[SPOILER ALERT: Read on only if you have already watched Sunday’s episode of The Walking Dead.]
It seemed like just another ordinary supply run for Daryl Dixon and company when they decided to step into the Big Spot supermarket. They cleared out the few stray zombies roaming the aisles and then went shopping. Little did they know they were about to experience DEATH FROM ABOVE as the roof caved in, causing walkers — and one very big helicopter — to descend upon them. The result was pure madness with zombies crashing down and then rising up off the floor to attack the survivors, one of whom — Beth’s boyfriend Zach — would not make it out alive. Now, the director of the episode, Greg Nicotero, tells EW.com how he shot the tricky scene, and shares with us exclusively the storyboards he had drawn by artist Michael Broom to help the director and his crew visualize it before filming. Read on below to learn how they did it, and click on the “LAUNCH PHOTO GALLERY” button above to see all the storyboards and how this epic scene made it from concept to finished product. (We periodically included a few matching photos from the scene as well for comparison; if the “LAUNCH PHOTO GALLERY” button doesn’t take you to the storyboards, click here.) Here’s what Nicotero told EW.com about the big scene.
Executive producer/director/horror makeup guru of The Walking Dead
“This goes back to the entire conversation [showrunner Scott M. Gimple] and I had about making walkers a threat and making that threat viable. And so if you really imagine our group is inside this supermarket, they believe they are completely safe. One minute they’re safe, and the next minute they’re literally in the center of a zombie herd. They don’t see them coming because they’re not coming from any traditional way, they’re coming from above. So, Grace Walker built an amazing — it was between Grace, and Darrell Pritchett, and Russell Towery — because we built a set that was 15 feet high that had an eight-foot drop ceiling, and then above that there was an eight-foot section where we believe the roof of our store was. So, we hung dummies all over the set and we’re dropping dummies and stunt guys through the holes. And we would do stuff where we would be shooting the ceiling and a dummy would break through, and then when the camera came down we’d have a person in makeup stand up in the foreground. So, we did all these little switches where it would look like you were seeing one come through and then you’re like, ‘Oh, my God!’ and it stands up in the frame.
The way Scott writes, I saw the whole scene. Even before I landed [in Atlanta] I had the whole sequence storyboarded. We don’t have the luxury to storyboard stuff very often because we’re just under the gun. One of the advantages of me being a producer on the show is I got the script as a producer before I was officially starting prep as the director. So, I was able to start work on it the minute I read even the outline and we sat down and worked through it, and it was the biggest sequence that we’d ever done in terms of the complexity of stunts and physical effects, and art department. And we built it all on stage and we shot the whole thing in two-and-a-half days. So the people who have seen it, I’m like, ‘Man, you know, what we could do if we had more than eight or nine days to shoot an episode!’ I can only imagine.”