Proximity tracers, thrice-weekly testing, and mask-wearing zombies are some of the on-set health and safety protocols in place during filming on The Walking Dead's six new Season 10 episodes designed for safe shooting in the COVID-19 era. For the first time this year, Norman Reedus and other Walking Dead stars have returned to work on the now socially-distant Georgia set shuttered since March. In another first, Reedus reveals the costumes worn by Melissa McBride, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Lauren Cohan, and other actors are hiding tracers used to monitor the amount of time the actors are spending in proximity to one another.
"We wear these little tracers in our clothes that will tell us how long we spend in proximity to another tracer," Reedus told SiriusXM's EW Live, adding the cast and crew are "being super safe."
"There's a ton of rules now. Everybody's masked up or has shields on," he said. "I have a big scar on my face so that this mask doesn't work, so I wear the shield everybody else wears masks. They take our temperature right off the bat. We get tested three times a week. We do the rapid testing."
Another protocol: a crew member declares when actors enter the set, a process Reedus admits is "kind of embarrassing."
"Because I'll show up on set and they'll be like, 'Actor on set!' And then the people part like Moses and the sea," Reedus said. "And I'm like, 'Excuse me, coming through.' It's embarrassing."
It's hard to complain. "I look over and there are crew members carrying cameras and equipment who have a mask and a shield," he added. "And I'm like, I have nothing to complain about."
There's a "different vibe" on set now that the nature of the pandemic discourages close contact, going against the tight-knit nature of the Walking Dead family.
Reedus explained, "We like to hug, we like to high-five, we like to shake each other. We're with that group. So to keep us all separated, it's different. Granted, we're getting used to it, but there are no divas on this set. Now everyone's away from each other, and everyone's got these masks on, and you can't see people's smiles. So it's kind of a different vibe."
Showrunner Angela Kang already confirmed the episodes would limit the number of zombie extras in terms of crowd size, but this is still The Walking Dead. Reedus reveals he grappled with a masked-up walker stuntman, which made for a painful encounter due to changes in the way cast and crew approach a scene's staging:
"Usually you're kind of face to face and you can roll around together and have fluid movements and it doesn't hurt your body as much. But this guy had to be away from me and he had to wear a mask on a zombie, which was really weird," Reedus said. "But instead of the fluid-rolling-around sort of style, he has to stiff-arm me to get his face out of camera. So it hurt a lot more! I finally got manhandled by the zombie. I had to offer him a free drink at Nic and Norman's because I think I hurt him a little bit. But it was actually me that deserved the drink 'cause I got beat up more than him."
During an online panel at this year's virtual New York Comic Con, Kang detailed the safety measures in place to ensure the cast and crew stay healthy while filming these six new episodes to air TBD in early 2021.
"Everybody will have masks and face shields, they've done the trailers differently, there are sanitation stations everywhere. There are UV lights and air scrubbers and things on the stages," she said. "There's a former military infectious diseases specialist who is our health and safety supervisor. So it's an abundance of caution in every way."
For all things TWD, follow the author @CameronBonomolo on Twitter. The Walking Dead returns early next year on AMC.