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