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The Walking Dead Cameos You Probably Missed

AMC's phenomenally successful small screen adaptation of celebrated comic series The Walking Dead debuted in 2010. Since then, it's grown to feature one of the largest casts in television history. The Walking Dead has made stars out of long-term cast members like Andrew Lincoln and Lauren Cohen, while also giving exposure to emerging talents and cult favorites, such as Jon Bernthal, Norman Reedus, and Michael Rooker. 

Because death and impermanence are a way of life in the post-apocalyptic world of The Walking Dead, a lot of actors, famous and not-as-famous, have put in some time on the zombie drama. Many well-known stars have popped up for just a single episode or single scene — or even show up completely unrecognizably, as a nameless, shambling, undead "walker," their familiar faces buried under layers of prosthetics and makeup. Here are some of the most famous people to have ever spent a very short period of time on The Walking Dead.

Hines Ward

Hines Ward was among the NFL's most athletic, dazzling, and accomplished wide receivers in the late 1990s and 2000s. In his 14-season career, spent entirely with the Pittsburgh Steelers, he managed 1,000 successful receptions, placing him high on the all-time list, which led to four Pro Bowl selections and two Super Bowl rings. Ward was drafted out of the University of Georgia, where one of his teammates on the gridiron was running back IronE Singleton, who pursued acting upon graduation. Singleton found impressive success in Hollywood, landing roles as athletes and tough guys in fare like Remember the Titans and The Longest Yard – and eventually, on the first three seasons of The Walking Dead, in which he portrayed zombie apocalypse survivor Theodore Douglas, AKA T-Dog. 

In 2012, Ward utilized his connection to Singleton to land a small role on The Walking Dead as well, which was then shooting in his home state of Georgia. When the show's location moved to a semi-abandoned prison, Ward got to play one of the zombies who pounce on the main survivor characters. Ward spent two hours in makeup to be transformed into a walker, where an artist painted his old jersey number, 86, onto the back of his head. Even as a stumbling zombie, we wouldn't want to go up against him.

Chris Hardwick

Before The Walking Dead hit AMC in 2010 and produced some of the best viewership numbers in cable TV history, zombie entertainment was primarily seen as niche fare, enjoyed by only a relatively small segment of the population. Sure, everyone knew what zombies were, but only dedicated fans could offer opinions on Night of the Living Dead or discuss the finer points of Re-Animator. Zombies were, in other words, for nerds — but then those much-maligned individuals enjoyed a big moment in the early 2010s. 

Comedian Chris Hardwick, an avowed nerd, had just launched his popular Nerdist podcast, the first brick in a media empire that caters to people like himself, at the time. When The Walking Dead returned for its highly anticipated second season in 2011, new episodes were followed by Talking Dead. On Talking Dead, cast and crew from The Walking Dead and special celebrity guests gather to talk about the episode that just aired. The whole endeavor is hosted by the always enthusiastic and proudly nerdy Hardwick. Those two shows collided, and Hardwick earned himself a major thrill, when, in 2019, Hardwick made a brief, hard-to-spot appearance on The Walking Dead. Near the end of the episode "Scars," a walker tries to attack Judith (Cailey Fleming). That zombie is none other than Hardwick, who achieved, in that moment, the peak of zombie nerd-dom.

Scott Ian

Anthrax's Scott Ian is a member of a rare breed: He is the most famous member of a band, even though he isn't the lead singer. Since the 1980s, Ian has played guitar in the legendary thrash metal group, and has perpetually overshadowed the group's various singers. This is in part because he's an active participant in a variety of mass media, frequently appearing on VH1's many I Love the ... specials, and its many spinoffs and offshoots. He sports a memorable look while doing so, what with his shaved head and long, pointy wizard beard. Ian is also a big fan of horror media, and once hosted a web series called Bloodworks, where he explored how gore effects are made. 

All these unique qualities, along with his friendship with Walking Dead special effects makeup designer Greg Nicotero, helped land Ian a gig on cable's top zombie show. In 2011, Ian was rendered unrecognizable by a thick slathering of gore and makeup effects in his appearance as a walker on a webisode of The Walking Dead. He returned to the franchise in 2015's "Remember": His anonymous zombie hides under a trash heap and reaches out to grab the leg of an unsuspecting Rick Grimes, but is quickly stopped when the sheriff allows his son, Carl, to shove a metal pole through the undead Ian's head, instantly dispatching him. What a gory way to go — but then again, that's just how this horror hound likes it.

Sam Witwer

A lot of actors like to take on a wide variety of roles from a plethora of genres and creators. Others prefer to pursue projects in genres that they love — and they don't seem to mind if they get pigeon-holed as a performer who only appears in sci-fi, fantasy, and horror films and television series. Sam Witwer is of the latter camp, as an admitted fan of stories centering monsters, space, and magic, who has built up a robust resume and a devoted fan base by acting primarily in those kinds of things. Here's a sampling of his filmography: Witwer has done voice work for the Star Wars cinematic universe, held the major role of Davis Bloome for a season of the Superman-centric series Smallville, played vampire Aidan Waite on four seasons of Being Human, and portrayed the Mr. Hyde of horror legend on Once Upon a Time.

Nearly a decade into his bustling career as an actor in both film and TV, Witwer took a role on the first episode of The Walking Dead – one with no lines and scant screen time. The part: "Tank Soldier," a zombified ex-military man that Rick Grimes has to kill in Atlanta. Witwer was supposed to return to the show later on, as showrunner Frank Darabont wanted to produce some prequel episodes about the fall of Atlanta to zombies. Witwer would have played that soldier before his zombification, but unfortunately, those episodes never came to pass.

M.C. Gainey

Most television viewers and filmgoers might not know M.C. Gainey by name, but they certainly recognize his face. The prolific character actor has appeared in nearly 200 projects, usually in small but pivotal roles, and typically as a villain. Gainey plays angry guys, corrupt authority figures, violent criminals, and the like: His impressive resume includes roles like Big John Brittle in Django Unchained, Tom Friendly on Lost, and Poppa Poutine on Riverdale. If a character played by Gainey shows up, it generally means very bad news for the film or TV series' protagonist. "With a face like this, there aren't a lot of lawyers or priest roles coming my way," Gainey told The Junction. It's true: Gainey's mug is a craggy marvel that was made to loom menacingly out of the shadows.

 Audiences are likely to be most familiar with Gainey for his work as Swamp Thing in Con Air, or perhaps Bo Crowder on Justified, but probably not at all from his time on The Walking Dead. He appeared just once on the long-running AMC zombie saga. What was this singular performance? In the 2014 episode "Slabtown," he turned in an uncredited role known only as "Walker." Yes, the man with the familiar face had that recognizable visage heavily obscured by thick makeup so he could amble around as a zombie.

Keisha Castle-Hughes

In 2002, Keisha Castle-Hughes enjoyed what is probably the best response an actor can get for a debut performance. At just 12 years old, the Australian-born actress starred in the highly acclaimed New Zealand-produced film Whale Rider. For her performance as Paikea Apirana, a Maori girl who aims to be the chief of her community, Castle-Hughes earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress, becoming, at the time, the youngest person to ever be recognized in that category. Castle-Hughes subsequently landed major roles in The Nativity Story (as Mary) and Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (as the Queen of Naboo) before scaling back her schedule. She then re-emerged in 2015 as the fierce Dornish warrior Obara Sand on Game of Thrones.

Just before she joined the cast of that megawatt HBO series, Castle-Hughes booked a shot on The Walking Dead. In the 2014 episode "Slabtown," she portrayed Joan, a zombie outbreak survivor held prisoner by Gorman. Bitten by a walker during an escape attempt, she endures a grueling arm amputation, but ultimately takes her own life by opening her stitches and allowing herself to bleed out. Joan then reanimates as a zombie, and is killed by Dawn Lerner. Castle-Hughes never appeared on The Walking Dead again, but hey — she was busy in Westeros.

Enver Gjokaj

With a long list of credits on network and cable TV dramas to his name, Enver Gjokaj is pretty much bound to show up on any major television series that manages to become long-running. In addition to appearing on single episodes of Law and Order: Criminal Intent, Major Crimes, and Person of Interest, Gjokaj has enjoyed longer stints, often on sci-fi productions. Gjokaj portrayed underworld criminal and cop killer Viktor Baskov on Dexter, special agent Daniel Sousa on both Marvel's Agent Carter and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and reloadable, rentable Victor for the entire run of Joss Whedon's Dollhouse

As someone clearly used to darker fare with a unique genre twist, it's not too surprising that Gjokaj wound up on "Dead Weight," a 2013 episode of The Walking Dead. "Dead Weight" is a flashback episode, detailing the Governor's rise to power in the early days of the zombie outbreak. Gjokaj played Pete Dolgen, the leader of a survivor group who loses that power when the Governor murders him.

Rutina Wesley

Though The Walking Dead's ratings figures had fallen off from their stratospheric peak levels by the time 2019 rolled around, it remained one of the most popular and high-profile shows on cable TV. Landing a role on the series can serve as marvelous exposure for any actor, even one who has already established themselves on other well-known television series. That's very much the case for Rutina Wesley, who first found fame as Tara Thornton on HBO's lauded vampire saga, True Blood. After her time on that show ended in 2014, Wesley enjoyed a long arc on NBC's Hannibal as Reba McClane, and a shorter stint on the CW's Arrow. In 2016, she began starring as Nova Bordelon on the celebrated OWN family drama, Queen Sugar

One truth emerges from Wesley's filmography: She's busy, flexible, and just as comfortable portraying the nuances of bereavement as she is hanging out with vampires. Despite her packed schedule, Wesley found time to appear on a single episode of The Walking Dead in 2019. In "Scars," Wesley portrayed Jocelyn, or Joss, a cruel and controlling leader of a cult-like collective of children. Michonne, her old friend from before the end of the world arrived, is forced to end her wicked ways.

Greg Nicotero

In addition to The Walking Dead comics series writer Robert Kirkman and the TV series developer Frank Darabont, the one person who has had the biggest behind-the-scenes impact on the long-running zombie show is Greg Nicotero. He's directed more than 30 episodes, served as various types of producer, and heads up the show's special effects make-up department — which means he's responsible for turning groups of actors into monstrously flesh-dripping zombie hordes. To say he's an integral part of the show is a massive understatement — he practically is the show.

Every now and then, Nicotero even gets in on the fun — the rotting, moaning, glaze-eyed fun, that is, of taking a spin in the zombification chair himself. Between 2010 and 2016, Nicotero appeared in five episodes, each time as an undead walker. His Walking Dead colleagues tend to grant him some of the most plum zombie assignments available. In one appearance set in the town of Woodbury, for example, he was tasked with lunging at Andrea (Laurie Holden), who stops him with a pistol blast to the head.

Charlie Adlard

A TV adaptation of The Walking Dead might look and feel completely different if not for the work of Charlie Adlard. In 2004, Adlard joined the creative staff of the comic series upon which the show is based as a penciler. From there on, he helped bring the stories of Robert Kirkman and his other collaborators to life, until its final issue hit stands in 2019. When you think of The Walking Dead comic, what you picture is Adlard's work — and what incredible work it is. His vision of the apocalypse, full of dark, inky shadows and weathered faces, is a terrifying triumph of comics art, to say nothing of the fact that it formed the foundation of what became one of the most popular shows on TV.

Appropriately enough, Adlard got to be part of the TV world he helped to realize. During production of the show's first season in the summer of 2010, he reported to the set of The Walking Dead to spend three days filming a cameo appearance as a walker. As he later recounted, it was a thrilling experience: "Three days of seeing my creations come to life ... I felt very privileged." Adlard can be seen amongst the horde of walkers that attacks a very confused Sheriff Rick Grimes in Atlanta in "Days Gone By," the very first episode of The Walking Dead.

John Carroll Lynch

John Carroll Lynch is one seriously versatile actor, with more than 100 credits to his name in a wide range of projects. In 1996, he scored a prominent role in Fargo as Norm Gunderson, duck painter and devoted husband of Sheriff Marge Gunderson (Oscar-winner Frances McDormand). In the years since, he's become something of an in-demand character actor for highly acclaimed TV series looking for a guy who looks normal, but can put forth truly frightening performances. For example, he's recognizable for his work as the violent ex-convict Varlyn Stroud on Carnivale, secret KGB operative Fred Timbrook on The Americans, and real-life serial killer John Wayne Gacy on one iteration of American Horror Story.

When Lynch came to The Walking Dead, he played against type in the episode "Here's Not Here" as Eastman, a hermit whose family was murdered by a serial killer. He carries out revenge, only to find that it leaves him hollow and regretful. This installment is a standalone one, focusing on the character of Morgan, who is driven to mental illness and violence after the zombie outbreak kills his family. Eastman rehabilitates Morgan, turning him into a man of peace ... only to suffer an ominous walker bite while protecting his charge.

Johnny Depp

After building up a reputation as a versatile actor and something of a muse for filmmaker Tim Burton in quirky classics like Ed Wood, Edward Scissorhands, and Sleepy Hollow, Johnny Depp became one of the biggest movie stars in the world in the 21st century. He's starred as Captain Jack Sparrow in five enormously successful Pirates of the Caribbean movies, as the Mad Hatter in two Alice in Wonderland adventures, and as Gellert Grindelwald in the Harry Potter prequel Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. In 2016, Depp even made time for a brief guest star appearance on an episode of The Walking Dead ... or at least part of him did, and without his knowledge or active participation.

In the episode "Not Tomorrow Yet," a decapitated human head makes an appearance that bears a strong resemblance to Depp. According to makeup and effects wizard and "Not Tomorrow Yet" director Greg Nicotero, that's because the head is, in fact, Johnny Depp's head. "I think we had sculpted an emaciated version of a dummy head for something and we used Johnny Depp's head as a basis just for a clay sculpt," Nicotero told Entertainment Weekly. That's certainly one way of making an appearance on The Walking Dead.