How ‘Fear the Walking Dead’ Built Season 7’s Nuclear Landscape

Fear the Walking Dead Season 7 Episode 3
Lauren "Lo" Smith/AMC

Call it a brave new apocalypse. Ten warheads exploded across the Texas terrain in the Season 6 finale of AMC’s Fear the Walking Dead. And the now spread-out survivors must cope in the nuclear wasteland — for now.

Fallout sites, weather patterns, resources, and walker activity all factor in. “Even if [they] want to leave, they’re not going to be able to,” warns co-executive producer Andrew Chambliss.

“It’s a pretty bleak, devastating world, but our team has made it look — I’m not sure beautiful is right — but it really draws you in,” adds co-executive producer Ian Goldberg. Here’s how they put it all together.

Fierce Flames and Fumes

“From a production standpoint, it’s been a fun challenge,” says Goldberg of creating the show’s new look. “Everyone across every department has raised their game, which was already very high. It’s a combination of finding the right locations, and a perfect interplay between special effects, visual effects, production design and wardrobe.” Thanks to special effects, fires are still burning from the aftereffects of the bombs, and smoke fills the air in many of the outdoor scenes. “Our special effects department may have exhausted the supply of smoke bombs in the United States, and we may have had to go internationally to source some,” Chambliss admits with a laugh.

Digital Enhancements

“We’re shooting a lot during the summer when things are very lush,” notes Goldberg. That’s where the art department comes in. “Normally, [the art department] has to go in and ‘apocalyze,’ and take out things that give away that we aren’t in the middle of a zombie apocalypse,” Chambliss says. “But now, they [also] have to bring in ash, block greenery, and add haze.”

Lauren “Lo” Smith/AMC

Mask Up!

Survivors that can will layer up to avoid poisoning, which yes, means more gas masks (Remember Season 5?) in a variety of styles, like the ones on new parents Grace and Morgan (Karen David and Lennie James) seen above trekking outside near the U.S.S. Pennsylvania submarine. To see the actors’ emotions, some gas masks are designed to show their eyes. The camera will also go inside the mask, “so we can get an almost Iron Man-style shot of what their reality is like,” Chambliss says. He adds: “And then there are other characters who are maybe luckier, or maybe don’t care as much. Or who don’t have the resources to have a full-on mask, so we’ll see the gamut there of how much people’s faces are covered.”

Still, Goldberg calls the masks, “a big part of the fabric for Season 7.”

Even Deadlier Dead

“The walkers are a new, unknown, quantity level of threat,” Goldberg promises of the radioactive dead, which vary in look depending on warhead proximity and life status pre-nuclear disaster, crediting exec producer/make-up effects extraordinaire Greg Nicotero‘s team at KNB EFX Group for adding new dimensions to the ever-persistent threat. Goldberg slyly teases: “Get excited for some really gnarly, scary walkers this season.”

Fear the Walking Dead, Season 7 Premiere, Sunday, October 17, 9/8c, AMC (Available a week early, Sunday, October 10, on AMC+)