There are still zombies.

Credit: Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC

Comic-Con got the first extensive look at the upcoming Walking Dead companion series, Fear the Walking Dead, which will debut on Aug. 23 on AMC. Buzz has been building for the new zombie series, which begins in the gradual-decline phase of the pre-apocalypse, right as zombie attacks break out around Los Angeles. Here’s the trailer:

The cast of Fear took the stage with a fleet of producers — all alumni from the Dead mothership — who spent most of their panel describing all the ways that their show is different from the zombie-apocalypse megahit. Some key points:

—”Rick, in The Walking Dead, is such an alpha,” said executive producer David Alpert. “A sheriff, trained in weapons, he has a clear sense of right and wrong. It’s easy to envision that guy as a leader.” In Alpert’s description, Walking Dead co-creator Robert Kirkman and Fear showrunner Dave Erickson conceived a different kind of character for the L.A.-based series. “What if there’s not such an obvious leader? What about someone who’s an English teacher, or a guidance counselor, and they’re having problems just dealing with the day-to-day-of living? Their lives are coming apart a little bit at the seams — when the world is good — and then you add on top of that the zombie apocalypse.”

—”You can’t really compare the two shows,” said Dead executive producer (and zombie maestro) Greg Nicotero. “Walking Dead has these bigger-than-life characters: Rick, Daryl. What’s great about this show is that they’re everyday people.” He pointed specifically to Travis, the lead character played by Cliff Curtis. “Being a high school teacher, he doesn’t have a gun, he doesn’t have a sword.”

—The show will have plenty of walkers, but they’ll look quite a bit different: Less decomposed than the corroded zombies of The Walking Dead. Nicotero described Fear‘s zombies as “somebody that you are sitting next to, and you look at them, and they don’t look quite well. Your instinct isn’t, ‘Oh, I should shoot that guy in the head.’ You would cross the street. … We still have a couple of our signature moments in the first couple of episodes, but it’s not necessarily the decomposition that we do in The Walking Dead. You still feel the humanity there. You still see a bit of life in their eyes.”

—Erickson frequently described the show as a family drama, “the story of a highly dysfunctional blended family holding it together.” That blended family is represented onscreen by Curtis’s Travis and Kim Dickens’ Madison, who work together at a school. (He’s an English teacher talking about Jack London; she’s a guidance counselor.) Travis’ ex-wife is played by Elizabeth Rodriguez, and the awkward attempt to Brady Bunch-ify their children into a family produces drama that spirals even more dramatically once the apocalypse hits.

—One audience member prefaced his question by saying, “It’s nice to see a strong Latin cast on a major television network.” Fear the Walking Dead also features Latin music legend/Predator 2 genre legend Ruben Blades and Orange is the New Black‘s Elizabeth Rodriguez. “My character wasn’t supposed to be Latina,” said Rodriguez. “That’s really important. That was really exciting for me, that I’m just playing a woman.”

—The show begins, chronologically, while Rick Grimes is in a coma across the country in Walking Dead‘s Georgia. Could the two Deads ever intesect? “I think [Walking Dead showrunner] Scott Gimple would kill me if I ever pitched that idea,” said Erickson. “It would be geographically quite complicated. There are no plans right now to conflate the two stories, as interesting as that might be.”

Episode Recaps

Fear the Walking Dead

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