Few comic book to television adaptations have been as successful and widely acclaimed as The Walking Dead. Created by writer Robert Kirkman and artist Tony Moore, the long-running comic book series followed a group of characters trying to survive after a zombie outbreak engulfs the world. It's an engrossing and at times brutal read that's more about the way humans react in life and death situations than it is about zombies.
Since debuting in 2003, the comic has received plaudits from both industry experts and fans alike and became even more popular when a television adaptation was announced. First aired during 2010 on the AMC network, The Walking Dead has become a cultural phenomenon. Currently, in its eighth season the show treads a similar path to that of comic, albeit with a few major character and plot changes. What it does really well is illustrate human emotion and drama, keeping viewers in suspense about what will happen to each character as the show progresses. You never know who will be killed next, leading to fan speculation that rose to fever pitch after the season six finale. The Walking Dead is full of many twists and turns and there are just as many surprises and secrets behind the scenes. To shed some light on what goes on behind the camera here is a look at 30 dark secrets you didn't know about The Walking Dead TV series.
30 Walkers Deteriorate With Each Season
You may have noticed the show's title cards deteriorate with each season and this is also true of the walkers. It might not be easy to tell but the makeup crew have worked extremely hard to create zombies that are slowly decomposing with each season. If you think back to the first season most zombies are newly reanimated and still retain most of their body parts and look as healthy as one who is dead can. As each season has progressed so has the zombies decomposition.
Speaking with Tech Insider visual effects guru and executive producer Greg Nicotero said, “It’s definitely something that we try to push in terms of more skeletal [looks], sloughing off skin, missing noses, exposed ribs, exposed organs, all that stuff. Anything that we can do to further and continually suggests that these are walking, emaciated, decomposing corpses that have been wandering around in the sun, wandering around in the rain, wandering around in the elements for almost two years now.”
Although a normal body would begin to badly decompose within days, The Walking Dead isn't reality, but it's a credit to those involved for showing the slow deterioration of the walkers with each season.
29 Breaking Bad References
There's been a long-standing theory that the world of The Walking Dead is somehow connected to fellow AMC series Breaking Bad. The first clue appeared in season two when a closeup of Merle's drug stash revealed blue stuff in the bag, very similar to the substance Blue Sky Breaking Bad's Walter White, aka Heisenberg, created. In season six Merle's brother Daryl Dixon opened up to Beth Greene about his brother and disclosed, "Merle had this dealer. This janky little white guy," an apt description of Aaron Paul's Jesse Pinkman. The Walking Dead spin-off Fear The Walking Dead took things further with the midseason three premiere featuring the song "Negro y Azul: The Ballad of Heisenberg" playing in the background when Madison Clark entered a Bazar in Mexico.
The Walking Dead showrunner Dave Ericksen confirmed the addition of the song was a nod to Breaking Bad and its creator Vince Gilligan, only adding fuel to the fire Breaking Bad is a prequel. Whatever your thoughts it's kinda cool to think Walter White and his Blue Sky meth might be the reason for the zombie apocalypse.
28 Actress Serving 18 Years In Prison
The Walking Dead features hundreds of unarmed extras who don't get the credit they deserve, but one woman whose name will be forever remembered for the wrong reason is Shannon Richardson. An aspiring actress who had minor roles on The Vampire Diaries and Franklin & Bash, Richardson played a walker on a number of episodes of The Walking Dead and was even used in promotional material. Unfortunately, that's the extent of her acting career as not long after Richardson was arrested and sentenced to 18 years in prison for sending ricin-laced letters to President Barack Obama and New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg. She tried to frame her then-husband but got caught, with the mother of six entering a guilty plea to avoid life in prison.
27 Walkers Don't Make Any Noise
Watching a horde of walkers stumble towards the characters on screen is scary enough, but when you add the guttural howls and groans coming from their mouths it's down right frightening. What you might not realize is the noises they make don't actually come from the zombies themselves. When filming the actors playing the walkers move in eerie silence as they descend upon their victims. The sounds they emit are added in post-production, helping save costs on miking up every walker and having to stop shooting if someone were to cough or sneeze or there was interference from an outside source. No doubt this also pleases the cast and crew who would get creeped out and annoyed having to listen to zombie noises all day.
26 Jeffery Demunn Asked To Leave The Show
The initial six-episode first season of The Walking Dead was produced by veteran Hollywood writer, director, and producer Frank Darabont. With full control of the show, Darabont was able to hire people he had a great working relationship with, including Jeffery Demunn who was cast as the affable Dale.
During preparations for the second season, AMC announced Darabont would be leaving the show. While it wasn't clear why it created a little controversy with many of the actors taking Darabont's side, including Demunn. It's believed he asked to be written out of the show to show his loyalty and support for Darabont. After the dust had settled Demunn reconsidered his decision but by then it was too late as the scripts had already been written, including Dale's death.
25 Walkers Don't Get Paid That Much
Not long after the show premiered a 2011 Reddit thread by a former extra on The Walking Dead revealed how much she earned for working on the show. For two days work, she made around $600 and received a bonus cheque at the end of the year. A few years later another extra let slip his base salary was close to $64 an hour for an eight hour day, with a bonus payment for any stunts performed. To be honest, the money side of things doesn't sound too bad, but when you considering the hours in makeup along with standing around outside for most of the day waiting to shoot a few minutes of footage, I'm not sure it's worth the time. It would be about the experience of being on set and the possibility of interacting with the main cast, with the woman redditor calling Steven Yeun (Glenn) "a really awesome guy" and Andrew Lincoln (Rick) "very... British."
24 Multiple Types Of Blood Are Used
It's not hard to imagine the crew involved with The Walking Dead go through a heap of blood. With people getting attacked and bitten every episode buckets and buckets of it are used to make the grisly scenes as realistic as possible. But did you know that different types of blood are used for different actions? Humans and zombies all ooze different colours in the show, with recently animated corpses having a lighter colour and older and decayed zombies having a darker complexion. The lighting of a scene also effects the colour used and there are different thicknesses depending on if it is being sprayed or dripped. Some of the blood isn't even real and added in post-production by the special effects team. Of course, using all these different types of blood means the clean up is massive, with the crew using industrial cleaning solutions to make sure locations aren't left looking like attack scenes.
23 The Cast Throw Death Parties
As with any long-running television series, the cast of The Walking Dead have formed a tight-knit bond so it's always a sad time when a character is killed off. To help deal with people leaving the show the cast throw "Dead Day" parties instead of having a standard wrap goodbye. These parties are big celebrations where the cast hangout and enjoy each others company one last time with lots of food and drink. The production crew are known to disguise these parties as birthday celebrations, buying cakes from local bakeries and using birthday decorations to keep the gatherings secret from fans so they don't know which characters are on the chopping block. This is a pretty cool thing for the cast to do and no doubt makes it much easier to say goodbye without the fear of being exposed to fans.
22 Negan T-Shirt Pulled From Shelves
The Walking Dead merchandise is a big seller but one piece, in particular, caused some controversy when it hit the shelves. UK retail store Primark released a t-shirt featuring a picture of Negan's bat Lucile with the caption "Eney, Meeny, Many, Moe" on it. Anyone familiar with the show will understand this is the famous phrase he used when deciding who to kill at the at the end of season six. While it didn't include the offensive ending of the phrase, "catch a [redacted] by his toe," it was enough to upset one customer who complained to the retail giant.
It wasn't long before Primark received a host of complaints from concerned customers and the t-shirt was pulled from the shelves, with the store releasing a statement apologizing for any offense occurred. Despite this similar t-shirts can still be found online and at various retail stores.
21 Zombies Are Eating Pickled Ham
Throughout the series, there are many memorable deaths by zombies and we as viewers get to watch the stars of the show being eaten by the mass of undead roaming the earth. While it's often realistic enough we understand the actors aren't actually eating human body parts, so what is it they are chowing down on?
It turns out the crew uses pickled ham for body parts the zombies are eating. Although tasty, I'm sure after multiple takes the actors would eventually get sick of eating so much ham. Fun fact: in earlier seasons the ham was covered with BBQ sauce but the combination of sauce and vinegar was running the walkers makeup, so it's just pickled ham now.
20 Danai Guria Wasn't The First Michonne
One of the best characters in both the comics and the television series is the katana-wielding Michonne. After the loss of her son and the turning of her boyfriend Mike and his friend Terry, Michonne wandered the land with the two armless and jawless zombies in tow. Eventually, she made her way into Rick's inner circle and became a major character in the show. What many people don't know is the first appearance of Michonne in the 13th episode of season two isn't actually actress Danai Guria. Guria wasn't cast until the third season was announced, meaning an unnamed actress first portrayed Michonne, hence the hood hiding her face. Thankfully Guria has proven to be the right choice and done a tremendous job as Michonne, making the character her own.
19 Micheal Cudlitz Kept A Secret For A Year
One of the best things about The Walking Dead is every character is at the mercy of the scriptwriters. Throughout the eight seasons, major characters and fan favourites have been killed off without warning, making the emotional connection people have with them even stronger than most shows. While fans are often dismayed when major characters are killed, spare a thought for the actors who have to keep their death a secret, as was the case for actor Michael Cudlitz. Taking on the role of Sgt. Abraham Ford, Cudlitz did a great job of bringing him to the screen but had to hide his character's death from his family and friends for almost a year. Cudlitz had to continually tell people he was going away for work and kept his hair dyed red so as to not arouse suspicion. He did reveal in an interview with E!News he let his wife know as there was no way he could keep hanging around the house when he was supposed to be working without arousing suspicion.
18 Xander Berkley Caught Harassing Woman On Twitter
Well known character actor Xander Berkley plays the arrogant and selfish Hilltop Colony leader Gregory. Similar to the comic book version, Gregory has never endeared himself to fans of the show, particularly for his attempt at acquiring Maggie through a trade deal. It turns out Berkley is just as creepy as the character he plays on the show.
After finally following a fan who'd been continually asking him for a follow on Twitter, Berkley began sending her direct messages. They started innocent enough before Berkley began requesting nude photos of the woman and discussing his struggling marriage. He even told her she needs "a proper spanking" and that his favourite age of women was between 15-29, which is pretty disgusting considering Berkley is in his sixties and married with two young children. Despite the controversy, Berkley kept his job and his marriage and continues to star in other projects. You can read the entire Twitter exchange here if you so desire.
17 All Actors Attend Walker School
One of the most frightening things about The Walking Dead is how realistic the zombies are. The reanimated corpses walk, crawl and stagger their way through the show in search of human flesh, but did you know there is a particular way to do the zombie walk? Executive producer and effects mastermind Greg Nicotero created a special school for extras to learn and understand the movements required to be a Walking Dead zombie.
Talking with The Frame Nicotero detailed how he puts potential zombie actors through an extensive day-long course where they learn how fast to walk as a zombie, the best way to convey their character's personality, and how to come across as authentic. In the interview, he goes on to say he wants actors to be like "Boris Karloff in the Frankenstein makeup" but not just walking around with their arms outstretched. It might sound a little over the top but watching the show it's easy to tell Nicotero's school is working, with The Walking Dead featuring some of the scariest and genuine zombies ever seen on the small screen.
16 Negan Is Based On Henry Rollins
Negan is the current big bad of The Walking Dead and his portrayal by Jeffery Dean Morgan is as close to the comics as you can get, but what many people don't realize is the character of Negan is actually based on real-life legend Henry Rollins. In an interview with Forbes the singer, writer, actor, broadcaster, and spoken word performer revealed The Walking Dead artist, Charlie Adlard, had based the character on him. While he didn't elaborate if Negan was based on his physical appearance or temperament, he did go on to say he initially auditioned for the role and thought he'd be a shoo-in because of his likeness to the character. As it turned out he missed nabbing the part and Morgan was cast. Although I think Morgan was a correct decision in the long run, it would have been interesting to see what Rollins would have brought to the role.
15 Frank Darabont Accused AMC Of Ripping Him Off
When Frank Darabont was unceremoniously fired as the showrunner of The Walking Dead it created a storm of controversy that's continued to surround Darabont and the show going forward. In 2013 Darabont teamed with major talent agency CCA and sued AMC for $280 million, the amount he believes he lost in percentage profits. The original deal involved AMC getting another studio to produce the show and Darabont getting a percentage of the profits, but AMC decided to create the show themselves, meaning the profits went straight back into their own pockets. AMC wanted to see how the show would turn out before offering Darabont a solid percentage, but then fired him before he could receive his fair share. Darabont is still waiting to hear a verdict as the case continues to be discussed in the courts some five years since the lawsuit was filed.
14 SWAT Team Called On Micheal Rooker
Underrated actor Micheal Rooker is one of those guys you recognize from a bunch of great films but often don't recall his name. This all changed for Rooker with his appearance in The Walking Dead. His portrayal of the redneck Merle is a fan favourite but also had the residents of Georgia worried during the first season.
While shooting scenes on a rooftop in Atlanta Rooker was armed with a sniper rifle to pick off walkers on the streets, but nobody bothered to tell the public this. Concerned citizens called the local police and the SWAT team were called to investigate. Thankfully Rooker, the production team, and the SWAT guys managed to work out what was going on before things got too serious.
13 Sam Witwer Originally Had A Larger Role
American actor Sam Witwer is best known for his role as the vampire Aidan Waite in the American remake of hit British TV series Being Human. As well as that role he's featured in Battlestar Galactica, Dexter, Smallville, and provided the voice of Emperor Palpatine and the son of Darth Maul for a number animated Star Wars projects.
What many don't know is Witwer was an uncredited zombie on the first season of The Walking Dead. Witwer played a former soldier who attacked the main character, Rick Grimes, and was meant to have a major role before showrunner Frank Darabont was released. Witwer told Crave Darabont outlined a storyline revealing Witwer's characters background and how he ended up getting bitten and transforming into a zombie. Despite not getting the screen time he would have liked, Witwer's career is going well, having most recently starred in an episode of the fantastic science fiction series Philip K. Dick's Electric Dreams.
12 Truly International Cast
The Walking Dead is set in a dystopian America but many of the actors in the series don't actually hail from the land of the free. The most notable is lead actor Andrew Lincoln who plays Rick Grimes. Lincoln is English and got his start on a number of successful UK TV series and films before breaking out into the mainstream with The Walking Dead. Lincoln isn't the only English star to appear on the show, with David Morrissey (The Governor), Lennie James (Morgan Jones), and Tom Payne (Paul "Jesus" Rovia) to name just a few. Other members of the international cast include the Korean born favourite Steven Yeun (Glenn Rhee) and the newly cast Scot Pollyanna McIntosh (Jadis). It's a testament to the quality of actors and actress involved as well as the showrunners for employing the best no matter where they are from.
11 NBC And HBO Both Passed On The Show
Eight seasons in and still going strong (well, kinda) it's surprising to think The Walking Dead might never have got made after being knocked back by not one, but two major networks. During an interview at SXSW a few years back, executive producer David Alpert discussed how he first presented the idea to NBC who said the show would never get on the air. They persisted and sent a script to the network and shot a pilot episode but still couldn't convince NBC to take a chance. HBO were also offered the show but strangely passed because they believed the show would be too violent and featured too much gore. They obviously changed their mind when Game Of Thrones came around. Thankfully AMC took the show on and helped it become a resounding success.
10 Zombies Are A MacGuffin
While it's been established that zombies don't actually exist per se in The Walking Dead, another interesting secret is the undead creatures are used as a MacGuffin. Coined by English screenwriter Angus MacPhail and popularised by Alfred Hitchcock in the late 1930s, a MacGuffin is a plot decide that helps motivate the protagonists or move the storyline, such as briefcase in Pulp Fiction or the Rabbit's Foot in Mission Impossible: III.
The real enemy of The Walking Dead aren't the zombies, but the humans themselves. The dead are the MacGuffin used to push the story along as we watch how people react when the world goes to the pits, with characters like the Governor and Negan more evil and dastardly than the dead. Heck, even Rick and his group aren't clear-cut heroes as they have done some awful things. At least the zombies are just doing what they do, unlike the human characters who are the reason for much of the pain and suffering caused by the show.
9 Carol Was Supposed To Die In Season 3
When first introduced to Carol she's a meek and mild woman in an abusive relationship with her husband. After the death of her husband and daughter, Carol beings to transform as a person, becoming a strong-willed woman proficient with weapons who is one of Rick's most trusted confidants. But things could have all been very different for the character if not for changes in the script during the third season. T-Dog risked his life to save Carol and Carl, but it was originally going to be Carol who perished helping Carl and T-Dog escape. The writers didn't have any good ideas for her character progression but showrunner Scott Gimple believed they could do something with her, so she survived and went on to become one of the shows most important and long-lasting characters. I'm sure actress Melissa McBride was also pretty stoked the character survived
8 Scott Wilson Was Arrested During Season 3
Scott Wilson did a tremendous job playing the stubborn but likable Hershel Greene in the television series but found himself on the wrong side of the law in real life when he was pulled over for erratic driving.
In August 2012 Wilson was stopped by police around 2:00 am after they witnessed him driving 70 miles per hour and swerving all over the road. Wilson admitted to having a scotch and a wine at a local restaurant before he was breathalyzed, blowing 0.143 at the scene and then 0.151 when booked at Fayette County Jail. The then 70-year-old comically told police he wanted to do yoga instead of a sobriety test. Thankfully nobody was hurt during his indiscretion and Wilson's career seems to have gone on unaffected, with the actor completing the fourth season of The Walking Dead before his character was killed off and most recently being seen in The OA and Damien.
7 The Main Cast Don't Associate With Extras
You'd expect with such a massive crew everyone on The Walking Dead set sit together for meals but it turns out this is not the case. The extras and main cast are segregated during breaks but there is an important reason why this occurs. The producers of the show want to create distance between the walkers and the main actors so it's more realistic when they meet on the screen. The less they know each other the more frightening and impacting it is when the walkers are coming after the cast during filming. It's also been revealed while the main cast are living it up with a massive buffet on offer during meal breaks, while the extras are provided with spaghetti and salad as a reward for their hard work. I think I know which one I'd prefer.
6 Seth Gilliam Arrested Season 6
Scott Wilson isn't the only Walking Dead actor to run into trouble with the law during the shooting of the show. Seth Gilman, who plays Father Gabriel, was also pulled over by police for speeding and found himself in trouble for other offenses.
During May 2015 Gilliam was clocked doing 107 miles per hour by the police in Peachtree City, Georgia. After being pulled over officers noticed a smell on his breath and Gilliam admitted he'd had a few and before jumping in the car. Police searched his car and found more, leading to Gilliam to be booked for DUI and possession. Despite this controversy, Gilliam kept his job just like Wilson and was able to continue his career with the show.
5 AMC Keep The Tax For Filming In Georgia
One of the main reasons The Walking Dead is filmed in Georgia is because of the tax cuts offered by the Government. Along with a number of other states throughout the country, Georgia is home to shows such as Stranger Things and The Vampire Diaries because it's much cheaper for the studios to film there. These tax cuts are also part of Darabont's lawsuit against AMC, with the former showrunner stating the company were going to put the money saved due to the cuts back into the show's budget, but instead AMC kept the money for themselves. While this isn't an ideal situation for taxpayers, it's a well-known fact that without these tax cuts the film industry in Georgia would quickly disappear, having a massive impact on the economy and meaning the end of many television shows and films.
4 Showrunner Glen Mazzara Forced Out
After Frank Darabont parted ways with The Walking Dead Glen Mazzara was put in charge, but he lasted only one season before he too was given the boot. While the details are murky it's been alleged Mazzara was forced out by Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman. As well as being the man responsible for The Walking Dead universe, Kirkman also serves as an executive producer on the show. The rumor is he and Mazzara didn't get on with both having different visions of where the show was headed. Kirkman is reported to be very protective of the source material and is hesitant for major changes, causing friction between him and Mazzara.
When Mazzara officially left fellow showrunners Kurt Stutter (Sons Of Anarchy) and Shawn Ryan (The Last Resort) stood up for Mazzara and took shots at AMC, claiming the channel failed to give creative freedom to Mazzara and other showrunners on the network. While it certainly hampered Mazzara's career for a few years, he came back as the showrunner for last year's Damien, a series based on the horror classic The Omen.
3 Three Versions Of Every Weapon Used On The Show
There are many different ways to kill a zombie but the most effective is a headshot. While a gun is the preferred method, as the world descends into chaos there are fewer guns available for humans to use, so other items such as knives, swords, axes, and the like prove just as effective. As it turns out there are three versions of every weapon seen on the show.
Speaking with Tech Insider, property master John Sanders revealed, "Any weapon you see, doesn’t matter what weapon, we have at least three versions of it: at least a rubber, a plastic, and a real one." The rubber and plastic weapons are easy to clean and can be altered to look older while the third real weapon is used when the special effects team are called to help out. An example is Michonne's katana which is covered in green tape so the effects team can digitally alter it.
2 Stunt Actor John Bernecker Died On Set
One real-life tragedy that occurred on the set of The Walking Dead was the death of stuntman John Bernecker. While not a secret, it was a dark time for all involved when Bernecker died during a stunt gone wrong. Filming a sequence with Austin Amelio, who plays Dwight, Bernecker was to fall from a building onto a safety cushion, but missed the cushion. He suffered severe head trauma and passed away not long after.
Bernecker's girlfriend, a fellow stunt performer, talked with TMZ about the incident, saying she believed stunt performers shouldn't have to work with inexperienced actors. An investigation into Bernecker's death cleared all involved, citing the event as an unfortunate accident. The cast and crew paid tribute to Bernecker at a Comic Con soon after his passing while a foundation was set up by his mother allowing people to donate money.
1 Zombies Don't Actually Exist
One thing most people have noticed watching The Walking Dead is the absence of the word zombie. While the undead have been referred to as walkers and biters they are never actually called zombies, and the reason for this is very well thought out. Appearing as a guest on an episode of Conan creator Robert Kirkman explained the word zombie doesn't get used in the world of The Walking Dead's vocabulary because the creatures don't exist. His reasoning for this is if the characters didn't know what a zombie was, then they wouldn't know the best way to kill them or where they come from or what they are trying to do. Without zombies being referenced in popular culture, the characters of The Walking Dead literally have no clue as to what they are up against, meaning they aren't prepared in any way for the devastation that's to come. This is pretty ingenious from Kirkman but I must admit I prefer living in our world where we know what a zombie is, otherwise I'd have missed out on classic zombie films such as Night Of The Living Dead and 28 Days Later.