dead fans who had given up on the spin-off to come back. What we saw certainly looked like The Walking Dead, but will it be enough? We shall see.

The full Fear the Walking Dead Comic-Con panel line-up included cast members Colman Domingo, Alycia Debnam-Carey, Lennie James, Danay Garcia, Garret Dillahunt, Maggie Grace and Jenna Elfman. They were joined by executive producers and showrunners Andrew Chambliss and Ian Goldberg, and executive producers Scott M. Gimple, Robert Kirkman, Gale Anne Hurd, Greg Nicotero, and David Alpert.

The second half of Fear the Walking Dead season 4 will premiere on AMC on August 12, 2018.

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