Even though mum was most definitely the word when talking with the cast and producers of AMC’s The Walking Dead, a few details about the fourth season did manage to claw their way out during Comic-Con. The zombie drama’s panel touched on some of the major talking points but the event is always so much of a circus that’s it’s hard to get any in depth answers. They did, however, debut the killer Season 4 trailer during their hour in Hall H. If you haven't seen The Walking Dead season 4 trailer yet, watch it right here...
I’m sure it blew the roof off the place, I don’t know for sure, I was watching it on my iPhone while waiting for the talent to make their way over to the roundtables scheduled right after the main event. The resounding vibe was still one of spoiler-worried reservation but I was able to learn a little more about what to expect this season on The Walking Dead. Here’s what stars Andrew Lincoln, Norman Reedus, Steven Yeun, Lauren Cohan, David Morrissey, Chad Coleman and Scott Wilson as well as executive producers Robert Kirkman (also the comic book creator), Greg Nicotero (also the special effects make-up supervisor and frequent director), Scott Gimple (also the new showrunner), Gale Anne Hurd and David Alpert had to say about…
Break Up And Make-Up
It wouldn’t be a new season of AMC’s The Walking Dead without a new showrunner - forget the cast, if anyone is sure to die during the season, it’s them - and Scott Gimple kicked things off by discussing the change in responsibilities that come with him being put in the hot seat. He said, “I have a lot of support. A great set of executive producers, a great cast and crew. AMC’s been fantastic. I’d say it’s just everything I was doing before just with 18 other jobs," Gimple said, before adding “there’s a lot of unexpected things. Wonderful things, tough things, but there’s always somebody ready to pitch in. The constant support makes you want to do even better. Stuff for the fans, stuff for people on the show."
As far as the day to day, “you’re doing the same stuff, writing and producing, it just comes with a lot of other things. A lot of long term thinking and plotting things out for the future. Bringing elements together." Gimple then went into a bit more detail about the creative side of the process and the challenge of adaptation, specifically trying to bring elements from the comic that might have been missed back into the story. "We have characters that are not alive that are alive in the book. We have characters that never appear in the book. We have a lot of events that didn’t quite happen the same way in the book but there’s no much stuff in the book, stuff that we’ve passed in the timeline, that I really though was awesome and I really wanted to get to."
So how do they reintroduce ‘past’ events from the comic into the TV show? “What’s terrific, and I’m not going to point the stuff in the tease that you might see, is using big moments from the comic in different ways, with different characters and with different context." Some more behind-the-scenes business was also brought up when executive producer and special effects make-up supervisor Greg Nicotero talked about what it was like to be asked to direct the Season 4 premiere. After an anecdote about how fellow executive producer Gale Anne Hurd “had this perfect speech planned" and he “blew it" by stepping into an elevator and dropping the call, Nicotero discussed his run leading up to the first episode of the new year, his fifth time as a director on The Walking Dead.
"I’ve been really blessed to get to work with Jeff DeMunn. The first episode of television I had ever directed was that episode" Nicotero told us, before adding “So it was really exciting, doing the season premiere was great." With Norman Reedus to his right, he also didn’t want to miss the chance to discuss a pivotal moment in the show and their working relationship, “with Merle’s demise and working with Norman in that episode too, I feel like I’ve been really blessed that I’ve been given these great dramatic moments that these guys just fuckin’ knock out of the park every time."
Of course, Nicotero couldn’t go into too much detail about what we might see in the premiere but the special effects and make-up legend did share their philosophy behind the walker design for Season 4. "We always like to play the idea that walkers have been just sitting in the sun and turning leathery and decomposing and just really nasty. So every season, we do dozens of new sculptures and we’re always modifying the contact lenses and the dentures." And in addition to the people made to look dead, they also "have a bunch of hand puppets that we’ve made that have lip movement, you can open their mouth and their lips move. Even in the first episode we’re interspersing walkers at the fence with puppets. We’re just trying to keep our visual palette always different and ever changing."
Before anyone else could jump in with a question or observation, Reedus noted that “there’s a walker in the teaser that we just showed that should be in the Louvre. It’s the most beautiful walker you’ve ever seen." The walker in question can be seen at the three minute mark in the trailer, it’s the one that looks part zombie, part tree. Nicotero is quick to add that "Robert Kirkman wrote that gag" before getting into how they pulled it off. “I read the description in the script and then we did some concept work and some sculptures and stuff. Then we buried a guy in the ground and put fake legs and made it super elaborate and a great visual but it’s a gag that tells the story."
To stress that these zombie set pieces aren’t just spectacle, Nicotero explains how “the writers have really made the gags intrinsic to the storytelling. Like Darabont did in the pilot when you see that half-walker in the park. It just speaks volumes about our world is like now, and you feel compassion when Rick kneels down and says ‘I’m sorry this happened to you.’ And the thing is just weakly reaching up to him. That changed the course of zombies for me forever."