Interview: The Walking Dead Producer and Special Effects Guru Greg Nicotero
The Walking Dead is back. Not only that, as we’ve seen so far, it’s bigger and badder than ever, with phenomenal numbers of monstrous “walkers” appearing in episode one alone. We spoke to The Walking Dead producer and special effects guru Greg Nicotero about the new season.
What episodes are you working on now?
Currently we’re shooting episode 14, and we’re prepping two more. So we’re prepping 15 and I direct 16.
The group seems fragmented at the moment, is this the start of them distancing themselves from the core group?
I think Sasha at the end of the season is at peace with who she was. It’s a pot we’re stirring all the time. Sasha’s at peace with who she is now, she didn’t shoot Gabriel in the face, and she figured out that wasn’t what she wanted. And then you have Abraham whose kneeling right next to Pete when Rick blows his face open, so that affects Abraham. Everyone’s affected by it and those relationships and those situations start redefining people. Darryl in this season, he likes going out and looking for people, he sort of subscribes to Aaron’s idea that we’re not a community without people. I think Rick’s biggest journey for the first half of the season is getting it out of his head it’s us and them. Rick treats the Alexandrians like, okay, if any of them die, it’s fine, don’t worry about it, and that plays very prominently in the next episode. It’s a very interesting arc Rick is going on because he only wants to protect his group, but that’s not living, that’s just surviving the day. So we will see this transition of Rick going from not just worrying about his group but expanding his horizons.
The show has been more flexible in recent series, focusing more on characters other than Rick. Is there any reason why it’s become so much more flexible with characters?
I think the world of the characters grows. If anything, I feel like Scott Gimple wants to make sure those additional characters aren’t just glorified extras. We spend a lot of time casting these people. It’s tricky. If they don’t have much to do it feels like they’re window dressing. We want to expand our world by giving insights into other characters backgrounds. It makes our world richer.
Carol’s becoming a really interesting character and we saw her manipulating some of the other women last episode. Where is it going to go with her? With Rick away, she gave everyone the guns. Is she becoming Rick part 2?
She is, but there’s a difference with her that we will see through the course of of the season. Carol doesn’t enjoy killing, she does it out of necessity for survival. Everyone’s like Carol’s a badass, but I really think that will take its toll on her. Now you have a guy like Morgan who comes in whose like all life is precious, you don’t have to kill people, just talk to them, they’re human beings. So Morgan has this very different view of the world. I think the one thing we will explore is the toll that it takes on Carol because she doesn’t want to have to do that, but she does.
Are you going to focus on characters such as Aaron and Spencer this season?
Uhuh. Spencer is becoming a much bigger character since the events of the end of last season. It’s interesting with Aaron, because Aaron goes through a very interesting change. You notice at the end of episode two, he finds those pictures, and he finds his bag and he realises he could be partially responsible for the Wolves finding Alexandria and that effects him tremendously. So I can say yes to that question.
Paul Monroe will be appearing this season. Is his character true to the comics?
I think he’s very true to the comics. Very much so. He’s a great character, he’s got some charm and a bit of a sense of humour. There’s a couple of characters that have come in and will come this season who will be very true to the graphic novel.
How are you going to dig into the Wolves this season?
Well, you have to watch. I think the Wolves had a big episode last week and they’re not necessarily gone from the show.
Will the finale end with a cliffhanger?
I think it will. I haven’t read it – the outline’s not even out yet. But I think it’s safe to say there could be a cliffhanger at the end.
Do you prefer special effects or directing or make up?
I don’t know, they’re all fun. I’m about to start directing my 15th episode, so I love the fact I’ve almost directed an entire season of the show.
What do you think about Fear the Walking Dead? Have you seen it?
I’ve seen it.
Did you like it?
[Pause] Yes. I like that it’s a very different show than ours. I think that from the onset we were very specific – we didn’t want to do CSI Zombies. It’s a very different show. I think that’s the best way to expand our world and expand our universe.
When you’re watching movies or TV shows nowadays, are you deconstructing the special effects in your head?
It’s my nature and I’ve been doing that for 40 years, deconstructing things. I think, for me, the sign of a good show is if I don’t do that. Game of Thrones, I love. I will watch it and afterwards I will go: I wonder how they did that. If I’m caught up in the story, I won’t think of that.
How long do you think The Walking Dead will continue?
I think we have several more years in front of us. I think Kirkman said eleven or twelve. It’s just about introducing those new characters. Getting Enid in there and Spencer in there and Aaron in there. You want to keep the ensemble growing and keep those characters interesting. It is unimaginable that we’re six seasons in and we still have 20 million people watching the show. Our ratings in the States dropped a little and everyone’s like that’s the end for The Walking Dead. You guys suck it because I’ve never heard of a show that still gets 20 million viewers and people are like they should just hang it up and go home.
The Walking Dead airs Mondays on FOX at 9pm.