Ratings juggernaut “The Walking Dead” revealed on Friday fans can expect to see its increasingly rancid zombies shambling across their screens for years to come.
The AMC show, the most successful basic cable TV series in history, tells the story of sheriff’s deputy Rick Grimes, who leads his son Carl and an ever-growing band of survivors in a zombie apocalypse.
Showrunner Scott Gimple reminded fans on the opening night of Hollywood’s annual PaleyFest television festival that October’s season eight opener would be the 100th episode.
“The first episode, I think, is less about that we’ve reached 100 episodes; it’s more about setting up the next 100 episodes,” Gimple said.
Viewers in 125 countries will be able to witness the milestone achievement for AMC, which has aired the series since its premiere on October 31, 2010 and distributes it internationally via a deal with Fox.
Joining Gimple and his team of executive producers were 11 of the show’s stars, including Andrew Lincoln — who plays Rick — fan favorites Melissa McBride and Lauren Cohan and newcomer Tom Payne.
The focus of season six was the debut of arch-nemesis Negan, who shocked fans as he beat one of the best-loved characters to death with his barbed-wire-covered baseball bat, “Lucille.”
In one of the most talked-about cliffhangers in cable TV history, viewers were not shown who had died and were also made to wait until the new, current season to discover that a second beloved main character had been slain.
– ‘EPIC TALE’ –
“It was a pretty miserable day at the office,” Lincoln said of losing two major castmates at once as part of a grim opening half of season seven.
Gimple hinted that the current run, which has three episodes left, would be nowhere near as open-ended as the notorious cliffhanger, which thrilled many but upset a legion of fans who took to social media to complain that they had been manipulated.
“The end of the season is very much the end of a chapter,” he said, promising the beginning of a “gigantic, epic tale” in October.
Fans at Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre — the venue for the Oscars — were treated to preview footage of the main characters sharpening their weapons in preparation for a final showdown with Negan, played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan.
And Lincoln provoked gales of laughter with his version of how the show might finally end, with Rick jumping off a bus and performing a series of kung fu moves on a horde of zombies to “earn my action figure” — only to be bitten.
“I’m just waiting to die and I patch up and a day passes… and I don’t die. And the whole show is: ‘Holy shit, maybe I’m the cure!’” he suggested as delighted fans applauded.
“There’s a high shot and you see a herd of zombies coming and Rick follows the tracks to go see Carl and the herd walking towards him just separates and he walks through it!”