The first annual Walker Stalker Con shuffled into Downtown Atlanta on the first weekend in November. Created by Eric Nordhoff and James Frazier (also of The Walker Stalkers podcast), their first convention was inspired by a star-studded road trip from Nashville, TN, to Senoia, GA (better known as Woodbury) where they met and spent time with the cast and crew and extras of The Walking Dead. 49 podcast episodes, a slew of celebrity guests, and a $10,000 Kickstarter Campaign later, this intimate little Con came to fruition.
Greg Nicotero – Director, Executive Producer, and Special Effects/Makeup Wizard
Being a huge horror fan, by far my favorite panel of the con was effects wizard Greg Nicotero. Greg has long been one of Hollywood’s go-to effects gurus, helming the effects on such notable properties as Evil Dead 2 (in which he plays Ash’s severed hand), Sin City, In the Mouth of Madness, The Green Mile, and a veritable laundry list of others. Now of course, he’s an executive producer and director on The Walking Dead. He was labeled as the guest of honor for the entire con, by virtue of being the first Walking Dead personality to grant the Walker Stalkers an interview, thereby opening the flood gates for interviews with the rest of the cast.
In person, I must say that Greg Nicotero is quite a treat. Animated and ebullient with enthusiasm for his work, with seemingly no end of entertaining stories to tell, anyone would be hard-pressed not to enjoy this man’s company. We were presented with his personal photographs of some of his favorite zombies from the series, and regaled with behind-the-scenes stories of the particulars involved in getting those committed to film. When asked what they’d done in the past couple off-seasons, he cited work on the new Spider-man and Transformers properties, as well as dropping the juicy tidbit that in the upcoming off-season (which starts today), his effects house would be working with Robert Rodriguez on a From Dusk Til Dawn TV show, and he will personally be directing at least one episode.
Zombie Ethics with Eddy Von Mueller, Ph.D. (Film and Media Studies), Cory Labrecque, Ph.D. (Bioethics and Religious Thought ), Gary Laderman, Ph.D. (American Religious History and Cultures), Paul Wolpe, Ph.D. (Bioethics)
This panel was an early morning look into the hypothetical ethics of how zombies are treated and ultimately dispatched by the uninfected. Starting with a base definition of a zombie as a person who has died and become reanimated through an internal process (that’s right, Danny Boyle—rage zombies aren’t real zombies!), the discussion really roamed through all of the religious, moral, and ethical grey areas that a zombie apocalypse would bring on to humanity. Using zombies as a “disease model of monsterdom”, such as the CDC’s Zombie Preparedness guide, they become a “fun and fictional analogy of things that really happen”. Monsters become analogies of social fear; where the vampire represents the elite and the werewolf represents a hidden agenda, zombies become the faceless masses, the proletariat acting on a single base impulse. We use these analogies as a cultural “release valve”, to address and alleviate whatever fears we as a society have—and cheer on our heroes as they fight the brainthirsty horde. Similarities can be drawn between zombies and sufferers of Dementia, the permanent comatose, the mental shut-ins, and our empathetic insistence that the person behind the blank face is truly still there. If we had certainty of paradise, that decision on whether or not to pull the plug on grandma would be different. In the same vein, if we knew that zombiehood might not be imminent, it would change how we dispatch the undead. The Walking Dead has created a “laboratory for ethical experimentation” by presenting us with thought experiments that can’t be reproduced in real life but give us an avenue to explore our thought processes and rational (or irrational) decisions.
IronE Singleton discusses his new one-man show Blindsided by The Walking Dead, a collection of drama, comedy, spoken word and rap, and whose characters include Shakespeare’s Richard III Singleton’s own mother.
As Andrew Lincoln met with 1100 of his Team Rick fanbase, the Team Daryl contingent was noticeably absent (they spent the day waiting on Norman Reedus autographs). Energetic and effervescent and charmingly British, Lincoln answered non-spoiler questions from fans about hosting SNL (he’s wary) and running into unzombified extras at the grocery store. The biggest stir was caused when, answering a question about his Love Actually castmates, he admitted to be actively lobbying to get Bill Nighy on The Walking Dead!
Could Rick’s new weapon of choice be abandonment?
Danai Gurira lounged with her fans, fending off questions of on-screen love interests, and equally on-screen baby rumors due to recent scenes in the show. We discovered that she is also a playwright, having penned a play, In the Continuum, about the devastating impact of AIDS on two young women, as well as co-founding Almasi, an organization dedicated to arts education in her home country of Zimbabwe.
Steven Yeun, fighting off an illness, though not one so serious as his character Glen is currently afflicted with on The Walking Dead, committed a full hour to answering fans questions. His fans, who were very excited to have him voted last week as People Magazine‘s Sexy Man of the Week, were also very interested in his craft, as he fielded many questions regarding his acting methods and all Asian improve group, the Stir Friday Night. He also gamely allowed many fans who were willing to risk catching his cold, hugs and selfies both throughout the interview, and for several minutes afterward. Heads up to Glen fans: he really emphasized how sick Glen is…is he trying to tell us something??
Giancarlo Esposito spent an hour talking to fans about Breaking Bad and how his role of Gus Fring was too important to be a guest role. Fans of Revolution will be interested to know that, while Tom Neville will be a hero next season, he has plenty of “despicable things left to do.”
The Girls of the Dead
Walker Stalkers and the Floor