Halloween may be over but there are still plenty of spooky creatures wandering around Senoia, about 45 miles south of Atlanta. Michelle Flanagan-Helmeczy is one of them. The actor is one of the zombies, a.k.a. walkers, in “The Walking Dead,” the post-apocalyptic horror show on AMC.
The hit series, now in its fifth season, was first filmed in Atlanta but has since taken its flesh-eating crew to Senoia, where Flanagan-Helmeczy also happens to live. Playing a walker is a little tougher than you might think. Actors even have to go to zombie school.
“Walkers have no brains,” says Flanagan-Helmeczy. “You basically have to learn how to not think.”
Q: You play a zombie?
A: Yes however true “Walking Dead” fans know that we are called walkers.
Q: How long have you been a walker?
A: Since the very first episode of season one. If you haven’t seen the show, you have to watch the first one. It sets up the entire storyline.
Q: What does your character do?
A: I wander around aimlessly, hoping to find some fresh meat to chow on. That is pretty much what all the walkers do.
Q: Have you had a big moment?
A: A few, but predominantly, in season two, I ran after two of the main characters, Shane and Otis, in the school hallway. The scene was featured all day in the commercials and in the preview and, of course, in the episode.
Q: Did you always want to play a zombie?
A: It wasn’t something I always imagined I’d do. The show is based from a comic book so growing up I always imagined I’d either be Veronica or Betty from the Archies. However, I did love “Tales from the Crypt” comics, so maybe it was deep down inside me after all.
Q: What possessed you to audition?
A: When they posted the details, they didn’t say, “Try out to be a zombie.” They were searching for certain age and size ranges. I figured I’d check it out and see what it was all about. Turned out they needed some skinny people they could make look emaciated. The walkers have gotten progressively skinnier and skinner each season because they have been wandering around a long time.
Q: You had to go to zombie school?
A: Yes I did. They showed us how to walk. If a chair is in front of you, for example, a zombie wouldn’t go around it because they don’t have any common sense. I had to learn how to fall over something, get back up and/or walk through something. The school was pretty basic that first season but it’s much more elaborate now.
Q: You are so attractive in real life. You are really an ugly zombie. Do you scare yourself?
A: Thank you. Actually, sometimes you forget you have your make-up on. When we were shooting at the school, I walked by one of the windows and I saw my reflection and thought, “Oh my gosh.”
Q: How long does it take to do your makeup?
A: The makeup staff has various stages. But, my longest session took two hours, which entailed prosthetics from the upper chest on up. That’s really not too bad.
Q: Does everyone in Senoia know that you are on the show?
A: The downtown is a small — basically two blocks. The majority of people basically know. There are some who still don’t.
Q: What do your kids think about you being a walker?
A: My daughter is 18 and she couldn’t care less. My son he is 16 and he is more open to it. He has helped me out with different promotional events. He can schmooze and talk to the fans. His friends think it is cool.
Q: Do you dress up like a normal person for Halloween?
A: I just throw together whatever I can find in my box of costumes. There was only one time that I dressed up like a walker — and it wasn’t even a scary one.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.