Monday, October 20, 2014

the matt interview: walking dead ed.

Annnnnd it's time!! 

This week I had the opportunity to sit down with Matt B., renowned extra from the Season 5 premiere episode of AMC's Walking Dead. Matt was understandably busy dealing with all of the press and paparazzi hounding him regarding his illustrious performance (that mostly did not make it past the cutting room floor), but he was kind enough to throw a bone to his wife this aspiring journalist and answer the questions that were burning on all of our minds.

For the sake, journalism...and ease of reading and stuff, I've combined/consolidated similar questions. To see all of the original questions and who asked them, please see the original post regarding his Walking Dead experience.

Also, I'm taking a lot of journalistic liberty (let's play a drinking game where you do a shot every time I use a form of the word 'journalism'- GO!) (you're drunk already!) and mostly summarizing the answers in my own words here. Writing down people's speech verbatim is exhausting. They don't pay me enough for all that.

How did you get to be an extra?

Not to brag or anything, but it's all thanks to his fabulous wife. Seriously.

Awhile back I started following a Facebook group called Extras Casting Atlanta. They film a lot of amazing shows and movies around Georgia now, and I'd heard that you could sometimes figure out what they were casting for based on what kind of extras they were looking for. Plus, it's downright funny sometimes- like this posting from last week:

A good example of a casting call I would not apply for...
So one afternoon in May I saw them looking for a '6 foot 2 male, dark hair, slim athletic build' for a shoot the next day. Sure sounds like someone I'm married to...and Matt happened to have the next day off of work. I emailed him and he thought it sounded like fun and sent in a few pictures and whatever other info they asked for.

They didn't get back to him until the next day, at which point they'd already filled that particular role- but they said "hey, we need some more folks for Walking Dead next week...would you be able to do that?"

Hmmm...let's see. Our favorite show. Matt has roughly twice as many discretionary paid days off as I do (meaning he has PTO to burn)...uh, yeah, he was available. After he replied that he was indeed interested, it started getting really fun. Over the weekend they sent several emails with all the (classified!) details about where to go, when to report (freaking early o'clock), what to wear (really old and dirty clothes and shoes, don't shave), what not to bring (phones, cameras), who not to tell (anyone, lest they sue you), and how not to act once you got there ("DO NOT BOTHER THE TALENT!").

So to summarize, really the only 'qualifications' that he needed to be an extra were that he was available on certain days and was willing to drive to Atlanta really early in the morning. 

How long did it take to get ready for your scenes (makeup, wardrobe, etc.)?

"On the first day, there were LOTS of extras, so it took awhile. We all had to line up, then go through these stations where they would look at your papers, see what your role was [Matt was a Terminian, or 'Termite,' as the insiders called it], and then get your sizes for pants, shirts, shoes, etc. Then I would put it all on, then they would look me over and decide they didn't like that shirt or whatever, so they'd have me change to a different one. A few times.

Then I would go to makeup and they would put dirt and 'sweat' all over my face and hair. Then I would go outside and they would put dirt and stuff on my clothes. All throughout wardrobe and makeup they are taking pictures over and over so that my dirt and sweat would be consistent when they reapplied it later (and the second day)- they would make notes on the iPad that there was a sweat spot on the left shoulder, stuff like that."

Probably the only selfie Matt has ever taken! This was one night after he got home from filming.
How many days were you there?

"Two- a Monday and a Friday. The first day was much longer- there were a lot more extras that day and we were there from about 5 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. On Friday there were fewer extras and it was a shorter day, only about 9 a.m. to 5 p.m."

What was it like working with the zombie actors? Did it freak you out?

"Well, you gotta understand that there are three different types of walkers. There are some that are only shown [on TV] from so far away that really all they do is just make them look dirty- they don't look scary up close, just dirty- they're only filmed way in the back of a horde or something. Then there are some that are kind of mid-level, that get more extensive makeup and gore on their bodies. Those are the ones that get killed. Then there are 'heroes' that get extensive makeup, prosthetics, gore, and those are the ones that the camera gets on close-ups and stuff. They don't kill those, they're the ones that they usually show full body and up-close for several seconds or more.

So yeah, the heroes were kinda scary with the prosthetics, there were one or two mid-level walkers that were scary because they would just stare at you awkwardly. But then everyone else just looked dirty and they weren't very scary."

And this is Erika speaking- you didn't ask, but Matt did tell me this back when he filmed and I thought it was so interesting: the walkers don't make any of their sounds/noises during filming. All of that is dubbed in later in editing. So while Matt's group was guarding the fence and stabbing walkers through it, they weren't making their gmmmhhhhhuuuuu ghhhhuuuuuu noises that are creepy and intimidating like you see on TV- they were just silently pressing and grabbing against the fence! Isn't that crazy??

Were there any special effects things you got to do?

"Well, they trained me to shoot a machine gun with blanks, which was really cool. But then they didn't have time to actually shoot the scene, so I didn't get to do it. But I did get to wear the machine gun on my back in the scenes I did shoot. I was there when they blew up the big tank thing [that Carol shot], though. I didn't get to see it because we were eating lunch, but there were lots of fire trucks and firefighters there and it was really loud."

Did you get to meet the cast?

"The other extras and I got talk with Mary, who was one of the main actors/characters in Terminus [she was killed in the Season 5 premiere]. I saw Carol on Friday, but I didn't talk to her or anything. None of the other main cast members were there on the days I was there, though."

What was your favorite part about being an extra?

"Catered lunch, haha. Really just the whole experience of being on a set and TV show was cool."

Did you get to keep anything from the set?

"Only the makeup on my face." ("And the memories in your heart," prompts his lovely wife.) (And they mailed him his paychecks a few weeks later, so he got to keep those, too.)

Did you scream at Carol and Darryl to make out, because I totally would have?

Haha, sadly, no- he didn't see that scene being shot. But I'm sure he would have if he could've!!

How is Matt going to top 2014? A daughter AND an appearance on WD seems like a pretty tough combo to beat.

"Awwww man, I don't know! How do you beat that??"

If life really is like Seven Degrees of Kevin Bacon, doesn't this experience practically make you BFFs with Andrew Lincoln?

I'll assume this question is for me, so I will say YES- we are basically BFFs now.

Not exactly a question, but: he go PAID?!? I would have sworn extras did that for fame not fortune.

Yes, he did get paid- but not much. Non-featured extras like Matt got paid about $8.50/hr (and time and a half for anything over 8 hours/day). probably don't want to quit your day job to be a full-time extra. ;) But that was really the minimum- extras that got close ups, speaking roles, walkers, or anyone more 'featured' got paid a lot more.

Proof is in the paycheck! $ was tough not to get too wild when such riches arrived in the mail!
Anything else you want to share that I didn't ask about already?

"Yeah, it was kind of funny that a lot of the extras apparently DO do 'extra-ing' frequently- a bunch of them all knew each other and were like 'oh hey, I know you from Catching Fire!' or 'we worked together on Fast & Furious!' and stuff. So apparently you can semi-make a living doing this if you want to, I guess. Oh, and a couple of the extras had never seen the show before."

Annnnddd...that about wraps us up. If you have any further questions, just ask in the comments and I'll get the answers there and post them so that everyone can see them. And one more time, for good measure: a repeat of the screenshots of Matt in his legendary Walking Dead role.




  1. So what I want to know is this: has anyone asked him for his autograph yet?!

  2. I can't wait until he hits it big and we can all say 'we knew him when'!

  3. So I don't watch the Walking Dead, and generally get REALLY freaked out by such things. I would have been a great extra if the goal was to appear "frightened" because I would have been FREAKING OUT on the set. Even knowing it was fake. ;)

    Hopefully he shares some of his $86.50 to buy you something at Ulta!

  4. How much of his paycheque did you withhold as his agent because I hear they get like 75% or something like that!

    1. This is EXACTLY what I was thinking!!! Ulta trip!!

  5. This is awesome!!! I love the interview!!!! Can I please have his autograph??????????

  6. I mean since you were the one that set him up, obviously at least 50% of his check should go to you! That's how it works with managers and their clients right?!

  7. The paycheck saying "TWD" on it is worth more than $85.60!!!! Hope Matt remembers us when he makes it big! ;)

  8. Haha. The idea that people live off being an extra is kind of hilarious, but I guess more power to you. Hope Matt wowed them with his stabbing skills and gets a call back for season 6!

  9. You mean you didn't apply as a "gang member type" for that ad?! LoL. Like what does that even mean?! And thank you so much for sharing this interview. It was so fun to read! Now I want to sign up for an extras program here in DC.

  10. I really need to check this show. Everyone's been talking about it but we don't have cable so our TV is rendered useless at the moment to save $.

  11. I'm going to have to share this with the hubs, he is all about some Walking Dead, he will be green with envy!!!


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