By Jorge Solis
Viewers may not recognize who actor Michael Koske is on the show, but they definitely have seen him in some key zombie scenes in “The Walking Dead.” In the episode, “Walk With Me,” you saw his chin get stabbed by Merle (Michael Rooker). Michael Koske spoke to MTV Geek about how he ended up becoming a walker, the learning curve in zombie school, and his favorite death scenes.
MTV Geek: Tell me about the 501st Legion and how they recommended you for the show?
Michael Koske: That was like a real fluke. A friend of mine, that’s in the 501st, actually got to work in wardrobe on season one. I just happened to mention to her, “Hey, if you need anybody next season, let me know.” I never thought about it again. When it came casting for season two, she sent me an email. “Hey they’re looking for emaciated people. That’s you!” I didn’t know how to take that. “Uh…thank you?” I emailed them some pictures of me looking skinny with freaky lighting. They contacted me back almost right away.
Geek: Tell me about going to zombie school for “The Walking Dead.”
MK: It was actually a blast. What it was, we got there and they showed us lots of clips from older and newer zombie movies. We kinda compared the differences of the zombies throughout all the movies and stuff. Then, they turned it into an exercise. They had us lineup to one side of the studio and we did our best zombie walking. They watched what we did, critique us, and see if we had to tweak anything. They would lock us in a room and we would all have to bust out of the room. We decided while we were inside the room, if there was another group waiting to get us, we were going to attack the other people. We busted out of the room, charged at the other people, and started eating the next round of students for zombie school.
Geek: Tell me about the makeup process that goes into being a walker?
MK: It’s hours of sitting in a chair while the KNB guys work their magic. It’s lots of prosthetics and paints. They do all kinds of amazing work. I wish I could say I had anything to do with it, but it’s all KNB that does it.
Geek: You play a different walker in each episode. What do you to differentiate them?
MK: Well, they have a few different versions of walkers. They have the featured ones, which have all the appliances, prosthetics, and stuff. You have the mid-ground, which is just my air-brushed teeth; so there’s no close-ups. You have the background walkers, which have masks. Luckily, most of the time, I’ve gotten to be featured. They do the makeup different every time. They never do the same thing twice, unless they need to do something for continuity.
Geek: What is like seeing yourself when an episode goes live on the air?
MK: It’s the most amazing feeling ever. I’ve been in 13 episodes and one webisode. Every time I see myself, I get all excited! I scream, “That’s me! That’s me!” My friends can’t stand watching it with me.
Geek: Do you critique your performance as an actor?
MK: I do. I do some things that look goofy, like the way the leg drags, the zombie thing everybody does. I could have done that a lot better.
Geek: Tell me about being in make-up and dealing with such a demanding shooting schedule?
MK: They shoot those whole episodes within a week or so in time. The guys I work with are so excited. Like when we were filming the barn burning scene at the end of season two, that whole scene, we were there from the beginning to the end of the day. Honestly, it goes by so fast and you’re having so much fun. It doesn’t really feel like that particular schedule and that long shooting.
Geek: Many of the walkers die in such gruesome ways. Do you have a favorite death scene?
MK: I have quite a few that are my favorites. When Merle (Michael Rooker) came back this season, when he snuck up behind Andrea (Laurie Holden) and Michonne (Danai Gurira) in the woods, I was the one who snuck up behind him. I went to bite him on the neck. He lifted up his bayonet hand and stabbed me in the chin. In the first episode, when all the characters are storming into the prison, clearing it out, Rick was fighting the riot squad zombies. I come out after him and he cuts my head. I had no clue my head was going to get cut off! I saw it spinning off to the side! I was quite shocked!
Geek: What are you working on now?
MK: Right now, I’m actually on nothing. I’m hoping for the next season to start back up in May, June. There’s the “Zombieland” TV series that just shot the pilot. If it gets picked up, hopefully I’ll be in that.