The Early Acting Careers of Walking Dead Stars

Gene Page/AMC
Gene Page/AMC / Gene Page/AMC

As Season Four marches on, let's look back at the early careers of some past and present cast members...before walkers roamed the Earth. Note: Spoilers!!

Melissa McBride

Frank Ockenfels/AMC

The actress who plays Carol Peletier sported the same close-cropped hairdo in The Mist, a 2007 Frank Darabont-directed film, and the style has become something of her trademark. McBride semi-retired from acting for a time, working as a casting director from 2000 until Darabont pegged her for the role of the abused housewife who eventually loses her daughter to walkers. But Melissa had a full head of long corkscrew curls when she played a doctor in the classic (to Conan O’Brien fans, anyway) “Lucas” episode of Walker, Texas Ranger back in 1997.

Andrew Lincoln

Frank Ockenfels/AMC

Fans are often surprised when they first hear the man who plays Rick Grimes speak in interviews, as his natural accent is more Oxford and Cambridge than Atlanta Cracker Barrel. When he first got into acting, Andrew Clutterbuck’s agent decided that his real surname (albeit a well-respected one in the U.K.) sounded a bit too Hobbit-esque for U.S. marquees, and he became Andrew Lincoln. His earliest acting roles were in his native England, as seen here in the 2000 crime drama Gangster Number One. Recognize the long-haired wild-eyed henchman in the camel coat?

Norman Reedus

Frank Ockenfels/AMC

Playing crossbow-wielding tough guy Daryl Dixon wasn’t too much of a stretch for Norman Reedus, whose breakout film role was as Murphy McManus in 1999’s The Boondock Saints. As Murphy, Reedus whacked creeps and lowlifes left and right with a variety of weapons. He’s appeared in a long list of indie films, most times in dark, brooding roles (even as Judas in the Lady Gaga video he was pretty menacing). But he’s never afraid to stretch his acting wings and wander in offbeat career directions…see if you can spot him in Bjork’s 1993 music video for her club hit “Violently Happy.”

Sarah Wayne Callies

Matthew Welch/AMC

Whether you wept or callously cheered when Lori Grimes died during an emergency C-section and then was shot by her own son, one universal thought that fans had about the character was surely “Geez, eat a sandwich!” Even in the flashback scenes, before their group was starving and about to eat dog food, Lori looked like a zipper when she stuck her tongue out. I only mention her bony body because it apparently is not her natural physique. She definitely was a little fleshier back in 2003 when she co-starred on WB’s Tarzan.

Jeffrey DeMunn

Matthew Welch/AMC

The Hollywood grapevine has intimated that Dale was not long for the Walking Dead world when showrunner Frank Darabont departed the series. DeMunn has had a long working relationship with Darabont and was allegedly very vocal on-set about the producer’s ouster. Here is DeMunn as he looked in 1994’s The Shawshank Redemption. The voice and the Eyebrows of Judgment are still highly recognizeable.

Laurie Holden

Frank Ockenfels/AMC

Andrea is an amazing survivor—she managed to stay alive for seven months with the help of Michonne and still find time to touch up her roots. Laurie Holden started acting at a very young age; her first role was at the tender age of six when she was cast as Rock Hudson’s daughter in the 1980 TV mini-series The Martian Chronicles (photo courtesy of TVRage).

Steven Yeun

Frank Ockenfels/AMC

Steven Yeun’s acting roots are actually in comedy, rather than sci-fi; Big Bang Theory fans probably remember seeing him in the flashback episode when Leonard first met Sheldon. After earning a theater degree from Michigan’s Kalamazoo College, he moved to Chicago where he performed with Second City and the Korean improv comedy troupe known as Stir-Friday Night. And while as Glenn Yeun struggles with basic chords on the guitar Dale found for him, in real life he’s an accomplished musician, as can be seen in this Stir-Friday Night “Auction Date” sketch he filmed back in 2006.

Scott Wilson

Frank Ockenfels/AMC

Of all the main characters, Hershel’s accent should probably ring the truest, since actor Scott Wilson was born and raised in Georgia. He hitchhiked to Los Angeles at the age of 19 to try his hand at an acting career and landed his first film role six years later as a murder suspect in In the Heat of the Night. That same year (1967) he was cast as one of the leads in In Cold Blood, which landed him on the cover of LIFE Magazine, along with his co-star Robert Blake.

Michael Rooker

Frank Ockenfels/AMC

In the “knock me over with a feather” category, we learn that Daryl’s psycho, abusive older brother, Merle (as played by Michael Rooker), not only once had a head full of curly hair, he also portrayed a conscience-free murderer in his first film role, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer.

This post originally appeared before Season Three.