'The Walking Dead' creator answers season premiere's burning questions
'The Walking Dead' premiere: Ethan Embry on Carter's big moment
Andrew Lincoln breaks down 'The Walking Dead' season 6 premiere
'The Walking Dead': 15 Exclusive Storyboard Illustrations From Season 6
'The Walking Dead' season 6 premiere recap: 'First Time Again'
[SPOILER ALERT: Read on only if you have already watched Sunday’s season 6 premiere of
continued to go big in its season 6 premiere. From the big scale of having 300 zombie extras and thousands more digitally added in, to the big problems facing Alexandria, to the big risk of airing half of the episode in black and white. But as executive producer and director Greg Nicotero tells us, that last part was not the original plan. Team TWD had another bold vision in mind on how to differentiate their scenes from past and present, but eventually scrapped it and came up with the black and white idea in post-production.
What was the original format and will we ever see it? Nicotero talks about that in our premiere deep dive, while also revealing the mishap that led to a blood-streaming geyser, why Andrew Lincoln punched a hole in the wall before a take, and another moment that did not make the final cut.
(Read through all three pages for the entire interview. Also make sure to check out our premiere Q&A’s with Andrew Lincoln, Robert Kirkman, and Ethan Embry, as well as our exclusive storyboards from Nicotero.)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: The size and scope of this episode is really unlike anything you all have done before. What was the hardest thing for you to execute as the director on this one?
GREG NICOTERO: I think the action set pieces were constantly going bigger and bigger. One of the things I like about the episode is it’s a culmination of a lot of past episodes in regards to we’re setting the ship out to sea, so we can sort of establish where our characters are, much like the season 4 premiere, which was the escape from Terminus and was a big action sequence. So this has a little bit of both, and the script is fantastic. Scott Gimple and Matt Negrete wrote a great script. We love playing with the timeline shift a little bit.
But for me, I think the hardest part was just visualizing all these big, giant crowd sequences with the walkers. I had directed a pilot last year, and the best thing about my job is you’re constantly learning. You’re evolving as an artist and I feel like the result of the pilot that I had directed last year and other
episodes really made me want to push the envelope on this and make the shots bigger. Alexandria’s a little island, and the whole point of this episode was to show this island in the middle of the sea of this new world, and that the world has the potential threat of walkers and humans and whatever, but we really wanted to make sure that we didn’t feel claustrophobic inside Alexandria and felt like, “Oh we’re in the same location all the time.” So we made the world bigger. So that last shot, the drone shot where the camera goes up and up and up and just keeps going, and we see thousands of walkers on the street — we’re trying to expand our world. And it was challenging. It was really hard and it was a bit gut-wrenching, but I’m really proud of it.
You said drone shot. You used a drone for that shot?
We did, we used a drone in a couple of the episodes. We had one day where we just shot a bunch of drone stuff and it was like flybys of Daryl’s motorcycle and really cool really fun stuff that we had never done on the show before. So it’s always trying to just keep it fresh and keep it feeling different.
You’ve got a double challenge for this massive rock quarry scene. As a zombie make-up guru, you had to prep hundreds of walkers, and then as a director you have to film a scene that for some shots is going to turn those hundreds into thousands. How did you approach those shots?
It’s like a Rubik’s Cube because you shoot the element of Rick and Morgan on the edge of the quarry, and then you are looking into a real quarry, but the quarry’s empty, and you’re like, “Okay, that side’s not really there, and the back’s going to be much further back.” I always storyboard those sequences — not so much for me – because I visualize everything the minute I read the script, but to help the other actors and the other artists and the camera department get a sense of what we’re going to do.
So when you look at the storyboards and then you look at the final shots, they’re almost identical from the moment that we set out planning that shot, and it’s because we want people to understand: There are 30,000 or so, whatever the number is, of walkers in there. But on set, they’re standing on the edge of an empty quarry and there’s nothing there. And then the reverse was shot on a completely different location. So we shot one set of angles in one place and the other set of angles we used this sheer cliff wall to shoot up against, and that was challenging because Mike Satrazemis, our director of photography, and I had a Technocrane on the edge of the quarry with the arm pushed out over the edge and the camera turned back towards us. So we were getting these great sweeping shots up the quarry, and when the walkers go out and fall over, all those locations were practical, we just added the CG zombies going over the cliff.
We have to talk about the zombie with flesh ripping off as he squeezes between trucks. That was super disgusting, man, and I know you take that as a compliment.
I do, indeed. That was the first walker that you really see clearly in the episode, and it was all rigged. There was an air bladder underneath to push the ribs out so that the ribs would pop out. We had a piece of monofilament pulling the guts out. The silicone prosthetic — I mean, it was all rigged to do that. I think digitally we may have closed up the chin a little bit so that it looked like it popped, but that was 99% practical prosthetic.
You’ve been doing this for so long, Greg. How exciting is it for you when you can come up with something a little bit new or different that we haven’t seen before like that?
Any effect that I design and any gag that I come up with, I’m going to make sure that it doesn’t feel like something we’ve seen before. I would never want to repeat something, “Oh they did this in a different movie and we’ve seen that before.” We’ll always take it to a different place. I think especially with Scott and the writers, they will make an effort to come up with something interesting. There’s a gag in one of the episodes this season where the script said, “And there’s a van turned on its side and there’s a walker underneath.” We were talking in the concept meeting, and I said, “What if the walker was wrapped up in the wheel well, like it had gotten run over?” So we cut a hole in this little van and then we had 20 feet of intestines wrapped around the axle, and we hired a contortionist to put her body inside there. It was just one of those things where you’re standing on set and you’re like, “God, I love this job. This is so much fun.” So we always have the kind of kernel of an idea there, and it’s really my job to kind of take everything and elevate it to a place that hasn’t been seen before.
Were there any tribute zombies in this episode. Sometimes you do that, sometimes you don’t. Anyone here?
You know, I realized at the end of the day that I hadn’t put one in. And here’s the bummer, and I’m kicking myself. We did a tribute walker in another episode that the scene ended up getting cut out, and I thought “Ah, you know, it’s kind of a bummer,” but it was a walker from a black and white movie, and it would have been perfect in this episode. but I didn’t think about it at the time. But that’s all I’m going to say because that walker might show up someplace else. But in my other episodes, there’s definitely a couple little tribute guys in there.
NEXT PAGE: The original plan for the episode before they changed the flashbacks to black & white
\'Jessie\' series finale exclusive clip: Jessie\'s going to Hollywood
T.I. apologizes – again – for comments made about Hillary Clinton
Which movie ruled the box office in the past 25 years?
Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy wants a woman to direct a \'Star Wars\' movie
First-ever Okeechobee Music Festival lineup includes Mumford & Sons and Kendrick Lamar
Entertainment Weekly and 24 Other Things Turning 25 This Year
Canceled TV Shows That Ended on Major Cliffhangers
12 Instagram Photos of Pitbull Hanging Out with Celebrities