AMC has set the premiere date and revealed the first trailer for the next season of "The Walking Dead."
The zombie drama's seventh season will debut Sunday, Oct. 23 at 9 p.m. The 16-episode season will be split into two parts, with the first eight episodes airing in the fall and the second half debuting in February, 2017.
Comedian Chris Hardwick moderated a panel Friday at Comic-Con featuring the show's cast and creative team, where the trailer debuted. It shows new villain Negan, but doesn't hint at who he killed in the season-six finale. It also gives a first look at King Ezekiel, a fan-favorite character of the comic books on which the series is based. Actor Khary Payton will will play Ezekiel.
Star Andrew Lincoln promised that Negan's victim will be revealed in the season premiere. "It's a really shitty start to the season" for the characters, Lincoln said, but promised that things will get better for them down the line.
Executive producer Scott Gimple addressed the relationship between Lincoln's Rick and Danai Gurira's Michonne, which became one of the most high-profile interracial relationships on TV when the two became romantically involved last season.
"I wasn't aware that it would have the impact that it did," Gimple said. He added, "I think one of the things we fantasize about the apocalypse is that all of the things that separate us fall way."
"Sometimes to change the picture that you usually see on screen can ruffle people, because it's change," Gurira said, adding, "I hope and believe that it will help break that barrier and allow more of those portrayals to be expressed."
Hardwick acknowledged the frustration that was expressed by some fans with the season-six cliffhanger ending, which showed Negan beating one of the show's main characters to death, but did not reveal which character died -- at one point even saying to the Comic-Con crowd, "No one's ever trying to mess with you; everyone's doing the best they can." He asked executive producer Robert Kirkman whether the payoff would be worth it for fans.
"It's definitely worth the wait," Kirkman said. "It's a fantastic premiere to a fantastic season."
The season-seven debut will be followed by the season premieres of after-show "The Talking Dead," hosted by Hardwick, at 10 p.m. and "Comic Book Men" at midnight.
AMC will also air a season-preview special, hosted by Hardwick, Aug. 14 at 10 p.m. and a series recap special Oct. 16 at 9 p.m.