10 Facts from The Walking Dead Set
1. A SWAT Team Disrupted Filming
During the production of season 1, a scene was shot involving Merle Dixon (a major villain and the brother of the hero Darryl Dixon) firing a high-powered rifle from a rooftop. A concerned onlooker in a nearby building believed that the actor portraying Merle (Michael Rooker) was a real shooter and called the authorities. As a result, an armed SWAT team turned up on set!
The Walking Dead could never have reached the heights of critical acclaim without those gratuitous shots of zombies chowing down on some unfortunate stragglers. In order to help the actors portraying the ‘walkers’ get in touch with their undead side, the crew used ham coated with BBQ sauce and vinegar to serve as the…you know. However, this practice was soon abandoned when it was discovered that the vinegar was smearing the actor’s makeup. The later methods used to achieve greater realism are better left to the imagination.
3. Carl’s Stunt Double is a Woman
Carl Grimes —the young, fearless, Stetson-wearing son of TWD’s main protagonist Rick — is one of the most popular characters in the series. So it may come as surprise that his stunt double is 32-year-old actress Emily Brobst. Emily has also provided stunt acting for the films Terminator: Genisys (2015), Godzilla (2014) and Django Unchained (2012).
4. Comic Book Divergences
Before it was a TV series, TWD was a comic book series first issued in 2003. Although the comics are still ongoing, the television adaptation has diverted from the original storyline in several key ways. For example, Norman Reedus’s character Daryl Dixon, despite his enormous popularity, was never in the comic series. Another notable divergence is that in the comics, Rick loses a hand thanks to another major villain in the series, ‘the Governor’. This also hasn’t happened as yet on the TV series.
5. Edwin/ Edward Jenner
At the end of the first season of TWD, we get some insight into the disease that is turning people into brain-eating horrors. The character who gives the crucial information is Dr. Edwin Jenner, the last remaining scientist at the Atlanta Centre for Disease Control. The name Edwin Jenner is a clear reference to the very real and extremely influential Dr. Edward Anthony Jenner, who developed the vaccine for Smallpox in 1796.
6. The ‘Z Word’
Though the animated corpses are referred to as ‘walkers’, ‘biters’, ‘roamers’ and ‘lurkers’, the word zombie is never used in TWD once. The reason given for this, according to the creators of the series, is that in the world of TWD, the concept of the zombie has never existed.
The word ‘zombie’ itself has a very complex history. The ‘zombi’ of Haitian tradition refers to a dead body that has been bewitched to life. However, the word also has links to the Kikongo language, with a ‘nzambi’ referring to a native god. In Voodoo tradition, Zombi was the name given to a prominent serpent deity. The various interacting African traditions present in parts of the Caribbean during the 18th and 19th centuries led to the development of the ‘zombie’ mythology we know today.
7. The King Connection
Rick Grimes, the ex-cop protagonist of The Walking Dead, hails from the fictitious King County Georgia. The locale is names after the contemporary godfather of all horror stories, Stephen King. Frank Darabont, who directed the first episode of TWD, has adapted a number of Stephen King works for the silver screen. These include The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile.
8. Repulsive Realism
During the filming of TWD, a great deal of attention and care is given to ensure that the zombies act and appear as disturbingly believable as possible. To achieve this, great pains were taken to ensure that none of the actors portraying the ‘walkers’ raised any doubts about their awful authenticity. Methods included on-set segregation between the main characters and the ‘horde’, so that no friendships might develop that could effect the motivation behind the hacking and slashing. They also used cutting-edge special effects, where the blinking and breathing of the zombies in the cold night air was edited out.
9. Creature Cameo
The wizard behind the terrifying makeup effects of TWD is Gregory Nicotero. Greg has been in the zombie making game a long time. In 1985, he worked with George A. Romero – the man perhaps most responsible for the zombie-movie craze – creating makeup for the film Day of the Dead. In addition to having made numerous gruesome creations for TWD, Greg has featured as a zombie a whopping 5 times throughout the series.
Bonus Fact. No Undead Problems Down Under
Australia is certainly the lucky country in more ways than one. As if sunkissed beaches and boundless plains weren’t enough, Australia is also ranked among the top 10 safest countries to be in if a Zombie pandemic were to break out. According to the Zombie Research Society, this can be attributed to our relatively small population density, abundant resources and the fact that we are a massive island.