Producer, director and makeup artist Greg Nicotero has been an icon to fans of the horror genre all the way back to his breakout as the "N" in "KNB FX". However, he has emerged as a powerful figure in his own right thanks to his contributions to AMC's popular The Walking Dead property, having long produced (and directed several episodes of) The Walking Dead in addition to producing the spinoff Fear the Walking Dead and directing numerous Walking Dead webisodes.
Of late, Walking Dead fans have been left anxious waiting for the resolution to the cliffhanger ending to the Season 6 finale, "Last Day on Earth" - which Nicotero directed. Every word said about or clip released from Walking Dead season 7 has been seized on as a potential source of clues or information about what to expect on the show next. Nicotero's would-be teases are no exception.
During an interview with Deadline, Nicotero offered a few more thoughts that are sure to have fans at attention. Of course, he didn't offer a concrete answer to the question fans want answered most - which Walking Dead character was killed by Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) in the season 6 finale - but Nicotero did expand upon his vision for where the TV show is headed down, compared to where its source comics have gone since Negan's debut:
"I think it’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better for our group, and it’s pretty intense. I mean, the show, we’re sort of opening a new chapter. I mean, it’s really, Rick is now, if you really think about his journey in the comic books, he shares the spotlight with Negan in the comic book. Negan now has some ownership over what the show is about. It’s the anticipation and the excitement of new worlds that we’re going to, like the Hilltop, like the Kingdom, like the Sanctuary where Negan lives. Everybody’s putting so much of their heart and soul into it. You know, after directing the premiere episode, I was f***ed up for two weeks, you know? I really felt like I dragged a lot of my dearest friends into these really deep, dark places shooting that episode, and it’s been definitely an experience unlike anything that I’ve ever handled before."
Like Nicotero, The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman has already confirmed that Rick (Andrew Lincoln) was not the one who had a fatal encounter with Negan's barbed wire-wrapped bat Lucille in the season 6 finale (as genuinely shocking as that development would have been). Daryl Dixon actor Norman Reedus has already teased the end of the "Ricktatorship" following the events of the Walking Dead season 6 finale - not only paving the way for Negan to become a prominent player in the larger Walking Dead universe in season 7, but to receive as much attention as someone like Rick, as Nicotero suggested he will.
Beyond that, many Walking Dead comic book fans will no doubt be glad to hear that Negan will indeed become an important character on the Walking Dead TV series too - with Morgan having already said he expects to be hanging around "at least a few years" on the series, too. In the comics, Negan is a popular (if also reviled) character whose appearance on the small screen has been anticipated for quite some time. Whether or not Nicotero and company can live up to those fans' often exacting desires remains to be seen, but even after 7 seasons it doesn't look like The Walking Dead has any plans to settle down.
The Walking Dead season 7 premieres on AMC on October 23rd, 2016.