Walker Stalker Con: Greg Nicotero on The Walking Dead’s special effects

The fan favorite/blood and guts master talks behind the scenes, future spoilers, and more

He’s the heart and soul of AMC’s The Walking Dead. No, I’m not talking about Norman Reedus, but rather Greg Nicotero: one of the show’s executive producers, occasional episode director, and the man in charge of all the guts, gore, and gangrenous undead flesh on the show. He was in town this weekend as a guest at Walker Stalker Con, now in its second year, where he participated in a panel.

Photograph by Matt Walljasper
Photograph by Matt Walljasper

Immediately, the panel moderators turned to the subject of last week’s season 5 premiere. Nicotero sang praises for the episode and spent a good deal of time talking about the Terminus “slaughterhouse” scene. There were moments during filming where Nicotero wondered whether they had crossed a line and if AMC would allow his bloody vision to air. He remembered mentally preparing himself for a fight by citing the Gustavo Fring box cutter killing from Breaking Bad as evidence for what he could get away with when it comes to splatter. When the network came back with only minor changes, Nicotero was overjoyed. “This is great, we got the [blood] spurt!” he joked.

How does Nicotero describe the work he does on the show? “Gags.” And they’re very important to him. “I want the show to be real,” he said, “I don’t want to repeat gags.” And repeat he hasn’t. We’ve seen a wide amount of zombies in various states of decay, grizzly deaths, and uniquely disgusting moments that could never be described as redundant—even in the zombie apocalypse. “I just want to give you guys something cool to look at,” Nicotero admitted with a smile.

Nicotero gave insight into other secrets of the show. Remember last season when Rick took a bite out of crime? It was raw beef he ripped out. “Nothing looks more real than real meat.” Of course, in true Walking Dead set antics, Nicotero shared that as soon as he had put some meat in the prosthetic, Andrew Lincoln turned to him and said, “More.”

Ever aware of the audience’s desire for future spoilers, Nicotero teased about the 9th episode of this season saying, “I think it might be the best we’ve ever done.” While we have no idea why that may be, might it have something to do with Andrew Lincoln dishing about his on-air beard shaving later this season? We’ll have to wait until February to find out for sure.

As the panel winded down, a 7-year-old fan asked how Nicotero’s team makes all of the prosthetics for the show. After answering her, Nicotero asked her if the show scared her. The girl answered simply, “No,” to huge laughs from the audience. Over the roar of the crowd, Nicotero, proving just how much fun he has with his job, exclaimed tongue-in-cheek, “I have failed all of you.” No worries, Greg. We’ll forgive you for not scaring her, but we still need to talk about you pronouncing the A in Senoia.