For the final part of The Walking Dead Season 4 interviews from Comic-Con, we have our round table session with Greg Nicotero and Norman Reedus. Greg Nicotero talks about directing the Season 4 premiere and Season 3 deleted scenes, while Norman Reedus shares his thoughts on Daryl in Season 4 and tells us about a new walker he thinks belongs in the Louvre:
After getting into episode directing in Season 2, you were asked to direct The Walking Dead Season 4 premiere. How did that come about and were you surprised?
Greg Nicotero: It’s a funny story because we were doing a producer call. I was in Milwaukee and I was up in my hotel room. I was up with Gale, Gimple, Kirkman, and Alpert. They were building up to this great moment where they were going to ask me to direct the season premiere. I get in the elevator and the call drops. I get to the lobby and call back in, and they said “We just had this great impassioned speech about how honored we’d be for you to direct the premiere.” They asked what I thought and there was dead silence. Gale said that she had this perfect speech planned and I blew it.
It was my fifth episode and I’ve been really blessed. The first episode of television I directed was that episode with Jeff DeMunn and Norman. I felt like I really got to explore Daryl’s character, because that’s when his transition to Rick’s right hand man really began. It was really exciting doing the season premiere and working with Norman on Merle’s demise last season.
How much will Merle’s death impact Daryl in the fourth season?
Norman Reedus: I don’t know if he’s over it, but he thought his brother was already gone until he got to Woodbury. He sort of accepted it without wanting to. With Merle away, Daryl became his own man instead of a mini-Merle.
It’s painful and he grew up a lot in that one episode. To lose him again, it hurts, but we’re losing people all the time.
Greg Nicotero: There’s a great moment where Norman and Michael are having that scene in the boiler room. It was one of the last scenes we shot, and there’s this fantastic moment that wasn’t scripted. Norman just reaches out and touches his arm, and Michael says “Get out of here man!” and pulls his arm away. This tender moment, where Merle doesn’t know how to cope with that intimacy for that second, was so powerful and made that loss so much worse. And that wasn’t in the script. It’s just something these guys did when rehearsing
There’s a deleted scene from that episode. When Merle is ripping apart the mattresses looking for drugs, he finds a lighter that has an ace of spades. He focuses on the imagery of that and, in his head, it solidifies his role in the group. He’s going to be the guy that can do what Rick can’t do. In his own way, all he cares about is saving his brother. It’s a theme we deal with over and over. What would you be willing to do to keep someone safe? We deal with a lot of those themes in Season 4.
His plan wasn’t a suicide mission. He went with every intention to kill The Governor. Michael will argue with me until the cows come home that he would have made that shot: “I’m a great shot! A bullet goes 1,500 feet per second and I would have made that shot! The Governor would have been dead and the series would have been over!” In the Season 3 DVD, Michael and I do commentary for that episode and we argue about it [laughs].
We saw Daryl leading a mission in the latest trailer. How is he stepping up this season?
Norman Reedus: It’s different. If things need to be done, he’s that guy that will get it done. But he’s not a guy that will look into your eyes and talk about your feelings. Other people do things differently.
Greg Nicotero: The last time we saw Carl, he shot someone in the face. In that moment of horror where Rick sees what his son is capable of, he realizes that his responsibility is that his children grow up as human beings that aren’t completely devoid of emotion. Rick makes a conscious decision that Carl and Judith are of primary importance and that does give Daryl an opportunity to take a unique position in the group. That is something that’s explored in the first few episodes of Season 4.
Some of the other cast members and producers have been teasing this new threat. What can you tell us about it?
Greg Nicotero: I can give a little tease because a lot of this came from a conversation that Scott Gimple and I had last year. Our group survived for so long on the road and they’ve become so proficient at killing walkers. We felt that threat needs to be ever-present. The idea that our group could find themselves in the middle of a situation they can’t handle was important to me. It’s one thing to see sixty walkers in the prison and know how you take care of them, but we always need to keep that threat viable. The writers came up with several great devices that take it to the next level. It’s really great and you’ll find out by the end of the first episode.
What are you doing this season to keep the walkers interesting and still horrifying?
Greg Nicotero: We always like to play the idea that walkers have been sitting in the sun, turning leathery, and decomposing. They are really nasty and we create dozens of new sculptures every season. We’re always modifying the contacts and dentures, and we’ve made a bunch of puppets with lip movements. Even in the first episodes, we’re interspersing walkers at the fence with puppets. We’re trying to keep our visual pallet ever-changing.
Norman Reedus: There’s a walker in the teaser we just showed that should be in the Louvre. It’s the most beautiful walker you’ve ever seen.
Greg Nicotero: Robert Kirkman wrote that gag and it’s a great script. They see a walker in the woods and a tree has fallen over it and broken it in half. We buried a guy in the ground and put in fake legs, making it really elaborate. It’s such a great visual, but it tells a story. Carl and Hershel are out in the woods and see that walker. The threat can come from anywhere and they are never really safe.
This wraps up our coverage of The Walking Dead Season 4 from Comic-Con, but it's only the beginning. We're already planning exclusive interviews and early episode previews, so there will be plenty from now until the Season 4 premiere on October 13th. Until then, here’s our TV and comic book series highlights:
TV Series Coverage:
Comic Book Series Coverage: