Mad­ness awaits as sea­son six of The Walk­ing Dead ap­proaches its ter­ri­fy­ing con­clu­sion... Joseph McCabe braves the set and dis­cov­ers there are mo­men­tous changes to come

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Just as we thought The Walk­ing Dead had no more screws left to tighten, the zom­bie apoc­a­lypse epic has, in its sixth year, taken its thrills to the next level by rein­vent­ing the screw en­tirely. After Glenn was be­lieved killed by a horde of walk­ers, and al­most made it back to the now preg­nant Mag­gie and their new home in Alexan­dria, we saw the town over­run by the undead. After Daryl had re­united with Abra­ham and Sasha, we saw the three of them taken prisoner by new en­e­mies. And after Carol and Mor­gan bat­tled over the homi­ci­dal, cap­tive Wolf, we saw said Wolf es­cape with the town’s new physi­cian, Denise, as his prisoner. What fate awaits our he­roes when they re­turn for the sea­son’s re­main­ing eight episodes?

When SFX vis­its The Walk­ing Dead’s set in Senoia, Ge­or­gia, we im­me­di­ately no­tice that the group is once more sep­a­rated. Mag­gie ( Lau­ren Co­han) and Carol ( Melissa McBride) are in the woods and on the run, run­ning into new en­e­mies who’ve thrown jack­ets over their heads and kid­napped them. Could they be work­ing with the ne­far­i­ous Ne­gan ( newly cast Jef­frey Dean Mor­gan), ar­guably the most sadis­tic vil­lain fea­tured in Robert Kirk­man’s comic book? As per usual on the show’s set, mum’s the word. But we do our best to pry some info out of ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer/ di­rec­tor/ zom­bie make- up ef­fects mae­stro Greg Ni­cotero when we catch up with him on the phone a few months later.

“I can def­i­nitely say that the theme and the sto­ry­line that we set up in the first half of the sea­son is gonna dra­mat­i­cally shift in the sec­ond half of the sea­son,” re­veals Ni­cotero. “We set up this great zom­bie hor­ror threat, and we’ve es­tab­lished that Alexan­dria has been in­vaded. In the sec­ond half of the sea­son… things change. The show again takes an­other di­rec­tion. I can tell you I’m in the mid­dle of edit­ing the fi­nale right now, and the most ex­cit­ing thing about it is I feel like the show is mor­ph­ing as it’s done in the past. Go­ing from the Gov­er­nor to Ter­mi­nus and then Gabriel’s peo­ple, the show tran­si­tions. I think we’re on the precipice of see­ing prob­a­bly the most dra­matic shift the­mat­i­cally in the show, that will come about in the sec­ond half of the sea­son.

“It’s tremen­dously ex­cit­ing for us, be­cause it’s sea­son six. We ag­o­nise over keep­ing the show fresh by chal­leng­ing our au­di­ence. In the first episode [ of this sea­son] alone, we were shoot­ing scenes out of se­quence, and shoot­ing in black and white. And giv­ing the au­di­ence lit­tle clues of what the mis­sion was be­fore we re­alised that the zom­bie horde was es­cap­ing from the quarry. Those are all good things be­cause we re­spect our au­di­ence and we want them to go on this ride with us. So in the sec­ond half of the sea­son there are new char­ac­ters that will be in­tro­duced and some new themes and sto­ry­lines. It’s a re­ally ex­cit­ing time for us. I can tell you that the mood on set dur­ing the film­ing of the last episode could not have been more pos­i­tive from ev­ery ac­tor. Read­ing the script, rush­ing what I was shoot­ing, the way the story was un­fold­ing, and the prom­ise of a new world, that’s very ex­cit­ing.”

tem­per, tem­per

And what of Ne­gan? Given that ev­ery word out of his mouth in Robert Kirk­man’s comic book is the f- bomb, will the char­ac­ter be tem­pered when he makes his long- awaited screen de­but?

“It’s in­ter­est­ing,” says Ni­cotero. “One way you could look at Ne­gan is, he’s not nec­es­sar­ily a bad guy. It’s just these are the rules that he has set up. Just like our group has set up rules. Just like the peo­ple at Ter­mi­nus had rules and

the Gov­er­nor had rules. Every­body has their rules to live by. And any­time you in­tro­duce a new group or a new group of peo­ple, like the Alexan­dri­ans, you get an in­sight as to how they sur­vive. With Ne­gan’s char­ac­ter, from the comic book, he has a set of rules that he lives by, and that’s how he’s sur­vived so long.”

killing for a rea­son

With Mor­gan’s cap­tive Wolf — the big­gest source of dis­con­tent be­tween him and Carol — now on the run, has the Aikido mas­ter’s on­go­ing ar­gu­ment with the widow Peletier set­tled down for the mo­ment or will the two con­tinue to butt heads?

“For sure,” says Ni­cotero. “What we’ve al­ways es­tab­lished with Carol is she doesn’t get sat­is­fac­tion out of killing. She does it com­pletely out of ne­ces­sity. If some­body threat­ens her way of life. She won’t hes­i­tate. That doesn’t mean she en­joys it. But her per­spec­tive of valu­ing life is very dif­fer­ent than Mor­gan’s — who says all life is pre­cious. And Carol’s like, ‘ Um… no. All life isn’t pre­cious. If you have peo­ple that breached our world, and are hack­ing peo­ple to pieces in the street, there’s no rea­son why we would ever want those peo­ple to be pro­tected.’ I think that philo­soph­i­cal view­point is very volatile, and I don’t see Carol wa­ver­ing from that and I don’t see Mor­gan wa­ver­ing from that.”

“Un­til some­thing is re­solved it tends to con­tinue,” warns Ni­cotero’s fel­low ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer Gale Anne Hurd. “I think that they both had an im­pact on each other. They are peo­ple who though their own per­sonal life ex­pe­ri­ences came to be who they were. We’ve seen those arcs. We’ve seen why. Which we try to do with so many of our char­ac­ters, to un­der­stand how they be­came who they are. They’re two char­ac­ters who’ve be­come so much the po­lar op­po­site of where they started. In Mor­gan’s case, it’s a 360 — he’s come back, and, even more so than the char­ac­ter who first en­coun­tered Rick when Rick woke from his coma, he’s some­one who val­ues life again. Carol is some­one who re­ally ques­tions whether any­one can be trusted, ex­cept for the peo­ple who’ve proven them­selves. In essence, they’re both right. But they live in a world that’s in­tol­er­ant of peo­ple who can’t change to deal with the cir­cum­stances they’re fac­ing.”

We ag­o­nise over keep­ing the show fresh by chal­leng­ing our au­di­ence

Let’s hope there are none on the next floor.

We wouldn’t be sur­prised if this look turned up on cat­walks.

Even worse than do­ing the Lon­don Marathon? “Hi. I’ll be your server for the evening.”

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