When season six of “The Walking Dead” premieres in October, the zombies will be more gruesome than ever.
In stark contrast, when the series’ companion show “Fear the Walking Dead” premieres August 23, we’ll be introduced to the zombies, or walkers and roamers as they’re known to fans, all over again from a different perspective.
However, the challenge this time around was more than just going back to season one of “The Walking Dead” and reimagining the looks of walkers from five years ago. Zombies on “Fear the Walking Dead,” a sort-of prequel series to AMC’s hit series, won’t look like the ones viewers were first introduced to in 2010.
Instead, the new show will go back even farther to when the zombie apocalypse first started spreading. This was a time where people weren’t aware friends and family members were returning from the dead. They were just “infected” with some mysterious illness.
One of the big challenges with “Fear” was figuring out how to create zombies which looked gruesome enough to pass as the undead, but which could also pass for human from afar.
“One of the things that was important that [showrunner] Dave Erickson and [creator] Robert [Kirkman] had mentioned to me was in an effort for this outbreak to sweep across society so quickly, you have to have situations where someone’s not gonna look at a walker in the middle of the street and immediately recognise that that person’s dangerous,” executive producer and special effects artist Greg Nicotero told Tech Insider. “It’s much more set up where you see somebody and you see someone is sick but you’re not gonna immediately assume that that person is going to be responsible for a potential outbreak. They have to look relatively harmless until you get closer and then you start looking at their eyes and you start noticing that there’s some wounds or some dried blood on them or something like that.”
So, how do they look?
“We don’t have as much decomposition as we do on ‘The Walking Dead,’ because, clearly, the walkers haven’t been around as much. But you’ll even notice, you’ve seen in the Comic-Con trailer and in the first episode, the first walker that we see has a knife embedded into her chest,” Nicotero continued. “That was done strategically to show the audience that, you know, ok, this woman is clearly undead, but when Nick [Frank Dillane] looks at her he sees the knife protruding from her chest but she’s not screaming, she’s bleeding, but she’s not reacting to it. So, he then has to process exactly what he’s looking at. So, we took a much different, cerebral approach to the walkers by playing up some of the damage that’s occurred to them during this sort of outbreak.”
A big focus will be on the eyes. Nicotero says they went with a cataract look for the eyes, which stands out any time you see one of the newly undead on “Fear.”
“We didn’t go as severe as ‘The Walking Dead’ contact lenses because in ‘The Walking Dead’ the eyes are pretty dramatic,” said Nicotero. “I look at the eyes like rotting eggs in that the longer that they sit around, the longer that those zombies walk around, the more decomposed and disgusting the eyes get. But at the beginning, the eyes look a bit more like just haemorrhaging and sort of cataract and that’s what the eyes in the beginning of the ‘Fear the Walking Dead’ look like.”
Here’s an examples of eyes early on in “The Walking Dead”:
And here’s how they will look on “Fear”:
Another factor that will play into the look of the zombies is location.
Up until now “The Walking Dead” has taken place on the east coast, down in Atlanta while slowly working its way up to Alexandria, Virginia. The Los Angeles setting of “Fear the Walking Dead” will add a new dimension to the zombies.
“The climate is very different. We began exploring some of the aspects of a much more desert type climate,” Nicotero explained. “In Georgia, it’s very humid, but the idea that we will ultimately get to walkers that decompose in a very different way that have a lot of the moisture drawn out of their bodies and sort of simulate a more mummified look is definitely a direction that we’ve talked about.”
“Specific to the walkers, it’s a drier environment …We see it toward the end of the season, but the walkers would be more desiccated,” “Fear” showrunner Dave Erickson told Tech Insider in a separate interview. “That was part of the fun part of the conversation, especially with Greg: What would environment do to the dead and how they would look? We tried to reflect that as the season … when we get to later episodes, we’re a little bit deeper into the apocalypse. We have a few opportunities to explore that as well.”
Nicotero says fans shouldn’t expect to see many zombies in season one of “Fear the Walking Dead.” Since he’s been doing double duty working on season six of “The Walking Dead,” he’s ok with that.
“We don’t have nearly the sheer volume of walkers as we do on ‘The Walking Dead’ because we’re still early in the zombie apocalypse on ‘Fear,'” says Nicotero. “If I had to worry about 400 or 500 zombies a day on the spin-off, it would have been a little bit more than we could bite off, but I think we’re gonna go into production on season 2 once six of ‘The Walking Dead’ [episodes] has wrapped.”
Nicotero was only able to be on set for “Fear” for three episodes. Because of … Nicotero expects to be even more involved with season two of “Fear.”
“Fear the Walking Dead” will premiere on AMC August 23 at 9 p.m.
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