Early on in production of The Walking Dead's eighth season, ComicBook.com was invited to the set of the popular AMC series to catch a glimpse of production on the show's 100th episode.
Once through the gates of the massive studio in Senoia, Georgia, the sound stages resemble something familiar: the iconic prison from the show's third season. That's because this entire lot was once built to resemble a Georgia penitentiary and has since expanded across its 140 acres to include various communities from the massive zombie series.
Still, only about 50 percent of the show films on the studio's lot, with the other half being filmed on nearby roads, the Alexandria neighborhood set nearby, or in various other off-site locations.
Spending a full day on the set of The Walking Dead, ComicBook.com came away with some very interesting facts...
1. Holy Ground
What was once Father Gabriel's holy ground became one of the most iconic and devastating sets in The Walking Dead's history.
For Father Gabriel's introductory episodes a few years ago, The Walking Dead built a church on the studio's lot. The set featured the massacre of Gareth's Terminus folks in Season Five, which is likely why the AMC series steered clear of shooting in a real church which may have had a congregation opposed to such events being depicted in their chapel.
Flash forward a few years, and the church is no longer standing where it once did, and the show is making use of the same land once again. This time, another massacre is taking place, but it's the good guys dying.
When Negan killed Glenn and Abraham in the Season Seven premiere of The Walking Dead, the scene was shot on the same ground where Father Gabriel's St. Sarah's Episcopal Church once stood.
As executive producer Greg Nicotero pointed out in an e-mail, the location was quite popular. In fact, it was the same place Merle captured Michonne and Andrea in Season 3 and where Rick paused to throw a rock a walker while searching for Sophia in Season 2!
According to executive producer Tom Luse, the show likely won't be reusing the location any time soon. "That was a really, really amazingly hard scene on our cast and on our crew," Luse said. "I don't know if we'll shoot here again. Steven [Yeun] was both a personal and professional hero to all of us, and so was Michael [Cudlitz]. I think this is a shrine for a while."
Introduced in Season Seven of The Walking Dead, the Oceanside community was fully built by the show's production team, despite some exterior beach shots being acquired at Jekyll Island.
The Oceanside community comes complete with newly planted bamboo, palmetto trees, completely built homes both inside and out, and pools overgrown with dirt and gardens emerging from them.
"This is a society that does not want to be bothered," Luse said of Oceanside. The fully realized location was not built for fun, Luse points out. When you build something as detailed and massive as the Oceanside or Hilltop locations, they're going to resurface.
"We intend to use it," Luse said, without revealing exactly when the group might return.
3. Real Fortress
The Kingdom set is one of the few locations actually in Atlanta, Georgia, about an hour away from the bulk of The Walking Dead's production.
As it turns out, King Ezekiel's Kingdom is truly a fortress. The location filmed for the AMC series is actually a well-dressed Fort McPherson which has been transformed into the Kingdom's zombie-free sanctuary. In fact, the popular filmmaker Tyler Perry helped design the location.
Fort McPherson was a U.S. military base, near the edge of the city of East Point, Georgia. The location is named after Major General James McPherson and was founded in 1885 by the U.S. Army. The fort was decommissioned in 2011 and became a part of The Walking Dead's production in 2016.
4. Roll Film
Unlike many shows on cable, The Walking Dead is shot on 16-millimeter film, offering a more cinematic look to the zombie drama.
"Even in film you don't get to work in 16 millimeter like you do on this show, which is more like film than films are these days," Gregory actor Xander Berkeley said, stressing how excited he is on a daily basis "with the level of acting on this show, the quality of the writing, and the quality of the actual film making."
Other shows shot using real film include American Horror Story, Amazon's Hand of God, HBO's new series Westworld, and ABC's The Middle. It's a very limited amount of titles using the approach.
5. Church Moves
The church The Walking Dead's production team built for Father Gabriel's introduction and the massacre of the Terminus cannibals is still a part of the AMC series.
While its former location is now a shrine to Abraham and Glenn's deaths, as mentioned earlier, the bones of the church reside in the Alexandria Safe-Zone. The neighborhood consisted of seven houses prior to The Walking Dead arrival, but five more were constructed to fill out the neighborhood and Gabriel's church was among the extras tossed into the location specifically for the AMC series.
Since the frame of the church was moved, it has been part of some crucial scenes in The Walking Dead. Many of Rick's speeches to the community (including his instruction to follow Negan and the Saviors in Season Seven) take place in the church, and none will soon forget the time fans begged Sasha to pull the trigger and kill Gabriel before he found redemption and became a true ally to Rick.
Whether or not that church will survive Season Eight's "All Out War" story is to be seen.
6. You Shall Not Pass
While there is a gate and fence surrounding The Walking Dead's production studio, it is largely comprised of wooded areas which spoiler-seeking fans have been caught snooping through.
How are those trespassers caught?
The studio's 140 acres are lined with hunting cameras which are activated when movement is detected. Sometimes, it might be an animal spotted moving through the set, but it might also be an unwelcome guest looking to visit the Hilltop, Oceanside, or Sanctuary locations.
Trespassing on any of The Walking Dead's sets is a serious no-no and might just land lawbreakers in jail.
7. Safe Inside
Like the Oceanside community, the Hilltop was built in its entirety. However, it is one of the only sets used on the series which shoots its interior shots at a different location than the actual building used for exterior looks.
The Hilltop community is lined with thousands of telephone poles, wrangled together to form the walls keeping threats at bay. According to executive producer Tom Luse, the walls at the Hilltop can withstand winds up to 100 miles per hour. Good luck, zombies.
Around the back of the Hilltop is an alternate entrance, which is likely not a part of the show's mythology, but allows the cast and crew to enter and exit quickly. Heading to one side of the Barrington House, Glenn and Abraham's graves can be found as ominously real set pieces.
8. Sanctuary A Prison?
Despite a common mistake among fans thinking they can go see the prison used in The Walking Dead's third and fourth seasons, the location was actually a set built on the studio's lot.
The prison no longer exists, though one might argue its walls still house prisoners of sorts.
The Walking Dead's production team has now transformed the same stages and locations into Negan's Sanctuary. They don't take up quite as much space as the prison or require as much of a yard, but some similarities might be spotted by eagle-eyed viewers looking to see how the production pulled off such a feat.
The Sanctuary has been fully built inside and out. Not only does the exterior look as lived-in as it does on the series, but the interior looks like a great set to find yourself in the event of a true apocalypse. Lined with beds, the location comes complete with trading posts for items including from sugar, soap, football helmets, radios, medical supplies, and shoes.
The Walking Dead reuses many of its extras, though no two zombies will ever look the same. Every single walker is designed from scratch by make-up artists.
While on set, director of Episode 100 Greg Nicotero gleefully pointed out that a walker by the true name of Katie had been featured on the AMC series between forty and fifty times. This particular actress is double-jointed which makes her a great match for walkers which need to contort their bodies.
In fact, Katie can be seen at the 2:42 mark of the Season Eight trailer, captured in the shot above.
Nicotero promises the series is "adding a little sort of cartoon-y element in terms of exaggerating" certain elements of walkers this year, plus a more-devolved-than-ever batch of undead existing in this world.
10. Negan's Doorstep
While none of Rick's army were spotted at the Sanctuary during ComicBook.com's time on set of The Walking Dead, it doesn't look like the war is far from Negan's doorstep to start the season.
In a scene involving Austin Amelio's Dwight, the Saviors are rolling out their army to combat the enemy forces, possibly before they can make their way to the Sanctuary's gates. Nicotero points out there will be smoke on the horizon, an effect added later through computerization, but it's very real for Dwight as he orders "20 guns" and five vehicles to go check it out.
"All Out War" is finally here.
More Walking Dead
For more from ComicBook.com's visit to the set of The Walking Dead, don't miss ComicBook NOW this week. Exclusive interviews and bonus content will premiere on Thursday at 7 pm ET, exclusively on ComicBook NOW's official Facebook Page.
The Walking Dead's sibling series Fear the Walking Dead airs Sunday nights at 9 pm ET on AMC. The Walking Dead will return for its eighth season on October 22, 2017. The Season 8 premiere will mark 100 episodes overall for the popular AMC series. For complete coverage and insider info all season long, follow @BrandonDavisBD on Twitter.