If you like The Walking Dead or any other popular zombie movies and TV shows, you can thank George Romero, The legendary filmmaker created movie zombies as we know them in the black-and-white classic Night of the Living Dead, spawning an entirely new subgenre of horror. He'd follow it up with Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead, the latter of which gave special effects maestro Greg Nicotero his start. Nicotero would come full circle to the undead in his career by serving as an executive producer for the hit AMC series The Walking Dead. Paying homage to the show's inspiration, Nicotero says he once reached out to Romero about directing an episode of the show, but Romero apparently wasn't interested.
"You know, we loved the idea of George coming onboard. Frank Darabont and I talked about it after the end of season 1. And I had a conversation with George and I said, 'Hey, man, would you ever want to come and direct?' This was after we'd only aired six episodes. So, the show hadn't really even caught on. And George said, 'No, listen, you guys have your world, and I have my world,' and it's cool. I think he really was still intending on developing some other zombie stuff. So, he was like, 'Yeah, that's okay.'"
At the time, Romero was in fact still making zombie movies. He had created a new trilogy consisting of Land of the Dead, Diary of the Dead, and Survival of the Dead. Even still, that wasn't all of the zombie stories the late filmmaker wanted to tell. Prior to his death in 2017, Romero had announced his next planned movie, Road of the Dead, which he described as "The Fast and the Furious with zombies." As big as The Walking Dead may have gotten in the years since its first season, Romero seemed more intent focusing on telling his own stories about the undead. It's certainly a shame he wasn't able to finish his final zombie movie.
With or without Romero's involvement, The Walking Dead was able to become one of the most successful television shows of all time. Each season, ratings only seemed to climb higher, and the AMC zombie drama was able to top 17 million viewers on multiple occasions. For various reasons, however, ratings have plummeted from what they used to be, and there's serious concern for the series moving forward. Still, AMC has not acknowledged there to be a problem, and there are plans to produce at least three TV movies starring Andrew Lincoln. There have also been talks about expanding the universe with more spinoff shows in addition to Fear the Walking Dead.
For their part, the crew behind the show have still found ways to pay tribute to Romero. Multiple zombies from Romero's various movies have been recreated as walkers for The Walking Dead. The iconic crate from Romero's anthology movie Creepshow has also been spotted in one of the show's scenes. For however long the series continues to run, we expect to see more Easter eggs like this pop up in the future. You can read more of Nicotero's interview over at Entertainment Weekly.