SAN DIEGO (AP) — The "Walking Dead" franchise is going on a bender.
The upcoming spinoff series, "Fear the Walking Dead," premiered during Comic-Con after a panel that introduced the cast of the new zombie apocalypse drama to 6,500 fans.
"It starts as a family drama, and we filter the apocalypse through that," executive producer Dave Erickson told the audience Friday in Hall H, the largest venue at the San Diego Convention Center.
"Fear the Walking Dead" is serving as a prequel to the hugely popular "Walking Dead" series and will be examining how the zombie apocalypse started in Los Angeles. The AMC companion show takes place during the weeks that "Walking Dead" protagonist Rick Grimes was in a coma outside Atlanta in that show's first episode.
The cast and crew of "Fear the Walking Dead" were on hand for the invite-only screening of the first episode at Reading Cinemas.
The initial installment centered on guidance counselor Madison (played by Kim Dickens) and her recently divorced partner Travis (Cliff Curtis) seeking help for her heroin-addicted son Nick (Frank Dillane), who recently woke up to discover that his girlfriend had apparently become undead.
"We, the audience, know something they don't know from watching 'The Walking Dead,'" AMC President Charlie Collier said before the screening. "We know the looming dangers ahead. These characters are going to have to figure it out."
The moody first installment focused far less on the flesh-eating action depicted in "The Walking Dead" and more on emotional tensions between family members, including Madison's savvy daughter Alicia Clark (Alycia Debnam-Carey), as they coped with Nick's addiction.
After the screening, the "Walking Dead" and "Fear the Walking Dead" casts mingled together at an after-party inside a re-creation of the condemned church where that first walker — the franchise's preferred term for zombies — is glimpsed.
"The Walking Dead," which originated as a graphic novel, has become a staple of Comic-Con, the four-day celebration of pop culture that continues through Sunday.
"Fear the Walking Dead" is set to debut Aug. 23.
Follow AP Entertainment Writer Derrik J. Lang on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/derrikjlang.