“A beer with …” is a new phase in the ChattaPop saga. On a monthly basis, I’ll get together with local and national celebrities, have a beer with them and talk about pop culture. It’s pretty simple. If you would like to suggest an interview subject, contact me.
During Con Nooga, I hung out with a few zombies from “The Walking Dead.” I met Savana Wehunt, Tony Gowell and Alex Wayne at the Gardens Restaurant inside the historic Chattanooga Choo-Choo, where we talked about some of their favorite experiences as “walkers” on AMC’s record-breaking show.
Warning: There are spoilers from seasons two and three. If you’re not caught up, wait until you are to read this.
Let’s talk about your experience on “The Walking Dead” as zombies.
Tony Gowell: I first worked in “Zombieland” in the spring of 2009 and then on nine episodes of “The Walking Dead,” seasons one and two, starting in June of 2010. I was most prominently featured as a barn zombie in season two.
Savana Wehunt: I am a walker from seasons two and three. I’ve been, other than a zombie, a stunt double, photo double and stand-in for Carl, Sophia and, as of season three, Penny. I’ve had the honor of working with Tony and Alex. It’s been a wild ride.
Alex Wayne: I first got my start on “The Walking Dead” around the beginning of season two. I had a friend who worked on the first season, and she gave me the contact info. I submitted and got the call for zombie school, and it just kind of took off from there.
What’s your one favorite moment in your zombie career?
TG: From “The Walking Dead,” I’d have to say working on … the pilot was amazing because I had the great opportunity to meet Frank Darabont and let him know what a pioneer he is as a director. For “The Walking Dead,” season one, episode two, I have to say I wasn’t really sure the scope, size and breadth of how amazing and impactful this show was going to be because we’re just a bunch of kid actors, tossing around, being a zombie, going, “What are people going to think? Are people going to be receptive to this?"
And working on "Guts," the Rick and Glen characters have decorated themselves with the guts of other zombies, and they’re walking through a herd of zombies. It was eerily quiet. The effects were so amazing that people on the crew were kind of gagging because it was so visceral and disgusting. There were things dripping off of them. The television didn’t do it justice. ... And when they rounded the corner to come on set and walked down Mitchell Street in downtown Atlanta, dressed as zombies to ward us off from noticing them, I knew then that this was some serious &*%$. That’s got to be, hands down, my single favorite moment from the show.
SW: I think ... one of my favorite moments is when I realized how close I was with the crew, how much like family the set really is. It was the night we shot the scene where Carl shoots Shane. That was a really gut-wrenching scene, anyway. That asked me to photo double that night for Carl, and I said, “All right, I’ll come in.” And I got into wardrobe and got into the van to go to set, and for some reason, Greg Nicotero and KNB EFX are in the van with me, and I said, “What are you guys doing? Why are you guys here?” and they were like, “Oh, we have that scene to shoot.” Well, I didn’t know what scene it was, and all of a sudden, I see Shane’s head pop into the van, and he’s in zombified form.
And I had been really close to him throughout the season. I just broke down. I was like, “No, no, they can’t do this to you. This is not right.” And I remember us sitting in that mile trek on the way back to the farm, and he’s like, “You know, Savana, it’s OK. It’s all right. I’m moving on to bigger and better things. It’s just my time to go.” And you know that scene where Carl shoots Shane ... I was in part of that scene [at the end], and when Carl walks up and Rick is huddling over Shane’s body, I’m looking at Rick, and he is crying. Tears are coming down his face, and I just start crying again. John Bernthal is an amazing man. He’s my favorite.
That was tough to watch. I’ve read a lot of the comics, and I remember thinking, “I wonder when they’re going to kill off Shane, and I wonder how they’re going to do it” because I think in the comics, a zombie bites him, right?
AW: No, Carl actually shot Shane saving his dad.
SW: And they shoot him early on.
AW: Carl’s first kill was killing Shane in the comics.
That’s right. And Lori was killed differently in the TV show than in the comics.
But I liked it better in the TV show. It was a lot more emotional.
SW: I knew that scene was happening. I knew all of that was going on, and even watching it on the big screen, everybody was like, “Ugghh … Lori,” and I was breaking down because you know the actors and you think, “What if that really happened?”
Alex, you ate Lori, didn’t you?
AW: Yeah. I did.
Why don’t you talk about that?
AW: I don’t bring it up in normal conversation ... “Oh, by the way, I ate Lori.”
TG: You might not know, but I’m kind of a big deal. I ate Lori on a little show you may have heard of.
AW: So, I get there, and everyone is just very hush-hush, and they directed me toward the makeup trailer, sat me down and were like, “All right, are you ready for this?” And I’m like, “Yeah, yeah, I’m ready.” And then they start showing me the fat suit, and I’m like, “Say what?” And they start putting it on me. And then three and a half, almost four hours into the makeup process, I still don’t know what I was going to be doing, and Kevin Weisner, one of the makeup artists, is like, “You still don’t know?” and I’m like, “No. Nobody’s told me a thing.”
And so he whispers in my ear .... and I’m like, “Whaaattt? No way.” And then I got out of the trailer, and Andrew Lincoln walks up and shouts, “Is this the zombie that ate my wife?” And I’m like,“Uh-oh.” This was the first time working with him intimately, face to face. And he said, “You know, I was thinking that for the scene, if it would be OK if I put my gun in your mouth.” And I said, “After finding out what I just did to your wife, go for it.” And so, we walked on set and did the scene, and it was brutal, but I had a lot of fun. But he was very apologetic, too, in between takes because he mentally lost himself, stayed in character emotionally. All of the crew had to pull him off of me after yelling, “Cut! Cut!” because he was just so lost in that moment. Even the crewmembers were grossed out after adding the final touches of hair to my mouth and all of the blood. And he stabbed me and punched me repeatedly. Everyone’s just gagging, and I’m just like, “This is awesome.”
There are only two more episodes left in season three of “The Walking Dead.” Make sure to watch Sunday nights at 9 on AMC.
Charlie Moss writes about local history and popular culture, including music, movies and comics. You can contact him on Facebook, Twitter or by email. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.