Few TV shows have terrified viewers as much as The Walking Dead. The hugely popular US horror drama features enough frights to reduce grown adults to tear-streaked wrecks
The Walking Dead: walker interview
Unfamiliar with the show? We can only assume you’ve been busy planning to survive an actual zombie apocalypse, but here’s the deal. Deputy sheriff Rick Grimes (played by British star Andrew Lincoln) awakes from a coma to find that the world has been overrun by zombies – or walkers, as they’re known. The grizzled gunslinger soon stumbles on a group of fellow survivors and helps them negotiate a scary new landscape in which they’re the main source of food.
Whether it’s searching for shelter, scavenging for supplies, dealing with the shifting dynamic within the group, or staying one step ahead of the flesh-eating pests, Grimes and the gang are constantly kept on their toes in an environment that has danger lurking around every corner.
While this most addictive of series – which returned for an eighth season on FOX and FOX HD on 23 October – primarily revolves around the survivors and their attempts to live free of terror (good luck with that), it could be argued that the real stars of the show are the walkers. Heck, they're the ones who have all the fun anyway, what with all that chomping on brains.
Which got us thinking: if you wanted to frighten the living daylights out of your friends, what would you need to know to turn in a perfect undead performance? Actor Erin Leigh Bushko – who has played a zombie in several episodes – gives us a few pointers on what it takes to walk the walk of a walker…
1. You must love what you do
“I have had the make-up people come up to me while I’m lying on burning-hot asphalt, and ask if it’s OK to pour a bucket of fake blood on top of me. I’ve been drenched in buckets of water, and told to be careful when I fall on the ground because there are snakes in the grass. I’ve been asked to fall into bags of trash, taken beatings from foam weapons, and watched my own head explode. It’s definitely not glamorous.”
2. Prepare to get messy
“One of my favourite scenes was when I got to devour a horse. The production crew just set this fake disembowelled horse in front of me and told me to go for it. There were pieces I could pull out, things I could chew on, and I was just covered in fake blood by the end. A lot of times they use barbecue or turkey legs for us to gnaw on, so we can actually eat.”
3. There’s an art to walking the walk
“If you do a pattern or repeat anything, it doesn’t work. It needs to appear chaotic and unpractised. The actors are told a lot about how the body works, which muscles connect. ‘If this bone were not in its socket, where would the arm hang?’ – that sort of anatomy. And when you walk, your feet have to drag; walkers don’t have the strength to really lift them. You get caught on things.”
4. It’s good to lose yourself
“Walkers have no control over their urges. They get hungry and they have to eat – it’s their sole driving force. What makes us human is that we can assess a situation and figure out the best way to deal with it, whether it’s to run, hide, harm or help. Walkers don’t think, they simply act.”
5. Conserve your energy
“Don’t exert yourself too much when you’re not in front of the camera. You’re already hot and tired, so trying to do much more than sit in a chair or lie on the floor would just make it unbearable. Not to mention you never want to do anything that could mess up your make-up. A lot of the featured walkers are in the make-up chair for several hours every morning. I have seen people rest their head on a table to try to relax, and when they wake up, their face is stuck to the table.”
6. Prepare for solitude
“When I was playing the jawless zombie in the first season, I’d taken my tray at lunch and sat down to try to eat. One of the main cast was sitting across from me. When I sat down, he got up and walked away. He approached me later and said I looked so disgusting that he couldn’t eat.”