How The Walking Dead Changed The Way Greg Nicotero Designs Effects

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The Walking Dead is unlike anything else on TV as it takes viewers to the desolate landscape of the zombie apocalypse. While credit must be given to the actors and writers who craft the stories of Rick and Co., we can be sure that The Walking Dead wouldn't be what it is today without the special effects and makeup expertise of executive producer Greg Nicotero, who has been on board from the very beginning. Now, Nicotero has revealed just how his years of success on The Walking Dead have changed how he designs effects, saying this:

I mean the show has evolved and mutated in so many fascinating ways that, for a person that for up until the last 8 years had been doing primarily movies, to be able to be involved in something long form like this has completely changed the way I design make-up FX, the way I approach production and has given me an incredible understanding of how critical character and story is. There's a lot of make up FX people who are holding the torches for practical FX and God love them, because that's what we love and that's what we do. But you have to understand that those practical FX, if played out in a scenario that has some significant story behind it is what you want. There's much more impact in something you have dedicated and devoted to these people. It's not just a showcase for FX. It's about a great story that when something visually arresting happens, you're much more invested in it. So yeah, for me, it's been a complete eye opener on how to create these FX and integrate them into what I direct and into the show.

Prior to landing the Walking Dead job, Greg Nicotero did most of his work on the big screen with movies like The Haunting and Unbreakable. Designing makeup and effects for movies meant that he could go big and bold without necessarily considering the impact on characters and ongoing stories, as the plot would be wrapped up in two or so hours. With The Walking Dead, the scenes that require the most effects and makeup are often some of the ones that most impact the mindsets of the lead characters in lasting ways. Nicotero's comments to indicate that he has learned how to add deeper story meaning to his special effects.

The lesson has clearly been valuable, as The Walking Dead is set to hit its big one hundred episode milestone when it returns for Season 8. In fact, the Season 8 premiere will be Episode 100, and star Andrew Lincoln has already revealed that they'll be "starting a full-scale war" to celebrate the milestone. Season 8 will have the folks from Alexandria, Hilltop, and the Kingdom fighting the forces of Negan and the Saviors, and if the first battle (complete with a snarling tiger) was a taste of what's to come, Greg Nicotero and the special effects team will be pretty busy.

We can bet that Nicotero will keep the creative juices flowing when Season 8 kicks off in the fall. Whether he's coming up with new kinds of zombies or crafting dummy heads after A-list celebrities, Nicotero always has something fantastical in store. Considering how huge The Walking Dead is for AMC, we can probably be pretty confident that he'll be delivering fresh horrors in the zombie apocalypse for the indefinite future.

The Walking Dead will return to AMC this fall. If you're dying for a peek ahead, our breakdown of what we know so far about Season 8 should whet your appetite. Be sure to check out our summer TV premiere schedule to discover what you can watch to pass the time before the Season 8 premiere.

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. Resident of One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and Northeast Ohio. Will not time travel and can cite multiple TV shows to explain why. She does, however, want to believe that she can sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation (and author bios).