Greg Nicotero, an executive producer for “The Walking Dead,” is best known as a makeup/zombie expert with an impressive resume that includes “Dawn of the Dead,” “The Chronicles of Narnia,” “Kill Bill” and “Scream,” to name a few.
But he is also a director and on Monday, he talked about this past Sunday’s episode “Say the Word” to the press.
As director, Nicotero said he wanted to make a clear distinction in the beginning of the episode between the grimness of the prison and the party atmosphere at Woodbury. But as the hour moves along, it goes in opposite directions as Maggie and Daryl find formula for the baby at the prison, a sign of hope, while in Woodbury, the Governor feeds “entertainment” to the masses in the form of a zombie-aided gladiator game. “Woodbury has a seedy underbelly,” he said. “Michonne was correct.”
He loved how “jam-packed” this episode was. “Eight days of shooting. It was brutal but the nice thing about the other episodes, they’re all very different in tone and scale and scope. I’m really proud. I can’t talk enough about how much I love working on this show.”
Nicotero enjoys the freedom the network and other executive producers give him to do what he needs to do. He even throws in homages to other films as an inside joke. For instance, he said he placed a look-a-like head of Ben Gardner from “Jaws” in the Governor’s tank room full of decapitated heads.
I asked him about Lori’s body. Did the zombie really consume all of her? That doesn’t make sense.
Nicotero said based on the trail of blood, remnants of Lori remain outside of camera’s view. Even “The Walking Dead” won’t show that much gore. “There are some boundaries here and there, believe it or not,” Nicotero said.
He said the fact the zombie’s stomach packed with Lori guts looked oddly pregnant was a purposely throwback to Lori’s pregnancy. And he said Rick knew immediately what had happened because the zombie had Lori’s hair coming out of his mouth. He also had Rick start hacking at the stomach, possibly to see if indeed Lori was in there, another callback, this one to the opening of a dead walker to see if it had eaten Sophia season two.
“He’s beginning his descent into madness,” Nicotero said. “He never had a goodbye with [Lori.] He never had any resolution. That’s a really horrible way to have a last, final connection… I get a feeling Rick has a lot of unresolved guilt.”
He said Andrew Lincoln shot his sequence in one day,. going from rage to inconsolable grief. “I wanted him to delve into it,” Nicotero said. He relished the scene between Glenn and Rick. “Both guys loved becoming physical,” he said. “I’ve never seen Rick ever do this to any of the other characters – especially Glenn, of all people. We love this character so much.”
And while he doesn’t want everyone’s face to become caked with dirt and blood by the end of an episode like “Carrie,” he thinks it worked effectively with Rick’s character. He also liked the shot where Rick is slumped down next to the dead walker in the boiler room in pure defeat. Then the phone rings. “I got chills when we shot that sequence,” he said. “Andy is so in the zone. It was important for me to allow Andy as an actor to build into that sequence.”
He also enjoyed shooting the scene with Daryl placing the Cherokee Rose on what is presumably Carol’s gave with the sunrise behind him. And he relished the choreography of Michonne killing the walkers with such elegance and ferocity. Plus, the scene where Maggie and Glenn kiss is important because, he said, there is so little intimacy in the zombie apocalypse. “They really do love each other,” he said.
Nicotero also talked about a scene that was cut from the episode but will likely make it on the DVD between Maggie and Daryl. Maggie expressed her dismay to Daryl about having to cut open Lori, then expressed sympathy about Carol’s (presumed) death. “Norman’s performance is like a punch in the stomach. Carol’s ‘death’ really pushes Daryl forward. It’s a great scene. Daryl feels that they have to survive. If Rick can’t do it, it puts Daryl in motion. It felt natural for him to grab the baby. I love that scene. I imagine every female fan of Daryl Dixon was just wobbly to their knees.”
“The baby,” Nicotero notes, “signifies future.”
He promises we’ll find out soon about Carol’s fate. The fact the show isn’t carting her out for interviews the way they did with IronE Singleton and Sarah Wayne Callies might give you a clue.
Nicotero directed two more episodes this season: 11 and 15.
The ratings for the fifth episode of “The Walking Dead” held up well, with 10.4 million viewers and a 5.6 18-49 rating, the second best to date after the debut (5.8).
There are clues that in next Sunday’s sixth episode “Hounded,” members of Woodbury and the prison will interact. Here’s the descriptive: “As Andrea grows closer to the Governor, Michonne makes a decision about Woodbury. Glenn and Maggie go on a run. Rick struggles.” Here’s the trailer:
“The Walking Dead” tapes the final episode of the season (episode 16) starting this week in Senoia.