An estimated 12.4 million people watched the March 31 season finale of “The Walking Dead,” the cable TV show filmed in Senoia, just about an hour north of LaGrange, and one local woman was part of the action.
Crystal Kelly Toudt played a “walker,” one of the reanimated corpses that plague the central cast of characters in the TV show, in the finale and the episode preceding it. Toudt filmed her part on Nov. 1, three days before shooting for the show’s third season wrapped.
“I had a good time,” Toudt said about getting to be part of the show.
However, due to a non-disclosure agreement, Toudt couldn’t tell anyone about her experience until the episodes aired to avoid giving away any major plot points. Although her close friends knew she was on the show, she couldn’t divulge any details and could only give vague clues about where to look for her when her episode aired.
“My whole family loves zombies,” she said. “Right down to the 6 year old.”
Toudt has two children and two step-children, ages 6 to 11, and said the whole group stayed up to see her appear on the show March 24. After the months of waiting, she finally got to see her zombie visage on screen in the final two episodes of the season. In episodes “The Sorrowful Life” and season finale “Welcome to the Tombs,” Toudt appears as one of the “walkers” stalking outside the prison where a group of survivors are holed up.
In one scene from “The Sorrowful Life,” Toudt can be seen as one of the characters, Glenn, decides to get a wedding ring for his girlfriend through a unique method – by cutting it off the finger of one of the “walkers.” Toudt said she was almost cast as the “walker” who gets her fingers amputated in the name of love, but another actress was quicker to show that she could tuck her fingers down as if they were missing. Toudt is standing next to the finger-losing zombie during the scene.
Toudt has done some television in the past, appearing in a few episodes of “Blue Collar TV” a few years ago. She also did modeling work. She has lived in Troup County since the early 1990s and is a 1998 graduate of LaGrange High School, and recently moved to Franklin.
After becoming a fan of the series, she sent her information to a casting person on the show and was called up to play the part of a “walker.” When she arrived, she was chosen to be a “hero walker,” which means she got full facial makeup and prosthetics to appear in closeups and promos for the show. Others chosen to play “walkers” in the background only wear basic makeup.
However, being a “hero” required some additional work – about two hours in the makeup chair. Toudt had to sit while makeup artists decided how to build her ghastly zombie visage.
“It’s wild, they put all this white stuff on your face and they literally glue the pieces on you,” Toudt said.
Artists added prosthetics to exaggerate certain features and add the appearance of rotten flesh, airbrushed her hair and parts of her face and she had to wear contacts to give her eyes a yellowed and inhuman look. The large contacts had to cover all the visible area of her eyes, and also left her with limited sight.
“The contacts were outrageous,” Toudt said. “… You couldn’t see anything; everything was blurry.”
Toudt was directed by Greg Nicotero, who designs the makeup effects, is co-executive producer of the show and also directed the episode she appeared in. Robert Kirkman, who created “The Walking Dead” comic upon which the show is based and is an executive producer of the show, also was at the set the day she was shooting.
Toudt interacted with several of the lead actors. Most of the scenes in which she was involved included Steven Yeun and Lauren Cohan, who play couple Glenn and Maggie.
“‘Maggie’ was hilarious,” Toudt said. “She was the biggest jokester … and she was just out there talking with us like she’d known us for years.”
Danai Gurira, who plays samurai-sword wielding Michone, was also fun to talk to, Toudt said. The “walker” actors also got to overhear an entertaining exchange between actor Norman Reedus, who plays fan-favorite Daryl Dixon, and Chandler Riggs, who plays young survivor Carl. Rumors had spread that Reedus’ character was going to meet his end, and 13-year-old Riggs was joking that he would take up Reedus’ mantle.
“He was telling (Reedus), ‘I’m going to take your bike and learn how to ride it,” Toudt recalled. “And (Reedus) was like, ‘You’re too little, dude, you can’t see over the handle bars … and you can’t even hold my crossbow.’”
The exchange left some of “walker” characters to conclude that Daryl really wasn’t going to make it to the end of the season, but the character survived. The show is infamous for killing off main characters without warning.
She said all the actors were humble and the mood on set was familial, although the main cast has a ritual of eating separate from the “walkers” during meal breaks. She said the director made sure all the “walkers” were warm and they were all given Snuggies and warm drinks.
When the “walkers” would take their breaks, they would retreat to a guard tower on the prison set to get some shade and drinks. In the final episode of the season, a group of rival survivors attack the prison and the tower is blown up, a scene apparently filmed after Toudt’s day on the set.
“I saw that and I was like ‘where are we going to take our breaks now,’” she said jokingly.
Although numerous “walkers” have met their end on the show, including many in the last episode, Toudt survived. She expected to begin filming more scenes for the upcoming seasons, which just began shooting again in Senoia.