An interview with the zombies of 'The Walking Dead'

Dan Riker without zombie makeup

By Nikki

ATLANTA (WCIV)--Since its debut in 2010, AMC's The Walking Dead has made history, becoming the most watched drama series ever on basic cable. Forget about all those blood-sucking vampire shows and movies, zombies have clearly become the new monster of choice.

The show's plot is pretty simple. Centered in rural Georgia, the show's main characters are all trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic world filled with zombies. So far, it's not working out well. If the show has proven anything, it's that not even the show's main characters are immune to getting killed off -- usually at the hand of a zombie.

The walkers, while they have no lines, drive a lot of the progress of the show. But who is underneath the hours of make-up? Meet two of the walkers.


Horse Eating Walker (also the Golf Ball and Soldier Walker)

"All of us 'walkers' we're like a little family, and we're very protective of each other," said Dan Riker, a zombie extra on the show.

You may not recognize him without all the makeup, but Riker has appeared in seasons 1, 2, and 3 of The Walking Dead.

"It's been a great experience. Everybody asks what we get paid. Honestly, I would pay them to do this job. It's been a blast," said Riker. "The most famous things I've done on The Walking Dead were actually in Season 3. Most people remember me by getting hit in the head with a golf ball by the Governor. In season 2, I was also a soldier zombie getting killed by Otis."

A normal day of filming on The Walking Dead can average anywhere from 12 to 16 hours. And to make these zombies literally appear to be, well, the walking dead it takes a lot of makeup.

"Hair and makeup is anywhere from an hour to three hours depending on how extensive it is. They have it down to a science. It's amazing how they do it now," said Riker. "The makeup is alcohol based. It doesn't come off when you sweat. It's very time consuming. You have to have a lot of patience to sit still and behave."

Suave conditioner is used to make the zombies hair appear greasy, but at the end of a shoot, Riker says the perk is that their hair is left feeling baby soft.

"Earlier in the show I had to eat a deer it was a little disgusting lying on the ground, but I loved it," said Riker with a smile.

But don't worry. No animals were harmed in the making of The Walking Dead.

"When we're eating a dog, deer, or even people it's actually pork barbeque that they season up a little bit and put a little red dye in it," explained Riker.

To make it appear as if the zombies are chewing and tearing into flesh, Riker says it's actually water-filled condoms, covered in dye.

As for the stars of the show, Riker has nothing but kind words to say about them.

"Every actor on the show is great. They are some of the most humble people. Some people say actors get big heads. Not on this show. They're all very down to earth. They treat us like they would anybody. I think they're very proud to work on the series," said Riker. "There's a lot of great times on the set. The actors try to make it very light-hearted."

In Season 3, viewers were finally introduced to The Governor, the charming, smooth-talking villain of the show played by British actor David Morrissey. Morrissey is one of a handful of main actors on the show who actually ditch their English accent, replacing it with a very believable Southern accent.

"He's a great man. When you talk to him, you think this guy should be wearing a robe, cap, and gown and teaching you about physics. He's so well-spoken. I just love being around him. He also has a great presence," said Riker.


Professor Woodchuck (or the Autopsy Walker)

You know you've made it big as a zombie on The Walking Dead when you get your own action figure.

"Oh, that was huge. My dad is so proud," joked Chaz "Charlie" Lounge. "To find yourself on eBay is really weird."

While he has yet to get used to seeing his character for sale, Lounge says he doesn't mind one bit. Since appearing on the show in full makeup, he's loved every minute of his involvement with the widely popular show.

"The first day when I went in for my fitting and zombie school, there at the loading dock was Rick's cop car, and I was just like 'Wow!'" Lounge said. "When you show up on set and you see the tanks and buses that's just so cool, too."

Lounge's most famous zombie scene on the show included a violent encounter with Daryl and Rick Grimes in Season 2. To view the clip, go here.

"The scene where I get gutted by Daryl and Rick has to be my 'it' moment for me," said Lounge. "They also had to put a prosthetic chest on me, so the actors could cut it open and gut me."

That scene didn't come without a few injuries.

"When turning me over after a few takes, Andrew Lincoln, who plays Rick on the show, missed and put my head right on a tree root. I had a golf-ball size knot on my head for quite some time after, limped for three days after the scene as well," said Lounge. "You get the living crap beat out of you and you just want to go back."

Season 4 began filming in May and is expected to wrap in November. New episodes will debut in October. For fans, that month couldn't get here soon enough.


The Big Zombie Tour

When Riker and Lounge aren't playing zombies on The Walking Dead, they are taking fans to popular filming locations of the show with the Big Zombie Tours, Parts 1 and 2. Each tour lasts approximately three hours and allows fans to see the popular filming locations of the show.

"We have people come from Australia, the United Kingdom, Scotland, and South America. We've pretty much seen people from everywhere," said Patti Davis with Atlanta Movie Tours. "In our Part 1 tour, we cover Season 1 of The Walking Dead and the movie Zombieland."

The tours have become so popular that Davis says they've expanded them.

"It started getting so popular we had to add second tours. We added a 2 p.m. tour for our Part 1 and a Wednesday Tour for Part 1 up here in Atlanta and for Part 2 in Senoia there's a 10 a.m. tour and a 2 p.m. tour," said Davis.

With the exception of Herschel's plantation and the prison, the tour takes fans to many of the show's current and past filming locations.

"Last Sunday, we just started our Part 2 tour, which starts down in Senoia, which is the town of Woodbury in the show. It covers all of Season 2 and 3 as well as a little bit of Zombieland and Pet Cemetery 2. It's a lot of fun," said Davis.

One of the places you visit in the first tour is the goat farm used for The Vatos in The Walking Dead.

"It's one of the most exciting places I've ever been. It's tucked right in the middle of downtown Atlanta. You'd never know it was there unless we took you there," said Davis. "We also go to the hospital where Rick wakes up and downtown in Senoia, we take you to places nobody else can get into. We have contracts with a lot of the locations. We go into the zombie arena. We go into Elders Mill, which is the waterfall in the Season 2 finale. We also take you in where Rick and the Governor have their meeting."

For more information on the tours, click here.

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