Your favorite action movie or TV show probably doesn’t feature the actual actor. Instead, it features a stunt person who is specially trained in martial arts, safe falling techniques, and more. The actor and their stunt double must rehearse the sequence and perform it exactly the same way, so the editors can more easily intercut the scenes to make it appear as though the main actor is performing the stunt.
On a show like The Walking Dead, stunts are crucial. Both the main actors and the zombie characters sometimes perform physical feats that require special training.
But the zombie actors on The Walking Dead can’t behave like regular people. If zombies trip and fall, they wouldn’t put their arms out to catch themselves. So when a stunt double playing a zombie has to fall, they must fall on a hidden mat or accept the bumps and bruises.
Additionally, there are so many killing sequences on The Walking Dead that require a stunt coordinator’s attention. Depending on how the zombie is dispatched, the death choreography is slightly different and requires special reactions from the stunt person. For instance, a knife in the brain would result in a different sort of fall than a knife in the stomach.
Monty Simon served as the stunt coordinator for the show’s fifth season, and he notes the many complications that come with a show like The Walking Dead. He’s never said no to a director or producer, but he tries to “figure out how to do it safely and what it will take to do it safely. Then, I let them decide whether it’s worth it or not.”
Unfortunately, one stunt person died during a stunt gone wrong during the show’s eighth season. Safety standards are important to help protect stunt people, but also to help ensure the look of the show feels accurate.