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Greg Nicotero - The Walking Dead


Greg Nicotero is a special, makeup effects creator, television producer and director. For the last eight years he has served as the producing director, and EFX designer on the hit television series, “The Walking Dead”. Renowned for his contributions to the horror genre, Nicotero has solidified his place as a master of practical effects, breathing life into creatures and nightmares that haunt both the big and small screens.

In this London Real episode, watch as Greg discusses how gained his early passion for visual effects, his annual zombie school, what it was like to work with Quentin Tarantino and of course, his incredible contributions to the special effects for “The Walking Dead”.

Nicotero’s journey into the realm of special effects began with a childhood passion for horror films. Growing up enamoured with the works of legendary filmmakers such as George A. Romero, Nicotero found his calling early on. His life took a significant turn when he had the opportunity to work with special effects maestro Tom Savini on the iconic horror film “Day of the Dead” (1985). This collaboration marked the beginning of Nicotero’s apprenticeship under Savini, shaping his future in the world of practical effects.

Greg Nicotero’s career blossomed during a pivotal era in horror filmmaking. The 1980s and 1990s witnessed a surge in practical effects, with filmmakers relying on tangible, in-camera magic to bring their visions to life. Nicotero’s expertise became a crucial element in this landscape, and his work began to gain recognition for its ingenuity and realism.

One of his breakthrough moments came with his involvement in the iconic horror film “The Evil Dead 2” (1987), directed by Sam Raimi. Nicotero’s contributions to the film showcased his ability to seamlessly blend creativity with technical skill, earning him acclaim within the industry.

In 1988, Nicotero, along with fellow effects artists Robert Kurtzman and Howard Berger, co-founded the KNB EFX Group. This collaboration became a powerhouse in the world of special effects, contributing to a myriad of horror and genre films. Their work extended beyond traditional makeup effects to include groundbreaking animatronics, prosthetics, and creature design.

The KNB EFX Group’s impact was felt across a diverse range of films, from horror classics like “The Walking Dead,” “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” (2003), and “The Mist” (2007) to non-horror fare like “Dances with Wolves” (1990) and “Spy Kids” (2001). The versatility of their work showcased Nicotero’s ability to adapt his craft to suit the needs of various genres.

Greg Nicotero’s influence reached new heights with his involvement in the television series “The Walking Dead,” based on the comic series of the same name. Serving as an executive producer, director, and special effects makeup supervisor, Nicotero played a pivotal role in bringing the post-apocalyptic world overrun by zombies to life. The success of the show not only solidified Nicotero’s standing in the industry but also elevated the importance of practical effects in the era of CGI-dominated visuals.

His work on “The Walking Dead” earned Nicotero several awards and nominations, including Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Prosthetic Makeup. The show’s realistic and horrifying makeup effects became a signature element, captivating audiences globally and reinvigorating the zombie genre.

Beyond his technical prowess, Greg Nicotero is known for his mentorship and dedication to nurturing the next generation of effects artists. His willingness to share knowledge and passion for the craft has left an indelible mark on aspiring artists, contributing to the ongoing legacy of practical effects in an industry increasingly dominated by digital techniques.

Greg Nicotero’s journey from a horror enthusiast with a childhood dream to a trailblazing effects artist and industry icon is a testament to his unwavering dedication and artistic brilliance.

His impact on the horror genre and the broader landscape of filmmaking is immeasurable, with Nicotero’s name synonymous with the magic of practical effects that continue to terrify and captivate audiences worldwide. Whether navigating the realms of cinema or television, Nicotero’s work stands as a testament to the enduring power of practical effects in crafting immersive and unforgettable storytelling experiences.


00:00 | Trailer
02:35 Brian’s thoughts on the episode
04:32 Brian’s introduction
05:28 How Greg gained his early passion for visual effects and the freeing art form of film making
08:24 What he hopes the audience takes from watching his films
10:38 The difference in directing for and audience experience of cinema and television
14:20 Why Greg didn’t do as his parents wanted him to
18:01 Why people watch horror films and how their brain processes what they see
26:54 Jaws gave Greg nightmares, but felt he’d been hit by lightning after meeting Steven Spielberg
34:47 Initial call to Walking Dead and how it has become such a phenomenon
39:38 The effect of gaming on the zombie culture
42:18 What about Greg has made him the go to guy for special effects
44:21 The hidden work that goes on behind the scenes: learning to balance story, acting and special effects
48:04 Greg runs an annual Zombies school
50:12 How to keep the Zombies fresh in a long running series
51:55 Which creation even disturbed Greg
53:20 What it was like to work with Quentin Tarantino
58:07 Success secrets
58:47 Thankful to parents for letting him follow his dream
59:29 Brian’s summing up.


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