I’m all tears as we’re saying goodbye to our on set coverage of The Walking Dead. Beyond the break you’ll find the final of four set reports from lucky Bloody Disgusting reporter Jeff Otto. In part four, you’ll read all about the prosthetics and buckets of blood being used in AMC’s hour-long zombie adaptation that’s set to premiere on Halloween night. I’m already counting the days (58 left).
As we mentioned in our preview piece, WALKING DEAD won’t be stingy on the bloodshed. This show plans to test the bounds of gore on TV and they’ve got one of the best in the business to make sure all the open wounds, guts and severed limps look appropriately realistic.
“Yesterday Greg [Nicotero] was doing some rigging [and] he was absolutely covered in blood,” says Darabont. “That’s my mental image of Greg, always.”
“[Darabont] is not wanting to pull back on anything,” says Nicotero. “He has been really dedicated to really pushing the envelope on this show. We did a scene yesterday where the zombies attack Rick and basically disembowel this horse that he’s riding on. And it was a fucking blast. Like 60 of the extras, we got the horse all dressed and ready to go and literally, they were so excited about getting in there and tearing this thing apart, I went up to Frank and I said, ‘You better start rolling quickly because these guys are getting into and you don’t want to miss this.’”
Darabont and Nicotero share a longtime love for the zombie genre and are happily dipping into the proverbial well for inspiration. “We did the zombie school and there was this one guy who had a really cool build and I said, ‘We should do a shot where there’s a shirtless zombie walking in the street covered in bites like somebody just ravaged him and he’s really skinny and gaunt,’ and Frank’s like, ‘We should do the naked zombie from NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD.’ Then a couple of people in the background said, ‘Maybe you guys shouldn’t do that.’”
“Frank keeps talking about NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD and that’s the holy grail,” says Darabont. “The scene with Bill Heinzman in the cemetery where he comes walking around the gravestone. He’s been referencing that quite a bit in that it’s not always about being slow moving but, you know, he was always pretty animated. He chases Babara and he’s trying to get the car door open and he grabs the rock and tries to break the window. That’s kind of what we’ve been using as our guide.”
AMC has had execs on set approving the gore so far. The only real limits they’ve put on the production is no F-word. Darabont laughs about the language thing, quoting Marlon Brando. “He said, ‘A young man can’t write fuck on the side of their aircraft, but they drop napalm on women and children.’ But hey, I’m not complaining. It’s a zombie show. It’s not THE LAST DETAIL, it’s not SOPRANOS. Fuck is far less important here than the zombie goods.”
The shooting we witnessed during our visit was of the tamer variety, basically Grimes coming home from the hospital and getting knocked on the head with a shovel by a little boy (Adrian Kali Turner). A zombie wanders towards the scene and the boy’s father (Lennie James) shoots him dead (or deader) with a pistol. But we also got to take a look at shots from earlier in the shoot, including the aforementioned horse disembowelment. “That’s the one thing you always want to do is you want to see something get dismembered and torn apart by zombies,” says Nicotero. “You see the pale, discolored hands going in and then coming out red. It was fantastic.”
The zombie images that AMC has released so far are terrific, to say the least, perhaps some of the best looking zombies we’ve ever seen. “We’ve actually been working really closely to cast people that are really tall and really lean so when you build their bone structure out a little bit, you barely can tell. So a lot of the featured zombies have a really sort of, all the zombies in the graphic novel, they’re really bony and they have stringy hair and exposed teeth and that kind of stuff, so we’ve been playing a lot of that up.”
The pilot’s biggest moment features a whopping 150 zombies in total. Nicotero says episode 2 will have even more. “Episode 2 is gigantic,” says an excited Nicotero. “There’s more zombies in Episode 2 than there was in the pilot because in the pilot, it builds. We’re with Rick and we start moving through the countryside to get to Atlanta. So by the end of episode one we’re in Atlanta. In episode two we’re there. We’re in it. They’re surrounded and the whole gist of the second episode is how they get out of the city. So they’re in the thick of it and I’m thinking, ‘This is a fucking movie.’ The script, it’s a movie, and we have eight days to do it.”
THE WALKING DEAD will debut as part of AMC’s Fearfest this October.