What Did ‘The Walking Dead’ Cast Do Before They Were Famous?

After 5 intense seasons, the cast of The Walking Dead are pretty solidified in their fame. They all attend conventions annually, where their fans turn up in the thousands. The show has broken records on Twitter during episodes and people pretty much freak out when any news about the show is leaked. We may never look at Norman Reedus again without thinking of his classic Daryl Dixon crossbow, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t have a life before TWD. What was he (and the rest of this now-famous cast) up to back in the day? A few of these famous faces had some not-so-Hollywood names originally.

Andrew Lincoln - Rick Grimes
Andrew Lincoln, Boston Kickout, The Walking Dead, Before They Were Famous
OFG First Look/AMC
Before Andrew Lincoln was killing zombies and rocking the sexiest beard known to man, he was just Andrew James Clutterbuck. When he was younger he spent a summer at the National Youth Theater and grew interested in acting. It wasn't until after school, when he attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts that he dropped Clutterbuck and went by Andrew Lincoln. Some of his very early work (before Love Actually and way before The Walking Dead) includes a lot of British film and television work, like: Drop the Dead Donkey, N7, and Boston Kickout.
Jon Bernthal - Shane Walsh
Jon Bernthal, Law and Order: Criminal Intent, The Walking Dead, Before They Were Famous
Back before he was one of the most hated/secretly loved men on The Walking Dead, Jon Bernthal was a professionally trained actor. He attended Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, and later attended The School of Moscow Art Theatre in Russia. While he was in Russia, he was a catcher on a semi-professional baseball team. He made his way back to the U.S. and was discovered by the executive director of Harvard University's Institute for Advanced Theater Training at the American Repertory Theatre. He graduated in 2002 from the ART with a Master of Fine Arts. Some of his early film and television work includes: Law and Order: Criminal Intent, Mary / Mary, and Tony 'n' Tina's Wedding. He's appeared on Broadway numerous times as well since 2002, having started his own award-winning theatre company, Fovea Floods.
Steven Yeun - Glenn Rhee
Steven Yeun, My Name Is Jerry, The Walking Dead, Before They Were Famous
Osiris Entertainment/AMC
When Steven Yeun left for college, his intended career was not acting. He fulfilled his bachelor's degree in psychology, with a concentration in neuroscience at Kalamazoo College in 2005. However, while he was there he became interested in acting and told his parents he would no longer be attending medical or law school, as originally planned. He worked in improv groups in Chicago and New York City before landing some smaller roles in things like My Name is Jerry and a guest role on The Big Bang Theory (he was Sheldon's old roommate!).
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Norman Reedus - Daryl Dixon
Norman Reedus, Floating, The Walking Dead, Before They Were Famous
Phaedra Cinema
If you're an old-school Norman Reedus fan, you most likely know him from his days as Murphy MacManus in The Boondock Saints. But before that, did you know he was born and raised in California, and worked at a Harley Davidson? All while doing that, he also contributed his own artwork to various shows as a painter, photographer, sculptor, and video artist. He began working in the film and television industry in 1997, with some of his earliest work being: Floating, Dark Harbor, and Mimic. Before his TWD days, he also used to model quite often, working with numerous famous designers like Prada, Levi's, Lexus, and more.
Chandler Riggs - Carl Grimes
Chandler Riggs, The Walking Dead
Chandler is clearly the youngest cast member on this show (aside from his on-screen sister Judith), so he wasn't up to much before TWD. He played a munchkin in his musical theater debut at the Atlanta's Fox Theater production of The Wizard of Oz. In 2009 he got his first two major acting breaks simultaneously, as Tom in the film Get Low and in the television movie The Wronged Man.
Melissa McBride - Carol Peletier
Melissa McBride, Walker, Texas Ranger, The Walking Dead, Before They Were Famous
Melissa McBride is originally from Kentucky, but she has lived in Georgia (like her character Carol) since the 1980s! Before she was on TV or in movies, she appeared in Rooms To Go commerciasl, as well as being a spokeswoman for Ford. She began her acting career guest-starring in minor roles for several television shows, like Walker, Texas Ranger and playing supporting roles in made-for-television films before becoming a casting director.
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Lauren Cohan - Maggie Greene
Lauren Cohan, Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj, The Walking Dead, Before They Were Famous
MGM via Everett Collection/AMC
You might not be able to tell from The Walking Dead, but Lauren Cohan has a natural British accent because she moved to the United Kingdom when she was 13, settling down in Surrey. She graduated from the University of Winchester in England, where she studied Drama and English Literature, before she began touring with a theatre company she co-founded while attending the university. Some of her earliest work includes Casanova, Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj, and Float.
Danai Gurira - Michonne
Danai Gurira, Law and Order: Criminal Intent, The Walking Dead, Before They Were Famous
Before she was wielding a katana,  Danai Gurira was splitting her time between Iowa and her parents native country of Zimbabwe. When she was older she returned to the United States to study at Macalester College. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in psychology. She has said that she considers her experience of growing up in Zimbabwe and then returning to the U.S. to have "had a major influence on her perspective". After she finished school there, she earned a Master of Fine Arts in acting from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. Before TWD, she appeared on both Law and Order: Criminal Intent and the original Law & Order.
Emily Kinney - Beth Greene
Emily Kinney, The Walking Dead

Before she was singing sad songs on TWD, Emily Kinney attended New York University for a semester. She went on to graduate from Nebraska Wesleyan University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in theater. She moved to NYC to pursue an acting career on Broadway and wound up working in coffee shops. Her time as a barista helped her meet people from the industry and she began working in plays, being cast in the play Spring Awakening. Some of her early film work includes Hot For Teacher, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, and It’s Complicated.

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Sonequa Martin-Green - Sasha Williams
Sonequa Martin-Green, The Walking Dead

When Sonequa was in the 10th grade, she originally planned on becoming a psychologist. She wound up changing her mind and attended the University of Alabama, getting her degree in theater. She actually met her husband Kenric Green while working on a play in Princeton, New Jersey. Some of her early work includes Army Wives, Toe to Toe, and The Good Wife – which is where she gained a lot of traction in the business before TWD.

Scott Wilson - Hershel Greene
Scott Wilson, In Cold Blood, The Walking Dead
Columbia Pictures/AMC

Out of everyone on this list, Scott Wilson was pretty much famous from the get-go. Way back when he started, he began his career by playing multiple different characters suspected of murder in several movies like In The Heat of the Night, In Cold Blood, and Castle Keep. At the time, he was cast in In Cold Blood, a film based on a real-life murderer, because he was widely unknown.

Sarah Wayne Callies - Lori Grimes
Sarah Wayne Callies, Tarzan, The Walking Dead

Like a lot of her former co-workers (RIP Lori), Sarah Wayne Callies went to school for acting. After living in Hawaii as a child, she attended school in the U.S., graduating from Denver's National Theater Conservatory, where she obtained her Master of Fine Arts degree in 2002. She moved to New York to pursue her dream of acting and landed her first few roles in Queens Supreme, Law & Order: SVU, and Tarzan - the TV series, not the animated Disney classic.

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Laurie Holden - Andrea Harrison
Laurie Holden, Expect No Mercy, The Walking Dead
Film One/AMC

Laurie Holden was born to two actors and in turn, wound up being one her self – though unintentionally. Holden received her first film role when she was a young child. While visiting her stepfather, director Michael Anderson, on set, the young actress hired to play Rock Hudson's daughter in The Martian Chronicles never arrived, so Laurie stepped in. When she was a teenager, she won The Look of the Year modeling contest in Toronto and was then given a minor role as a babysitter in Anderson's comedy Separate Vacations. She may have later become a full-time actress, but Holden actually graduated from the Bishop Strachan School, she attended McGill University, where she studied economics and political science.

Chad L. Coleman - Tyreese Williams
Chad L. Coleman, I Hate My Teenage Daughter, The Walking Dead

Originally, Chad L. Coleman had intentions to take up a career in track and field, but a leg injury led him to study drama. He attended Virginia Commonwealth University on a scholarship shortly, but dropped out to serve in the United States Army. While he was in the army, he worked as a video camera man. He found his way back to acting after that, starting out with small roles in Law & Order, New York Undercover, and Speed of Life.

Michael Cudlitz - Abraham Ford
Michael Cudlitz, D3: The Mighty Ducks, The Walking Dead
Buena Vista Pictures/AMC

Michael Cudlitz was born and raised on the east coast, but wound up attending school at the California Institute of Arts. Before he gained fame from Band of Brothers, he was one of the jerks on the opposing team in D3: The Mighty Ducks.

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David Morrissey - The Governor
David Morrissey, Waterland, The Walking Dead
Fine Line via Everett Collection/AMC

At a very young age David Morrissey became interested in film, television and Gene Kelly musicals. He decided to become an actor while he attended St. Margaret Mary’s School. He was the Scarecrow in his school's production of The Wizard of Oz. But the following year, while attending a different school he feared the pressure of what bullies might say about his acting so he quit for a while. He eventually joined the Everyman Youth Theatre. Some of his early professional acting work includes One Summer (his film debut), Drowning by Numbers, and of course, he was Little John in Robin Hood in 1991.

Michael Rooker - Merle Dixon
Michael Rooker, Eight Men Out, The Walking Dead
Orion Pictures via Everett Collection/AMC

Michael Rooker is one of 9 children in his family. When his mother and father divorced, he moved with his mother to Chicago, Illinois where he studied at the Goodman School of Drama. He landed his first film role as he was working in a play. The director was set to work on prosthetics for Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer and decided to tell Rooker about the film. Rooker apparently didn’t care if the script was good or bad, he just accepted the role because he wanted to challenge himself. His role in that film wound up being the spark that got him noticed in the film industry and led to many future roles.

Jeffrey DeMunn - Dale Horwath
Jeffrey DeMunn, Windy City, The Walking Dead
Warner Bros. via Everett Collection/AMC

In the early 1970s Jeffrey DeMunn moved to England and received theatrical training at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. He came back stateside fairly soon and performed in a Royal Shakespeare Company National Tour's production of King Lear and A Midsummer Night's Dream. This led him to work on off-Broadway productions, including Bent and Modigliani. Some of his early film work includes The Last Tenant, Sanctuary of Fear, and King Crab.

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Irone-Singleton - Theodore "T Dog" Douglas
Irone-Singleton, One Tree Hill, The Walking Dead

Irone Singleton is actually Robert Singleton, born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia. He graduated from the University of Georgia, where he majored in Speech Communication and Theatre. He later played on the Georgia Bulldogs football team. Some of his earliest film work includes Fled, Remember the Titans, Dead Wait, and The Longest Yard. One Tree Hill fans might recognize him as a homeless man that Dan Scott speaks to.


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