Louisa Mellor

Sep 22, 2017

We’ve scoured the disc commentaries and extras on The Walking Dead season 7 Blu-rays to bring you nerdy behind-the-scenes secrets…

Warning: contains spoilers for The Walking Dead season 7.

Did you ponder what the ‘A’ on Daryl’s Sanctuary sweatshirt stood for in the last season of The Walking Dead? Do you know the significance of the red umbrella in the season finale?

Perhaps you’re interested in finding out many of season seven’s special effects were achieved, which actors improvised lines that made it onto screen, and who it was that made Andrew Lincoln break character and laugh harder than he ever has before on set? (Obviously we all want to know what made Norman Reedus describe himself and Andrew Lincoln as “crazy boyfriends in love”…)

Then read on, friends. We’ve mined the commentaries, extras and deleted scenes on The Walking Dead season 7 Blu-ray box-set for nerdy nuggets.

1. The entirety of season seven took place over just nineteen days in the world of the show.

2. Jeffrey Dean Morgan has concealed ice packs zipped inside Negan’s leather jacket to combat the Atlanta heat.

3. Negan wears one glove, according to showrunner Scott Gimple, to handle Lucille without getting blisters, like a golfer or baseball player.

4. Andrew Lincoln said he wrote “countless emails trying to save [Glenn and Abraham’s] lives. And Scott [Gimple], to his credit, stuck by his guns and said ‘this is the story we’re telling and that’s a vital part of what this story is.”

5. In the season premiere, Gimple wrote a moment of Abraham looking at Sasha before he died, then realised he couldn’t include it because they’d already filmed Abraham’s death from his POV in the season six finale and included no such look. Michael Cudlitz came up with the idea of Abraham throwing Sasha the peace sign, a direct call-back to a gesture the pair had shared twice before in season six, as a form of goodbye.

6. All of the actors in Abraham and Glenn’s death scenes and Rick’s tests were present for every take. “After this episode, I felt that I had violated these people” said director Greg Nicotero. Gimple remembers it being “one of the coldest sets” emotionally because the crewmembers weren’t happy about losing those two actors.

7. Look closely as the Saviors pack up to leave and you’ll see a soldier taking the Polaroid of Glenn’s mangled head used in The Cell to psychologically torture Daryl. That moment was foreshadowed in season six’s Not Tomorrow Yet when Glenn discovered the Polaroids on the wall of the satellite outpost Rick’s group attacked.

8. In The Well, when Carol’s vision is flitting between the living and dead worlds, they used multiple sets of identical twins in the same costumes (one normal, one degraded with Walker make-up) to achieve the transition effect.

9. The ‘Heapsters’, as the junkyard scavengers are known, don’t appear in Robert Kirkman’s comics but are an invention of showrunner Scott Gimple.

The Walking Dead: 84 nerdy details from the season 7 Blu-rays

10. Winslow, the spike-covered Walker Rick was made to fight in The Heaps (“our Thunderdome Walker”, as Greg Nicotero calls him), was played by special effects crew member Gino Crognale. It’s the fourth Walker he’s played on the show.

11. When the Walkers are sliding up and down sticks outside the Sanctuary fence, it’s a simple practical effect of a stick protruding from their prosthetics sliding in and out of an obscured hollow tube.

12. The Walkers emerging from the smoke on Negan and Rick’s camper van trip in the season seven premiere were intended as Greg Nicotero’s homage to John Carpenter, as well as a “Funhouse-type sequence where faces were coming out of the murk”, he says in reference to the 1981 Tobe Hooper-directed film.

13. The blisters on the fire-damaged Walkers who’d wandered too close to the burning logs in the season premiere were clear sacs filled with lubricant KY Jelly.

14. On Michael Cudlitz’s last day on the Alexandria set, the cast (Lennie James, Josh McDermitt, Norman Reedus, Christian Serratos, Ross Marquand, Danai Gurira, Chandler Riggs and Seth Gilliam) wore fake bright orange handlebar moustaches to bid him goodbye.

15. No secret of course, but not everybody may know that Tom Payne, who plays Jesus, like Andrew Lincoln, Lennie James and David Morrissey, is English.

16. The A on Daryl’s Sanctuary sweatsuit stands for ‘Asshole’. F stands for ‘Fuckface’ and S stands for ‘Shithead’. The Saviors are “just being juvenile” says episode writer Angela Kang.

17. Originally, the lowest rank at the Sanctuary were supposed to wear factory jumpsuits but Scott Gimple thought it would look too similar to Lost so went for the sweatsuits.

18. A much longer sequence was shot for the utopian Sunday lunch dream in the season premiere, which showed a happy Rosita lighting lanterns, a clearly pregnant Sasha sitting next to Abraham, and Glenn playing with his and Maggie’s son while Eugene plays with a remote-controlled car and Daryl wearing his angel wings vest.

The Walking Dead: 84 nerdy details from the season 7 Blu-rays

19. Shiva’s entrance in the finale was shot-for-shot taken from the comics. Before the CGI arrived, ‘Shiva’ was played by a stunt man in a blue suit launched by jumping on a mini-trampoline into the tiger’s Savior victim.

20. The Hilltop location was just a cow field before The Walking Dead arrived. The team dug a functioning well and built the house from actual brick, bringing in real antique furniture to dress it.

21. The Oceanside location is really a sand-dressed set in Atlanta four hours from the ocean.

22. Greg Nicotero calls the sand Walkers Tara and Heath encounter on the bridge in Swear an homage to the classic horror visual of zombies emerging from the ground. He calls it “our Raiders Of The Lost Ark sequence.”

23. When the Walker falls off the overpass almost onto Dwight in The Cell, she really fell off onto an airbag with no wires or harness, as shown in this Talking Dead clip.

24. A deleted scene from Go Getters showed Enid getting in the car with Carl to go to Hilltop, but the car breaking down which is why they’re walking along the road before they discover the rollerblades.

25. The same mechanism that made Hershel’s Walker head move in season four’s After is used in the snapping disembodied head Rick lands next to after escaping the Walker horde in the season seven premiere.

26. When Rosita pushes a Walker head into a tree stump, they made a foam stump for actor Christian Serratos to push the stunt Walker’s head into and covered the rest with CGI.

27. In New Best Friends, the speech in which Gabriel thanks Rick for having faith in him was much longer and themed around Gabriel’s brief loss of faith when the Heapsters came for him.

28. Also in New Best Friends, the scene of Daryl and Morgan talking next to Shiva’s cage was much longer and showed Daryl trying to convince Morgan to bring Ezekiel into the fight then announce that he’s returning to Hilltop in the morning.

The Walking Dead: 84 nerdy details from the season 7 Blu-rays

29. When Maggie drives the tractor over the Ford Gremlin sent by the Saviors in Go Getters, they bolted the car to the ground to keep it in place while the stunt driver crushed it.

30. Two stunt performers ran inside a giant blue plastic dumb-bell the size of the tractor wheels through a group of stunt Walkers to achieve the tractor-crushing effect.

31. Norman Reedus met Tony Danza at a wrap party years earlier and Danza said he’d like to do something on The Walking Dead. The opening titles to Danza’s show Who’s The Boss? appeared in season seven episode The Cell.

32. When Reedus filmed The Cell, the torture music hadn’t yet been chosen so Easy Street hasn’t made as much impact on him as fans might believe.

33. After The Collapsible Hearts Club song Easy Street (incidentally released in 2014, so technically in the future of The Walking Dead timeline) was used in The Cell, it was a hit on iTunes and climbed into the Top 100 singles chart, making a tonne of money for its writer.

34. Writer Angela Kang considers the character of Dwight ‘Bizarro-Daryl’. “He’s like a fucked-up version of Daryl” she says. The original name for Norman Reedus’ character (who doesn’t appear in Robert Kirkman’s comics, though Dwight does, with Daryl’s motorcycle and crossbow) was in fact Dwight Dixon.

35. Norman Reedus predicted that Daryl and Sherry would have a romantic plotline “in the future”. “Who knows?” said writer Angela Kang.

36. The facial scar that Rosita gets from Negan in Hearts Still Beating is intended to mirror Andrea’s facial scar in the comics.

37. The stunt performers playing the sand Walkers on the bridge in Swear had to breathe through tubes while they were buried in the sand.

38. When Negan burns Mark’s face with the iron in Sing Me A Song, tubes taped to the actor’s back emitted steam and a layer of glue was spread on the iron prop so the fake skin would stick to it when pulled away.

The Walking Dead: 84 nerdy details from the season 7 Blu-rays

39. The floating Walker bodies in the lake in Hearts Still Beating weren’t stunt performers but clear hollow plastic moulds of half bodies.

40. According to Nicotero, in the season premiere Negan decided way back in the camper van that he was going to test Rick by forcing him to cut off Carl’s arm, which is why he cleans the axe with alcohol.

41. Andrew Lincoln doesn’t watch The Walking Dead to avoid seeing his own work. “Once he goes down that road, he doesn’t want to play with the formula” says Gimple.

42. When Greg Nicotero directs Walker scenes or Shiva the tiger scenes, he makes their noises next to the monitors, something Guillermo del Toro also does according to Norman Reedus: “If there’s a fight scene [Del Toro] will be by the monitor going ‘pow pow pow’. It’s adorable.”

43. When Carol used the one-way street sign to dispatch the Walkers outside the Kingdom in Bury Me Here, it had a retractable point softened by a tennis ball on the end that Melissa McBride could safely push it into the stunt Walker’s heads.

44. In Swear, the stunt performers playing the barnacle Walkers who invade Oceanside knew when to collapse under gunfire because stunt coordinator Monty Simons clacked two pieces of wood together. Hi-tech.

45. Andrew Lincoln and Norman Reedus cry a lot in season seven, a deliberate move to show the toughest characters as utterly broken down. “You know when [Andrew Lincoln] cries a lot is when he’s looking at me and I’m crying looking at him. I can make Andy cry like a baby. I tear up and he’s like, stop it, but he’s bawling. We’re like crazy boyfriends in love. It’s ridiculous,” says Reedus.

46. Daryl’s dogfood sandwich was actually, “ground turkey squished into some paste, says Reedus. “It was turkey muck. Every bite I took I spat out”. It still wasn’t the most disgusting thing he’s pretended to eat on the show. In season four episode Still, Daryl killed and ate a snake that was actually an incredibly salty eel. In season five’s Them, he put a live worm in his mouth but spit it out again.

The Walking Dead: 84 nerdy details from the season 7 Blu-rays

47. Look closely when Father Gabriel is packing the car with supplies in Rock In The Road and you can see the reflection of the hooded Heapster who later rises from the back seat when he drives away.

48. Xander Berkeley, who plays Hilltop leader Gregory, has a knack for improvisation that cracks the rest of the cast up. “Xander kept throwing in these little things just to fuck with Andy, he’d be like Richie, Rick, Rickie!” says Nicotero. Gregory’s sing-song delivery of the word “Rhetorical” was a directing note from Nicotero as homage to Kevin Kline’s similarly sing-song “Disappointed!” when he opened the empty safe in A Fish Called Wanda.

49. When Rick’s group first meet King Ezekiel and Shiva, Tara’s face is in shadow and she doesn’t have any lines because Alanna Masterson was absent that day to film episode six, Swear, and represented by a body double.

50. In Bury Me Here, the scene of the Saviors driving Dr Carson away was much longer and showed Simon telling the lackey who took Enid’s knife to drop the supplies and clear the Hilltop perimeter as a service to the community. To save Gregory’s face in front of his people, Simon pretends he and Gregory made a deal and would only be borrowing the doctor for a few days.

51. In Bury Me Here, a scene was deleted in which Richard wrote several versions of a suicide note, starting “I wish you would have listened…” then “I’m sorry, I wanted…” before finally settling on “Stop them while you can. Use the grave for me.”

52. The Kingdom set is filmed at former army base Ft. McPherson in Atlanta, now Tyler Perry Studios.

53. Andrew Lincoln only received the speech about the rock in the road, from which episode nine’s title is taken, the night before filming. Greg Nicotero cut the speech for time reasons in his director’s cut of the episode, but it made its way back in.

54. Deven and Alyssa Nicotero, children of director Greg, appear as Kingdom residents learning how to shoot a bow and arrow in Rock In The Road.

The Walking Dead: 84 nerdy details from the season 7 Blu-rays

55. In The Other Side a long scene between Rick, Carl and Michonne was cut in which Carl asked his dad if he would really have cut his hand off. Carl wants to talk about what will happen if they lose but Michonne forbids him from thinking negatively. It ends with her saying, “Let’s go get our army”.

56. The location of the bridge explosives scene in episode nine is just up the road from the bridge where they filmed the herd scenes in season two’s What Lies Ahead when the group hid underneath cars but Sophia ran away, never to return alive.

57. The gag of Rick and Michonne driving two cars linked by a cable along the overpass to slice through a herd of Walkers wasn’t the original scripted idea. Rosita was supposed to throw a stick of dynamite out of a car sun roof to make the Walkers scatter, but Nicotero storyboarded this idea instead to show something different because “we’d blown up zombies before in the season five premiere.”

58. To get the energy required when Michonne and Rick were hot-wiring the cars, Nicotero asked them to choose their own theme music, and ended up playing the Mission Impossible theme, which made Andrew Lincoln laugh. (Not as much as Lincoln laughed when Steven Ogg, who plays Savior Simon, delivered a particularly emphatic ‘waaaah, baby, awwww’ in the pantry scene later in this episode. That made him “break character harder than I’ve ever seen on the show” says Nicotero.)

59. The gate to Alexandria is so heavy to move, multiple stagehands have to help off-screen every time.

60. The smile on Rick’s face when surrounded by the Heapsters at the end of episode nine came from an unusual source: he’d asked Alanna Masterson to do something to make him laugh when they all arrived, so she pinched him on the bum. That’s what’s behind the smile we see. “It wasn’t my idea, it was Andy’s,” says Masterson.

61. The Sanctuary market place set has a ping-pong table in it that the cast play on between scenes.

62. The redheaded boy Eugene sees steal a potato while he’s being shown around the Sanctuary is the son of show script supervisor Amy Blanc Lacy.

63. When Josh McDermitt was rehearsing Eugene’s science tricks, one of the inflated surgical gloves shot across the set leaving a trail of fire behind it, almost singeing his famous hair.

64. When we watched Eugene playing Yars’ Revenge on the Atari in episode eleven, it was on loop and he wasn’t really playing, but to make sure it looked authentic, they had the actor come in on his day off and set him up in one of the Kingdom rooms playing Pitfall, Yars’ Revenge and Pac-man all day to practise.

The Walking Dead: 84 nerdy details from the season 7 Blu-rays

65. Josh McDermitt improvised the line “Pump your brakes, Red” talking to Negan’s red-headed wife Frankie in episode eleven as a call-back to the season six episode Twice As Far, when Eugene said it to Abraham when scavenging.

66. In the final scene of episode eleven when Dwight and Negan were looking out over the Sanctuary fence Walker array, Dwight originally took out one of the lollipops he’d taken from the now-dead Dr Carson and Eugene asked “Are you going to eat that?”. The line was cut.

67. In episode thirteen, Scott Gimple took the line “If the feet aren’t right, nothing’s right” from the pre-season conversation he had with Lennie James (he meets with each of the main cast at the top of the year and tells them what’s coming for their character).

68. Henry, Benjamin’s little brother whom Morgan teaches Aikido in the Kingdom bandstand, is played by Macsen Lintz, the real-life brother of Madison Lintz who played Carol’s daughter Sophia in seasons one and two. Macsen also auditioned for the Lizzie and Mika roles back when they were boy twins Ben and Billy, like in the comics.

69. Unbeknownst to Scott Gimple, the actors in the Kingdom who played Benjamin, Richard and Jerry had a running bet on which of them would die first, says Lennie James.

70. It was suggested that Carol should be seen planting flowers in Bury Me Here but the idea was nixed as too on-the-nose so she planted the more practical tomato seeds.

71. When Morgan is screaming in the street after Benjamin’s death, the flashbacks he experiences weren’t scripted but Gimple included them after he saw Lennie James’ powerful performance, to show the chaos going on inside the character’s head.

72. When Morgan is strangling Richard, the choking sounds you hear were performed by Scott Gimple on a soundstage. It almost made him throw up.

73. Lennie James accidentally put his jo staff through his television screen while practicing a move he’d seen on YouTube (in order to impress his Aikido trainer). He was watching The West Wing at the time, “Josiah Bartlet got it straight through the head…I couldn’t have placed it better if I tried,” he says.

The Walking Dead: 84 nerdy details from the season 7 Blu-rays

74. Greg Nicotero says that Sasha’s scenes with Abraham in the season finale are “part-flashback and part-dream”, though writer Scott Gimple says they’re a straight memory. The scene of her and Maggie watching the sunrise is from season five episode Them, after the night in the barn in the storm, when Sasha has told Maggie she doesn’t know how to carry on.

75. At Hilltop, when Maggie and Jesus are discussing what to do, Lauren Cohan was originally supposed to be holding baby Judith but the little actor playing her kept repeating words Maggie was saying like “Gregory!”, hence them putting her on the floor with some toys in this scene.

76. The scene of Morgan meeting the Kingdom regiment was shot behind Main Street in Senoia, Georgia, right behind Nic & Norman’s restaurant, co-owned by Greg Nicotero and Norman Reedus.

77. Michonne’s fight scene in the tower in the season finale is part of Andrea’s storyline in the comics, but with a Savior rather than a Heapster.

78. A bit of symbolism from director Greg Nicotero – when Sasha and Eugene are walking down the Sanctuary corridor on the way to the coffin in the finale, every time Eugene speaks they’re in darkness and every time Sasha speaks they’re in light.

79. The coffin Sasha emerges from wouldn’t stand up on its own, so they had to cut and secure it to the truck bed, then resume filming.

80. Despite not being needed on set, a bunch of the main actors drove down to watch Sasha film her scenes inside the coffin (the very last hour filmed on the season) on the monitors. Sonequa Martin-Green filmed them sitting in a massage chair in a black duvetyne set.

81. Christian Serratos, who plays Rosita, was pregnant while filming the season seven finale.

82. Look closely and you’ll see a Heapster brandish a red umbrella as they arrive at Alexandria pretending to be allies. That umbrella is later seen jammed into the gate mechanism after the Heapsters’ retreat so that Rick’s group couldn’t open the gate and follow them.

83. To achieve the effect of splashed blood from the Heapster Michonne pushes to her death after taking a beating, they threw fake-blood-filled water balloons off the tower.

84. The shot of Rick and Negan talking before Shiva’s entrance is the exact same as used in the season seven opener, bringing it full circle.

THE WALKING DEAD: THE COMPLETE SEVENTH SEASON is available on Blu-ray™ and DVD on 25th September 2017, courtesy of Entertainment One.