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‘The Walking Dead’ Cast Reminisce About Their First Days on Set

The 100th episode celebration for The Walking Dead continues as more and more amazing behind the scenes content and commentary are coming out nearly every day. EW recently spoke with a majority of the active cast to take a trip down memory lane and revisit what their first day on set was like. Spoiler alert – it was hot!

Check them out below!

He continued: And then I remember just dripping in sweat and everybody seeing the rushes apparently and it just looked like we were in a shower. So the execs from AMC came down and said, ‘Where’s the makeup?’ And they all came in suits. And within about three minutes they just went, ‘Okay, there’s no makeup on this show. It’s too hot.’

He continued: Also, he couldn’t drink from a cup because of the prosthetics that he was wearing, and it was quite a long scene outside the house. I’m not even sure a lot of it made the cut, but eventually, we replaced it with a dummy rather than have a real person lie down in the heat, because it wasn’t the right thing to be doing to people. It was a lesson learned very, very quickly that along with everything else, we are also working both in and against a quite brutal environment at times.

She continued: Just a little anxiety because I felt I was being thrust into somebody else’s world and I wasn’t quite sure what it was. I enjoyed the day thoroughly, I do remember that very well. And I was excited to see the actors that were going to be working on the show — just observing a whole lot and not knowing anything about where this character was going. Didn’t know the backstory too much. I didn’t know much of anything.

He continued: I just had so much fun because I loved zombie games and all that stuff, so getting to see zombies in real life — that was the first really fun experience that I had on the set.

He continued: ‘Cause he was a zombie and I’m like [confused expression], ‘Hey, hi. How are you?’ And then he’s like, ‘Hey, it’s Greg!’ And I’m like, ‘Oh!’ I didn’t recognize him at all and then I had to come out and throw the squirrels the first day, so there’s this string of squirrels and I was like, ‘Do you guys want like an underhanded throw? Or should I kind of throw the squirrels like this?’ But what I remember most about the first day was trying to figure out who Daryl was and meeting all these people and trying to figure out where he fits in. I was super insecure and super nervous. And everyone was like, ‘Oh, who’s this new kid?’ I remember the scene where I come up and I yell at Merle, I’m like, ‘Merle, we got squirrels, let’s do ‘em up!’ And they say, ‘We locked your brother on the roof.’ And I remember turning around and seeing all these faces looking at me as the new kid in school. It made me so insecure that I kind of threw everything that way and didn’t look up much and didn’t really look everybody in the eyes. I was kind of like, ‘Don’t look at me.’ And I was like, oh, that’s who Daryl is. He’s got such a chip on his shoulder. He doesn’t think anybody likes him so he plays everything like he doesn’t look at you — unless he’s screaming at you! So that’s kind of how I found that character day 1. And then I just ran with it.”

She continued: I can literally remember standing in that living room of that house we shot in, and it was a real house. I remember the feeling of tension and not knowing what was coming and it was like a train was on its way and you weren’t going to stop it.

She continued: And they’re taking so much care of me and I’m thinking, I’m fine, but let them do their thing, because they just know how to handle everything. They were nervous for me. They tried to ease me into this whole thing. But the funny thing was, there were some guys out somewhere with very long lenses apparently, so there was a concern that the Michonne look would come out before they had planned for it to come out. I was being walked around with umbrellas and everything and it was so funny. I had just come from New York theater land to cover-her-up-as-she-walks-down-the-path. So it was a very interesting first day, but I instantly felt like I was with people who were pursuing excellence and were also really awesome people and a good family.

She continued: So when I first got there, Steven came and was like, ‘Hey, I’m Steven. If you need anything, here’s my number,’ and he just took me under his wing. It’s just been a really wonderful experience and such a joy to be on this show from the moment I got here and such an integral part of my life. I’m just so grateful I got the experience.

He continued:  And I remember just as nervous as I was, he was the one that first set me at ease. So we get into a van at the airport and then we get to set and it’s hot as hell. I’ve never experienced anything as hot as that. It was just miserable. It was wet. I’m wearing jeans and I’m thinking, this was a mistake. I was told to wear jeans because they were shooting in a field, and there’s bugs everywhere, and I’m just like, what have I gotten myself into?

She continued: And I remember thinking, f—k. It’s weird being characters from the comic book and it made me so nervous because everyone was waiting to see what we were going to look like in costumes together. Then that’s how I felt when Negan came, and I remember thinking, Wow, this is what they were thinking then when Abraham’s Army came. I’d never played a comic character before and so there’s these expectations and it made me really nervous, but it made me also really excited. God, was I scared s—tless. I was scared!

He continued: I remember having that kind of surreal moment where I was just watching these guys, and just invested in their journey less than 14 hours ago, and now I’m a part of it. I’ve got to remember that I’ve got a job to do here, I can’t be spectating because now my TV has come to life in front of me. And I also remember that I had to do this big emotional breakdown later in the day where Gabriel confessed in the church. And I remember crying really heavily, and I remember the snot coming out of my nose, and feeling like, well, he’s messy, you know, don’t be vain. And then Andrew, saying afterwards, ‘Full snot on the first take. Wow.’ And I remember feeling very proud of myself.

He continued: And then after meeting Andy, I met Josh and Michael. They came over and were like, ‘Hey, I heard you’re the new guy on set. Let us know if you need anything, and if you do, you can just go talk to Andy.’ I was like, cool, good to know these are going to be the smartasses of the group, and they eventually, of course, became two of my best friends in the show.”

He continued: And I was like ‘Oh my god, dude! I’m so sorry!’ I was like, Oh my god, I just pissed off Norman, I’m getting f–king fired. It was great though. In the midst of everything, he was awesome and it was a really welcoming set, but I was also a f–king nervous wreck the whole time. But that moment stands out because I was like, Okay, I’m in it, I’m doing my job, everything is going well — just don’t press the gun against Norman’s head again.”

She continued: That was my first scene on my first day, and I remember Andrew was so kind, and he walked all the way over into that house and just introduced himself to me and that kind of made me feel more at home.

He continued: And then as far as my job went, the first scene where I said lines is where I meet Andy and Norman for the first time, and my voice was definitely a little bit more high-pitched and breathy because I hadn’t acted in a while at that point — partially on purpose and partially because I was waiting for the right role and so I hadn’t been on camera for about a year. And then we shot that first scene where I jump out in front of Andy and Norman and the director had to come over and be like, ‘Okay, Tom, calm down a little bit.’ I was like, Oh, my god, I know how to do this. I’ve been doing this job for years! But the extremity of the situation took over a little bit and I was a little excited I think.”

He continued: But I decided just to test the space and go for it. And I went back in for take two and closed the door and the next thing I knew, the door is flying open and Andy jumps into my arms and hugs me and lifts me up saying ‘I’m so glad you’re doing this!’ And I watched the way Andy did that with a guy that just had one line and that was the only episode he was in. And I watched him go over and throw an arm around him and make him feel included and a part of the process. I just can’t even begin to tell you how rare that is. He sets the tone from the top and it just filters all the way down. Andy is like our little hero.

He continued: It’s the times in between when you’re waiting around and you’re having lunch and all of a sudden you’re having a heart to heart. Sonequa, I had a wonderful chat with her. I was like, oh my god, she’s an amazing woman! And then two hours later, four in the morning, you’re chatting with Josh. You’re like, oh my god. He’s such a great guy! It just felt really great. I never went to a summer camp, but it was that type of feeling like, wow, you’re in this amazing group of people. Oh, and you get to act? Cool!

He continued:  I walked out of the makeup and hair trailer thinking, Holy s–t, I really don’t know what’s about to happen to me. But there’s one moment that I’ll never forget and it’s right before literally the first shot that we took. I was standing next to Lennie James, we were corralling those pigs in that dilapidated old gas station, and my wife said to take a moment, look around, and remember what’s happening and take a moment to enjoy it. There was this quiet right before they released all the pigs, and it was just me and Lennie. And I stopped for a second and I’m standing there just quietly. He’s looking off. I’m looking off. I look at him and I said, ‘Lennie, it’s my first shot.’ And he says, ‘Welcome to the family, man.’ And the next moment the pigs come rushing towards us and we go running off, and it’s one of the best feelings ever.

Related:

‘The Walking Dead’ Season 8 Premiere and 100th Episode Review: ‘Mercy’

New York Comic Con Photo Roundup: ‘The Walking Dead’ panel at Madison Square Garden

‘The Walking Dead’ Premieres Season 8 Scene that Mirrors the Pilot Episode

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Casey Perriccio

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Casey is a TV junkie currently living in Raleigh, NC. She studied Writing & Media Communication at James Madison University (go dukes!) and currently works in the pharmaceutical field. Constantly wanting to talk about television and learn more about her favorite shows led her to discovering the joy of recaps. From there, she combined her love of TV and writing to become a recapper for FanFest.