No animals were harmed in the making of The Walking Dead’s mid-season premiere.
The episode sees a jailbreak Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), finally freed of a near eight-year prison term, pursued by a pack of feral dogs within a men’s clothing store.
Negan narrowly escapes when he tosses a surprise walker the dogs’ way, holding the door shut as off-screen snarls and whimpers are heard.
Asked by a call-in viewer on Talking Dead if it was necessary to throw the walker after the dogs or if Negan is that evil, Morgan answered, “It had nothing to do with being evil, I think I opened the door and there’s a friggin’ walker right there trying to bite my face off!”
“No dogs were harmed during the making of The Walking Dead,” added Morgan, a known animal lover.
“We didn’t even have a dog there that day,” joked director Greg Nicotero.
“Yeah, there actually wasn’t a dog that day. It was Greg off screen making like doggie noises, so I was trying not to laugh, once I grabbed the walker,” Morgan said.
“Come on, now, look who you’re asking that question to. No one loves a dog more than me. And so, yeah, no, the dogs are more than fine. They got a stunt adjustment, that was like an extra $500.”
AMC has since published a behind-the-scenes look at 909, ‘Adaptation,’ highlighting stunt dogs Nico, Maverick, and Cutaway.
“They had to look [like an] aggressive, gnarly, mangy-looking pack of dogs,” said Tommie Turvey, head animal wrangler. “Because they had to work with the actor, we don’t want a real aggressive dog. We want a nice, friendly dog, and that’s what these guys are.”
“The thing that everybody should know is JDM is a huge animal lover,” added showrunner Angela Kang. “He lives on a farm, he loves all kinds of animals, so the idea of him having to deal with animals that are really feral and dangerous, is kind of really fun.”
Though the carnivorous canines proved every bit as menacing as the undead on screen, Morgan can be seen enjoying the company of his four-legged co-stars.
“In the show they’re super scary,” he said. “In real life, behind the scenes, they’re three sweet puppies that are super well-trained.”
The Walking Dead Season Nine debuts new episodes Sundays at 9/8c on AMC.