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The Walking Dead EP Greg Nicotero talks 'sadistic' Saviors and season 7

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Gene Page/AMC

There’s safety in numbers. Rick and his gang learned that the hard way in The Walking Dead season 6 finale as they kept coming across even bigger groups of Saviors every time they tried a new road to make it to the Hilltop. Negan’s army not only has the numbers, but as executive producer Greg Nicotero tells us, they have a legend and aura about them as well, which is often just as important.

“The Saviors, as sadistic as they may appear, they have a system that works for them,” says Nicotero. “Yeah, they’re f—ed up and they’re a little weird, but they’ve been doing this for a long time and they have a very large group. It’s not like it’s a pocket of 10 or 12 people. They have a good thing going and the most interesting thing about them for me is there’s mythos involved with them. It’s like, you hear about this guy Negan, just like you hear about this guy Rick, and you hear about these people. There’s a lot of that involved in Season 7.”

For Negan and the Saviors, it is that threat and reputation that keeps communities under their control in line. “It’s the mystery and the word-of-mouth that has spread along the countryside about these people, because that’s just as much a character point as it is meeting these guys, is hearing about them,” says Nicotero. “Oh I heard there’s this guy Negan and you got to give him half your stuff or he kills somebody just to prove his point. You know, I think that is as interesting as actually seeing the inner workings of how these places exist.”

In a cruel twist of fate, Nicotero also points out that it was the reputation that Rick was building that put him firmly on Negan’s radar to begin with. “Negan even says to Rick in the finale, ‘Oh, so you’re the guy that went out there, and you’re the guy that took out my guys, and you’re the guy that did this.’ So, Negan has heard of Rick. Rick has recently heard of Negan. So there’s a little sort of caste system of this castle over here and this castle over here and these guys have heard about them.”

And how these castles — or communities — continue to interact under Negan’s Law is the key to season 7. “The nice thing about this season is you will get a chance to see some of these inner workings of these different worlds and these communities and really get a chance to see how much they know about the rest of the world,” says Nicotero. “I think that’s a really good theme for season 7 which is, nobody really knows what the world has in store for them out there. So, the audience, just like these people, goes through these journeys.

The journey continues when the show returns to AMC in October.

For more Walking Dead news, follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss. In the meantime, enjoy your exclusive first season 7 look at Negan as well as the official TWD season 7 Comic-Con art. Also make sure to also vote for your favorite episode, villain, weapon, location, and more in our ultimate Walking Dead fan poll.