Zombies are a common sight in San Diego during Comic-Con. But on red carpets they most certainly are not. However, when the carpet is for a party celebrating the 100th issue of AMC TV show-inspiring comic book The Walking Dead, there will be blood-stained zombies.
At the Friday night event inside Petco Park – home of the Padres, just across the street from the San Diego Convention Center – actors playing pretty convincing zombies growled and moaned behind chain link fences that lined the celeb-filled black carpet. This didn’t seem to faze the stars of Comic-Con, but many screams were heard from reporters who got as close as they dared to the monsters while they filmed their segment intros.
The man of the hour, the comic book’s creator, Robert Kirkman, was very involved in helping plan the other zombie event that’s taken over Petco Park this weekend, The Walking Dead Escape, an obstacle course where fans can pay $70 to either be a zombie or be chased by one. But going into the party Friday night, Kirkman was not at all privy to what the set-up would be.
“I have no idea. It could be a parade of unicorns dancing on rainbows for all we know,” he told EW on the carpet. “After the zombies, I would trade those for some unicorns in a minute. It’s a little nerve-wracking.”
Filled with red lighting, the event overlooked the ballpark’s field and featured plenty more zombies inside. Enlarged panels from the comic book lined the walls. The food was Walking Dead-inspired. As promised in the invite and as written on a sign above the bar, fried squirrel skewers were the top item of the night. But the party planners must have decided to not go quite all out – smaller type on that sign revealed it was really barbeque chicken. And the catering staff wasn’t playing along with the food’s part in the theme. An eager “Ah, so this must be the fried squirrel” was met with “Uh, no, this is chicken.”
The zombie-ridden party – not to mention the Ballroom 20-packing panel for the TV show earlier on Friday – wasn’t something Kirkman had on his mind when he started penning issue one.
“Never in a million years could I have ever thought that The Walking Dead would grow into what it’s grown into. It’s really just awesome and bizarre,” he said.
Attending from the TV show were star Andrew Lincoln (Rick Grimes), Norman Reedus (Daryl Dixon), Lauren Cohan (Maggie Green), Sarah Wayne Callies (Lori Grimes) and David Morrissey (The Governor).
As you can see below, Cohan was speaking the truth when she told EW of the zombies, “They don’t scare me!”
Reedus was impressed with the actors portraying the zombies along the carpet. “They’re actually doing a really good job,” he said. “I thought [makeup artist Gregory] Nicotero did it because he’s notorious for putting the black on the tongue.”
But Lincoln did have some criticism for the undead entertainment: “They seem to be working it a little bit harder. They’re party zombies. I think Greg Nicotero needs to whip them into shape a little bit. Less is more, should we say.”
Among the other attendees at the party were Comic-Con favorite Seth Green (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Robot Chicken), Lance Reddick (Fringe), Chad Michael Murray (he’s at the con promoting a graphic novel) and Lucas Till of X-Men: First Class.
Till – clearly a true fan of The Walking Dead as he talked animatedly about the series with several reporters – told EW he tried out The Walking Dead Escape earlier in the day.
“It was a lot more physically taxing than I originally thought,” Till said. His strategy? “Juke like I’m in Madden [NFL],” he said. But, alas, maybe he should have been zig-zagging a little faster – he did find out that he had been infected at the end of the course.
Later on, Till could be seen chatting by the bar with the cast mates-that-could-have-been: Alexander Ludwig, Jack Quaid and Dayo Okeniyi of The Hunger Games (Till was considered for the part of Peeta). On the black carpet, the trio of alums from the box office hit were very fired up about Comic-Con and excited to be back together with their fellow tributes. Ludwig called the three of them “the wolf pack” à la The Hangover’s Alan.
They were also self-proclaimed fans of The Walking Dead and eager to talk about zombies – Quaid even had a detailed, L.A.-specific zombie escape plan that involved commandeering a boat in Marina Del Rey and taking it to Catalina Island where the buffalo there would become his food supply.
Well, at least that’s better than fried squirrel.
Robert Kirkman introduces ‘The Walking Dead’ Zombie Survival Car