Not a lot of TV shows can carry their very own convention. "Star Trek" broke the mold. In recent years, dedicated fans have put together conventions for shows such as "Lost" and "The Office." Now it's "The Walking Dead," which drew thousands of dedicated fans to Atlanta this weekend to meet virtually the entire cast of show, including many of the beloved past actors. Andrew Lincoln was the only one to do press on site, on top of a panel. Steven Yeun also did a separate panel Sunday morning, which I attended.
Norman Reedus, arguably the most popular actor on the show playing the dependable Daryl Dixon, spent the entire Saturday and part of Sunday signing autographs for hundreds of fans. Attendees I met spent hundreds, if not thousands of dollars to attend the convention and meet their favorites. (Autographs cost $20 to $50 for bigger names with comparable amounts for photo ops.) Nobody I spoke to was complaining, though. A few dressed as characters and zombies, including fairly convincing renditions of Rick and Daryl. But most were there just to get close to the stars, revel in the whole "zombie"-ness of it all. Most were from metro Atlanta but I ran into folks from Canada, Ohio, Indiana and Florida as well.
For a first-time convention, it appeared well organized and the two podcasters Eric Nordhoff and James Frazier behind the convention told attendees Saturday that they will actually make money. Ryan Golias, general manager at a restaurant chain from Douglasville, was one of the original people who helped fund the launch of the convention through Kickstarter, contributing $150 upfront. He also purchased VIP tickets to meet with Lincoln.
"Overall, it's been a great weekend ," said Golias, who was waiting in line to get autographs for Danai Gurira, who plays Michonne. He said the folks who handled the photo ops had their act together but things got a bit chaotic Saturday during the Lincoln signing, with one guy early on requesting more than 60 autographs. (They limited the numbers to five after that.) His highlight: meeting "Walking Dead" costume director Eulyn Womble at a VIP party Saturday night. He was also thrilled to meet Judith O'Dea, from "The Night of the Living Dead." (There were other zombie-connected actors there as well.) "She was the sweetest woman I've ever met next to my grandmother," he said. "And my 10 year old's head been popping off he's had so much fun." He's been on "Walking Dead" tours, knows bit players from the show and follows every nuance religiously.
"This is part of our life, this show," he added, noting sheepishly that he spent at least $1,000 on the convention.
British actor Lincoln doesn't come to many of these types of sci-fi conventions but said he wanted to give something back to Atlanta, which he now dubs "my second home." Normally, he said, "my weekends are sacred." But he said he loves "having a direct relationship with the fans. And everybody else is here! A lot of people have died [their characters, that is]. It's nice to see everybody. It felt like a perfec storm... It's important to celebrate this city. I think this city and state are integral to the success of the show."
During a short press gathering with seven other media outlets, I had a shot to ask one single question to Lincoln. I asked about whether life on the set has changed much under the third showrunner Scott Gimple. He said no and touted this season in the best way possible.
Some pics from the site:
Giancarlo Esposito (lol flawless)
Larry Gilliard Jr.
Sarah Wayne Callies
Source 1 (More photos of the rest of the cast + a video)
Source 2 (More photos of the convention)