About Macon State
Taylor Whiddon loved The Walking Dead, AMC's Georgia-filmed zombie apocalypse series, from the beginning.
"I became a huge fan," said Whiddon, 22, a Macon State student from Warner Robins. "I started reading the comic books (the series is based on) soon after I saw the first episode."
Today, Whiddon is not just a fan. After getting work last summer as an extra on the series, which debuted in 2010, Whiddon became one of the lucky few to get a little more screen time than the average flesh-eating zombie. In Season 3's second episode, which first aired Oct. 21, Whiddon plays the zombie who pulls rotting flesh off one of his hands and, with a sharp, exposed skeletal bone, scratches prison inmate Big Tiny. As fans of the show know, zombie bites and scratches are infectious to humans. Another character, Tomas, shoots Whiddon's zombie in the head, then takes a pickax to Big Tiny before he can turn into a 'walker.'
The prospect of her son appearing in such a scene, fairly graphic even for cable TV, "overwhelmed my mom," Whiddon said. But she was proud of him. "She made sure all her friends were watching the show."
A graduate of Perry High School, Whiddon attends Macon State on and off. He is finishing up his core courses and, while he hasn't decided on a major, he said his goal is to earn a bachelor's degree.
Besides being a student, Whiddon is the lead vocalist in a band called After Me, The Flood
(https://www.facebook.com/AMTFband) that performs in venues in Macon and around the region. Whiddon describes the band's sound as "melodic hardcore." The band's CD, "Still Searching," is scheduled for a Dec. 4 release by Famined Records.
Whiddon became part of The Walking Dead earlier this year after sending a headshot, along with a cellphone video that his girlfriend took of him "doing a zombie walk," to the agency that recruits extras for the show, which is filmed in and around Atlanta. He received an invitation to "Zombie School," where show representatives train the extras on the finer points of being a walker, like how to fall to the ground after being shot in the head. Whiddon, who has been to six or seven show tapings, said it takes about a hour and a half for the zombie makeup to be applied. At times he was fitted with a pair of special contacts to make his eyes more zombie-like.
He appeared in this season's first episode as one of the multiple walkers groaning and limping fiendishly around in background scenes. The call that led to his appearance in second episode came one day in July, when he was told to be on set at 6 a.m. the next day. When he arrived, one of the special effects people examined his arms and pronounced him suitable to be the walker that inflicts the deadly scratch on Big Tiny.
The scene was filmed in "three or four takes," and he got to appear in it with two of the show's major characters: Rick, played by Andrew Lincoln, and Daryl, played by Norman Reedus.
"They told us in Zombie School not to be fanboys," Whiddon said, "but it was awesome to watch them work." In a slightly starstruck tone, Whiddon described how once, during a break, Norman Reedus patted his shoulder as he walked by and said, "Hey, what's going on man?"
His experience has Whiddon considering pursuing acting or directing as a career, but he is also interested in continuing to work as a musician. Video game design is another interest he said he may want to pursue professionally.
For now, he is enjoying the bit of fame that appearing in The Walking Dead has brought him, at least among family and friends. He mentioned one particular piece of merchandise the show has spawned.
"Hopefully," Whiddon said with a grin, "they'll model an action figure after me."
Photo: Whiddon as himself (inset) and, far right, as a 'walker.'