As The Walking Dead enters season 7 in just a few weeks, the world of AMC’s zombie hit is about to get a whole lot bigger. In the comics after Negan makes his grand entrance, Rick promises to get revenge on those who fall at the villain’s hands (or, rather, his bat). He seeks out the Alexandria Survivors, the Hilltop Colony residents, and the inhabitants of The Kingdom to help him defeat Negan, and it appears that’s where the show is heading next. While it’s still not clear who Negan kills in this version of the story, you can bet Rick will still be out for revenge.
Season 7 is expected to be bigger and bolder than seasons past with the addition of lots of new characters and alliances to defeat Negan, an enemy that is in some ways even worse than the zombies. Khary Payton has joined the cast as Ezekiel, the charismatic leader of the Kingdom who owns a pet tiger named Shiva. Ezekiel is a former zookeeper and is larger than life on his own, but his tiger is perhaps the most eccentric part about him.
The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman has even admitted that he came up with the idea of the tiger partly to see if and how the TV show would adapt it. Now as a producer on the series, Kirkman recently spoke to EW about how everyone on the show managed to do just that and bring Ezekiel and Shiva to the small screen. The tiger will be created by a combination of CG and animatronics, but Kirkman says it’ll still look great:
“Yeah, I mean, you have to get it right. You can’t have a fake tiger, because you know that’s not going to work. This is a very real world and if Shiva doesn’t walk on screen, and look like this amazing real tiger that’s existing amongst these characters, it’s going to be more farfetched than it is in and of itself. So you really have to sell it. You really have to have this deadly, terrifying creature coexisting with these people, and it has been a Herculean task to make sure that we get it right. But between the mastery of Greg Nicotero, and all the practical effects that he’s able to accomplish, and our crack visual effects team, I’m very happy with how it’s turning out. You can see in the trailer, it absolutely looks amazing. You wouldn’t, you know, think we had a real tiger on set, but thankfully we don’t or else I would never go to set again.”
While it’s not surprising that The Walking Dead didn’t have an actual tiger on set, it is disappointing that one wasn’t present even for certain key scenes. Not only is it more dangerous for everyone as Kirkman mentions, but it’s just more costly in the long run, especially for a TV series. These days you can also get a really good likeness of animals for the screen, without having to use real animals for entertainment. Either way, it’s not easy for the cast and crew to include a tiger in the show, but the payoff can be tremendous if done right. For years, The Walking Dead has sensationalized zombies living amongst men, and now they’ll also be adding a full grown tiger into the mix.
The Walking Dead returns for season 7 on Sunday, October 23 @9pm on AMC.