Walking Dead's makeup guru: 'I don't look at it as a zombie show'

Remember how little Sophia walked out of Hershel's barn all zombie-fied and Rick had to take some extreme action on the shocking Walking Dead midseason finale? Well, things pick up right where they left off, but some big developments and some "great" zombie effects lie ahead for our little fledgling band of survivors.

"What's exciting about it is that the second half of season two takes a very unique shift," said co-executive producer and makeup supervisor Gregory Nicotero in an exclusive interview about the AMC horror series as it prepares to return for the second half of season two Sunday. "Hershel—it's now been proven that Hershel was wrong—so his character goes through a lot of changes. From this point on, finding Sophia dead in the barn changes everything. I mean, it was their driving force, and now the driving force has now shifted. So Rick begins questioning where he's leading the group."

Nicotero, who with his makeup team won an Emmy for their amazing makeup work on The Walking Dead, was promoted to co-executive producer this season and has directed an upcoming episode.

"We got a lot of stuff up our sleeves. ... It's some fantastic, fantastic drama. We'll certainly have some great zombie moments coming up and really captivating stuff. I can't wait to talk about it and share it with people," he said.

"It's been a fantastic year," said Nicotero. "I love the fact that I'm able to be involved from the story points, from getting the scripts and being able to read the scripts and make notes and make suggestions, all the way into post-production. I watch all the cuts and I get to make comments on edits and make suggestions on cuts and visual effects and maybe try this gag from a different angle. I mean, I've never had that before. So it really feels like partially kind of my baby a little bit."

While Nicotero has directed Walking Dead webisodes and second-unit stuff, this season he's THE director for Episode 211, which is set to air in March. The episode's title hasn't been finalized yet.

"When I directed my episode, I had been on set with them for 16 episodes, watching them act and knowing their characters, so when I stepped behind the camera to direct them, it was such a natural transition because I knew Rick's journey, I knew Dale's journey, I knew Laurie's journey. I knew all of their characters, so Jon Bernthal would come and ask me a question or make a suggestion and it was really easy to collaborate with him, because I was so intimately involved with the show and know their characters so well that their performance and who they are really elevates the show," he said.

While Nicotero has been busy with several aspects of the show, his most notable job has been creating horrifyingly great "walkers."

"The show really, really has redefined zombies. Not only how they look, but how people perceive them," he said. "So it's something that we certainly have been working on perfecting because of the dramatic aspects of the show. I mean, I don't correct people, but when people talk about The Walking Dead and they call it a zombie show, I don't look at it as a zombie show. I think it's a fantastically acted and directed and written drama that has characters who happen to be zombies."

Here's a look at the midseason premiere:

The Walking Dead premieres this Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on AMC.

Are you read for the dead to walk again this Sunday?

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