‘The Walking Dead’s Greg Nicotero on How He Tried to Get George Romero to Direct

The Walking Dead makeup guru turned director and executive producer Greg Nicotero has elaborated on the time he appealed to Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead filmmaker George Romero to direct episodes of the zombie drama, then going into its second season.

“You know, we loved the idea of George coming onboard,” Nicotero said Friday in a Q&A following a 3D screening of Romero’s 1978 Dawn of the Dead in Los Angeles (via EW).

“[Original showrunner] Frank Darabont and I talked about it after the end of Season One. And I had a conversation with George and I said, ‘Hey, man, would you ever want to come and direct?’ This was after we’d only aired six episodes. So, the show hadn’t really even caught on. And George said, ‘No, listen, you guys have your world, and I have my world, and it’s cool.’ I think he really was still intending on developing some other zombie stuff. So, he was like, ‘Yeah, that’s okay.’”

Nicotero first served as assistant to famed special makeup effects artist Tom Savini on Romero’s 1985 Day of the Dead, where Nicotero appeared in an onscreen role as Johnson.

He would later collaborate on Romero’s Land of the Dead, Diary of the Dead, and Survival of the Dead, before going on to craft the reanimated corpses in fresh AMC original television series The Walking Dead in 2010.

In 2013, Romero explained to Big Issue why he declined the offer to direct episodes of The Walking Dead, then in its fourth season:

“They asked me to do a couple of episodes of The Walking Dead but I didn’t want to be a part of it,” Romero said. “Basically it’s just a soap opera with a zombie occasionally. I always used the zombie as a character for satire or a political criticism and I find that missing in what’s happening now.”

By 2016, Romero blamed The Walking Dead and Brad Pitt’s World War Z for effectively ruining what audiences expect from zombie-themed entertainment.

“Because of World War Z and The Walking Dead, I can’t pitch a modest little zombie film, which is meant to be socio-political,” he told Indiewire.

“The moment you mention the word ‘zombie,’ it’s got to be, ‘hey, Brad Pitt paid $400 million to do that’ ... It had to be a zombie film with just zombies wreaking havoc. That’s not what I’m about.”

Nicotero has repeatedly paid tribute to Romero’s works with Easter eggs peppered throughout The Walking Dead, which creator Robert Kirkman has long attributed as being inspired by Romero’s many iconic films.

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The series’ Season Eight premiere in October 2017 was dedicated to Romero and stuntman John Bernecker, who both died in July of that year.

The Walking Dead airs its Season Nine winter finale Sunday at 9/8c on AMC.