Q&A with Sonya Thompson, a Professional Zombie. Coolest Job Ever?

What exactly is a professional zombie? No, not Larry King -- meet Sonya Thompson, zombie impersonator extraordinaire for the arts. And by the arts we mean TV and movies, but we're sure Cindy Sherman, Andrew Wyeth, or hell, even Terry Richardson wouldn't mind giving her undead image a whirl.

Thompson's biggest zombie roles include a stint in Zombieland, multiple flesh-eating cameos in AMC's The Walking Dead, and acting as a zombie consultant for The Dead. Nuzzled between completing a movie called This Old Machine and embarking on her next project, Cry For Revenge, Thompson is lurching towards Miami, hungry for picture-happy SciFi fans at the Geek Film Festival and Florida Supercon.

We caught up with Thompson and asked her imperative questions about obsessive SciFi fans, what brains taste like, and, of course, Larry King.

New Times: Tell us a bit about yourself, your involvement with the show and how long you've been professionally acting?

Sonya Thompson: I grew up in northeast Georgia and currently reside near Atlanta. I have always entertained in some form or fashion. Whether it be singing, dancing, or acting. I really did not begin my professional acting career until five years ago.

Zombie-wise, I was one of the core zombies in the first season of The Walking Dead, my main episode was 4, in which Glenn came by the car, woke me up, then I got out to chase him while snarling. I am also in the pilot on top of the tank and I take a body shot in episode 2. I was also used in the promotional photos that have appeared all over the world on billboards, posters, T-Shirts, ads, magazine covers and various other items. The magazine covers include Entertainment Weekly, SFX, and DVD Review.

How did you get The Walking Dead gig?

One of the casting agencies in Atlanta had submitted me and told me that I had been chosen for a zombie role in the TV series The Walking Dead. My agent had submitted me for the role of Lori earlier on, but I, of course, did not get that one.

How many times have you played a zombie? And what mannerisms do you think are distinctly zombie?

Before The Walking Dead, I had played dead a few times [laughing]. Once a dead nurse in Rob Zombie's Halloween 2, a ghost in the TV show Past Life, a zombie in the independent film Night of the Jackals, a factory zombie in Ben 10: Alien Swarm, and a zombie in the movie Zombieland. So I have played a zombie a total of four times.

Zombies are always hungry for flesh so that is their main goal for survival. They are almost animal-like, but I have "My Three 'S' Theory": seeking, sensing, and sniffing for their next meal. Their body parts are decaying so their movements are slow, but yet they are able to kick it into gear when food is around.

Being a zombie expert, what are the three most important things you'd need in a zombie apocalypse?

A huge knife with a gun -- you will run out of bullets at some point -- food and water, and good running shoes, maybe Nikes.

Favorite zombie movie and why?

I love Zombieland, not because of my role in it, but because the movie makes me laugh. Bill Murray's part was amazing!

Who's more zombie-like: Larry King or Keith Richards?

Larry King because he seems to keep the same look on his face all the time.

Why do you think The Walking Dead has secured a cult-like fan base after just one short six-episode season?

It's because of the survivors and what they are going through. Their daily life is never predictable. The zombies are just an added bonus. So many people are huge zombie fans and most that I have spoken to are thankful to have such an amazing show to watch.

Are you on Team Rick or Team Shane?

Team Rick!

Who do you think is the most intriguing character so far?

The Little Girl Zombie played by Addy Miller. Her character set up the basis of the show, letting everyone know that this show was not playing around. I was there for her scene and to see it all play out right in front of me was such an honor. She is very talented.

How many SciFi conventions have you been to? Which city has the most interesting or entertaining fans?

I have been to about 10. The most entertaining? Wow, that is a hard one to answer, all the fans have been fantastic, but to choose one city....well, I am choosing two. The first being Chattanooga, Tennessee. One of the fans there had my zombie image tattooed on his calf!!! The second being Omaha, Nebraska, I met three ladies that are huge fans of Joe Giles, the zombie in the suit. They actually wrote a back story for him, made a doll of him, and named him Milo.......they consider themselves to be "The Milo Girls" and they kept us laughing every day.

Have you ever been recognized on the street for any of your zombie work?

Oddly enough, it has happened a couple of times. I was in the grocery store the first time that it happened. The gentleman asked, "You're the Zombie Lady aren't you?" He asked for my autograph, so I signed one for him, and before I could get away, I was surrounded by a few others. It was kind of cool.

What do you think brains would taste like?


If a zombie could eat anything besides brains, what do you think it would be and why?

Flesh of course, because it is meaty and more filling.

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Elyse Wanshel
Contact: Elyse Wanshel