If you watch Walking Dead or Zombie Nation, it’s likely you fantasize about being one of the zombies on screen. I know I do. Recently, I met someone who was a zombie cast member in George A. Romero’s iconic film Dawn of the Dead.
I asked her about her experience in this short interview.
1. Could you share a picture of yourself as a zombie?
I don’t have a picture of myself as a zombie, although friends have claimed to see me in the parking lot seen. I am occasionally wearing red mittens, as it was really, really cold. While the film was set in summer we were filming in early November before the Monroeville Mall opened for business.
2. What did you have to do as a zombie? What were your scene directions?
I attacked a truck, other parts were left on the cutting room floor. Our directions were, “Okay people…Zombie around!”
3. To look like one of the un-dead must have taken a while. How long were you in makeup? What did they do to give you that just-died charm?
Make up took about an hour for the extras. They painted blood on us, put on a lot of scar tissue, makeup under the eyes, that brought out the hollows, and then made us watch Night of the Living Dead to get into character. They fed us well, and we were able to take food back to school with us. It was a long drive, so we appreciated it.
4. What was your favorite part of being a zombie?
It never got on screen. If you look at the picture above, you’ll notice there is a road at the back. It was about 9 degrees out here, and we had the whole scene set up, when a woman in pink curlers, a pink coat walking a pink poodle came toddling down the road and stood there. She was right in the shot, and even though the assistant director asked her to leave, she obviously didn’t hear her. Almost as one, we turned, zombie makeup in full view, and ran towards her and the poodle, screaming “get out of the shot, get out of the shot.” The poor dog jumped in her arms and she ran off, terrified of 30 irate zombies chasing her.
5. Did you meet anyone famous while you were working on the movie?
Tom Savini, the great makeup artist for the film.
6. If readers watched Dawn of the Dead, would they see you? Please describe in detail exactly where we could look for you?
I am apparently quite visible in the parking lot scene, where I have red mittens either on my hands or in my back pocket.
7. Can you describe your experience? How long was it? How many days or weeks?
We went there for about 3 weekends, got to set at about 2 a.m. on Saturday morning, and Sunday, while the mall was closed.
8. What was a typical day on set?
We got to the mall very early. They put the make up on us, and fed us copious amounts of food. Blood and guts were all over us, but we didn’t care, and usually had donuts and coffee, since we were well, zombies from driving at night to get there. It was a blast. Many of my scenes were cut, because they had a lot of them. My hands are occasionally in shots, but I am the only one who knows those digits, and, of course, the parking lot. Between set-ups, we all ran inside because it was really cold, and we hung out. I do remember doing some shopping, still in make-up and getting some odd looks.
9. Tell us about your most vivid memory of your zombie experience?
I have to say the poodle lady I described above. It stayed with me forever.
What an amazing experience, but Paola K. Amaras has done a lot of incredible things since. She writes for Thrive Global, Huffington Post, and her own writing research company while she looks for an agent for her book series The Hidden Rims Saga. If you want to find out more about her, you can find her at these links.
Also, if you have a question for Paola, you can leave it in the comments and I’ll see she gets it. Thanks.