Looking back, it should come as no surprise that AMC’s “The Walking Dead” was such a huge success. Not only did it boast a killer high concept, but it had a murderer’s row of talent involved behind the scenes, including series creator Robert Kirkman, adaptation specialist Frank Darabont and special effects legend, Greg Nicotero.
Nicotero, who is up for Emmys for both Outstanding Special Effects for a Series as well as Outstanding Prosthetic Makeup for a Series, recently spoke to Deadline about his technique on the show, and some of the specific challenges that went into the series’ very first episode.
“The Walking Dead” is filled to bursting with disgusting, rotting, desiccated undead corpses, but the season premiere in particular boasts a true wealth of nastiness. One scene, which featured the half-bodied “Bicycle Girl” crawling through a park, was so shockingly realistic that it set off a remarkable amount of Internet speculation about how Nicotero made it happen. Fortunately, the special effects wizard was kind enough to peel the curtain back for Deadline and his fans.
After casting Melissa Cowan, who Nicotero claims “has a great face for zombie makeup,” including large eyes, a long face, high cheekbones and a small nose, the team outfitted the actress with a latex face, neck, chest and back, custom dentures and more. The extensive application process ended up taking over three hours, but they weren’t done yet.
“We ended up putting her in blue leggings so that visual effects guys could remove the bottom half. So the top was all prosthetics,” he admitted. “People could not figure out how we did it. There was a big Internet debate and some fans said it was a puppet. Others insisted that she was full CGI.”
Nicotero also takes time to discuss another one of the premiere episode's most iconic scenes, wherein a pack of zombies devours a horse with sickening realism. To achieve the effect, Nicotero filled a fake horse carcass with gore made of gelatin, which allowed the zombie extras to actually chow down on all the bogus guts, organs and blood.
“When they yelled action, all the zombies dove in and were actually fighting over the guts. And when we were done rolling, it was like a badge of honor,” Nicotero explained. “None of them wanted to clean off the blood and guts. If you’re a zombie extra, that is what you live for.”
What do you think about the special effects on “The Walking Dead”? Is anyone more deserving of an Emmy than Greg Nicotero? Tell us in the comments below or on Twitter!