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Walker Stalker Con Atlanta: The Hilltop Panel Highlights

CR: Denise Caputo/Fan Fest News

Walker Stalker Atlanta is in full swing this weekend at the Georgia World Congress Center for the biggest Walking Dead fan meetup all year!

Today is day two, and next up is The Hilltop panel, featuring Tom Payne (Jesus), Xander Berkeley (Gregory), and Callan McAuliffe (Alden).

The panel kicked off with a question for Tom Payne asking how Jesus felt about bringing Alden, a former Savior, into the community. Tom answered, “At the end of the day, it was just about bringing people in and building a better community.”

Addressing the elephant in the room, it’s the first panel since Gregory’s death, Xander Berkeley said, “People express how much they hated me or how they loved hating me. It brings up a lot of mixed emotions and conflict. I tried to upset expectation as much as possible and lead people on as bumpy of a ride as possible.”

Xander continued speaking about shooting his iconic death scene:

“They shot everybody else before they came in and shot me. My training as an actor is that you always give everything when you’re working off camera so the other actors know what they’re reacting to. I’ve been killed maybe 60, 70 times in film. I play the kind of characters you want to see die.”

“What was really fun was, they are very meticulous to the syllable, that they get their words verbatim. They have plans for each word down the line. It was really kind of fun when Greg said, just let it go. You can improvise and you can do whatever you want. I’m a professional dier and this show is totally freaking gruesome so I did the scene full on”

Callan McAuliffe praised Xander for his wonderful performance in that final episode. He said, “There as such beautiful performances you gave that night and I hope we get to see more of them.”

Tom Payne was asked how many times fans make Jesus references when they meet him and he had a very light-hearted answer:

“I actually did a ‘Jesus Takes the Wheel’ photo today. I’ve signed ‘Jesus loves you’ about 10,000 times and people love it! I just love that it’s a simple thing you can do and it makes people happy. It’s just bizarre when a guy in a van drives past you and just yells, ‘Jesus!’ It happens every other day. And then I get people who tell me I look like Jesus that never watch the show.”

Tom also says that if Jesus ever dies, he’s shaving his head, but he’s loving his new man-bun on the show.

Callan was asked about singing during the latest funeral scene on the show. Turns out, he’s always loved singing. He said, “I guess I’ve always kind of been a singer, but recreationally, never professional and that was my first scene as a series regular too.”

Xander Berkeley shares he has a new movie coming out which he has already won three awards for called The Maestro. He says it’s about a character who is actually a good guy!

Callan was asked about how it felt to become a main character. He said he was welcomed with open arms to The Walking Dead family as well as to the Walker Stalker Con family. Did you know Walker Stalker Con Atlanta is his very first convention ever? Callan said:

“It’s really extraordinary. Everyone on the set was so accommodating of me and so willing to let me into the family and they didn’t have to be especially since they’ve all been doing this for a decade. They were very willing to just bring me in and they treated me with respect. I was just as surprised to find out that everyone here at this convention, which I’ve never done before, was so willing to bring me immediately into the family.”

A fan asked about the current state of the communities and Tom Payne fielded that for the group. He said, “The communities are kind of broken apart right now due to the distances between them. Everyone wants to work together, but it takes a lot longer to get between the communities right now. They all are their own little cities. Some of them are doing better than others. Hilltop has gone back to what it was which is very productive. It was a farming community and they’re doing pretty well, but the Sanctuary isn’t doing too great and that will create tensions. Then, also, Maggie doesn’t agree with what Rick did. Maybe she’s going to go and kill Negan herself now.”

Tom said that the tensions between the communities will definitely have an effect going forward. We’ll find out more about what he means in the all-new episode of The Walking Dead this Sunday.

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A karaoke junkie, craft beer enthusiast and lover of all things pop culture, Denise enjoys all facets of entertainment from Broadway to box office blockbusters. In her spare time, she enjoys photography, concerts (lots and lots of concerts), volunteering, reading and playing with her rescue kitten, Samantha (who rescued who, right?). Denise currently resides in New York and is honored to be a part of the Fan Fest News team!