Special Effects Master Greg Nicotero Tells Us How He Reinvented Vampires for 'From Dusk till Dawn: The Series'

Special Effects Master Greg Nicotero Tells Us How He Reinvented Vampires for 'From Dusk till Dawn: The Series'

Apr 29, 2014

The vampires on From Dusk till Dawn: The Series aren't like the vampires you're used to seeing on TV. In fact, they're not even like the vampires in Robert Rodriguez' original movie. The show fully integrates the Aztec mythology hinted at in the movie, and this time around they've got this whole serpent thing going on that's just plain cool. If you don't believe us, just look above.

The show's first big, vampire-heavy episode airs tonight (April 29, at 9 p.m. EST), and it is a doozy. Remember the Salma Hayek snake dance in the original film? Well, that happens here (get a look at in the video below), and then things really get out of control and the body parts start flying. It's pretty great and we spoke with special effects and makeup legend Greg Nicotero about how they managed to not only make great makeup effects on a TV-show budget, but how they reinvented vampires in the process.


Movies.com: Did the decision to make the vampires more serpentlike this time around attract you even more to the project?

Greg Nicotero: The project was attractive to me because it was the first time I've ever been involved in a remake of an original that we had done. There are hints to the Aztec culture in the original movie that Robert interjected in the end of the film when you see the Aztec temple underneath the Titty Twister. When you have the opportunity to tell a story over 10 or so hours versus 90 minutes, you really can delve into that stuff more, so Robert's intent all along was to expand on that universe and really ground the creature design in this mythological world by going with a very different look.

And that was really excited to me because I wasn't interested in just redoing the same vampires we had seen already. Going with the snake motif, which is in the original movie when Salma does the snake dance, and doing it much more literally with regard to the creature effects really made a big difference. We've seen a lot of vampire projects on TV and in movies, and they had to look different. They had to look fresh. Why do the same vampires everyone else has seen?

Movies.com: Since you've spent so much time on The Walking Dead and now From Dusk till Dawn: The Series, is there something that attracts you to doing effects on TV shows now that maybe wasn't true a few years ago?

Nicotero: The format is very interesting. If someone told me five or 10 years ago that I was going to be the executive producer on a television show about zombies, I would have f**king laughed them out of the room. But The Walking Dead was a really good proving ground for me to know I could do From Dusk till Dawn. Television is very different from the process in movies. On the original movie we had six months to build all of the creatures. On television you get story outlines, then scripts, and then the scripts are rewritten, and you really don't have very much time at all.

If I hadn't done Walking Dead, I probably wouldn't have been able to approach From Dusk till Dawn the same way. Knowing you have to get ahead of the game by doing test makeups and designing things two months before you even have a script so you can put some looks in front of a director and a showrunner is something I'd have never known had I not been involved with Walking Dead. So we were really able to fine-tune that stuff. In early December we were doing test makeups for the episode that shot at the end of January so people could look at it and respond to things. It really made a difference and helped us successfully approach From Dusk till Dawn.

Movies.com: Did the truncated timeline lead to any happy accidents where you ended up going in a direction you might not have otherwise?

Nicotero: I think we had a pretty clear vision. I have a great shorthand with Robert that we've developed over the last 19 years. I know what he's going to respond to and what he won't like, we've collaborated on 22 projects, so I don't think happy accidents would be the right word. Being the executive producer on The Walking Dead has given me the creative freedom to be able to do what I do, and I approached From Dusk till Dawn as if it were my show. I'd say "It'd be really cool if we had this snake chest with this underbelly and all this patterning" and we'd spend three weeks sculpting stuff that I wanted to see and hadn't done before. When we did our first round of tests, it was a mix of what Robert and I had talked about and then what my vision was for their look, and all of those pieces ended up on the show.

Robert was on set sending me photos of different vampire makeups while he was shooting. The first night the vampires were being filmed, I didn't get a call, just a text with a photo of the vampire with blood flying out of her mouth. It was an amazing photo and that said it all. He didn't need to say "Good work!" or "I have a question about this?" he just sent a photo that spoke volumes. It was really great. I was so excited about that.

Read the first part of our interview with Nicotero, where he tells us about how sad he is he couldn't make The Stand, here.





Categories: Features, Interviews, Reel TV
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