Pro­ducer/zom­bie-beau­ti­cian Greg Ni­cotero de­liv­ers the in­side word on the new sea­son.

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it’s a time long in com­ing for The Walk­ing Dead. A time of war.

Hav­ing suf­fered enough loss at the hands of Ne­gan and his Sav­iors, the show’s colonies of sur­vivors – Alexan­dria, Hill­top and the King­dom – are fi­nally unit­ing against their com­mon en­emy. No mat­ter the cost.

“Propul­sive” is how ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer, di­rec­tor and zom­bie ef­fects mae­stro Greg Ni­cotero de­scribes the show’s eighth sea­son. “I think we spent a lot of last sea­son set­ting the stage for the show­down be­tween the Alexan­dri­ans, the King­dom, Hill­top, and the Sav­iors. So know­ing where we left the fi­nale last year, with all of our groups band­ing to­gether, it’s re­ally safe to say that this sea­son is re­ally un­like any other sea­son that we’ve done.

“Mag­gie’s clearly the leader of the Hill­top,” ex­plains Ni­cotero. “Ezekiel’s the leader of the King­dom. And Rick is the leader of Alexan­dria. The last show of the sea­son, where they’re all stand­ing to­gether and you hear Mag­gie talk­ing about the fu­ture while she’s hold­ing Glenn’s watch, it’s pretty clear to me that the way for so­ci­ety to move for­ward is for th­ese peo­ple to band to­gether, to go up against the tyran­ni­cal rule of Ne­gan. So in terms of where they are at the be­gin­ning of this sea­son it’s very sim­i­lar to where they were at the end of last sea­son. They re­alise that they have to fight. They have to fight to pre­serve their way of life. Or they’re gonna die.”

Ac­cord­ing to Ni­cotero, the mo­men­tum in­tro­duced in the show’s sea­son pre­miere is car­ried through­out its en­tire year, which sees Pollyanna Mac­in­tosh (the Scavengers’ du­plic­i­tous leader Jadis) and Steven Aug (Ne­gan’s sadis­tic er­rand boy Si­mon) pro­moted to se­ries reg­u­lars.

“Not only that,” he tells Red Alert, “but whereas there were times in the past where we would stretch out sto­ry­lines over mul­ti­ple episodes, the sto­ry­telling is dif­fer­ent this year. It’s a lit­tle more con­cise in terms of what our char­ac­ters are do­ing, be­cause there’s a lot of them. It just re­ally feels like a rein­ven­tion of it­self, in a great way.”

Early ads for sea­son eight have de­picted Rick Grimes (An­drew Lin­coln) and Ne­gan (Jef­frey Dean Mor­gan) siz­ing each other up like a pair of griz­zled es­tern gun­fight­ers, hint­ing at the in­evitable show­down to come.

“I think we had a re­ally fan­tas­tic mo­ment in the fi­nale last year,” says Ni­cotero, “when Rick

They have to fight to pre­serve their way of life or they’re gonna die

leans into Ne­gan and says, ‘You’re al­ready dead.’ It was one of the few times we’ve ever seen Ne­gan ex­press a glim­mer of fear. He looked him right in the eyes. It’s re­ally at that point where Rick said, ‘I’m go­ing to kill you,’ when he stands up to Ne­gan. So I re­ally do be­lieve that Rick is much more con­fi­dent in his plan mov­ing for­ward, and Ne­gan is def­i­nitely look­ing at Rick in a very dif­fer­ent way.” The pro­ducer be­lieves the path The Walk­ing

Dead now treads might of­fer a glim­mer of in­spi­ra­tion for the real world, which now finds it­self bat­tling its own au­thor­i­tar­ian forces.

“Know­ing that our peo­ple tend to look to each other, to sup­port each other in the be­gin­ning of this war, I think that’s pretty crit­i­cal and im­por­tant. To recog­nise that peo­ple know what they need to sur­vive, and they can’t sur­vive with­out other peo­ple. That’s def­i­nitely a theme that we started fine-tun­ing at the end of last sea­son. What are we will­ing to sac­ri­fice ver­sus what are we will­ing to fight for? As we got into the end of last sea­son, there was a scene in which they talked about the fact that it’s not about them. That they would be will­ing to do what­ever they needed to do, in­clud­ing po­ten­tially sac­ri­fic­ing them­selves, to al­low their group to sur­vive. That’s crit­i­cal.”

The sea­son eight pre­miere marks the show’s one hun­dredth episode, di­rected by Ni­cotero him­self. He tells us it’s as much a cel­e­bra­tion of ev­ery­thing fans have come to love about

The Walk­ing Dead as it is a con­tin­u­a­tion of its epic story.

“With­out a doubt,” he says. “Lis­ten, no­body puts more pres­sure on them­selves than [showrun­ner] Scott Gim­ple and my­self. It’s be­cause we love the show and we’re grate­ful to our fans. So ev­ery year we feel an obli­ga­tion to make the show bet­ter, and to put our­selves out there more. It’s harder and harder, be­cause we feel more of an obli­ga­tion. But know­ing that we’ve ac­com­plished a hun­dred episodes, a lot of the episode is def­i­nitely a love let­ter to our fans, and a great op­por­tu­nity for peo­ple who haven’t seen the show yet to jump on board and re­ally get a sense of what the show’s about.

“Be­cause,” he teases, “it’s pretty mind­blow­ing.”

The Walk­ing Dead re­turns to UK screens on Fox from 23 Oc­to­ber.

Hope­fully on the road to a safe­house. Rick and Daryl loom large over the show.

Some of the spe­cial ef­fects are sick­en­ingly real *barfs*.

Greg Ni­cotero gets up close with An­drew Lin­coln.

Looks like BFFs Carol and Daryl will get time to­gether this year.

Ni­cotero gives tips be­fore a scene.

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