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Weird Things That Happened To People On The Walking Dead Set

"The Walking Dead" spends 11 seasons teaching its fans that anything can happen at any time to anyone. And that isn't even touching the spin-off series, movies, and video game adaptations that are sure to keep coming for a long, long time.

The thing is, pretty much anything can happen to anyone in real life, too. Random acts of terror, hilarity, and sheer strangeness are by no means a fictional construct. What even the most diehard "Walking Dead" fans may not realize is that the folks on the set of AMC's hit series have experienced quite a few bizarre occurrences in their own right. You'd be surprised at how often life mimics art, and after over a decade of filming, it's inevitable that a number of odd stories have clawed their way out of the show. Since every "Walking Dead" viewer loves a good tale, we're here to explore the weird things that have happened to people on the set of "The Walking Dead."

Michael Rooker had a S.W.A.T. team called on him while filming his first episode

"The Walking Dead" makes it clear that the biggest threats don't come from the dead, but from the living. In the show's earliest days, the living don't get much more dangerous than Daryl's violent, racist older brother, Merle Dixon. Viewers first meet Merle in Episode 2 of Season 1, "Guts," as he picks off walkers with a rifle. He's an instant threat, and it doesn't take long for him to be taken down and handcuffed by a cop. Funnily enough, that's almost what happened to his actor, Michael Rooker, too.  

Before the series premiered, many "Walking Dead" actors weren't well-known, and Georgia residents weren't yet used to a terrifying TV show shooting in their back yard. It turns out, seeing someone firing a gun from a rooftop is a pretty unnerving experience. "I was shooting zombies," Rooker recalled in a behind-the-scenes feature, "and I didn't really have any concern for that, until I actually did the first shot and I saw people jump and run. They had already dispatched the S.W.A.T. team." Rooker and the crew had to explain to jumpy law enforcement that they were shooting a TV show, not people. Fortunately, things were cleared up before anyone got hurt, and Rooker didn't have to be handcuffed to a roof. 

A local claims to have had the cops called on him by The Walking Dead's producers

Rooker's S.W.A.T. experience wasn't the only time tensions between locals and the show ended up involving the police. The walled-off Alexandria Safe-Zone can actually be found in Senoia, Georgia, where many folks in the area are paid $400 a month for the inconvenience of dealing with an active set — and to keep their lips sealed about what they see and hear. It sounds exciting, but it can also be pretty inconvenient. Sometimes the local residents just want to get on with their lives.

One Senoia resident, Fred Morris, claimed to ABC News in 2016 that the show's producers once called the cops on him when he trimmed his trees while the show was being filmed. Fed up with the set's noise disturbing his evenings, he refused to back down. "They come out of there saying I need to stop because they're filming," Morris told ABC. "I said, 'Well, no, you just carry your happy butt right behind the wall, that's where you do your stuff. This is my home.'" There's no word on whether they did, in fact, carry their happy butt back behind the wall, but tales of conflict between the show and its neighbors have died down over the years. Hopefully, everyone has learned to get along.

Steven Yeun passed out on his first day of filming

For his inaugural day on set, Steven Yeun didn't have to face heavily-armed police, but he did have to endure a bit of embarrassment. The actor's first scene was a pretty simple pickup shot of Glenn running back to get Rick's hat. Sounds easy enough, right? But Yeun wasn't completely prepared for the sheer physicality required. As "The Walking Dead" co-creator and comic book writer Robert Kirkman told Entertainment Weekly, "I guess he didn't anticipate how much running he was going to be doing because we ended up having to do a few takes, and he hadn't eaten anything, so he kind of blacked out on his first day of shooting."

The craziest thing is, this wasn't the only time Yeun had trouble staying conscious on set. In Episode 1 of Season 5, "No Sanctuary," Glenn almost has his head beaten in with a baseball bat (talk about foreshadowing). The scene is so real, Yeun almost blacked out again while filming it. "I actually nearly passed out almost because I was straining so hard," he admitted to EW. He went on to muse, "You're just bracing yourself for this dude to hit you. The situation is so real that they make ... And I remember they had my real reaction where I look over and I'm like, 'Oh, shoot! This is crazy!'" Thankfully, Yeun kept his head and made it through that day of filming fully conscious.

Lauren Cohan got hit on while covered in zombie guts

Cops and "The Walking Dead" go hand-in-hand more often than you might think. That's something Lauren Cohan, who plays Maggie, discovered one night when she was too tired to clean herself up. She headed home "elbow deep," as she put it on "Jimmy Kimmel Live," "in walker guts." Cohan had also been filming a fight scene, so she was covered in dirt and twigs as well. Unsurprisingly, she was soon pulled over by a cop.

Figuring there was a fair chance she'd be mistaken for a serial killer fresh from a murder spree in the woods, Cohan made sure to play up "The Walking Dead" angle as soon as the officer reached her window. She displayed her script as prominently as she could, and jumped right into her explanation. The cop took it all in, not missing a single detail — even one she hadn't planned on revealing. "'Now, little lady,'" she recalled him responding, "'I don't see a ring on your finger. Does that mean you're single?'" Alas, the love connection didn't bloom and the cop didn't get a date, but it seems there were no hard feelings, as he spared her a ticket.

Norman Reedus has a macabre collection of "The Walking Dead" artifacts

Daryl Dixon is the sort of character that requires a unique actor. Norman Reedus is more than up to the task, but sometimes, what he gets up to behind the scenes is more fascinating than what happens in front of the camera. At 2014's Walker Stalker Con, when Andrew Lincoln answered a fan's question about Rick finally shaving his beard off, Reedus jumped in to say, "You know what's crazy is, I have his beard in a Ziploc bag in my refrigerator." Well okay then!

When Reedus spoke with Fandom in 2017, he again mentioned the beard. Furthermore, he added that he also has Hershel Greene's ponytail — and that's just the start of his hoard. Reedus has built up quite the collection of bizarre and macabre artifacts from the "Walking Dead" set. He even swiped a zombie head modeled after Johnny Depp that was used in Season 6, Episode 12, "Not Tomorrow Yet." Luckily, the actor doesn't have to worry about getting into trouble with his boss for swiping office supplies — executive producer Greg Nicotero is fully supportive of Reedus' collection, and was even the one who gave him Depp's severed head. 

After filming, Steven Yeun found a tick in the one place you never want to find one

Filming in the great outdoors as "The Walking Dead" so often does comes with a number of challenges. One of the worst is the threat of tiny, bloodthirsty ticks getting up in your business. That's something Steven Yeun encountered, as he explained to Conan O'Brien, and it's not a story for the squeamish. After wrapping up a day of filming, Yeun did his standard tick check. But when he took his pants off for a shower, he realized he'd neglected to check a crucial area. There the tick was, he recalled, "a guy on my guy." Fortunately, Yeun got the critter off and killed it with a lighter — though for a time, it did have a death grip on his anatomy. "Yeah, I'm glad you took it off first," Conan quipped about the dangers of fire down below.

The whole experience sounds traumatizing, but let's all be thankful that if it had to happen to anyone, it happened to Yeun. "I was kind of glad that it happened to me because I knew in my head I was the only one who would be willing to share it with everybody," he told Entertainment Weekly. Thank you, Steven Yeun, for sharing this story with the world and helping to spread tick awareness in one of the most horrifying ways imaginable.

Rick's accent stuck with Andrew Lincoln even after leaving the set

Sometimes, actors spend so much time on set that it rubs off on them in surprising ways. British actor Andrew Lincoln, for instance, spent nine years playing Rick (and is set to return to "The Walking Dead" in a series of movies). During that time, he adopted a pretty convincing American accent. Lincoln stuck with Rick's accent the entire time he was on set, not just while filming. "Andy sets an amazing example," Lauren Cohan enthused at 2012's San Diego Comic-Con. "He's in his accent from the second he arrives until he leaves." Over time, it turns out, the accent escaped the set entirely.  

As Lincoln told Daily Dead in 2013, "I'm spending so much time in America now, and I find it much more comfortable to be in dialect when I'm there, and it's really strange." He noted that a number of friends only know him with an American accent, and that at times, he feels like it's wrong to return to his original accent. And yes, he called it his "original" accent, not his "real" accent. In a way, you could say Lincoln brought a little bit of Rick with him whenever he left the set. That, or, as Lincoln joked, he's "a bit mad probably."

The crew has gotten an eyeful of Norman Reedus

There comes a time in nearly every actor's career when they're asked to do a nude scene. It's often left up to each actor to decide how much they want to actually bare for filming — a modesty sock (not intended for the foot) is often employed. But Norman Reedus isn't a fan. As he explained on "Jimmy Kimmel Live," when he filmed a movie that involved a shower scene, "In the middle of the take, I just ripped [the sock] off and threw it at the director's head because I was like, 'This is ridiculous.'"

When it came time for Daryl to bare it all on "The Walking Dead," Reedus was committed. "I came out in a bathrobe," he explained to Kimmel, "and our poor camera crew were all right there, and I just dropped the robe — butt naked. And they all kind of, like they were watching the Wimbledon, they all just kinda looked to the left." But they couldn't look away forever. One of the makeup artists had to, as Reedus put it, touch him up "in areas." By the end of the day, Reedus joked, they'd become great friends. Meanwhile, "Dean, our focus puller, literally was right there having the worst day of his life." To that, all we can say is thank you, crew of "The Walking Dead," for your service.

Juan Javier Cardenas took a real beating while filming Dante's death scene

During the first chunk of Season 10, Juan Javier Cardenas' Dante ingratiates himself with beloved "Walking Dead" regulars in the Alexandria Safe-Zone. Then he's outed as a spy for the Whisperers, and things go downhill fast. It all culminates in an absolutely brutal stabbing death at the hands of Gabriel. While that makes for some great TV, it also makes for a rough time on set. 

For one thing, Dante's death scene took a number of takes to get just right. "Well, slight problem is that by take 15 that blood starts to congeal and starts to get sticky," Cardenas told Entertainment Weekly. "And then the retractable knife started to get stuck a little bit. So by take 15, my liver was, you know, I ended up taking a couple of shots, delivered with a non-retractable knife a little bit." The sheer force of the attack was also a lot to endure. "Seth [Gilliam] was fantastic, and when he's basically trying to stab my heart to the ground, it was difficult to remain lifeless after the 20th stab wound because he's a very strong guy, I was literally bouncing off the floor." It was all in service of an amazing scene and a compelling story, but as Cardenas noted, "you have to be careful."

Filming once reduced Jeffrey Dean Morgan to tears

While "The Walking Dead" is ostensibly a show about the zombie apocalypse, the lifeless walkers often take a backseat to the human drama that beats at the heart of the series. When real-life drama and show drama bleed into each other, the set can transform into a shockingly emotional place. That's what happened to Jeffrey Dean Morgan when he finally got to film Negan's pre-apocalypse flashbacks with his actual wife, Hilarie Burton, playing Negan's doomed wife, Lucille.  

The Season 10 finale, "Here's Negan," humanizes the once inhuman sociopath by giving viewers a glimpse of the life Negan lived, the mistakes he made, and the love he lost. Shooting these scenes was always going to be a heavy experience, but filming them in the middle of the pandemic as election coverage ground down everyone's sanity pushed emotions over the edge. "When we shot this," Morgan told Entertainment Weekly, "I feel like we were just all on the verge of an emotional breakdown anyway, just because of the last year of our lives." Though they only did "one or two takes" for each scene, "It was so heavy. Every scene we did, it ended in tears." The end result is brilliant, even if, as Morgan said, by the time they got off set, "We were just wrecked." Honestly, so is everyone else who watches the episode. 

The art department gave Josh McDermitt a deep dive into Eugene's eccentric brilliance

When it comes to "The Walking Dead" characters, the gifted but bizarre Eugene is in a class of his own. Personality-wise, actor Josh McDermitt says he just gets Eugene. "I come from a family of people who don't really communicate," he told Under The Radar in 2014. "We all love each other, but ... We sit there at family parties and it's awkward because nobody really speaks ... It was easy to pick that up." Eugene's unique brand of intelligence is something else altogether, however. Luckily, a few aides on set really helped McDermitt get into the Eugene mindset. 

In Season 9, Episode 12, "Guardians," the character draws up charts to help Gabriel decide whether or not he should stay with Rosita and raise her child. The glimpse viewers get of the charts doesn't really show much, but rest assured, they're highly detailed. The art department worked with the writers to make up these documents, agonizing over details and numerical scores for things like "crying and tantrums" and "feces." The show even shared them with Entertainment Weekly

To the average person, they're hilarious. But to Eugene, these charts are serious stuff. And with them in hand, McDermitt approached the scene. Showrunner Angela Kang told EW that the actor "always does a great job with all the Eugene stuff. And I think he went at so very seriously in the scene, which was really fun."