The Walking Dead’s Special Effects Makeup Designer/Executive Producer Greg Nicotero recently sat down with AMC to discuss new Season 6 walkers, how they’ve evolved since Season 1, and when you can expect to see HIM as a walker.
Q: You’ve already hinted at a massive zombie herd in Season 6. What are the challenges of pulling together that many zombie extras? Have you ever come anywhere near that number?
A: We completely redefined our makeup process this year. I think we have already exceeded the total number of walkers all of last year just in the first three episodes [of Season 6]. The thing I love about the show, especially in terms of the makeup, is that we’re constantly redefining what we do. This season, we have streamlined the makeup process so much so that it allows us to do more makeups in the course of the day. I think we had 97 extras in makeup all at one time. It’s astounding when you look at a crowd of extras and you see that many people wearing prostheses. It’s really exciting.
Q: Do you ever look back at Season 1 walkers to see how much they’ve changed? How do you compare that to the characters changing as well? Which is more drastic?
A: I think they’re equally drastic. For me, looking at Steven Yeun or Andrew Lincoln in Season 1 and where their characters have come is pretty dramatic. The story has taken our characters on this roller coaster, which has affected them in very unique ways. If you look at the zombies in the first season, they’re much tamer in terms of what we’ve been doing as the season progresses. There wasn’t exposed teeth or rotted skin because we were six weeks into the zombie apocalypse. Now we’re a year and a half in and noses and lips are gone.
Q: You’ve appeared on a few The Walking Dead episodes as a zombie yourself. What was your experience being on the other end of things like?
A: In Season 3, I was on set talking to Scott Wilson and he had no idea who I was. He looked in my eyes and said, “I know those eyes!” It’s fun being a monster. On my first job with Day of the Dead, I played both a character and a zombie. People like Eddie Murphy and Mike Meyers love going through makeup because they love being different people. I’ve already been a walker this season, in Episode 3. Sometimes, you do it out of necessity because there’s a gag that needs a little more expertise to execute on screen. Almost everybody on my team has been a zombie at least once. When Noah was killed last year, we made up Kevin Wasner’s hands, one of our makeup artists, and he was the one who tore Noah’s face apart. Sometimes I drive home in makeup and get looks from other people. [Laughs]