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SYFY WIRE The Walking Dead

Greg Nicotero says after 'The Walking Dead' finale he could direct anything - even 'Star Wars'

It only seems fitting that the man behind the zombie effects would be the one to carry it across the finish line.

By Josh Weiss
Greg Nicotero on The Walking Dead Season 8 Episode 6

It only seems fitting that the man behind the practical zombie effects on The Walking Dead would be the one to carry the series across the undead finish line.

Greg Nicotero, who worked his way from VFX whiz to executive producer and director on the long-running AMC show, knew there was a lot riding on the very last episode, which is scheduled to premiere at the end of November. Like a walker sinking its rotting teeth into the hide of a fresh kill, Nicotero threw himself into the series finale with vigor. He even went so far as to request the directing job, but there was no need to worry about competition behind the camera. Showrunner Angela Kang and Walking Dead brand manager Scott M. Gimple already had him in mind for the momentous gig.

"I felt the weight of pressure on me and I'm proud of what we did. ... It's a pretty amazing episode. I put my heart and soul into it," he wrote for an Empire op-ed contained within the magazine's November 2022 issue (now on sale). "It was tough. I said, to Norman [Reedus, who plays the role of Daryl Dixon] one day, 'Man, if I can make it through this, I can do anything. I can direct a Star Wars movie, I can direct anything that lands in front of me.' I'm proud of it."

Speaking at a San Diego Comic-Con press conference attended by SYFY WIRE, Nicotero didn't mince words: it doesn't matter how great the previous seasons were — beloved TV shows are almost always judged by their series finale. A final episode can either make or break a project's legacy (Game of Thrones being an obvious example of how not to do it). They couldn't just take The Walking Dead out back and unceremoniously put a bullet in its brain like so many zombies that have appeared over the years. Beyond the anxiety over wanting to stick the landing, there was also the bittersweet reality of wrapping on something that has continuously been in production for over a decade.

"It's hard to even imagine not seeing these people every day, waking up and going to set and shooting the show," Nicotero remarked at the show's final SDCC panel in the legendary  Hall H. "But it's been a great run. Directing the finale, I felt all of the weight of the expectation of every single person in this room on my shoulders. Because we wanted it to be great. Everybody was in it. Twenty-four episodes was no joke ... by the time we got to the end, man, everybody rolled up their sleeves and said, 'We have an obligation to the fans to take the show out in the best way that we can.' I can speak for everybody up here — and all the cast and all the crew — that we did it."

The first two episodes of The Walking Dead's final block of eight are now available to stream on AMC+. New installments drop every Sunday at 9 p.m. Eastern.

If you're looking to satisfy your zombie craving immediately, head over to Peacock and check out the movie that kickstarted the entire genre: George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead. Or check out the SYFY original series, Day of the Dead.