Originally published April 5, 2014 on PennLive.com
With the “Walking Dead,” zombies are the rage.
It’s important therefore that all zombie actors and zombie fans take a moment to bask in the present popularity of the undead – at least that’s what Mark Tierno believes.
Tierno played “Beef Treats,” one of the featured zombies in the film “Day of the Dead” (1985). The Pittsburgh actor, who also stared in Syfy’s “Mercury Men,” is in the midstate for the Central PA Comic Con at the Hotel Carlisle April 5-6.
But back to zombies.
“I really think they should have their own variety show,” he was telling me Saturday afternoon at the con. “Or a talk show – a grunt show!” He laughed.
Tierno and I embarked on an epic zombie discussion, in which he shared with me his tips for being the ultimate zombie. These are the things every zombie portrayer must master before trying to tackle the role of the stumbling undead.
“You need to think like a dead person,” Tierno said. “Their mental processes aren’t that acute.” So how does one achieve that perfect mixture of dead, but not-dead thought patterns? “It takes years of zombie meditation,” he joked.
Tierno is old school, so to him zombies don’t move fast. So slow down your movements. But do realize that by following his model, you’re taking a side in a zombie war. “There’s a conflict between the old zombies and the new ones on that,” Tierno warned.
Also, leave your gracefulness at home. Nobody wants a ballerina zombie. The undead are all about the shuffling. “You’re always unbalanced and ambling and shuffling,” Tierno said, demonstrating briefly with a stilted walk that made me nearly want to chop his head off for fear of him eating my flesh. Now all that can make your legs a little stiff, maybe even cramp them up a bit. So if you’re really dedicated to it, consider seeing a masseuse. “There should have been zombie masseuses on set” for “Day of the Dead” Tierno said with a grin.
Another Tierno zombie movement fact? Zombies cannot dance.
Don’t forget to spend time focusing on the groan. The key is to find the right note that sounds like anguish – but also resonates. “It took weeks of practice,” Tierno said. Most of that was spent groaning in the car.
“You have to react to live humans, because that’s what you want to eat,” Tierno said. Don’t go all method here though, Tierno definitely didn’t. “I didn’t actually eat anybody,” he said. But he did add that imagining people were fried chicken was a good way to get that zombie craving down.
“There’s no sex for zombies,” Tierno said. “That’s unfortunate, but zombies are not interested.” He paused. “That may be why they are so angry!” he laughed.
One of the most important part in nailing the zombie, is the getting the right expression in your eyes. “Generally, it’s a vacant stare,” Tierno said. “Like having to take a test you didn’t prepare for.”
Also, you need to realize zombies don’t care for hygiene. You may want to consider not bathing for a month, Tierno jokingly suggested. Zombies have bad breath and body odor. Also their skin is, well, dead. “Their bad skin tone isn’t even corrected by Oil of Olay,” he said.
“There’s no fear of death for zombies,” Tierno said – which goes back to the earlier thoughts on zombie meditation. It explains why zombies are so calm (between meals). “Zombie zen” is what Tierno called it.