Exclusive: Greg Nicotero on the Future of ‘The Walking Dead'


Yesterday, you might have read the conversation I had with The Walking Dead's makeup effects supervisor and executive producer Greg Nicotero about his early work on Evil Dead II, which has just been remastered by Lionsgate in a new blu-ray edition. During our chat, I also spoke with Greg about his new first-look development deal with The Walking Dead's network, AMC, and the way in which his new responsibilities on the show are shaping it. He also hinted at what the second half of this season of The Walking Dead will bring in 2012. Find out what Greg had to say after the jump.

What are you up to now that you've finished your work on this season of The Walking Dead?

Well we're getting ready to start shooting with Quentin on Django Unchained. And I'm developing some material for AMC. I just wrapped editing and mixing my episode of Walking Dead for season 2. I directed an episode. And we're doing some work on a film called Seven Psychopaths that Martin McDonagh is directing, and we're also prepping the remake of Maniac that Alex Aja is producing.

Will the tone of both the McDonagh and Aja films be one of gritty realism?

Yeah, yeah.

You're now a producer on The Walking Dead, and you've won the Emmy for your makeup effects work on the show. The last time we spoke you talked about how the show is unique in that it allows you to work not only with zombie makeup but also shape the dramatic content of scenes with the cast. Can you give an example of such a situation?

Well, what's interesting is on a TV schedule generally you have eight days to prep and eight days to shoot. So lots of times when makeup effects gags would come up or zombie gags would come up, we would have to be building that or prepping it much earlier than the eight days that TV dictates that you prep it. So a lot of times what would happen is I would put forth my idea to the production and the other producers and then we would come up with a game plan, so that when the directors would come in, there were times when I'd say "Okay, here's what we got going." The well zombie is a perfect example. Because I knew that that zombie was probably going to take five weeks for us to build. So I had discussed it with the other producers – I talked to the director and said, "Listen, here's the pieces that you're gonna have and how you need to put them together. Otherwise we would have never made that shooting schedule. Because I've sort of on the show gotten to a position where now I'm more involved in the scripts and more involved in the editorial process, I get copies of the edit from each episode, and make notes on them, and make notes on the scripts, and I'm able to give my viewpoint from the genre perspective and say, "Hey, guys. What do you think of this idea?" Generally speaking I don't just go to set and do a zombie makeup and then go home and clean it up anymore. Even if we don't have gags playing, I'm constantly on set. The other actors will read the scripts and everybody will have their comments and their thoughts, and they'll come to me and go, "Hey, what did you think of this script?" and "What did you think of that scene?" I'll say, "Oh, I watched this episode last night and it's fantastic and your performance is great." So I'm much more involved now with the show than I was last year. I mean I was very involved last year, but my responsibilities have certainly elevated this season, and will continue to do so, because it's something that I love to do. I love the show, and I'm really proud of it.

Do you think we may see any new projects stemming from your recent first-look deal with AMC by next Halloween?

Yeah, certainly. Because I had just wrapped production on Friday it was more a situation where I wanted to get Walking Dead wrapped and finished. We're currently developing stuff right now. So I would love to be able to have something on the books for next year. They certainly have been tremendously supportive of my contribution to the show. How often do you have a show where they want to celebrate the makeup effects contribution? In the ‘80s and the ‘90s they did. But it's just not that frequent anymore. Because people want to talk about CGI. They want to talk about the computer-generated effects and the visual effects. So to have people stepping up and going, "Oh, my God, we love the makeup on the show…" That's a win for all makeup effects artists, because to be able to shine the spotlight on what our artists are able to do, I think it's important. And listen, Rick Baker is still out there. We still have a lot of tremendous makeup effects artists out there. It's great to be celebrated. And to have the good fortune to win the Emmy for Walking Dead this year, it's fantastic.

Is it too soon to say whether any new project you develop with AMC would take the form of a TV movie or TV series or web series?

I directed the web series for Walking Dead this year in between everything else… I'm not quite there yet. I'll be there soon, but not just yet.

Do you have a favorite zombie from the episodes that have aired so far this season, or from the upcoming second half of the season?

The second half has a couple of fantastic walkers in it. I love the walker in the RV in the first episode, that Andrea kills. I love the well walker. The thing is, being on Hershel's farm, it's not like last year where we were running around downtown Atlanta. Hershel's farm is a little bit of a safe haven. So the advantage is that in the second half of the season we'll get a little bit more zombie action going. I think it's gonna be great. I have that I have to wait for the middle of February for people to see it, because the second half of the season is mind-blowing.

We're looking forward to it. Thank you for your time, Greg.

My pleasure.