The Walking Dead executive producer Greg Nicotero paid tribute to Day of the Dead with an inspirational stunt in Sunday's Mid-Season Nine premiere.
Spoilers for The Walking Dead Episode 9x09 follow. Major spoilers!
During Negan's time outside of his Alexandria prison cell, the show's former villain encountered walkers for the first time in more than six years. One particular walker was burnt up and laying in the bed of a pick-up truck, where it grabbed Negan's pants. When he jumped forward, the walker ripped at the legs and fell on the ground. From there, Negan used a shovel to sever its head before ultimately pulling it down. While the bodiless walker head was ultimately a tribute to a Day of the Dead zombie, director and executive producer Nicotero shared the inspirational story behind bring the moment to life.
"I really liked the idea that in that particular instance, when the walker advances and gets to the window and Negan turns and looks at it, it's that realization of like, "Holy s---, this world is still just as f---ed up as I remember it, and these things continue to decompose, they're just hideous,'" Nicotero told ComicBook.com. "So, he picks up the shovel, he walked around, he takes his swing. He's a little out of practice, and he shears the face off. 'F---,' then he has to hit it again, and then as he does, he backs up, and then there's another one, two punch."
For the particular Day of the Dead stunt, Nicotero's team found the perfect stunt woman who is turning what could have been seen as a negative into a postive. "We hired a stunt woman who had an unfortunate accident and lost her legs. So, she's an amazing stunt person. We've used her on Fear, we've used her a bunch of times. So we designed this suit, and we designed this stunt so that she can tear away from these burned legs in the back of this truck, and then crawl after him. And again, it's just all those things where he's like, 'Oh my God, I've been out of this for so long, I've been in this safety of this cell, that it was torture for so much of the last six years, but this is what it protected me from. It protected me from this.'"
Then came the final execution of the Day of the Dead homage in which Negan cut the walker's head off but left it alive to chomp around on the ground. "Then we made a magnet, a decapitation rig with a magnet, so that when we chopped the head off, the head would land, which is a little homage to Day of the Dead," Nicotero explained, "when we did the chopping the zombie's head off with the shovel."
The Walking Dead airs Sundays on AMC at 9 pm ET. Fear the Walking Dead will return for its fifth season later in 2019. For complete coverage and insider info all year long, follow @BrandonDavisBD on Twitter and watch ComicBook.com's After The Dead each Sunday night following new episodes.