by Transmute Jun
For the past couple of years, The Walking Dead has made a point of celebrating its first new episode of the season with fans of the show. In 2015, season 6 premiered in advance of airing at Madison Square Gardens during New York Comic Con. In 2016, season 7 premiered at the Hollywood Cemetery, with a live Talking Dead broadcast following. This year, for the premiere of season 8, which was coincidentally the 100th episode of the series, AMC pulled out all of the stops, inviting close to 6,000 Walking Dead fans to the famed Greek Theatre in Griffith Park, Los Angeles, to join the entire cast for the airing of the episode, and for a two hour live Talking Dead broadcast following. Fans had to sign up for the free Walking Dead Rewards Club and then could enter a drawing for free tickets. I was lucky enough to be one of the winners, and when I found out that I was able to attend, I was booking my airfare to Los Angeles within the hour.
On the day of the show, eager fans were lining up before dawn to get into the venue, since seating was first come first serve. Still, the large size of the venue made it such that fans who arrived hours later still had great seats, and even those who showed up right before the doors closed still had a great view in The Greek’s tiered amphitheater.
The people in the line outside were festive, with fans celebrating and cosplayers showing off their stuff as everyone made new friends with those around them in line. While the temperatures reached into the 90s, large trees shaded the lineup area, for which attendees (particularly those in heavy cosplay) were grateful. Right on time, the security gates opened and fans were let inside. Every attendee received a souvenir lanyard with ‘fan’ credentials for the 100th episode.
The mood of the crowd was electric early on, and only ramped up once attendees were inside the venue. Displays had been set up celebrating The Walking Dead. In the ‘fan area’, Walking Dead themed jack-’o-lanterns were on display, while professional walkers roamed for photo ops. IronE Singleton (T-Dog) appeared, gathering cosplayers for a Facebook Live on-air broadcast, taking selfies with fans during the breaks. Meanwhile, on the VIP side of the fence, a red carpet welcomed the cast and crew of the show, along with a plush lounge area and a display of the Alexandria RV, with realistic life-size statues of Rick, Negan, Winslow and more outside the vehicle.
In the main seating area, thrilled fans caught glimpses of the stars. Attendees waiting at the food and merchandise stations saw the likes of creator Robert Kirkman and Khary Payton (King Ezekiel) passing by. The exclusive merchandise for the 100th episode was popular, as was the Walking Dead-themed menu at the food stations.
Chris Hardwick entered the main seating area, taking selfies with fans and recording some on-air promotions for the event, which was the sign that things were really about the get in gear. It wasn’t long before Chris disappeared backstage and the countdown to the episode began; all was silent amongst the 6,000 viewers as it started. Yet it wasn’t long before people began cheering and shouting as the episode progressed, caught up in the actions of their favorite characters onscreen. (For a review of the 100th episode, click here.)
In what seemed like the blink of an eye, the episode was over, and since it had been shown without commercials, we were ahead of the East Coast airing and there was a brief break before Talking Dead began. Chris Hardwick took the stage and the crowd exploded, yet when the show went live, the attendees were eerily quiet, following directions from the crew. But when the first cast members came onstage, all bets were off. Since the cast of The Walking Dead is so large, the actors came out in small groups of 5 or 6, each of them having a turn at being interviewed by Chris Hardwick. As new cast members emerged throughout the show, the previous ones moved back onto rows of couches. Eventually, even that wasn’t enough space and some of the celebrities had to leave to make room for more. The crew also had their moment in the sun, with Chris Hardwick interviewing the likes of Robert Kirkman, and executive producers Scott M. Gimple and Gale Ann Hurd.
Previous cast members were not forgotten, as there were appearances by Sonequa Martin-Green (Sasha), Scott Wilson (Herschel), Emily Kinney (Beth), Michael Rooker (Merle), and IronE Singleton (T-Dog), as well as a special video message from Steven Yuen (Glenn). Yet the stars of the evening (based on the volume of the audience response when they appeared) were clearly Andrew Lincoln (Rick), Norman Reedus (Daryl), and Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Negan). During commercial breaks, they came forward, greeting attendees and taking selfies. Others, such as Josh McDermitt (Eugene) lingered close to the edge of the stage, as if hoping that they might be called up to do the same. Gale Ann Hurd took a selfie with the walker statues decorating the ends of the stage. Everyone mingled. And when the call inevitably came that the commercial break was ending, it was musical chairs to get everyone seated before they went live and on-air once more.
Just when everyone thought that the roster of stars was complete, Cooper Andrews (Jerry) wheeled a massive 100th episode cake onstage. Christian Serratos (Rosita) managed to snag a corner piece as Andrews started cutting slices, but Danai Gurira (Michonne) wasn’t having any of that as she pushed Chris Hardwick’s head right into the center of the confection. With an icing-covered face, Hardwick concluded the show, while the other members of the Walking Dead crew (who were seated in the front sections of the venue) surged forward to join in the celebration. Fans attendees lingered for a few moments, but left to allow the people behind this hit show a well-deserved celebration.
The celebration of The Walking Dead’s 100th episode was a night to remember, and a thrill for every person who was present. Many thanks to The Walking Dead Fan Rewards Club and to AMC for making it possible for so many fans to attend. I know that I am not alone when I wish The Walking Dead many more seasons to come.
Did you attend The Walking Dead’s 100th episode event? Join the conversation on FoCC!