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  1. Life & Culture

IronE Singleton, Jay Bonansinga talk 'The Walking Dead' before Walker Stalker Con

Hordes of zombies and undead wannabes are invading Orlando's Orange County Convention Center this weekend for Walker Stalker Con, a gathering for diehard The Walking Dead fans. The con brings together current and former actors from the show as well as authors, artists, vendors and a post-apocalyptic zombie immersion experience. The Times caught up with guests IronE Singleton and Jay Bonansinga to chat about their involvement with one of the hottest shows on TV and what they're bringing to the con.

IronE Singleton

Known for his roles as Alton in The Blind Side and Theodore "T-Dog" Douglas in The Walking Dead, Singleton will perform his one-man show, Blindsided by the Walking Dead, which chronicles his life from the projects in Atlanta to seeing his hometown turned into a walker wasteland.

How was it seeing your hometown through the eyes of the zombie apocalypse?

It was surreal. We were shooting maybe a mile or two from where I grew up. Back in those days, when I was a teenager running the streets, where statistics say it would lead to an early grave or prison, (I went) to being in the biggest show in cable TV history. I equate The Walking Dead with those who were selling drugs while I was growing up. The sellers were emotionless, like the walkers. The only thought they were concerned with was getting the crack in their system. The walkers are consumed by the thought of flesh and blood. I could only recognize the contrast. How amazing is God to allow something like this to happen to someone from the projects. (It was) the best time of my career, building all those relationships.

How did you incorporate your own story of survival into playing T-Dog?

It was totally my entire testimony. I think that God prepared me for the moment in The Blind Side; the character (in the movie) was similar to the character I could have become. My life also prepared me to play T-Dog. That was what my entire life was about — surviving. To be on the set of The Walking Dead, it was like being back home. I had to survive again, though in the fictional world.

You've said you fought, sweat and gagged your way through The Walking Dead. Was working on the show as gross as it appears on TV?

It was gross. The well scene (in Season 2) is the segue to the gagging story. The walker was the most hideous of the ones I'd seen so far. There was a lot of dust and dirt flying around. I had breakfast that morning, some not so good looking sausage links, (and) Norman Reedus said, "Oh, what's that poop?" That image coincided with the image of the walker. I started gagging, from the dust and dirt and the walker.

What are you most looking forward to at Walker Stalker?

The meet and greets. The fans get so excited. They love The Walking Dead. I love them for loving it (and) when I see the smiles on their faces and even tears.

What can congoers expect from your one-man show?

It was a pretty interesting title because I was literally blindsided by (the show). I never saw being on this big show and The Blind Side was the movie that opened the door for me. I play 20 different characters. I touch on my time doing The Blind Side and The Walking Dead and I incorporate characters from the show. It's primarily for humanity at large, God put me here and gave me an epiphany 20 years ago. I was here for a reason and I had to tell my story.

Jay Bonansinga

The author specializes in thrillers and horror, and in the world of the undead, he's most known for co-writing The Walking Dead book series with Robert Kirkman. Bonansinga gave us some insight into the process of helping create the backstory for the show's greatest villain.

How is it being both a creator and a fan of the books and show?

I'm proud of the whole Walking Dead affiliation that I have. I felt like I had been working toward it all my life. I'm so fortunate to have gotten into The Walking Dead creative family. I feel like I live in this world, not that I would be able to survive; I would be one the people who died within the first 10 minutes in episode 1.

Where did the idea for a companion series come from?

I think Robert saw where The Walking Dead was going. He saw the whole mythology of The Walking Dead was going to blow up. People who watch the TV show are going to wonder about these characters, (and) the governor was one of the most talked about characters in the comics. The first ones tell the story of the governor, who this guy is. It surprisingly came alive on the page. The novels have matured over the years. It really becomes rich, literary work in their own right, thanks to Robert.

How does the Governor stack up as a great villain?

One time at a Walker Stalker Con, David Morrisey was asked if he read the comic books. He said "No, but I have read Rise of the Governor; it's a great book." Within an hour we had sold out at the con and the stores in the area had gotten thousands of orders. I got to know him a little when he was just starting the show. He told me he read that book to prepare to play the Governor. One of the things Robert and I tried to do in the book was humanize him and give him dimension. It was getting inside of this evil and finding these complications.

What are you most looking forward to at Walker Stalker Con?

They're fun and exciting for fans. I have my little booth and table, do autographs and take pictures. People will come up to say 'We just wanna thank you for dreaming up this amazing experience. It has brought our family closer together.' (But) I didn't really dream up the whole thing, I just write the novels. There's something about The Walking Dead that transcends bad-a-- horror. It's great, entertaining dark fantasy horror. This year one of my own books came out, Lucid. It's a young adult horror book about a lucid dreamer: an 18-year-old girl. She's so good at it she's not even aware of her own skills. Orlando is the first con where one of my books comes out at the same time.

Contact Chelsea Tatham at ctatham@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3408

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