It's not every day I get to talk to a zombie, but with big love and extra special thanks to my friend Doree Anne, I not only got to chat with one, but I got to interview an actual, live (or, well, you get the idea) walker from The Walking Dead!
Specifically, William Sibley Hart aka the ankle biter in the season 3 premier of The Walking Dead (shown in the clip above, thank you, YouTube!). Being a former media chick in a not-too-distant past, I'm always fascinated by the process and the actors involved. Not only is William Sibley Hart an awesome guy, but he's deliriously interesting to chat with, so without further ado I turn it over to him!
What drew you to the part initially?
A few years back I was working for a large coffee company, yeah probably the one that just popped into your head. The Walking Dead was still shooting Season 1 and was filming nearby. As an avid book fan, I have read books on Cold Reading (think John Edwards), when a bunch of people came in talking enthusiastically about the zombie shoot, I picked up on a trend. Eventually Melissa McBride saunters in, sporting dog tags that said zombie #1 or something. I connected the dots and said something to the effect of “You must be with that movie shoot I keep hearing about, the zombie one.” She was of course taken aback, as I don’t believe we had even gotten to her order yet. This gets us chatting very quickly. She is really a very lovely woman. She suggested that I try to find my way onto the set. Well of course this piques my interest so I hunted out the show and immediately got sucked in and fell in love. Fast forward a year later, my philosophy teacher is incredibly hung over and just having us do a little reading quiz, then go. This was actually really fortunate, 'cause I had run into him while out at the bar, and I don’t think either of us were in good shape. With my new-found time off, I got on Facebook. I know, shocking, a college student on Facebook. I saw the rush call on Facebook, sent in my picture, and took a nap outside my next class. I’m sure I looked like a freaking hobo to people passing in the hall. Literally as soon as my professor started lecturing my phone went off. I yelled out a whoop, he was NOT impressed, showed him the email and bolted. I may have come back once, during the next two weeks. Season 2 finale was a lot of work, we were all out there 18+ hours a day, to over run the farm.
What were some ways you prepared yourself to play a walker?
To be honest, I totally bolted out the door, bag in hand before I even considered that. I was on set, after having to pause and wait for a herd of ~90 zombies, in full makeup and wardrobe tromp past. On set I befriended the people around me, who gave me the zombie school run down, AKA cheap condensation of the “official” zombie school. Seriously, don’t play me in cards, I have a wicked luck streak. That was the first time I had prepped, I think being hung over helped for the first day. I am fortunate enough to be an autodidactic learner (I learn better from self-study than from teachers) so being in the environment allowed me to adapt fairly quickly. Basically the same principle for how an immersion language course works. For myself, quite possibly due to the hangover I had during my first day on set, I kinda recreate, physically, a state of being really drunk. I find it helps create some disjointed movements in my gait, no particular pattern, speed, etc. For biting Hershel, this of course came to no use. As we shot it in segments, ending with the actual tendon pulling, I already had my contacts in by the time I was getting direction from Greg. this posed a unique problem as I couldn’t see much more than a general outline and bright patterns on clothing. A PA stepping in front of the light that was trained at me was what made getting direction possible. I spent 6 hours mostly blind, unless I knew the person by voice, I have no clue who I was talking to, all day. This was literally during angle change for the bite itself. What you saw in episode 3 had been declared to me as “rehearsal,” Kevin said he was gonna wait for the full run to pump blood, etc. With all the prosthetics on my face, I didn’t feel the gush I only noticed after I was “dead.”
Did you enjoy it?
Cacatne ursus in silvis? This is the latin phrase, does a bear shit in the woods. OMG, super 8000000x geekgasm. Words cannot begin to describe how amazing it has been to get paid to go have a blast on set. Sure the day may be painful, long, tiring, frustrating or any number of adjectives, but that is momentary discomfort and very fleeting. As an adrenaline junkie, the experience of having lots of guns fired at me (S2 finale), put in a burning building (inside the barn) etc is totally a dream come true. Honestly, I was shooting for a stunt upgrade, I told them they could totally light my jeans on fire, just let me drop my thermal undies first (it was 25 degrees out that night, I wore two sets). I’m a boy, you better believe that some of my stupid fire related shenanigans (read alot, most intentionally) got me light on fire. Really it’s a miracle I made it to 18, I think my folks lost money on a bet because of it. As I may have mentioned before, my name is Will and I’m an adrenaline junkie. That doesn’t make me smart, it just means I accept that I will die when it is my time and not a moment before. I choose to grab life by the balls and make it my.... Well you get the idea. I try to live with no regrets, if you always ask yourself what if.... it eventually turns in to what could have been. I think we can all agree that regrets suck, I prefer not regretting having tried it, and having learned a lesson from the pain (And no, i’m not a super scared up guy). I could literally write forever on this subject, it is worth every second of pain, every scratch, nick, burn, destroyed bed stuffs (the ears can literally hold makeup for weeks). If I never take an acting career further (I have a golden ticket, that doesn’t mean that the box I trade it for won’t be shit), or even if it blossoms into something, my experience will stick with me, I am still in awe that I have had the chance to be a part of it. Yup, that folks was another geekgasm. *lights cig*
What was your favorite experience on the set?
I get this question a lot, you’d think it would be easy to answer by now. Hard to pick a favorite moment from all the wonderful experiences I have had, and people I have met. Yup, this one gonna get me all geekgasmy again.
This question is like asking which one of your toes will you let me cut off and then trying to pick one. To be able to work with such legendary and talented folks is beyond an honor and leaves me dumbfounded and excited and giddy like a damn school girl. That being said, there are a few moments that stand out, predominately.
Folks, I don’t recommend not sleeping for two weeks and working almost non-stop. If you survive, you will have a myriad of memories, feelings, etc. As I mentioned before, it was really cold (I know we’re sissies in Atlanta, lived in a ski town for years. Big shout out to Flagstaff friends, y'all are family and I miss you), no one was prepared for the cold. I swear it was 25 in November, but tee shirt weather the rest of the damned winter. The first night of filming was arduous, especially for the lady zombies. I got jeans a shirt and a flannel shirt, many of them were in lady clothes, skirts, dresses, etc. The intensity of the cold surprised everyone, many of the girls were icicles. In between takes, Chandler’s (Carl) PA runs out to bring him a jacket and some hand warmers. Without missing a beat, this 11 year old boy turns to the closest shivering zombie, puts his jacket around her shoulders, and gives her the hand warmers. I don’t know about you, or your readers, but at that age I woulda put the jacket on, pulled out my gameboy (80’s baby represent) and ignored humanity till I had to do something. Ok, so maybe I was a brat and had a lot to learn, my mother is OCD down to the point that friends were basically chosen for me. Seriously, keep watch on that kid, he’s going to go far.
What was your least favorite experience on the set?
Honestly, the aches and discomforts and pain experienced become a proud badge. Ok, so sometimes the day gets long and frustrating, but holy shit... Come on... It’s THE WALKING MOTHER FUCKING DEAD *yeah my geekgasms are getting intense, this is a fun interview* It all boils down to being a fan that got to go and play Hollywood. Every time I step on to the set, even through the next half of Season 3 (you MAY see me in 12) I feel like the most popular girl in school cried and pleaded to have me as her date for prom. Every moment after is just the next best moment of my life.
How do you feel when you see yourself as a walker on TV?
I now know roughly what it would look like to be burned alive (inside the barn S2 Finale), shot from a distance and up close, execution style. While I may know what the scene looks like from my view (which if I’m lensed is highly lacking to non-existent), I don’t know where it’s coming, when, or how it looked on the monitor. The first time I saw the footage of biting Scott (Hershel. Pretty sure I nicked his calf in one of the sequential takes before the prosthetic, sorry dude) was as it aired. I figured that it would be towards the end of the episode, based off the amazingly, awesome prosthetic Kevin Wasner built (yes that man truly earned his Emmy), but had no clue it was their cliffhanger/shocker moment at the very end. Since I know a lot of the zombies, watching the show has become a recognize the zombie game. Seriously, it’s really hard, however, when posed as a drinking game, yell the name out and drink, none of the other zombies will play. I have posed this at several zombie get-togethers at bars and or houses for viewing parties. Speaking of which, if you live in Atlanta and plan on doing Diesel Filling Station, any premier or finale, buy your entry ASAP or go down before 3, they hit capacity at like 4:30.
When you're not a walker, what else do you like to do?
Everything and anything, I am a a student of life and live by the philosophy of I cannot make a decision without having some knowledge to base my opinion about. I don’t fear the unknown for I cannot fear something that I do not know if I would enjoy or not. I stick to fearing things I know suck.
Lately, I have been doing what I call an absorb phase. Through my role on the show, life has blown up. Bite a guy on the leg on TV and the rules change. Like G.I. Joe said, 'Knowing is half the battle'. I like to at least have a little something known before I just hand out my Golden ticket to any old scammer. The Google Fu is strong with me, as is my thirst for knowledge. If I lived in the Garden of Eden, I would have eaten all the damned apples in the entire place. Anyone (from my experience) denying the gift knowledge, has something to hide that I’m going to find out. Seriously, I went to boarding school for 2 years, I read almost the entire library. Absorb phases can be freaking ridiculous if I have the time to let go and soak in. Most of what I have been doing lately is drinking down books, suggested to me by Dave Vescio. If you saw the movie Hick, you watched him play the creepy pool shark in the bathroom (deliberately vague, I hate knowing spoilers and won't give any and ruin your fun). I have recently discovered the value of Twitter and have been enjoying chatting with fans worldwide, follow me @whart31, I try to reply to every comment, but it can be difficult. Social dynamics absolutely fascinate me, frankly, I think anyone that has to relate with another human being should have an interest in it. Ego is a really powerful thing, especially male ego, we can be bullheaded and stubborn but the day that is bad enough to smash the ego and send you into the self help section, will change the way you view the world. I have devoured books on topics ranging from body language, cold reading (mentioned prior), to just regular interactions, on top of people-watching in all environments. Funny story, my Anthropology professor, also was a people-watcher and not as subtle as he thought he was at 6’+ with huge Oakely sunglasses, wearing a very nice suit (different daily), walking around the Georgia State courtyard. I pulled him, second week of class, and asked him about it. He suggest I become an anthropologist. Frankly, there is too much to do and too little time to master it all, I am content with eating up as much info as I can about things that interest me. In another life I can pick just one and play with that, for now I am like a vampire, always thirsty for more.
Any additional comments?
Thanks for having me be part of the blog. I really dig the questions, got me deeply into my passion and even ripped more than a few geekgasms outta me. *lights another smoke* I really gotta quit these things, anyone got suggestions for what helped them and wants to be a part of my team fuck (can I say that here?) being a slave to tobacco/save me lots of money by changing my tobbacco to none, hit me @whart31 or on my fan page at www.facebook.com/WilliamSibleyHart