With The Walking Dead’s fifth season about to end tonight here in the UK we sat down with our very own Andrew Lincoln and expert Walking Deadman Greg Nicotero to talk out the experience of creating one of the most talked about shows on TV.
The show’s fifth season has been one of its finest, with a number of new characters and locations, as well as some terrible tragedies, making this a gut-wrenching experience.
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So far season 5 has been one of the most memorable. What has the experience been like for you both?
Andrew: At the end of each season I usually come home, battered and ready to rest. But there was something different this time around.
When we finished the season we finished really strong. This season we told a brilliant story there was this feeling of euphoria and I was ready to come back much sooner.
Greg: All of us were.
Andrew: I was like, when do we pick up and start going again. It was such an exciting, different, challenging season.
Greg: I think we were pushed to our absolute maximum. Everyone was dedicated. When we wrapped it was like we came out of battle. When I went back to Los Angeles I didn’t see the people I was in the trenches with.
I felt a little out of sorts. I got off the phone with Andrew & Norman and we were like, screw this and lets go back! Every season gets harder, it’s rough and we challenge ourselves. Our show will never settle, it will always take the hard route but you see the fruits of labor in the show.
Any personal highlights in this season for either of you?
Greg: What I am most proud of is that every episode I directed has had a completely different tone and emotion. The first episode starts with our characters watching people bleed out over a trough and then there’s the reunion between Carol and Judith.
That was the closest to our big action movie, Michael Bay version of The Walking Dead. Then there was the death of Tyreese, which was a very different episode both visually and tonally. We used a lot of different camera work, flashbacks as well as audio and visual hallucinations.
From a storytelling standpoint episode nine was probably the biggest departure from the show stylistically. I think that excited people a lot – something fresh and different.
The finale really shows the contrast in how Rick developed from season 1 to now, where he has a police uniform again but is not the same man.
Andrew, when you and the gang made it to Alexandria we said goodbye to Rick’s beard. What were your thoughts to the reaction to that?
Andrew: Yeah, that beard has seen a lot of action. I was very fond of that beard but my wife was quite happy that after two years I was allowed to shave.
Rick’s beard was so beloved it has its own Twitter page and so does your ponytail, Greg…
Andrew: Did it really? I didn’t know that, I am very touched. But you know the beard still lives on with Norman Reedus.
Greg: I think my ponytail and Andrew’s beard should date. [laughs]
Any bizarre experiences with any fans?
Greg: We get a lot of people that are intrigued and interested in being walkers in the show.
We’ve tried to limit the number of celebrity walkers on the show. We don’t want it to become a show of spot the zombie. I know that Christina Hendricks wanted to be a walker and also Aaron Paul.
The idea of being a walker is more romantic than sitting in the make-up chair for a couple of hours.
Greg, we read that it was your hand that played Ash’s severed possessed hand in Evil Dead II. Is that true and how did that come about?
Greg: That is correct! I worked on the special effects make-up crew for the film and we had a couple of scenes with the evil hand running around the cabin.
So, they done a cast of my hand and created a little prosthetic.
How do you think you’d guys do if you had to survive against the rise of the living dead?
Greg: I would just do a great zombie make-up on myself and just walk around. You know people always talk about where they should go when the world comes to an end – don’t get on a boat or anywhere else.
Just come down to my studio and we’ll have all the make-up chairs ready.
How did you keep things fun on set during some of the serious scenes, for example Tyreese’ last moments?
Andrew: Well, Chad is very funny. He conducted himself immaculately in his final episode; I thought he did an incredible job.
This show is an intense, hard, thrill ride but there is a lot of silliness and good humor. There has to be otherwise it would just be exhausting
Greg: Fortunately, everybody actually likes each other on set. We have hard moments. It’s never easy when we lose someone on the show going all the way back to Emma Bell.
But Andrew fucks it up all the time, I gotta say. After I have shot a whole episode on the last day, he’ll come up to me and say they really are an extraordinary actor, maybe we should keep them [laughs].
Andrew: I always pitch an alternative ending.
A perfect example of the silliness on set, there’s a scene in the finale where I am waving a gun around and Danai [Michonne] hits me in the back of the head. She punched me in the back of the head in every single take.
When we finished she was laughing so much that after we cut she just jumped me. That’s how that scene actually ended – just so you know.
We heard a rumor that for the cast being killed off they have a “last supper”. Any truth to that?
Andrew: Yep, that’s true.
Well, I always said to Norman that I would burn my trailer and you have to drag me screaming and kicking off set. It’s funny, I like the idea of a Norse funeral where put me on a boat and push me out to sea. You know, fire arrows at my wrapped body.
Greg: Maybe we could do that in the pond in Alexandria [both laugh]
Andrew: Exactly but don’t get Norman to shoot the arrow because he would miss. I’d be out there for a while floating.
The Walking Dead finale, tonight 9.00pm on FOX