People tend to know well ahead of time that we intend to put them on the cover of Entertainment Weekly. Not so the quartet of folks who are featured, in zombie form, on this week’s Walking Dead-celebrating issue alongside the show’s star, Andrew Lincoln. “One of my other zombie friends from the show texted me a picture and was like, ‘Look! You’re on the cover!'” says Alyssa Courtney Gruhn (a.k.a., “Bottom right cover zombie”). “I was like, ‘Whaaat?’ It came out of nowhere. It was pretty awesome.” Music store manager Charles Casey was similarly surprised to find himself following in the EW cover-decorating footsteps of such luminaries as Johnny Depp, Angelina Jolie, Julia Roberts, and, uh, the dog from Frasier. “I got a call from my boss, who subscribes, and he informed me that I was on the cover,” says Casey, who is the zombie on the far left. “I actually work next to a Barnes & Noble, so I gave the heads up to my friend who works there and he bought all the copies they got this week. I have 15 sitting in front of me.”

Maybe we should put non-A-listers on our cover more often. Think of all the extra copies we could sell! In the meantime, after the jump, our quartet of undead unknowns reveal how they got their Walking Dead roles in the first place, recall the heat-blasted Atlanta shoot, and tell us their zombie-playing secrets.

Image Credit: Matthew Welch/AMCSONYA THOMPSON

Entertainment Weekly: How did you get the Walking Dead gig?

ST: I was also a zombie on Zombieland and the agency that got me that audition said, “Hey, you’ve been chosen to be a zombie in The Walking Dead.” It just went from there. I attended zombie school, where they taught you how to move, and where they chose their 20 core zombies that were going to be featured.

EW: Is it worrying that you’ve been cast as a zombie twice?

ST: It is kind of a joke for me. Because I was also a zombie in Night of the Jackals, which is this little independent thing. Then I went to Zombieland, and in [TV movie] Ben 10 I was kind of like a zombie too. So when I got this one I was joking with the casting company that they were type-casting me. [Laughs]

EW: Is it true you’ve started to get invited to conventions.

ST: I have been invited to the Atlanta Comic Con, which is next weekend, and I’ve also been invited to one in Nebraska and that’s in June. The zombie thing seems to be really working for me. Hey, if I’ve got it, I’ve got it, right?

Image Credit: Matthew Welch/AMCLARRY MAINLAND

Entertainment Weekly: How did you get the Walking Dead gig?

LM: I’m a newbie to this whole thing. The Walking Dead is the first thing I ever did. A good friend of mine said, “You look like a zombie without any makeup. You really ought to put in for it.” I went, “Well, gee, thanks.” But he had done a couple of extra acting stints and he had a ball doing it. So I told my wife, “What the heck?” I put in my information thinking it would never happen and two minutes later I got a phone call. Greg Nicotero [Walking Dead makeup effects supervisor], he said, “You were one that has ‘The look.’”

EW: What’s your favorite memory from the shoot?

LM: It’s an overall memory. I was amazed at how nice Greg Nicotero and his crew from KNB were, in making us up and everything. Frank Darabont [Walking Dead executive producer and pilot director], he was an incredibly busy man. But he’d stop right in the middle of whatever he was doing to answer any question you had and to go out of his way to be friendly. And that’s not the way I thought directors were. The biggest memory? We all had the same thing. I live here, but it was incredibly hot that month. We had an index temperature during the tank scene that was 105. And I believe in that particular scene, I was wearing a sweater. It was like, “Okay, when they go “Cut!” we start stripping as best we can. Because it was hot. But it gave us all that dead look, I’m telling you. So it worked out good.

EW: What’s the secret to playing a zombie?

LM: Well, what Frank kept telling us was: “Quit trying to be everybody you see. Do it your way. If I see a horde coming down a street, I don’t want to see two people together. Because if everybody looks the same, I’ve got to cut and do it all over again.”

EW: Are you surprised by the success of the show?

LM: This has become a phenomenon. I think the top people knew this was going to happen. But all of us were surprised at how this thing has taken off. And even with us, we’re all going back and forth: “Man, that hour flew by!” We’re surprised you put us on the cover. But my picture was inside the Bullseye two weeks ago. There’s some good-looking guy in the middle [Joe Manganiello from True Blood] and I’m on the right side of him. People were telling me I was right beside the middle. I said, “No, that’s me in the middle!” [Laughs]

Image Credit: Matthew Welch/AMCALYSSA COURTNEY GRUHN

Entertainment Weekly: How did you get the Walking Dead gig?

ACG: I’m an actress, but I actually got the gig because I was working at a haunted house in Atlanta called Netherworld. It’s one of the nation’s top haunted houses and the casting director sent an e-mail to the owner saying, “Tell all your employees to come out and audition.” So I auditioned and Greg Nicotero loved me. And I love him. He’s the coolest guy that I think I’ve ever met in my entire life. I got to be in a lot of cool stuff on the show. It was so much freakin’ fun.

EW: What scenes are you in?

ACG: I was at pretty much every zombie shoot. I was in the first scenes in the tank, but only I can really see myself, because there are so many other zombies. In the last episode, I was the zombie that attacked Ed in the tent and then directly after that I’m in the scene with Greg Nicotero when he’s getting Amy.

EW: Ed was actually the first person to get bitten onscreen in the entire show. Which makes you the first killer-zombie.

ACG: I’M THE FIRST KILLER ZOMBIE!!! I never thought of it that way. That’s awesome. I guess I am. But people were dying left and right that episode. That was crazy.

EW: What’s the secret to playing a zombie?

ACG: Everybody has their own style. I like to let my eyes focus on my surroundings, but I don’t focus on anything in particular. So it looks like you have a blank zombie stare on your face. And you kind of open up your mouth a little, just like you’re real dumb, like there’s nothing going on up there in your head. Basically, acting dumb is what I do. [Laughs]. And it works!

Image Credit: Matthew Welch/AMC CHARLES CASEY

Entertainment Weekly: How did you get the Walking Dead gig?

CC: I manage a used CD and movie store in Atlanta called CD Warehouse. I’ve been reading the comic for a few years now and when I found out they were going to film here I sent my stuff in and was lucky enough to get in.

EW: What was the shoot like?

CC: Other than the miserable heat, it was a dream scenario. Like I said, I’ve been a fan of the comic for a long time. I love all the Darabont movies. I love Greg Nicotero’s work. While I was on set I had the chance to meet Charlie Adlard, who draws the comic. He played a zombie with us for two of the days. I met [Walking Dead comic writer] Robert Kirkman. Everybody was super pleasant. I still can’t believe I got paid to do it.

EW: How much have you been featured on the show?

CC: So far the majority of the scenes that I’ve done have either been cut or you’ve seen me in the background. They basically tiered the zombies out in makeup level. So ‘A’ would be like an hour, two hour job. ‘B’ would be a lighter job. ‘C’ would be a mask. And the episode that’s airing this Sunday, when they get to the CDC, that was the only day that I had an ‘A’ level makeup job. So I’m hoping this will be the week that you can actually see my face.

EW: Regardless, you’re definitely on the cover of our magazine!

CC: Exactly. It is definitely a dream come true. I was bummed in the beginning when people were getting the cover of Fangoria and Rue Morgue. Now that this has come out I was like, “Man, thank god I didn’t get any of that stuff!”

EW: Yeah, to hell with those guys! So, what’s the secret to playing a zombie?

CC: For me, it was really about trying to accentuate whatever they gave me for a makeup job that day. I would try to take my zombie motivation from the wounds they gave me.

EW: I think that’s the technique Judi Dench uses as well.

CC: That’s what we have in common! Greg Nicotero gave us some really great advice. It seems simple enough, but he said, “Just go to a bar at two or three o’clock in the morning and watch those people stumble out. That’s kind of what we’re going for.”

EW: Robert Kirkman told me Nicotero is always coming up with reasons why he has to play a particular featured zombie.

CC: Most definitely. I noticed he gave himself two really choice roles over the last two episodes! I don’t blame him. I know, especially when he attacked Amy, there was a lot of heavy prosthetics that had never been used before. Obviously you don’t want to stick one of us in that scene and have us ruin the prosthetics and have to reset everything. I was familiar with Nicotero’s work going in, but now that I’ve seen him so much on set, it’s really amazing how many times I see him pop up in [films]. He’s in from Dusk Till Dawn for a couple of seconds. He pops up in Inglourious Basterds. He was in Piranha. It seems like anything he works on, he works himself into at some point. But he definitely makes a great zombie!

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The Walking Dead

AMC's zombie thriller, based on the classic comic book serial created by Robert Kirkman.

  • TV Show
  • 10
  • TV-14
  • Frank Darabont
  • AMC
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