As 2011 comes to a close, EW.com wanted to honor some of the hardworking names and faces from behind the scenes for their outstanding achievements. Makeup designer Greg Nicotero is unquestionably the off-screen hero of AMC’s zombie megahit The Walking Dead, since he and his team at KNB Efx Group are responsible for the gruesome hordes of gore-splattered undead. No walker stood out more in Walking Dead’s second season than the bloated creature our heroes found lurking at the bottom of a well. Let Nicotero walk you through the making – and breaking – of this season’s Most Valuable Zombie.
As Told By: Greg Nicotero
Right when they opened the writers’ room at the start of season 2, they said, “We want to do a field trip.” And I said, “Yeah! You should bring all the guys to KNB. They can walk around the shop, see what we’re building, what we’ve built, maybe get a little inspiration.” We had a whole bunch of stuff on display from other films that we had done. We had a mask that we made for Grindhouse of this infected guy, all bloated and distressed and disgusting.
I got a phone call two hours after they had left the shop. They said, “We want to do this idea: A walker fell into a well.” The well was filled with nine feet of water, and the walker would just start absorbing and absorbing all of the liquid in there, so that it would get completely bloated and discolored.
We had done some fake drowned bodies for movies in the past. One of the things we’ve noticed – looking at some morgue research and cadaver research – is that everything gets really swollen. The liquid saturates the skin so much that it swells up, and the skin starts to split. That was one of the things that we really wanted to play up.
We took a full-body cast and head-cast, and we sculpted the whole body from scratch. We put on a really thin skin, then backed it with silicone, then had a foam suit on the inside. In between the silicone and the foam suit, we put in balloons filled with water. So the actual liquid – the movement of the suit – would transfer as the performer moved side-to-side. If we made it out of foam latex, it would’ve been stiff. But we used silicone that was heavily plasticized – which means that the silicone was really soft. The suit probably weighed 60 pounds.
NEXT: The man in the zombie suit