Greg Nicotero tells EW 'Sixteen Candles' and Stephen King's 'Creepshow' provided some inspiration for the episode
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Credit: Gene Page/AMC

From the backwoods to a walker-infested carnival of nightmares, Sunday’s episode of The Walking Dead saw Rick and Michonne trekking their gun-gathering quest all over the map, their destinations as varied as director Greg Nicotero’s taste in movies.

Nicotero, who directed the AMC horror-drama’s latest episode, titled “Say Yes,” fused his love for contemporary zombie action and classic genre cinema, peppering the series’ latest edition with Easter eggs in tribute to Stephen King, George A. Romero, and Sixteen Candles.

As the couple otherwise known as Richonne dines on a horde of rations found within a makeshift military outpost, the tone of their heartfelt discussion about reshaping the world after Negan’s tyrannical reign comes to a close feels a bit out-of-place for the end of days, and appropriately so; Nicotero told EW the scene was orchestrated to recall the closing moments of perhaps John Hughes’ most beloved teen comedy.

SIXTEEN CANDLES, Molly Ringwald, Michael Schoeffling, 1984. (c)Universal Pictures/ Courtesy: Everett
Credit: Everett Collection

“What they’re saying and how they’re saying it and the connection, all of that lands because we’ve seen them raiding the buildings and pillaging and scavenging and going at it in the van and you know, the Sixteen Candles birthday dinner scene that I specifically choreographed like Sixteen Candles,” Nicotero told EW of the episode’s dynamic. “I just wanted the audience to really feel that part of their relationship so that when she realizes that she could lose him, it’s just devastating to her… That’s what makes episodes great is that you pepper them with these peaks and valleys of emotion and thrills and excitement and laughs and sadness.”

After landing his first major gig as a special effects makeup artist on the set of fellow Pittsburgher Romero’s 1985 zombie staple Day of the Dead, Nicotero has used his position on The Walking Dead to honor the groundbreaking filmmaker with subtle nudges across the program’s seven seasons, and “Say Yes” is no exception.

Nicotero posted a photo from the season 7, episode 12 set to Instagram ahead of its Sunday premiere, revealing various elements of production design playfully acknowledged Romero’s influence on the show.

Rick and Michonne enter the infested fairgrounds in search of weaponry, and among the dilapidated buildings and amusement park rides is a ticket booth similar to the one found on the theatrical poster for Romero’s 1982 film Creepshow. While Nicotero’s post offers a close-up view of the structure, the building itself can only be seen in wide shots (or from the side) throughout “Say Yes.”

Credit: Everett Collection;

Comprised of five short films, Creepshow was directed by Romero and penned by King, who made his screenwriting debut on the project.

“One of the things [the carnival] signifies is, we don’t very often get a chance to explore aspects of the world prior to the turn, and Michonne says it when they’re standing on the roof looking out at this carnival and it’s like, ‘We could have this again.'” Nicotero said of the scene and its inspiration. “I mean, she’s really believing that the world could go back to this, that there was a place where it wasn’t all death, it wasn’t all gloom, but there was a world. So it’s a very significant reminder that, oh, there was a high school and they had this carnival set up in the back, and there were toys and stuffed animals and rides.”

The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on AMC.

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The Walking Dead

AMC's zombie thriller, based on the classic comic book serial created by Robert Kirkman.

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