* If you have to ask, you probably aren’t a fan of zombies.
As many friends, family members and former colleagues know, I tend to become somewhat obsessive about selected movies and television series. I’ve even wondered if perhaps I suffer from Asperger’s light. The good news is that although others may worry about me, I know I’ll get over my fixation, if only to move onto the next one.
For example, when visiting Warner Brothers Studio several years ago, I was delighted to find a collection of items from the Harry Potter movies. I was less than pleased, however, when I realized as I ran from Hermione’s Yule Ball gown to Tom Riddle’s diary pierced by a Basilisk tooth to Horace Slughorn’s pajamas, that not only could I identify each and every of the 100-plus props on display, I also knew which scene in which movie they were featured. Surely this kind of dedication could have been better applied to learning Latin or building Habitats for Humanity.
Firefly is another series I became, shall we say, fond of. In addition to knowing all the famous lines (I swear by my pretty floral bonnet I will end you), I read anything regarding Firefly that I could get my hands on. Turns out I’m not alone in the ‘verse because there’s lots of literature. One day my boss threatened an intervention, so I had to stop talking about Firefly. At work, at least.
My visit to Albuquerque was inspired by Breaking Bad. So naturally, as a fan of The Walking Dead (TWD), I took not one but two zombie tours when I was workamping outside of Atlanta.
Sidenote about Workamping: Workamping is when you volunteer to work for an organization, typically an RV park or national park, in exchange for a free full hookup (water, electric and dump). I spent 3 months volunteering with the Army Corps of Engineers in Lake Alatoona, which is outside Atlanta. I was in charge of posting the required notices on the bulletin boards at all 30 beaches and docks. It took me a while to learn the ropes but here’s some inside advice: Honor Boxes. Honor Boxes are the locked containers that hold the envelopes you fill out and place money inside of when a ranger is not present.
My workamping job provided a campsite in exchange for 20 hours of work a week per site, which meant that married couples who were both able-bodied needed to put in only 10 hours a week each. They quickly caught on that both of them could sign up for the Monday Honor Box pick up route. Given the size of the lake and the far apart locations of the boxes, they easily knocked off 16 hours of their 20 weekly hours in one day. On those rare occasions that the Honor Box assignment wasn’t taken by the hucksters (oops, I mean the married couples), I could put in 8 hours in one day.
But back to the zombies: As fans of the show know, the program is filmed in Georgia. Season 1 was filmed almost entirely around Atlanta. Both the tours I took were led by zombies. Although neither was in costume, they did provide guidance on how to walk like a zombie. It’s harder than it looks, which is why the extras have to attend Zombie School. Those who do well receive an “A” and are placed in the “A” Group, which means full makeup, prosthetics, and maybe even a close up or two. The B group gets placed in the background with a little makeup while the C group is in the far background. All they get is dirt thrown on them. Those who earn a “D” or, even worse, an “F”, are let go. I’m proud to state that both my tour zombies were “A’s.” My Tour 1 zombie (Z1) was the one who fell on Andrea during the big attack at Herschel’s Farm. Z2 attacked Michonne when Merle had her shackled to a motel post while he was hotwiring a car and set off its alarm. Z2 noted that he was given leg protection, which didn’t help much since Michonne’s blows landed on his middle. Apparently in addition to walking funny an actor seeking a zombie role also needs strong abdominal muscles.
I learned from Z1 that, not surprisingly, it was fairly easy to become an extra on The Walking Dead for Season 1. After the program’s popularity, not so much. In fact, the producers now post on Facebook but do not identify the show. There are, however, hints: They seek people who are very slim and have large eyes, thin faces and long necks. According to Z1, due to the volume of the response, the post is taken down only minutes after it goes up.
The sites I visited during Tour 1 included the Vatos camp; the department store where a furious Andrea threatens to shoot Rick (but neglected to release the gun’s safety); the fence and alley Rick and Glenn used to escape the walkers; the street where Rick ran into a hoard of walkers who attacked his horse; the street corner with the army tank; and the Jackson Street bridge, site of the camera shot of Rick riding a horse along the freeway to Atlanta. I use the Jackson Street Bridge photo as my picture on Gmail.
Most of these sites are shown below. If this site works as I hope it does, the captions identify where the photos were taken.
Tour 2 took us to the town of Senoia, Georgia, an hour south of Atlanta, used for the Town of Woodbury run by the Governor. Sites included the building where Rick and the Governor met to discuss their communities’ fates, over a glass of scotch (or was it whiskey?); the drug store visited by Maggie and Glenn to replenish supplies; and the houses where Carl ate chocolate pudding and Rick ran into the Claimer thugs. (My goodness, who knew how harmless the Claimers gang would appear after Terminus, the Wolves and the Survivors. What with Rick and Michonne hooking up — repeat after me: HIGHLY UNLIKELY — and the Season 6 finale, I’m not sure how much more I can take of the show.)
To return to more amusing subjects, I asked Z1 about Dale’s RV. Turns out the producers bought an old Winnebago from an older local couple and — shocker — the rig gave them so much trouble that they had to stop using it! Talk about authenticity.
Sidenote About Zombies and Babies: As many fans know, the actor who plays Rick Grimes, Andrew Lincoln, is English and remains in character between takes. What you may not know, however, is just how this Englishman got the role of a Southern sheriff. The story as told by Z2 is that Lincoln sent in a tape to the producers that he recorded after being up all night with his newborn son. He had exactly the haggard look the producers were seeking. Upon hearing this, my son observed, “So what you’re saying is that having a baby is like surviving a zombie invasion and the end of the world.”