The Walking Dead Fall Finale: Executive Producer Greg Nicotero on Alexandria's Future and Negan's Introduction

Rob Moynihan
Walking Dead, Andrew Lincoln, Tovah Felshuh
Gene Page/AMC

Spoiler Alert: Stop reading if you haven't watched The Walking Dead's fall finale.

The dead have arrived.

AMC's The Walking Dead concluded the first half of its sixth season on Sunday as Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and the rest of the survivors fought against the massive zombie herd that finally breached the walls and infiltrated the formerly quaint and quiet town of Alexandria. The war was not without its casualties, as leader Deanna Monroe (Tovah Feldshuh) suffered a zombie bite and sacrificed herself to the ravenous flesh-eaters while Rick, Carl (Chandler Riggs), Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam), Jessie (Alexandra Breckenridge) and her children covered themselves in walker guts to maneuver through the herd towards the armory.

Meanwhile, Carol (Melissa McBride) discovered Morgan (Lennie James) was keeping an unnamed member of the Wolves (Benedict Samuel) prisoner after his group attacked Alexandria. But a skirmish between Carol and Morgan led to the Wolf taking doctor Denise (Merritt Wever) hostage and escaping into the overrun streets.

And just weeks after it was announced that Jeffrey Dean Morgan would be playing the franchise's infamous villain Negan, viewers got a small preview of his upcoming arc in a two-minute prologue teaser video that showed Daryl (Norman Reedus), Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) and Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) being stopped by Negan's ruthless motorcycle gang on their way back to Alexandria.

We spoke to executive producer Greg Nicotero about the uncertain future of Alexandria, Negan's introduction and why he has "no regrets" about Glenn's (Steven Yeun) ambiguous storyline.

Why was it important for Deanna to die now and in the way that she did?
She had a great story. Her entire character arc was about convincing Rick that he's a good man, not this weird, maniacal cold-blooded person. From the time that we met Deanna, she realized that they needed Rick, but she saw that he probably had no real idea about what his role in the creation of a future society was. It was her job to convince him and for her to show him that there is a world out there. By handing Michonne (Danai Gurira) the plans to the expansion of Alexandria, Deanna is putting the future of the human race in their hands. She needed Rick to make sure that he understood that he's going to play a very important part in that future.

So is this the turning point for Rick to finally accept the Alexandrians as his own?
It's a first step. Rick was leading Gabriel, Jessie and the kids out of the house. Rick and Gabriel were at odds as recently as episode seven when Gabriel was putting up the fliers for the church meeting and Rick was walking up behind him ripping them down. So Gabriel had to earn his trust, and the fact that Rick entertains that speaks volumes to the beginning of his transformation.

Carl, Ron, Rick, Deanne on The Walking Dead

AMC

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With the amount of walkers that have now infiltrated the Safe-Zone, is this the beginning of the end for Alexandria?
I can't say that they didn't maybe see it coming. It was a little naïve of them to assume they were going to get out of this unscathed because of the sheer volume of it. Alexandria will be forever changed by this event. I thought it was funny that while they were cutting open the bodies and spreading the guts all over themselves, you could still hear Tiny Tim singing in the background. And I remember thinking, "why would they not turn the f--king record player off?" They're worried about attracting walkers to the upstairs and they're trying to be quiet, but their record is playing in the background!

But I'm glad they came back to covering themselves in walker guts because I feel like it's a tactic that is underutilized. Shouldn't they be doing that more often?
In my opinion, it's sort of a last ditch effort. If you have a cut, an open wound, or if it gets in your eyes, ears or mouth, if somehow any of that walker blood gets into your body, you're dead. So by having to wear those ponchos, they do render you effectively invisible, but there are risks. It's the need to resort to covering yourself in toxic, potentially fatal material in order to get out.

Along with the zombies, the W man is now on the run with Denise as a hostage. What threat does he pose to the Alexandrians?
He poses the threat that he clearly states: you're all dead. Now that we have a guy with a gun in his hand leading Denise out of that jail cell and into the overrun Alexandria, I would be concerned about who he would potentially run into on the streets because he just might open fire.

Walking Dead, Steven Yeun

Gene Page/AMC

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I wanted to also address the Glenn situation. Now that we know he is alive, can you discuss the decision process to tell his story this season in the way that you did?
One of the things we talk about a lot on the show is the fact that every single time that somebody goes out on a run, it's potentially the last time you will ever see them alive. And I don't know if we play that up on the show as much as we could. So by embracing that emotion, we left people wondering whether or not it was real. I don't feel like it was a cheat. We shot the footage of Glenn climbing under the dumpster at the exact same moment that we shot the footage of tearing the gut bag open because we didn't want the audience to go, "oh, you guys cheated and that's not really what happened." That's exactly what happened! I was literally kneeling over Michael Traynor with a bag of guts attached to his torso. We set up the camera angles so one angle illuminated who it was and the other angle didn't. It was shot at the exact same time, but we just chose to show you one angle that illuminated part of it and another angle later that illuminated another part of it. So we went to great lengths to make sure that in real time, with real camera angles, we told the story authentically.

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But there was still a fair amount of fan backlash. Do you have any regrets about the way you chose to tell the story?
It's the story that we told and the story that we stand by. I have no regrets about it.

 

Viewers finally heard Negan's name for the first time in the bonus prologue scene. What can we expect from his arrival in the second half of the season?
Very much like the comic books, the tone changes dramatically. It's a new threat—a non-walker threat—that is very different from the W men, the Governor and the people at Terminus. We have established just how ruthless these guys are. They have the numbers and the firepower.

Is there a different theme in the second half of the season?
The first half of the season definitely concentrated on the walker threat and what that threat will do to our group. We've hit the pinnacle of that threat now that Alexandria has been overrun, so just saying Negan's name and introducing that group tells the audience to be prepared. The tone of the series shifts in a really great way and it's setting us up for a different kind of story moving forward. I think you never want to stay in one location too long without altering our storyline or people might tend to start getting a little bored.

The Walking Dead returns to AMC in February 2016.