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[Warning: This story contains spoilers from episode 609, “No Way Out,” the midseason premiere of AMC’s The Walking Dead and the comic book series the show is based on.]
AMC’s The Walking Dead went there.
After six seasons-plus of wondering if the zombie drama would see Carl (Chandler Riggs) have his eye shot out, the series went there during Sunday’s episode, delivering one of the biggest landmark moments from creator Robert Kirkman’s comic book series.
While the Scott M. Gimple-led drama remixed just how Carl lost his eye — as the show is prone to do — the moment captured the same shock and emotional impact as in the comics. (In the comics, Carl’s eye is shot out by a stray bullet from Douglas, the leader of Alexandria that was remixed to Deanna, played by Tovah Feldshuh on the series.)
Here, Riggs and special effects wizard and exec producer Greg Nicotero — who directed the episode — explain how they brought the shocking moment to life.
“That was one of the trickier aspects of the episode,” Nicotero admits. “We wanted to follow the graphic novel in terms of the extent of the injury because in the comics, Carl’s wound is very important in terms of how he moves forward.”
In the comics, the experience (as you’d expect) dramatically changes Carl and evolves the character into a more hardened and introverted teen who is fierce in his dedication to protecting Rick and his community. He eventually takes it upon himself to try and end Negan’s terror (which we won’t spoil here).
“We did a head cast of Chandler and sculpted a dummy head of him with the wound incorporated into it,” Nicotero says. (Check out four exclusive photos of the extensive process, below, courtesy of Greg Nicotero.)
“We used the graphic novel as reference but if you look at the wound in the comic (at top), he would never survive that bullet hole,” Nicotero adds. “So we had to make sure it was something we believed Carl would be able to survive the impact of. It was as if the bullet hit that part of the skull that’s just above the cheekbone and ricocheted outward and sent bone fragments into his eye. When Rick picks up Carl and runs through the horde of zombies and into the infirmary, that was all with the dummy. That wasn’t Chandler.”
“The dummy itself is pretty spot-on and astounding looking,” he continues. “Then we had a prosthetic on Chandler. For actual reveal, we did what we did on Breaking Bad: we put a prosthetic on Chandler’s face, shot the puppet head of Chandler with the wound and added the hole and depth of the wound to the puppet head on to Chandler digitally. What we did with Gus Fring on Breaking Bad, when he got blown up, we had a prosthetic on him and added the depth that you can’t get on a real human being on to the head.”
For Riggs, the process was twofold as well, as he and co-star Alexandra Breckenridge (who played Jessie, who died during the sequence) had to also have molds of their arms made as the series would see Rick — as he does in the comics — cut off a dying Jessie’s arm to save Carl.
“They molded our arms so they could chop off a hand in the actual shot. Then they molded my face so they could make a mannequin,” Riggs says. “That was a really weird process because your face is encased in this stuff and you can’t move at all but you can breathe and but you can’t see. When they shot it, I didn’t have anything on my eye. I had some blood around my eye and they didn’t actually have any makeup on my eye until Rick was carrying Carl inside the infirmary.”
“When he was running through the field, that was the mannequin,” Riggs says with a laugh. “It was only a prosthetic over my eye when Rick was bringing Carl into infirmary. It was a prosthetic that took 30 minutes to apply and dress. It was a lot of fun for me but not for anyone else, I think!”
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC.
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