Meet ‘Professional Zombie’ Sonya Thompson From ‘The Walking Dead’
Georgia native Sonya Thompson has a job like no other, she’s a “professional zombie”! Currently seen on AMC’s The Walking Dead, Sonya has also scared movie audiences in Zombieland and is often called on by Hollywood to teach actors how to unleash their inner undead spirit. Don’t let her angelic face fool you, she’s able to deliver nightmare-inducing performances! We were able to chat with Sonya recently about her background, how a charming Southern belle ended up scaring the pants off people for a living and shares her tips on how you can make a splash at your holiday party by making a convincing zombie!
Socialite Life: Tell me a little about yourself and how you got involved in acting.
Sonya Thompson: I grew up in Northeast Georgia and have been entertaining since I was a child. I remember writing songs and skits….acting, singing and dancing in front of my family. I did a few plays in school and Church. My dream was to one day perform on Broadway! Granted, even though it was not on a professional level, at that time, it was in my blood at an early age. Later on, I modeled in my late teens and early twenties as a hobby. I even auditioned for a few commercials. I did professional clown work in my twenties. I love to make others smile, and they have, at times encouraged me to do stand up comedy. I have been doing cartoon voices since I was little also. I do feel that God has blessed me with many talents. To see others smile, makes me smile.
More from our interview with Sonya…
SL: How did you get your “calling” to be a zombie?
Sonya: A local production company in Atlanta, was filming Night of the Jackals and I was asked to be a zombie. I had a blast doing it! The next year, I auditioned for Zombieland and got the zombie role of the “Lunchroom Lady Zombie”. Once again, I enjoyed being a zombie, with the exception of the contact lenses. You gain tunnel vision with those things. Then the next year the same casting company sent me an email, letting me know that I had been chosen to be a zombie in the Walking Dead TV show. At times, I feel a bit typecast, but I do enjoy bringing the character to life, so to speak. (lol)
SL: How long does it take for you to get into makeup for an episode?
Sonya: I am usually in the makeup chair between 1 and a half hours to 2 hours, depending on how many prosthetics they are using. I always joke that it is a “zombie spa”! I also enjoy watching them create me in the mirror. I wear their artwork.
SL: You’ve been on a number of episodes of Walking Dead so far. Do you adopt a new “character” for each episode? If so, tell me how you develop a backstory for the character(s).
Sonya: Last season, I was the same zombie for every episode, so it was easy to jump in and out of the character each day. I felt that my character last year might have been a school teacher, somehow or another she ended up in the back seat of a car and knew how to climb on top of a tank. She could have learned that playing with the students or studying history. Who knows? (Laughs) This season, I have been two different zombies. Episode 2, I was a military zombie, so that made it easy. And episode 3, I was wearing a green shirt and pants, so thinking I was a mother. I take all of this and develop my inner zombie and then I roll with it. Not sure if it makes any sense to any one else but me, it helps me to feel the character better.
SL: What is the coolest thing that’s happened to you since appearing on the show?
Sonya: Oh wow, there have been a few cool moments. I would have to say the coolest thing was getting a call from Entertainment Weekly, saying that I would be on the front cover of their magazine and that they wanted to interview me. That was a great honor.
SL: Are you at all surprised about the success of the show?
Sonya: At first, I had no idea that it would be this huge, then I worked the first day and saw “Little Girl Zombie” (Addy Miller) play her role and fall to the ground from being shot. At that moment, I knew that this was going to be BIG! So no, I was not surprised about the success of the show.
SL: As a zombie, which character on the show would you most likely want to sink your teeth into?
Sonya: Watching this second season, that would be Shane. He totally deserves to be bitten.
SL: You’ve been working as a zombie consultant on a number of projects. What’s the most important thing one needs to know to be able to pull off a successful zombie interpretation?
Sonya: Think like a tiger and how its reactions change environmentally and when prey is close by. I also stare into space with a dead look on my face, slow reactions at first but quick like the tiger when prey is close by.
SL: Which zombies would win in a fight - Zombieland’s or The Walking Dead’s?
Sonya: Well considering that I have played a zombie on both Zombieland and The Walking Dead, I would have to say Zombieland. We were much quicker on Zombieland, our senses were outrageous!
SL: Do you have any other non-zombie projects on the horizon?
Sonya: Yes! I’m in This Old Machine with Lance Henriksen, Kevin Sorbo, and Dee Wallace - which is currently in post production. More Than Diamonds is out on DVD and I’m in All Hallows Evil: Lord of The Harvest and Cry For Revenge which are currently filming. You can also see me in Encuéntrate with Nancy Ticotin (of Law & Order) which is also in post production.
SL: I know you make a lot of personal appearances. Do you have any upcoming?
Sonya: I’ll be at Tampa Bay Comic Con on Nov 13, 2011, Connooga from Feb 17-19 2012 and Days of the Dead from March 9-11, 2012. That is all that I have for now.