The Walking Dead is a hit show. There isn’t really anyone who could argue that at this point as it’s one of the most watched television shows on the air. The fact that it’s a show about the zombie apocalypse is seriously impressive, as a lot of work goes into pulling that off. Between the bleak setting, the gore and the zombie makeup, there is a lot of effort that goes into making the show believable.
While finding out the behind the scenes secrets can sometimes ruin the magic of your favorite show or movie, we think the opposite is true for The Walking Dead. Learning just how much work goes into getting everything just right can make a diehard fan love the show even more. I mean, to find out just how they do the large-scale zombie scenes is pretty impressive. Zombies aside, the humans on the show also undergo extensive training to order to use their weapons. How much detail goes into the show from everyone involved is seriously impressive.
Below are 16 behind the scenes secrets that we’re betting will make you love the show even more. You’ll find out just how many actresses have played Judith on the show, and spoiler alert: there’s been quite a few.
16. The Cast Trains With SWAT
The cast doesn’t just look like they can shoot their weapons; they actually can shoot their weapons. Not only do they regularly go to shooting ranges, they also train with SWAT and military experts to learn how to shoot the variety of weapons on the show. By working with professionals, they learn the difference between shooting a hand gun, a rifle and a machine gun. This way they can properly act like they are shooting the particular firearm on the show.
On days when they shoot large scale fight scenes, like the showdown with The Governor, a gun trainer will come to the set to make sure everything goes smoothly and looks as accurate as possible. So, while the actors are acting, they’ve also learned about as much as a civilian can learn about firing these weapons. Perhaps that’s why Rick looks so damn comfortable with his gun in his hand.
15. But, SWAT Was Called On Merle
Apparently, SWAT and The Walking Dead cast and crew weren’t always tight. When they were filming Merle’s scenes for season one, SWAT was called on them. People thought that Merle was actually a sniper firing his gun off of a high rise building. Of course, since people were not yet introduced to The Walking Dead or Merle, we can’t blame them for thinking that Merle was a threat. Quite frankly, most of the time on the show he still looked threatening, especially with his blade-hand.
Once law enforcement arrived, the cast and crew explained what was going. We can all praise our lucky stars that the situation didn’t escalate into something more tragic. Had it gone another way, The Walking Dead may have never even made it to air.
14. They Use Several Different Versions Of Blood
Considering just how bloody the show is, the amount and variety of fake blood used shouldn’t necessarily surprise anyone. Apparently, the crew has a giant blood kit, with all the different types of blood in separate bags. The different styles of blood if used to differentiate characters. For example, zombies and humans have a different color red blood. In all honesty, it looks pretty much the same to me, but what do I know?
There’s also a difference in the color or blood for older zombies and newer zombies. Generally, the older the zombie, the darker and thicker the blood. The fact that this much attention is paid to what zombie gets what type of blood may support the theory that all zombies are decomposing. Taking that theory one step further, zombie may, in fact, die out on their own. Hey, one can only hope, right?
13. Extras Don’t Make The Walker Noise
On the show, every walker makes the same growling, hissing, hungry zombie sound. These sounds are actually not made by the extras playing the zombies but rather added in during post production. In fact, the extras are told to remain silent. Knowing that, set must be a pretty weird place. There are hoards of extras playing zombies, but they are all dead silent. That actually may be creepier than the show.
Not only can the extras not talk, but they can’t blink. They are specifically told not to blink and if an extra does so happen to blink (because they are only human), it’s edited out. Seriously, if you go back and watch TWD, you’ll notice that the zombies never blink. This makes sense, as the undead don’t have a reason to moisten their eyeballs.
12. There Have Been 16 Judiths
All the baby Judiths ever. How have a whooping 16 actresses played the same character? Well, because of the strict laws for having a baby on set, they usually cast twins to play Judith and the role is often recast. That is how a whooping 16 actresses have been baby Judith.
In season three, Adelaide and Eliza Cornwell started the season playing baby Judith, then passed the torch to Loudyn and Leighton Case. That’s four actresses in season three alone. In season four, Judith had an ever bigger role with the whole Lizzie and Mika plot. Lizzie and Mika rescue baby Judith from the prison but then Lizzie puts Judith’s life in danger, y’know because Lizzie is crazy and thinks zombies are her friends. During this season, three sets of twin played the role.
In season five, two more sets of twins played the role and in season six, just one set of twins played the role. With the revelation that Judith is actually Shane’s baby (or so Rick really, really believes) we wonder if they will cast babies who look just a touch more like Shane in season seven.
11. Lauren Cohan Lost Her Voice On Set
When Alexandria was overrun by zombies in season six, Maggie stood stranded on the watch tower. With zombies forcefully shaking the post, Glenn sees his wife and their unborn baby in danger and Glenn does what Glenn does best – he rescues someone with disregard for his own life. He screams and draws the zombies away from Maggie, all while putting his own life in jeopardy.
Seeing Glenn swarmed by zombies, Maggie then starts screaming to draw the zombies away from him. It’s literally like a tug of war distracting the zombies to save the other because the pair loved each other so much. While filming the scene, Lauren Cohan (Maggie) completely lost her voice from screaming so much. They actually had to record her yelling in post-production and add it into the show.
However, this was not the scene that almost made Cohan quit. When she got the script for the episode in which she gives Lori a C-section, Cohan told Steven Yeun (Glenn), “I have to leave the show. I don’t think I can do it.” We can’t fully blame her. While many gruesome scenes have come and gone, that scene does stand out as one of the goriest, most emotionally-hitting scenes in the show’s history. We’re glad she stayed on the show, though.
10. Sasha’s Weapon Is The Best Zombie Weapon
According to Joe Sanders, the property master for the show, Sasha is rocking the best zombie killing weapon on the show. He explained that in a perfect situation, you would kill a zombie quietly and before it was close enough to eat you alive. Yup, those two factors sound just about right to us.
While most guns corner the market on killing zombies while they are far away, they are loud and will draw other zombies to the area. Michonne’s katana corners the market on the silently part but she has to get within her sword’s distance of a zombie to off them. Being that close to a zombie makes you vulnerable. The weapon of all weapons is Sasha’s long range sniper rifle. It both takes down zombies from a distance and is silent. The best of both worlds. The only real issue is the whole running out of bullets thing.
9. The Governor’s Weapon Was The Worst Zombie Weapon
The Governor was a jerk for several reasons. One reason was that he killed Hershel, who was the sweetest father in the world. We had all the tears for that one. Another reason Governor was a jerk is because he had the absolute worst zombie weapon.
A rapid fire gun is not your best defense against a zombie for several reasons. Spraying rapid fire bullets at humans will have an effect… uh, likely death. However, spraying bullets at zombies is wasteful, as only a shot to the head will take them out. It is more effective to line up and fire a single direct shot to the head so as to take out the zombie, rather than waste bullets by hitting their stomachs, chests, arms and legs. They are also loud and waste precious bullets.
8. The Cast Has Death Parties
Lauren Cohan spilled the beans on this odd tradition while she was on Jimmy Kimmel Live. Whenever a character is killed off the show, the cast and crew have a death party. Yup, they celebrate/mourn their fallen character and fellow actor. This makes sense, as characters are killed off left and right. Some actors are only with the show for a few episodes while others, like Steven Yeun, survive several seasons – six whole seasons in Yeun’s case.
In order to throw off fans, who may see leaked photos of the set and figure out that they are saying goodbye to a co-star, the cast would make it a birthday party. Yes, with a fake birthday cake and all. Of course, since Cohan totally gave away their fake birthday party secret on Jimmy Kimmel, they may have had to come up with another way to celebrate their death parties. Whatever the case, the sweet camaraderie of the cast is definitely one of the things that makes the show so enjoyable.
7. How They Pull Off The Large Scale Zombie Scenes
In the large-scale zombie scenes, there can be seemingly thousands of zombies. Directing the amount of extras needed for these scenes is difficult in and of itself. It’s even more challenging when you consider the fact that all of these extras have to be zombified too.
In order to efficiently do makeup for hundreds of extras, a spray tan tent is set up, where extras would get the zombie look spray tanned on. Of course, this wouldn’t include the elaborately gory look of some zombies. Only a few extras would sit down to have their makeup extensively done.
In these scenes, the extras with all the special effects makeup on would be front and center, while the extras looking less zombified (aka spray tanned into a zombie) would be staged in the back. It’s also edited it a way so that the audience cannot pick out which members of the herd look more human or more zombie. The camera usually pans across the groups, so as to not dwell on specific zombies unless their special effects makeup is done well.
6. They Shoot On 16mm Film
Most things are digital nowadays. Even television and film has adapted to the digital age and drifted away from the once common practice of filming on actual film. The Walking Dead is one of the few shows still shooting on film and it actually makes a ton of sense as to why they go the extra mile to do that. Being shot on 16mm film gives the show its natural gritty look, helping establish the tone through the look. It also allows the special effects makeup to be more believable, as it’s not the high definition digital image.
Because they shoot on film, there is not much room for messing up. While shooting something digitally only requires digital storage space, shooting on film requires actual rolls of film, which can be very costly. When they are doing a scene, they do not have an endless amount of takes to nail the scene. This means the actors truly have to bring their A game.
5. Robert Kirkman Designed Michonne’s Katana
Being that Michonne’s katana is one of the most iconic weapons on the show, it’s not at all surprising that Robert Kirkman took the time to help design the sword himself. The prop team had brainstorm a red hilt, which would be more practical for cleaning, as the red would mask any leftover fake blood. Robert Kirkman, however, wanted the hilt to be white. Upon hearing this, the props team reworked their idea.
In the end, the props team went with a white eel skin wrapping, as the eel skin wouldn’t absorb any liquids like fake blood. Apparently, the eel skin makes the sword extremely easy to clean. Of the katana, Sanders has said, “I think, honestly, I was just looking at the sword yesterday and I was thinking ‘Wow with some polishing and some cleaning we could take that back to almost brand new!’ just by on the design of the build and the sword.”
4. There Are Three Versions Of Every Weapon
Every single weapon seen on the show has three different versions. There is, first, the real version of the weapon. If it’s a gun, it’s obviously not loaded with bullet because safety and stuff. The second version is plastic, which is lighter than carrying an actual gun around all day. The plastic props still manage to have the look of the actual gun or sword to the camera, without the weight. The third version is a rubber version, mostly used for fight sequences. Whacking someone across the face with a real and plastic gun would kind of hurt.
3. Rick Only Uses The Same Colt Python Gun
Rick only has one gun and it’s the Colt Python .357 Magnum. In regards to the actual gun itself, some firearms journalists have called it the finest production revolver ever made. This may explain why Rick loves it so much. Oddly, this is not his signature weapon in the comics. In the comics, he does use this gun, but he does not use it every single time.
On the show, not only does Rick only use that exact gun, but he also only uses the real version of that gun every single time. Perhaps this is why Rick always looks like the badass of all badasses.
This did change around season five, though. Before going to Terminus, Rick hid a bag of weapons in the ground. One of these hidden weapons was his Colt Python. During the escape from Terminus, Rick did use other weapons. In the most recent episode of TWD, Negan confiscated all of Alexandria’s firearms. One of the guns handed over was Rick’s Colt Python. If you rewatch the episode, you can physically see him hand it to Negan. If Rick stand up to Negan, he’ll likely have to use a firearm that isn’t his trusty gun, since Negan has it in his possession.
2. Daryl’s Tattoos Are Norman Reedus’s
Norman Reedus basically is Daryl Dixon and his tattoo kind of proves it. In a scene between Merle and Daryl, Daryl’s shirt rips. This exposes his back, which is covered in scars from his father’s abuse, something Merle suffered as well. The scars were added from special effects makeup. However, the tattoo of two demons was simply Normal Reedus’s.
The fact that the tattoo on his back is of two demons, it seems like something Daryl would actually get inked on himself. Especially considering the fact that his character bears scars from his father’s abuse on his back, having two demons on his back is bit poetic. It was just a lucky coincidence that Reedus’s real life tattoos worked so well for the character, but like we said, Norman Reedus kind of is Daryl Dixon.
1. Greg Nicotero Appeared As A Zombie
Greg Nicotero is who everyone can thank for all the gruesome special effects makeup. He is also a producer and director of the series, but he doesn’t let the extras have all the fun. Nicotero has appeared as a walker on the show in four different episodes.
In season 1, episode 3, Nicotero was the walker eating the deer Daryl had shot. This scene was out introduction of Daryl Dixon, who really pissed that the zombie had spoiled his deer. He even asks the group if maybe the deer is still good, to which the group is obviously like nah. In the next episode, Nicotero appeared again as the zombie that bit Amy, Andrea’s little sister. He also appeared as a walker in Woodbury during season 3.
His last (as of right now) zombie appearance on the show came during season 6, episode 3. When Glenn and Nicholas are stranded on the dumpster, you can clearly see Nicotero’s zombified self looking up at them. We’re guessing that Nicotero gets to pick which zombies he wants to be, as he’s played a few memorable zombies.
Can’t get enough of The Walking Dead? Don’t worry, us too: The 15 Best TWD Theories Every Fan Should Know, 20 Behind The Scenes Photos From TWD That You Have To See, 16 Times The Walking Dead Ruined Our Lives, 17 Seriously Hot Photos of The Walking Dead’s Christian Serratos.