THE WALKING DEAD ON SET EXCLUSIVE!
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
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.”
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.”