TV Article

Prop Department: Signs of the Apocalypse

It takes more than zombies and fake blood to bring ''The Walking Dead'' to life. We get the stories behind the AMC hit's best-known weapons and mementos (and a few severed appendages)

Image credit: WHITNEY OTT for EW

MERLE'S ARM

Merle's Arm
Left for dead in season 1, Merle reappeared two seasons later — with a badass accessory. ''We came up with a Russian bayonet to put on after the arm was built,'' says prop master John Sanders of the limb developed for Merle by F/X-makeup guru Greg Nicotero. ''It turned out to be a great piece.''

The Sheriff Hat
''They don't make it anymore,'' says Womble of Rick's iconic hat, which he later gifted to Carl. ''Chandler Riggs' head is growing, so we've had to re-create it. That's been a challenge.''

Darryl's Necklace
Nicotero made the ears from a mold he had in his shop. The bigger dilemma, says Sanders, was finding ''really cool'' leather for Daryl to hang them on.

Rick's Radio
Season 1 prop master Mike Sabo introduced the walkie-talkie. ''Rick gives his last goodbye on that radio,'' says Sanders. ''It had texture and life to it. The dirt and mud say, 'This is the world moving on and on, and everything is getting beat up.'''

Hershel's Bible
The designers knew Hershel's Bible (which he's carried since season 3) had to be ''something not in the ordinary,'' explains Sanders. ''It has a significant look and design — the folded-over locking clasp could fit in your pocket. It was more personal than just a book. It's precious to him.''

Maggie's Wedding Rings
Sanders used an antique set he purchased 20 years ago, which proved ''a little tough'' to get on (and off) the zombie finger Glenn rips them from.

Sophia's Doll
Sanders says the original doll from season 1 had to be replicated twice for use in amped-up stunts (like zombie tramplings). ''That doll had its own life,'' he says.

The Govenor's Eye Patch
A leather craftsman stitched holes in the patch. ''The brilliant part is that [David Morrissey] can actually see through it,'' says costume designer Eulyn C. Womble. ''I thought it was so clever of us.''

Michonne's Katana
Sanders' favorite prop is Michonne's signature weapon, which features an eel-skin grip (''So it won't absorb blood'') and a triple goddess symbol that matches the one on his wife's neck. The show uses four identical swords, as well as two made of rubber (for rolls or falls) and an aluminum one for ''when she hits things.''

Originally posted Nov 01, 2013 Published in issue #1286 Nov 22, 2013 Order article reprints