Hosted by Yvette Nicole Brown, the panel began with a trailer for the new season (which you can watch below!), before then Lincoln addressed the "elephant in the room." Yes, it's true, the actor will be moving on from the AMC series in its upcoming season.
"There seems to be an elephant in the room and many of you may be wanting to ask a question about whether or not this is my last year. I did a zombie poll two weeks ago, there were 200 zombies. I asked them, do I confirm or do I deny. This will be my last season playing the part of Rick Grimes," he said.
"Now hear me out. I love this show. It means everything to me. I love the people who make this show," he continued. "I promise not to cry, I've done enough crying on screen. I'm particularly fond of the people who watch this show and this has been the most extraordinary, amazing and beautiful experience of my career, made largely because of you guys. I want to thank you."
Lincoln added he's "deeply deeply proud of the work we've done this season" and credited new showrunner Angela Kang for "enabling us as actors to breathe and deepen the relationships onscreen."
"My relationship with Rick Grimes is far from over," Lincoln stressed. "A large part of me will always be a machete-wielding, Stetson-wearing, zombie slayer from London, England. I'm really really excited about this season. It will continue to be an ensemble and no one is bigger than the story and the story this year is unbelievable."
Now back to the trailer, which looked absolutely insane!
It began with a shot of Rick sitting down for a chat with Negan in his cell. “It wasn't that long ago, we were fighting just to stay alive, but it's not like that anymore,” Rick tells him. “We're building, we're growing.”
All the communities are seen working together, but it's not all peachy keen. There are still power struggles going on, as nobody can really agree on whether the Saviors are redeemable. Expect face offs between Rick, Daryl and Maggie.
There's also much talk about putting new rules in place, “like this is how we treat each other and this is what happens when you don't,” says Michonne. Other shots included Carol and Daryl getting a little snuggly and that mysterious helicopter again.
A whole new group was also introduced at the very end, including Yumiko and Magna, who come straight out of the comics. The trailer ended with some whispering zombies, meaning the Whisperers from the source material are also on their way. Robert Kirkman confirmed that Samantha Morton would be playing the role of Alpha, the next Big Bad.
Also, Maggie is seen holding a baby, so she finally gave birth. "We are starting with a time jump, we're playing with time this season," Kang said at the event. "It's really cool to jump forward in the story. It's been a little while since the war ended. You see that they're really building for the future."
Lauren Cohan didn't address her widely-reported exit at all, but did tease Maggie's journey to come now that she's a mom. "It's been great, we left on a pretty sharp note with everyone, a little tense. It was fun for us, it was fun knowing I was going to have the baby," she said. "It's interesting going to that point and filling in all the pieces."
"A lot of pieces that were laid with with Georgie and the book of the future and how it could be, it's so inspiring, there's a lot of conflict but its conflict between people who love each other who are working towards what should be a bigger, brighter, stronger future," she said. "This something after that Carl talked about, it looks different for Maggie, Daryl, Carol, Negan and that's what we get to get into. I, Maggie, wants to want all those things, I want it to be peaceful …. But people are people and my child has no father and the person responsible is a friend of mine but he's not a friend of Maggie."
In regards to Negan, who will spend most of his screen time in a cell, Jeffrey Dean Morgan said the character's "having to face some stuff internally" and will interact with cast members he's never come face to face with before. "As a character, I could be itching to get out of there, I'm there to stir things up," he added.
Norman Reedus also said the tone of the season "feels like a frickin' Western," as Lincoln said it was basically "Cowboys and Zombies."
And speaking of those two, Reedus and Lincoln also talked about their on-set prank war, with Andy most recently TPing Norman's car. "When you prank Andy, he gets you back, but he doesn't do any of the work," Reedus said. "His last prank, he gets someone else to toilet paper the car?" Norman said it happened after a "really emotional scene," and Lincoln added that he did it because his costar was bragging about pulling off a "smile cry" while filming.