How The Walking Dead Helped Make Breaking Bad’s Best Death
To develop Gus Fring's death scene in Breaking Bad, the producers contacted fellow AMC series, The Walking Dead. Here's how it worked out.
The Walking Dead had a major influence on Breaking Bad‘s most memorable death within its five-season run. Both series served as major hits for AMC, and The Walking Dead is currently in the midst of their milestone tenth season. There has even been evidence that Breaking Bad and Walking Dead exist in the same universe. There weren’t any zombies featured in Breaking Bad but the series did get assistance from The Walking Dead‘s experts when it came to Gus Fring’s (Giancarlo Esposito) explosive death.
Gustavo Fring was one of the most compelling characters on Breaking Bad. The seemingly harmless co-founder of the restaurant chain, Los Pollos Hermanos, was actually a drug kingpin and rival of a big cartel. Gus used his restaurant business as a cover to hide in plain sight from authorities. He then hired Walter White (Bryan Cranston) and Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) due to their meth-cooking abilities. The business partnership soon went south and Walt had no choice but to take Gus out of the equation. After various failed attempts, Walt succeeded in killing Gus in the season 4 finale, “Face Off”. With the help of Hector Salamanca (Mark Margolis), Gus was killed after suffering severe injuries from an explosion.Gus’s death scene was one of the most jaw-dropping moments in TV show history. After the explosive device was set off, Gus exited the room as if nothing happened. Gus seemed unharmed until the camera panned, revealing that half of his face had been blown off. The special effects surrounding the scene were stunning and they were credited to The Walking Dead‘s special makeup effects supervisor, Greg Nicotero, and his team. Nicotero got his first job on George A. Romero’s 1985 film, Day of the Dead, where he worked under special effects expert, Tom Savini. He has since served the special effects supervisor on dozens of projects, primarily in the horror genre. Due to Nicotero’s stellar work creating gruesome imagery on The Walking Dead, Breaking Bad‘s producers called up his team.
How Gus Fring’s Death Scene Came Together In Breaking Bad
Breaking Bad initially contacted Nicotero before season 4 hit production to see if he was interested in working on a few technical gags for the series. Before Gus’ big death, Nicotero put together Victor’s throat-cutting scene in the season 4 premiere. Breaking Bad‘s creator Vince Gilligan loved the work so much, he hired Nicotero and his team to oversee the demise of Gus.
Nicotero worked closely with Gilligan to create concept art in order to make the death look perfect. The special effects team then took that vision and did castings, molds, and test makeup to get the prosthetic design. In order to get the two-face design, Nicotero had to use a mix of digital effects. The process took about three weeks but the entire scene took months to develop. When the cast and crew filmed the scene, Gilligan used the camera motion as a tool to play off of the big reveal. Nearly 20 takes were completed until the shot matched what Gilligan had envisioned.
The Gus Fring death scene was a proud moment for Gilligan, Nicotero, and all involved. The cast absolutely loved the gory scene and many, including Esposito, contacted Nicotero about getting one of the replicas of Gus’ exploded heads. He ended up giving them to cast and crew members but kept the original prosthetic used in the scene. Nicotero has stated that the head has appeared in The Walking Dead a number of times. It’s no question why Breaking Bad decided to go after the best in the business to pull off the unforgettable moment.