Eric: Great question. Great question. Next?

Q: I was wondering if you ever had zombie dreams.

Lincoln: You know, I don’t. I’m one of these weird human beings that doesn’t remember their dreams. I’ve been told that apparently I do have dreams but I just don’t have the imagination to remember them. (laughter) But actually that’s a lie. I do have nightmares. I’m plagued by nightmares. But they’re all – they’ll be about forgetting lines. That’s my equivalent of a zombie dream, is being on stage, with my pants down, not knowing my lines. It’s far worse than zombies, trust me.

Q: Hello, sir. How are you?

Lincoln: Doing well. How are you? Let’s stay here for a while. We got 10 minutes.

Q: So I notice in real life you don’t have much of a Southern accent? (laughter, applause)

Lincoln: (drawls) You kiddin’ me? I’m from Alabama. (even louder laughter, cheers) It’s in the house. Keeping quiet . . . as a mouse. What am I saying? (light laughter – he’s making no sense)

Q: I’m actually from Alabama too, so . . . (laughter) and I do have a Southern accent. So how long did it take you to get the Rick voice, to prepare to get that tone and that timbre?

Lincoln: Aah, it depends. I came early. When I got the gig, in the sort of, with my brother’s voice echoing in my ears — (gets very close to mic, deepens voice comically) “DON’T . . . FUCK IT UP” – I arrive early and get the accent in place. ***And I work with an amazing dialect coach called Jessica Drake, who also David Morrissey and LC [Lauren Cohan] and a few others that come on the show work with. And she’s amazing, she writes it phonetically and it looks like gibberish. I’ve done it at dinner parties. I’ve just said, I got people drunk and just go, “Read this.” (laughter) And they go, (deep Southern accent) “My name is Rick Griiiiiimes.” (laughter) It’s amazing, it’s like cheating. But yeah, I came and I thought, I wanted to get that done before I even saw a zombie because I’d have a lot more to worry about on my plate. But I wreck my voice sometimes, so — if there’s any extras or people who’ve worked on the show here – they’ve seen me do quite weird shit. (laughter) When you’ve been without water and things, there’s a tone that anybody who lives here knows. It dries you out, you know. And if there’s an emotional scene – I said to Jon Bernthal one time, when he emailed me, he said “how’s it going?” I said “I’m gonna wreck my voice.” And he said, “Ohhh, it’s one of THOSE days.” (laughter) And you know, unless I’ve lost my voice, I don’t think I’ve done the job some days. Screaming, some big action sequences demand that you don’t look after your voice. And I suppose I have lost it a couple of times. But that obviously means I’m doing my job.

Eric: All right, over here, we want to get a few more in. We have about 5 minutes.

Q: James and Eric, I want to thank you, because you just made this woman’s dream come true. (applause) Andy, I don’t have so much a question so as just to say I would like to say thank you for me and my husband because Christmas is not Christmas at our house until we have watched Love Actually. (huge cheers, applause)

Lincoln:
Aw, shucks. (applause continues) Yeah, well, thank you.

Q: And my husband told me I could not come today to do your card scene because, he said, “Sweetie, that man has probably seen that too many times.” (laughter) But that has got to be one of the most touching scenes ever filmed, and I would just like to say thank you very much, you make our holidays every year, and just . . . . just please know that. And we’re just such big fans of yours. And also (laughter, applause)

Lincoln: (over laughter) Sorry about the rest of the year, where I fail you horribly. (applause)

Q: A friend downstairs is volunteering, and she said if I got the chance: we know you and Norman have a hot and heavy bromance going. (laughter, cheers)

Lincoln: Our secret’s out, yeah.

Q: But – this is a serious discussion, take this seriously, now – (laughter)

Lincoln: All right.

Q: — from the cast of Love Actually, who would be a better partner than Norman? Because there’s Alan Rickman, he’s hot; (laughter) and then there’s Bill [Nighy] more laughter), I mean, think about it, Andy, if you would have a bromance –

Lincoln: I can’t have Kiera Knightley? She’s not in the equation?

Q: No, bromance, Andy. BROmance.

Lincoln: It’s boys. We’re talking boys. (laughter) I’ll tell you what, Hugh Grant’s really hot. Colin Firth, he’s a hottie. There’s a lot of hot tottie in that show, I have to say. But it’ll have to be, it might be, it’ll have to be Chiwetel Ejiofor. By the way, has anybody seen 12 Years a Slave? Go and see this movie. Go and see it. It’s a really important movie. Ah, Bill Nighy would be my hot tottie. (cheers) I’m trying to get him on the show, by the way, guys. (more cheers) Spoiler.

James: Last question.

Q: I don’t really – I don’t have a question but uh, I want to say I love you on the show. I didn’t get a chance to get an autograph or anything but I have a gift for you. Would it be OK for me to give it to you?

Lincoln: Of course. Yeah. Have you got a pen as well? Can I give you an autograph? (audience goes “awwww”)

Eric: Can somebody get us a Sharpie? Quick Sharpie, quick Sharpie. Thank you. Where’s the gift? Where’s the gift? Come on.

[Woman approaches the stage with a gift-wrapped box, hands it to Lincoln, who crouches down on the stage to accept it]

Q: Hi.

Eric: We lied; we have one more question. Because that wasn’t really a question.

[Lincoln unwraps the gift; it is a Native American dream-catcher. Audience “awws” once again.]

Eric: It’s a homemade dream-catcher. Very sweet. Very sweet. (outbreak of laughter)

James: [to audience] I don’t know if you heard it: somebody says, ‘Now you WILL remember your dreams.’ (laughter) OK. One more.

Q: So I have a question about the prison and the disease in season 4. So, what do you think is going to happen? (big laughter – the audience has been advised actors can’t talk about upcoming plotlines)

Lincoln: Wait a minute. Is this a setup? (more laughter) Uhh, crazy shit’s gonna happen. (laughter) Um, yeah. It’s just, just – well what I would say about this season is that I think it’s the most detailed story – it reminds me very very much of first season in storytelling and character. But rest assured the midseason finale is the biggest one we’ve ever done. I mean, beyond. On every single level storywise, emotion, nad just the scale of it. But um, I just read the last episode, and it’s like nothing else. We’re going into much deeper, darker, more grown-up space. It feels like the show is really growing up. So hold onto your hats, is what I will say. (applause) I’ll tell you what happens is – [mimes speaking into the mic, telling the story] (laughter, applause)

Eric: All right, guys, let’s give it up for Andrew Lincoln.

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Andrew Lincoln of The Walking Dead, on Playing Rick Grimes

Eric: Next question, over here.

Q: Hi, Andy.

Lincoln: Hey.

Q: What was it that interested you most about playing the character of Rick Grimes?

Lincoln: Aaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhmmmmmm, well, obviously, (deepens voice comically) working with Norman Reedus. (cheers and applause) No, I mean there were so many things that intrigued me about it. Frank Darabont was the first guy that just got me hooked in. And then I read the script and I just thought it was the – I’d never read anything quite like it. And then I started looking at the comic book. And I just thought well this was going to be the most punishing role I’ve ever attempted. And, and I don’t know, it’s just grown from there. It began as one thing, and I keep saying this, is that it’s sort of turned into, it’s not our show anymore. It’s just got nothing to do with us. It’s your show, and we kind of – I just want to tell the greatest story that we possibly can, for you guys. Because it’s kind of – it’s become this beast. And I don’t know, I don’t think I would have been cast in Europe as Rick Grimes. I just don’t. I had done comedy, as someone just said. I’d done comedy, I’d done a lot of romantic roles, things like that. And the opportunity to play a badass sheriff, I was just like, “are you kidding me? (laughter) Would I get to wear some boots and ride a horse and shoot people for a living?” I’m like, “count me in.” I’ve still got so many buddies back home who just keep going, what the fuck. How did you – (lots of laughter, applause) really? you? But in all seriousness, it was Frank [Darabont], it was Gale Anne Hurd, it was Greg Nicotero, it was AMC. You know, I’d be watching Breaking Bad, (cheers,) yeah, you know, one of the greatest shows since The Wire, I think, in my opinion. And Mad Men, and you know, I just thought this, this feels like there’s a golden age of storytelling going on in TV at the moment. And when I got the gig, I just, I said this in an interview a couple of days, ago, I said there are certain roles that you jump up and down when you get the gig. There was a play that I did called Blue Orange, which was that. There was This Life, which was the first thing I ever bagged out of drama school, and this was the next one. I was jumping up and down going, “I’m fuckin’ Rick Grimes!” and I was in the middle of Wilshire (Boulevard, in L.A.) with my family and they were like, “what are you talking about?” But it was my brother, my beloved brother, who is a real sci-fi fan. He’s a smart cookie. And he was the guy who got it first. He said, “This — you better not fuck this up. (laughter) This is a big thing.” I was going really? He was going (deepens voice dramatically) “Oh, yeah.” So yeah, hopefully, you know, we keep not fucking it up. (laughter) Excuse me if there are children in here. (Laughter) Apologies to those parents.

Q: We both know most of the weapons you use are either hand weapons or guns. If you run out of bullets, what would be the three hand weaspons you would carry?
Lincoln: Oh, you’re a serious survivalist. (laughter) You even have this survivalist voice. (more laughter) You should be on our show, dude. (begins answer in similar, deep voice.) Well, I believe that the most important hand weapon – (changes back to normal voice) Ah, well, I’m gonna not spoil anything, but Rick develops a new technique this season for dispatching people and it isn’t a gun, it isn’t a knife, it’s something quite different. And I look forward to hearing your reactions. Because I was shocked. I would say, I don’t know, a stone is pretty good, that’s worked for me pretty well in the past (laughter), an eye gouge, just thinking on my feet here – and any sharp stick. Does that answer your question, sir?

Q: Yes it does.

Lincoln: Thank you. I’ll see you next week at work.

Q: Where do I sign up?

Lincoln: I’ll speak to your agent.

Q: Hello Andrew, how are you?

Lincoln: I’m very well. What’s your name, sir?

Q: Josh.

Lincoln: Josh. How are you?

Q: Good. Uh,

Lincoln: (talking over him) Let’s keep saying ‘how are you.’ (laughter)

Q: I was wondering if the show takes a toll on you in real life, like do you go shopping at Walmart or whatever, and just like keep eyes in the back of your head, just in case?

Lincoln: I did actually run into somebody in the grocery store the other day and I was just picking up some aubergines, or what, you don’t say aubergines – eggplants. (playing off audience laughter) KRYPTONITE. But yeah, and I was just sort of minding my own business, as much as you can at the moment, and this guy went “hey Mr. Lincoln,” and I went “hey,” and he said, “you don’t remember me?” and I went, “no,” and he said, “My name’s John. You stabbed me in the head last week.” (big laughter, applause) Josh, this is my life. (laughter) so yeah, it is kind of weird. Um, it’s, this time of the year, especially when the show’s out, it becomes a little intense. You know.

James: so you’ve got a few more weeks left and then you go, you’re on break. You live in London –

Lincoln: Yeah, just outside of London. My family flew back yesterday, and so I think the final push is three weeks if indeed I’m still alive (laughter), and then we finish, we wrap just around the 22nd. So yeah, we’re getting close.

Eric: Over here. We’ve got about 10 minutes.

Q: Hello, I just want to know, I just want to know, even though you probably get this one a lot: How did you prepare for Lori’s death?

Lincoln: Aaaah. (laughter) Um, yeah. I mean, the thing about this show, and I think the great thing about this show is because we’ve been doing it so long, and we’ve spent so much time, so many hours with these characters, and also with these people as friends, and you’ve gone through so much already, some scenes just look after themselves. This one I kind of just took myself away, listened to some music, got into the zone, which wasn’t very happy as you can imagine, and then just – I was helped by Chandler Riggs, who I think – you just wait, just wait for what this kid is going to do this season. He I think has done one of the best episodes certainly this season and he kind of carries it. It’s beautiful, what he’s done. I just, I was on set with him the other day and just watched him. And just — and now it’s time for me to learn from him. He’s a serious actor, this kid. But yeah, when he came out, and LC as well, holding the baby, it sort of plays itself. I don’t really sort of talk about preparations and things because the older I get, the more I’ve worked, the more you realize that every actor has their own way of working which is unique to them. And we’re lucky in this show is that we’ve got so many cool actors. So I just asked Sarah not to be on set. That was my only request in the scene, just because I didn’t want her to see it. And you know, I kind of like, Lennie James said a great thing when we did [the season 3 episode] Clear, and we’d just done that incredible scene, the six-page scene, and we came off, and he was wracked. He was just so sad. And he just said “I didn’t want to leave anything on the field.” And I went, “You did not, sir. That is official.” (laughter) And that’s – you know, I like to think that everybody comes with that work ethic, you know? We’ve set a standard on this show for you guys that we try to live up to. Sometimes we hit it, sometimes we get lucky. And sometimes we get close to it. But I think you get that we’re, even if you don’t miss it, if we don’t hit it quite right, we’re still trying for that. And I just got lucky that day and it just came out . . . real.

Q: Thank you.

Lincoln: Thank YOU. (applause)

Andrew Lincoln Dishes on Musical Theater. And Zombies.

Andrew Lincoln, November 2,2013, at Walker Stalkers Convention

Andrew Lincoln, November 2,2013, at Walker Stalkers Convention

Actor Andrew Lincoln of AMC’s The Walking Dead doesn’t attend a lot of fan conventions. But he made an exception for The Walker Stalkers convention in Atlanta, Georgia, November 1-3, attending with many of the other stars of the show. On November 2 he spoke to about 1500 fans at the Westin Peachtree Plaza, in a discussion moderated by Walker Stalkers podcasters Eric Nordhoff and James Frazier.

Eric: Well, we have a special guest here in the building, (cheers, a call of “who is it?” from one person, followed by laughter) and that person is Emma Loggins from Fanbolt.com. (cheers)
Emma: Thank you. Um, all right. So the way this is going to work, we only have five fan questions that are gonna be asked. There are two mics –
Eric: We’ll probably take more than that.
Emma: We can?
Eric: Oh, yeah. It’s per Andrew’s request.
Emma: Awesome. (cheers, applause) So there are two mics lined up with volunteers next to them, so if you would like to ask Andrew a question, please get in line.
Eric: Now is the time to line up.
James: Run . . .
Eric: Don’t run. No running, but now is the time because this is mainly for you guys. We’re not going to be asking a lot of questions.
Emma: And without further ado, Andrew Lincoln!

Andrew Lincoln speaks to a packed ballroom at Walker Stalkers convention November 2, 2013.

Andrew Lincoln speaks to a packed ballroom at Walker Stalkers convention November 2, 2013.

(Cheers, screams. Lincoln strides onstage, peers at some 1500 audience members, and settles into the couch.)
Lincoln: Ooooohhhhh, there’s a lot of you. (cheers) Hey guys. This is exciting, isn’t it? (cheers)
Eric: Are you comfortable on the couch?
Lincoln: A little too comfortable, actually. Lemme sit up here. There. Is Greg Nicotero here?
Eric: he was.
Lincoln: What? He stood me up?
Eric: You didn’t get to see him earlier? He was trying to see you.
Lincoln: He came and kissed me earlier, yeah. (hoots from audience)
James: Thank you for coming to Walker Stalkers Con.
Lincoln: Oh man, it’s a pleasure, guys. (to audience) Are you having fun? (cheers) I’m in my second hometown, Atlanta. I love it here. (more cheers)
Eric: James and I have been reading for a while, you did an interview and you said, you know what, you said in this interview I need to do something for the fans in Atlanta. And we were talking to your publicist, probably when we first announced we were going to do a convention, and we kind of reminded her, hey, he said this, Andrew said this, and finally we get the chance to do that and really make it work. So we’re just honored to have you here.
Lincoln: Oh, it’s such a pleasure, guys. And I’m sorry it’s been a long time coming. This should be a regular thing, I think. (cheers)
James: Any questions?
Q: Can you hear me?
Lincoln: Barely. Hey.
Q: (hoarse) I sound like an eighty-year-old barmaid. (laughter) I’ve been yelling at Norman, you know, just screaming.
Lincoln: That happens, yeah. (laughter) It takes me sort of half an hour to start work in the morning because I just scream. (laughter)
Q: All right, so we are all familiar with the complicated character that is Rick Grimes, and what a phenomenal job you do playing him.
Lincoln: Well, thank you.
Q: BUT. Those of us who are familiar with your earlier work know that you had a knack for comedy and dancing. (laughter, whoops, applause)
Lincoln: What are you saying: Musical time? Rick Grimes sings? (laughter) Sings and dances? Naked? (laughter, cheers) Bring it on Scott Gimple. Bring it on.

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Eric: We need more security.
Lincoln: Dave Morrissey has got a very good voice as well, so maybe Rick and the Governor could have a little G-rap, at some point? (cheers)
Eric: they actually did that duet, didn’t they? It was called Broadway.
Lincoln: Yeah, I heard about that, yeah. So sorry, what is the question?
Q: The question is this: would you ever be interested in hosting Saturday Night Live, and if so, what type of skit would you enjoy doing?
Lincoln: You know, you’re not the first person to sort of ask me that question. And it does fill me with absolute horror. (light laughter) Yeah, I mean, I began on stage. That was my first ever role was the Artful Dodger in Oliver Twist, and I was hooked ever since. So look, I wouldn’t rule it out, but it would have to be something along the lines of, maybe Colin Firth has done some great sketches on there. Hilarious sketches. But you know, you’re never going to fill the boots of Christopher Walken. (laughter) I mean, how good is THAT guy? But um, never say never, is my sort of political answer.
Q: You would nail it, you know you would.
Lincoln: Oh, I’m terrified already.

The King of Zombieville Concludes His Remarks

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The final installment of a panel discussion with Greg Nicotero, executive producer of The Walking Dead, co-founder of KNB EFX Group, and veteran of more than a hundred movies requiring his special effects expertise. Nicotero sat for the panel Walker Stalkers podcast hosts James Frazier and Eric Nordhoff November 2, 2013, in Atlanta, Georgia, at The Walker Stalkers Convention for fans of The Walking Dead — and all things zombie.

Q: So my wife’s been reading all the comics, she read all of them, so every once in a while she tells me something and I don’t want her to spoil it for me so I kind of dismiss it, —

Greg: Wait, that’s the only thing you dismiss that your wife says? That’s pretty good. (laughter)

Q: But so sometimes she tells me stuff like, “Oh, this is different in the comic.” So I took a peek at some of their comics down the line and I noticed there’s a lot of violence, and it’s vulgar. Do you have trouble trying to — or do you even take pieces from the comic and figure out how you’re going to make it safe for TV, water it down a little bit? Do you pull ideas from the comic?

Greg: Yeah, listen, this season especially, I think we’ve dedicated more beats to the graphic novel than we have the last two seasons. Scott Gimple loves the comic book. He’s really, really dedicated to it. Certain scenarios have changed – things that happen to one person in the comic book happen to another person in the show. Because we don’t want it to just be a carbon copy, otherwise everybody will know what’s going to happen. In terms of, you know, this season – this season’s a lot darker than we’ve gone in the past. It opens, the first episode where everything’s kind of the prison’s going on fine, and they’ve got a community and things are working out. You know, that’s kind of the — you know when Michonne jokes with Rick, and Carol calls Darryl Pookie, and you know, all that. Those moments were there for a reason. Because now that the crap has hit the fan, you know. You know, this season’s definitely darker. But we definitely don’t shy away from it, I wouldn’t say violence and gore in terms of the show, but it’s really the storylines and the plotlines, that’s what’s –- you know, gore is gore, if it resonates and it hits an emotional beat, that makes it way worse. If you think about Reservoir Dogs, when he [Michael Madsen, playing Mr. Blonde] cuts the ear off, you never even see him actually cut the ear off. The camera pans over and he walks over and goes blah blah blah – so it’s just that suggestion of it. So with this show it’s just the suggestion of the bad stuff that’s gonna happen.

Q: What kind of challenges have the actors and the makeup artists faced because of the heat?

Greg: It’s brutal. It’s great now [in November], because it’s cooler and we don’t have to worry about using as much adhesive, and sunscreen, and sweating. We break them up into three stages: we have the hero makeups, that go through hour and a half, hour and 45 minutes; then we have the midgrounds, who are just painted to look, you know, highlights and shadows; and the deep background that have masks on. But when it’s 120 degrees and the guys walk out of the makeup trailer and they just go, [gestures wiping off his face with his hand] “Oh, it’s hot,” and then it’s just like a big fleshy area right there. All the makeup is on their hand. It’s really hard to get it to stick. We go to great lengths to do it, and the entire team — there’s nine of us — and on big days, in between every setup the guys are going out and touching up and you have to be looking at the monitor to see which makeups are being shot close. If somebody’s way at the back, you don’t need to worry about touching them up but if they’re closer, you know, we have a little black mouth stain, a little syringe that we squirt into everyone’s mouth so their tongues are black, not pink, and it’s all just constant upkeep. So the minute that you leave the trailer and you go to set with your makeup bag, it’s just nonstop.

James: Have you ever used that stuff to just mess with somebody?

Greg: I want to go to a bar and put it in someone’s tequila shot.

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Greg cont’d:
This is an actor named Coleman in episode 15. This is the walker who almost gets Michonne, and then <a href="” title=”Michael Rooker as Merle on AMC website” target=”_blank”>Merle shoots him. Again, this was just an example of, that guy was just really skinny. We’ll be in the trailer and be like, “Dude show him that thing,” and these guys like suck their insides in, and turn their heads and weird shit, and it looks cool, and we’re like, “Oh we gotta use that somewhere.” So, you know, it’s a really good tribute to the makeup artists, because the extras who come into be made up, we’ll be like, oh, this guy would be great, he looks like the Machete Zombie from Dawn of the Dead, and he looks like the helicopter zombie –and we’re like, hmmmm. Have to figure out where to put that. So we do that often in terms of trying – the guys always come up to me and go, “I found a guy, he would be a great walker.” So this guy is in season 4 – we’ve used him a dozen times in different makeups because he’s a really good actor. He’s just, he’s great.

James: Very cool. Next? Amber?

Q: OK so yesterday in a panel I already told a fabulous story about the day y’all filmed the well walker scene, and it all revolved a sausage link that he ate for breakfast that morning, and a comment that Norman made about the sausage link, so it was pretty gross. So anyway he said he was gagging thinking about something that Norman had said to him earlier that day. So my question is, you directed so many episodes, and this first episode this season was so fabulous, thank you. (light applause) So I was wondering, are you directing any other episodes this season?

Greg: Yeah, I did episode one, and then I did episode 9, which is the midseason premiere, so after the show goes off the air for eight episodes and everybody’s just jonesing, just wanna see another episode, mine’ll be the first one back. It’s the favorite episode I’ve done. Its’ really, I’m so proud of it. Everything about it –- the performances are great. And I’m doing one right now which will be the second to the last. So it’s, I did three last year, I did three this year, so this is my seventh episode. You know, it’s such a great comfort level with the actors that it makes the — I have a shorthand with all of them. I mean, I’ve been on set with them every day since the beginning. And you know, it –- one of the episodes I did, it was just interesting because I would walk up to Andy [Andrew Lincoln] and say, “Hey I think maybe you should try -–” and he’d go, “I was just gonna –-” and it was just one of those weird things where you finish each other’s sentences and Norman and I did that a lot as well. So it’s a really great thrill and a great honor and having done makeup effects for so long, and sort of transitioning into producing and directing. I just love that it’s every day I still learn, and every day I feel like, as good as we all are at what we do, that we continue to try to get better and better and to fine-tune our craft. And that’s really important to me.

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Greg cont’d: This walker — this was my Dawn of the Dead tribute walker, which we put in Episode 15 last year when Merle’s sitting in the car — he’s drinking the whiskey –- [and] we show this shot. I sent pictures to the costume department: “You gotta find this plaid shirt,” like I’m sending them pictures to make sure the costume matches, and Garrett, he did this makeup, right? So Garrett Immel did this makeup and again, we had to find the guy who had the right look. So there’s a big long dolly shot where we bring him out of the bar, and bring him up to the car, and you know Merle’s in the car. And I just -– that stuff’s not written into the script; that’s just me being a super-nerd and saying, “How cool would it be to just put this walker in there and see if anybody notices.” The cool thing was it was like the next day and people were like, “Hey, tribute walker!” Every -– people notice that. So we’ve got some coming up this year too. They’re very cool.

James: We’ve got time for two more questions. Go ahead.

Q: My question is one you’ve probably answered before, but I’ve never heard you answer it. So, I would ,like to know: I know it’s hard to pick a favorite, it’s like picking your favorite child. But what’s your favorite project?

Greg: My favorite project -– and that really is hard, because there’s like ten different movies that I feel exemplify what I love doing. Sin City was great, it was a really fun experience to do all those character makeups and we shot it all in greenscreen, and to see the movie and see all the environments created. From Dusk til Dawn was fun because we got to make up a bunch of naked girls (laughter) for like two months. And Piranha was a blast. All these guys worked on Piranha [3D]. Aside from the fact that Richard Dreyfuss was in it, and I was like “ohmygodohmygodohmygodohmygod” (laughter). And I literally stood right next to him. The minute he got to set, the actors and directors were talking to him and everything, and I was just like following him around. He’d stop, and I’d stop; he’d walk and I’d walk. But there’s a lot of movies like that that we had a lot of fun on. Evil Dead II and Day of the Dead were great. You know, Walking Dead continues to be one of the best experiences that I’ve had. And it’s because of the people, because of the project. The Green Mile was great. It’s hard to – there’s so many.

James: That’s about ten kids right there, that you just listed, so . . .

Greg: A lot, indeed.

James: So. Last question.

Q:
Hey, Greg. So my question is — well, first off, I drove 16 hours from London, Ontario, to be here. (applause) So it’s a little colder up there than it is here. So I want to know: how would you play out having a zombie apocalypse up in Canada in the middle of winter?

Greg: Well, the good thing is, they’d all freeze, so you’re find until, like, April. (laughter) I mean, no one thinks about that, you know? If the zombie apocalypse happens, just go north, they’d freeze, and you’re fine. It sucks that it would be cold, but –- like, don’t go to Florida. Cause you’ll be eaten in a minute. All those old people, they’ll just –- (laughter) I mean, they eat at like four in the afternoon now. It makes no sense.

James: Well, Greg, thank you for all your work on Walking Dead, for creating a community of zombie-lovers. And we really appreciate your support with our podcast and Walker Stalker Con.

The Walking Dead’s Greg Nicotero — and That Gruesome “Well Walker”

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Following is continuation of a panel discussion among Walker Stalkers Con hosts James Frazier and Eric Nordhoff, and special effects czar Greg Nicotero of the Walking Dead. They spoke before an audience at the Peachtree Plaza Westin hotel in Atlanta, Georgia, November 2 2013.

Greg Nicotero: This is a make up Kevin Wasner did on  a guy named Kevin Galbraith. This was the walker that killed Dale in season 2. (boos) And one of the things we really wanted to do — we’ve done it several times– is we really wanted to play up that the bodies were really emaciated. When I was offered this episode to direct, Frank Darabont said “Do you want a big zombie episode, or do you want a small zombie episode?” I’m like, this is a trick question. I don’t know which answer I’m supposed to answer, and I’m like, he directed Shawshank Redemption so he’s really smart, so I’d better figure it out. And I just said, “Aaah, a little zombie one would be good.”  And ironically, I had one. It wasn’t like 12 walkers. One walker. So we really wanted to make sure that it was great and it was memorable, and that this performance was fantastic. You know, the guys did a great job on the makeup and even when I edited — all the close-ups, even when he blinked, I edited out the blink. So he looks like this grimacing skull with these giant eyes, and you know when he jumps on Dale, the shots that you see of him super close, it really feels like he’s right there. So this was really a great opportunity to make sure that you realized how dangerous these were.

From 411mania.com

From 411mania.com

Greg cont’d. And the funny thing about it is, when he reaches down and rips Dale open, there was some discussion amongst the producers, because they were like, why, how –- can his fingers rip the stomach open? I think it was even [writer/producer] Robert Kirkman, he’s like, “He’s not superhuman. How does he actually tear the flesh open?” And they almost wanted to cut that shot, the closeup of him being torn open. I was shooting second unit, and I just kind of set it up on the side; nobody knew I was shooting it. It was like “OK, so let’s go over here and shoot this insert of Dale’s stomach getting torn open,” and then I cut it in, and they were like, “I don’t remember that in there like that.” (laughter) [mimicking other producers] “It was weird. It was there, I don’t know what happened. Did you shoot it? I dunno.” (hoots, applause) So I got a call from Robert saying “I don’t know about the ripping,” and I said, “You have to show that the wound is fatal enough that they’re going to go ‘Sorry,’ [mimes the pistol shot that killed Dale].” Otherwise they’re gonna go, “I think he’s gonna make it,” and that’s not really what the script intended.

James: Yeah, that whole “I think he’s gonna make it” thing is over now.

Greg: He didn’t make it, by the way. If you hadn’t seen the episode, sorry. (laughter)

well walker

well walker

Greg: So this was the sculpture for the well walker. Now, this was a really interesting situation because all of the writers for season 2 came to KNB, had a field trip and Frank Darabont pitched the entire season 2. And all the writers were there. It was like the Bugs Bunny cartoon where all the  writers are like, “Yeah? Yeah? And then what happens? And then what happens?” And then they got to episode 8 and he goes, “And then Sophia [Madison Lintz] comes out of the barn,” and I went [draws in breath loudly] “Oh my God, you’ve killed her.” And then he pitched the rest of it and interestingly enough, the original season 2 ended one episode earlier. Shane is shot, we see this big giant high wide shot of the walkers coming up, and boom, and that was the end of season 2. That was originally one pitch as to how it went. So they left KNB that day and I got a call from one of the producers. They were like “Hey, we have this really cool idea about this walker that’s been in this well for like months and months and just absorbed all this water and stuff [and is] horribly bloated.” So they were walking around KNB and saw some stuff that we were building there and came up with this idea. So we ended up making a full suit and this was another joint effort by everybody, in terms of application and execution. But it was, this was probably aside from in season one, the CDC — this was the hottest day on the planet. And this guy, Brian Hillard, who wore the suit, we put a racecar driver cool suit on[him] so we could  pump cold water through him because the suit was full silicone, so there was no way any air could get to him. And I gotta give the guy a lot of credit: he never complained. He didn’t vomit, he didn’t pass out. (light laughter) Those were all bonuses at that particular moment. So it was full head prosthetic, hands, full body. And then there’s a picture of him being dragged up from the well.

zombiewellwalkermidshot

Greg: He had a stunt harness on underneath the suit, and that set was — the well was actually a set built on stage, and they put a kiddie pool in the bottom of the set and filled it with water so that he could dunk himself down in the water, and then we lifted him up. But you know, the way it was shot, you never really got a sense of what he was down there. You just saw past Glenn on to the walker, so when we pulled him out, we had the actor in the suit coming all the way out, and then right at one point when he gets stuck, we cut. And then we put a dummy together that was rigged with squibs and explosives and blood bags. And then we triggered it and it ripped apart. And poor IronE – when he saw that, like the look on his face when he’s like [makes a horrified face] – totally real. That was not acting. And then he smashed the head in and all the black gore and brown gore came out, he was not happy. (laughter) [But] you ask him, and he’ll be like, “Naw, man, I was acting.”

James: I always thought he had a weak stomach.

Greg: He does. But you know what, they kind of, they all do, to a point, because the crap that we put in those things — you know. Season one Sarah Callies, their trailer was right across from ours. And she had nightmares. She’d come out with her bagel and her hair up, and like getting her makeup done, and this horrible walker comes out and she’s like [another horrified face]. I think by season 2, they were starting to get used to it.  But you know, I love that the actors are constantly like — still, they’ll come up to all of us on set and say, “That’s the best one yet,” and we’re like, “Really? Well all right then, we’re done. We’ll go back to LA.” But no, they really, they really love it. Andy[lead actor Andrew Lincoln], especially, will pull the guys aside and be like, “Oh my God, this is great.” The guys, you know, they still love it.

Q: My question is, when Michael Rooker’s character [Merle] turned, was there a big decision as to, do we make him really ugly, we really like him now, does he need to be likable enough that we need to feel sorry for him when Norman [actor Norman Reedus] kills him?

Greg: No, there needed to be a connection between Daryl and Merle. He was freshly turned; we went a little more extreme with his makeup than we did with Shane, for example. Because Shane had a little more subtle pieces and Daryl, Merle was probably right about the same amount of time. But we felt that we wanted him to be a little more walker-like. But there’s a really important shot there when we shot that sequence, where there’s a closeup of Merle’s eyes. And you cut back to Daryl, and there was a lot of discussion in the editing room about whether that shot gave him too much awareness. Like, wait, Merle recognizes him? Like, does Merle know it’s Daryl? But to me, what makes the emotion land with Norman was that closeup. I think Kevin [Wasner] did that. Kevin, you did that makeup, right? It’s, you know, the trick with Michael was that him dying was sort of a last-minute thing. Like, it wasn’t planned out at the beginning of the season. As we were going, it was like, “Ah we love this character, he’s so great,” and then I was directing that episode, and they called me and were like, “Hey, so Merle’s gonna die.” Are you kidding me? Really? I killed Dale, now I have to kill Merle? And I was just like, “Rooker’s gonna just beat the crap out of me one day.” I was like, my doorbell’ll ring and it’ll be Repo Man to beat the shit out of me. And it was, you know, him and [actor David] Morrissey, that fight scene, all that stuff, I mean, it really was great. And I’ll tell you, it was an easy scene for me to direct because Norman’s performance was so spot-on that I got emails from people going, “You made me cry, man, that was bullshit.” (laughter) I just forwarded them all to Norman. But that’s what’s great about the show. That emotion. If you don’t feel that, it just doesn’t resonate.

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Greg: This is a makeup that we did for a commercial, a Bing commercial, and what I like about this makeup – the reason I wanted to show this is – we try to de-emphasize a lot of features, and with this particular– this is Ashton– we wanted to make his face look flatter, like the nose is rotting off. And there’s a really cool thing if you look at the corner of the mouth. We would cut holes in the prosthetics so you can see the dentures through, so it looks like the skin is rotting and stretching. So again, there’s a lot of those little details that you don’t get a chance to see on screen because they’re, they kind of go by really quick.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rf2Znls_XB8

Special Effects Wizard Greg Nicotero on The Walking Dead and Other Projects

Special Effects Wizard Greg Nicotero, appearing at the Walker Stalkers conference, Atlanta, Georgia November 2, 2013

Special effects artist Greg Nicotero, appearing at the Walker Stalkers conference, Atlanta, Georgia November 2, 2013

The Walking Dead producer Greg Nicotero sat for a panel discussion at the Westin Peachtree Plaza in Atlanta, Georgia, November 2, 2013 at Walker Stalkers Con, a gathering of fans of the show The Walking Dead. In addition to convention organizers Eric Nordhoff and James Frazier, hundreds of fans turned out to ask him questions about his work. Following is part of that discussion. Check back for more.

Eric: Is Walking Dead the only thing that’s consuming you, or are you looking forward to something during the hiatus? Is there something that you want to kind of talk about, coming up?

Greg: Well, yeah, it’s a pretty full-time job. And actually after last year, when we went on hiatus, we shot til December 1 last year, and then we edited the rest of season 3, and then we opened the writers’ room in January. So Walking Dead is kind of a full time job, you know, all the guys that work here, we go back to KNB [the special effects company he founded in 1988 — see previous post]. Last year we did Sin City 2 during the hiatus, the year before we did Django Unchained during the hiatus, (shouts) so there’s been a lot of things here and there, but then once I’m here, it’s pretty much we’re here. You know, there’s a guy named Carey Jones who runs KNB when I’m gone, and like this summer we did Spiderman and we did Transformers and we’ve done a couple of things, we did Machete Kills, and I think three people saw it (crowd goes awww) – and two of them are in this room. (laughter) Thanks, I owe you eight bucks. So it, you know, we’re going, Robert is doing a – we’re doing a From Dusk til Dawn TV series. (shouts) And it’s really, the scripts are great. We’re sort of taking the movie and stretching that concept, so they start shooting on Monday so we’re designing stuff for that. So we’ll probably all go in January down to Austin and I’ll direct a couple of those. At least one of those, for now. And then back here again. It was funny when we got renewed for season 5. I sent a note to all the actors saying congratulations, and I said “yeah, who would have thought that 29 years later, zombies are still kickin’ ass,” and I put a photo of me and Bob from Day of the Dead into the email. Just it’s like me, 20 years old, big bushy beard, like “this is great, I’m a zombie,” with Bob {Kurtzman, now a partner at KNB]. And it’s really amazing that all this time and we’re still doing what we love.

Eric: Awesome. I know you’ve brought with you some photos so we’re going to go through those. Are we going to do the webisodes?

Greg: I don’t know. We’ll go through and see –

Eric: How many of you watched the webisodes? (some shouts)

Greg: The webisodes are something that we do in between seasons. It’s like an appetizer, for when the show starts. Season 1, we did the backstory of Bicycle Girl, season 2 we had a standalone story, and then this year we had one that was a little more related to the first episode. We have two days to shoot them. We shoot them for really, virtually no money. We get great actors and it’s stories that I’ve written and they’re really fun to do, and they’re kind of fun, so maybe – they’re like 22 minutes, so we’ll see. If you guys have a lot of questions we can maybe show them later.

Greg cont’d: So what I did put together, though, it’s a little slide show. It’s very challenging in terms of releasing photos on the Internet. You know, I’m not on Twitter, I’m not on Facebook. It’s really, we’re very particular about what pictures get released. So one of the things that you guys really don’t often get is a chance to see behind-the-scenes photos. I’m one of the few people that’s allowed to have a camera on set, so I take thousands and thousands of pictures. But for this, what I wanted to do was just show you guys some pictures of some walkers and some of the guys doing the makeups that you really don’t get a chance to see. So we’ll just go and – let’s start with the first picture and then we’ll just skip through.

zombiebicyclegirl1

So of course this was season one, that’s Bicycle Girl, Melissa Cowan, that makeup was sculpted by Jaremy Aiello, I think all four of us worked on this makeup, right, Andy, Jake, and Karen. We had a front prosthetic, a back prosthetic, full arms, it really was, this was an amazing moment. You know, Frank Darabont who directed this episode and literally got the show on its feet, came over to me while we were shooting it and said to me, “this is . . . I’ve never seen anything like this.” So to be able to create this character, it really was a great group effort. And a lot of people, I think one of the biggest compliments, a lot of people said, how did you do it? Did you bury her legs? So the next photo will show you.

Bicycle Girl with blue tarp

Bicycle Girl with blue leggings on

(laughter) So when we shot it on set, that’s what it looked like. She had little blue leggings on, and the visual effects guys went in and erased her legs. Now, originally when we designed it, I wanted to bury her legs in the ground and do it like all practical, but we shot in a park, about 15 minutes from here, and they were like, “no you can’t dig a hole in the park, are you an idiot.” Well, first of all yes, and second of all, can we dig a hole. So this is what we ended up doing, and Stargate ended up erasing her legs, and so we shot elements of the bones and intestines that dragged along, and they put it together. So this was a great example of a great performer that brought the makeup to life, because you know, the guys will tell you that any makeup that you do, it’s only as good as the performer. You know, you get Mickey Rourke in Sin City, when he’s playing Marv, and he has a presence about him, but if you have people that feel inhibited by the makeup, then it doesn’t work. So one of the things that we strive to do during the show is to make sure that people really bring the characters to life.

James: But when you do a zombie like this, maybe not necessarily just Bicycle Girl, but when you’re on set and you’re creating a zombie, do you ever just like go “man, this is gonna be one of those iconic zombies – I know it’s gonna – you just see the uniqueness or something in it and you go, “this is gonna be one people talk about.”

Greg: Yeah, I think so. The interesting part is, a lot of times when the actors come into the makeup trailer, which is a tribute to these guys, it’s kind of like a blank canvas. You know, they walk in they sort of look at the face, and they kind of assess, like, oh I think I want to use this piece, or these dentures. So each zombie really is completely unique. We can bring the same actor in ten times and they will look different every single time because it’s what artist’s chair they sit in and what the artist really is able to do. On days we have 150 zombies, it’s really challenging to do a lot of makeups because we have volume, but on days we have 8, 10, 12 walkers, you can really get in and detail them out. It also has a lot to do with how they’re shot, some directors on the show tend not to shoot closeups of the walkers. Everybody always criticizes me and says well, you always have the best zombies in your episode, and I’m like, well number one, if they gave me shitty zombies then that would be bad. Oh, I just swore, sorry.

The Zombie King Speaks

zombienicoteroscreenGreg Nicotero — co-executive producer and special effects king of The Walking Dead — sat for a panel discussion with Walking Dead fans bright and early on Saturday morning, November 2, 2013 at the Peachtree Westin Hotel in Atlanta, Georgia to talk about the zombie makeup, directing episodes, his co-workers, and other makeup jobs he’s loved over his 30-year career. Nicotero appeared onstage with Walker Stalkers convention organizers James Frazier and Eric Nordhoff, facing an audience of hundreds. Fans were invited to approach one of two microphones to ask questions. Following are some excerpts of that panel discussion. Keep checking back for more.

Greg Nicotero learned his craft under special effects expert Tom Savini. He began as Savini’s assistant on Day of the Dead in 1984 and four years later joined with Robert Kurtzman and Howard Berger to found a special-effects workshop, KNB, that has worked on more than 400 films. Nicotero himself has worked on more than 150 films and television projects.

Greg Nicotero November 2, 2013, Atlanta, Georgia

Greg Nicotero November 2, 2013, Atlanta, Georgia

Greg: You guys are up early today.

James: How was your night?

Greg: Well, see, there’s this little show we work on called The Walking Dead. We were filming until 2 o’clock in the morning. So it’s been a long night. I know I’m not supposed to talk about stuff. I’ll talk about a little bit of stuff. So we’re on our second-to-last episode, we’re almost done with season 4, and we’re, yeah. It’s kind of all a little bit of a blur right now. But I just want to say I was the first person here this morning. All those other actors who didn’t have to work last night? Still beat them. I’ll try not to swear because I’m sure there’s kids here. But if I swear once, sorry.

James: Well Greg, you were the first person from The Walking Dead to commit to our podcast. I just want to say thank you for taking that time, because without that – it’s turned into this giant snowball that is Walker Stalker Con. And that is why you are the guest of honor this weekend. (applause)

Greg: Aw, thanks. If I had known, I would have come way earlier. I mean we could have done this last year, and you guys would have been all “oh, another convention, oh god.” But listen, congratulations to you guys. This is a big deal. The fact that they got – it was very smart to do it while we’re still filming. Because all the actors are here. You know, this is the first thing – time – Andy’s [lead actor Andrew Lincoln, who plays sheriff Rick Grimes] ever come to one of these. So we have to go check on him afterward and make sure he’s still sane.

Eric: I kind of want to ask you before we get into some really amazing photos that we’re gonna go through, and all kinds of insider stuff, did Andy – was there any talk, did Any ask anybody “what is this Walker Stalker Con? I’m hearing everybody’s going except me.” Cause he was like the last one to come. I was wondering –

Greg: We told him he wasn’t invited. (laughter) He was like, “Hey, you guys doing this convention?” and we were like, “No, there’s no convention next weekend.” (more laughter) No, I think he talked to Norman [actor Norman Reedus, who plays Daryl Dixon] about it. Norman, who does quite a few conventions. But if I’m not mistaken I think he’s donating his money that he makes on his autographs to charity. So I’m gonna donate mine to the makeup effects crew’s beer tab tonight. (Shouts from the audience) You guys all please buy autographs from me today, or else I’m screwed. (laughter) I’ll drop the price. All my guys are here, so the amazing guys who do the makeup for the show – guys, stand up so everybody can – come on. (applause, woo-hoos) Where’s Andre? Andre, come on. So Jay back there was the walker that Andy shot in season two through the mouth. And Andy there, that guy, I didn’t want to say the guy with the white hair because — the white haired guy, he was Michonne’s first kill at the end of season two. So they’ll be charging $90 for each autograph. (laughter) But they’re only autographing body parts. (More laughter) And all these guys are amazing, amazing makeup artists and the magic that is done on The Walking Dead would not be done without them.

James: 25 years of KNB effects now. When I say that, what goes through your mind?

Greg: You know, there was a documentary – this Canadian filmmaker did a documentary called Zombiemania and they borrowed a bunch of my footage from Land of the Dead. Of me on set with George, and she said, this stuff is great, this footage is amazing, have you guys ever thought about doing a documentary about KNB? It’s like, well, you know, the rights are a little tricky and on Day of the Dead, Savini was a very big tech guy. So he always had a video camera with him, and because I was his assistant, he sort of handed the camera off to me. So I filmed everything on set of Day of the Dead. So when I moved to LA and started in the business, I just thought that’s what everybody did, that everybody videotaped stuff. So Evil Dead 2, Army of Darkness, every movie that we did, I had a video camera with me. So for me, what I love about that, is when you go and you buy the DVD – I don’t get any money from that – when you go and buy the DVDs, you see all the footage that I shot. The closest that you ever get to experiencing what it was like to be on set when we were torturing Bruce Campbell every day. (laughter) Dumping blood on him, you know, we were shooting in Day of the Dead, chopping the zombie’s head off with a shovel, all that kind of stuff is now accessible to fans. So that’s really really important to me. So this documentary – it’s called Nightmare Factory – has a lot of that footage. And it’s weird to think that I started in 1984 so next year will be 30 years for me, and we started KNB in ’88. So it’s pretty amazing.

J&E: Congratulations.

Nicotero: Thanks.

Eric: Congratulations, Greg. Incredible accomplishment already, and you really, you’ve got at least another 30, 40 more years left in you, so really, I was just curious –

Greg: I know, I gotta start doing a lot of drugs. (laughter) To just keep going for the next 40 years.