While I was still thinking about which of my cohorts would be best to side with in the apocalypse (I decided on frosted tips: he seemed set on putting himself ahead of other people), my group was called. After a brief orientation (“there will be a group of people behind a table who are entertainment professionals who’ll be making the decisions. Some of it has to do with height and build, so if you don't get picked, don't take it personally”), we entered a much larger room, with five people with name tags behind a desk. They asked us to get comfortable. And then we auditioned.
They asked us to keep the details confidential, but I don’t think it's any breach that the auditions involved, well, acting like zombies, first as a group, and then individually. And though I'd been practicing my amble for years (Look straight ahead, but dead-eyed! Drag your feet, but not too much! Make gargling sounds while gnawing your teeth!), it quickly became clear who the pros were and who was, like me, a tourist in the audition circuit.
The rockabilly woman looked like she was trying to be a zombie, while barista girl was a zombie. All of a sudden, her body language changed; her legs drooped; her arms moved effortlessly. Bearded Sons of Anarchy man’s amble was practiced, pronounced, and, frankly, not good; painted guy, however, meandered in a way that suggested that, yes, his hunger for your neck was real and merciless and true. And black mohawk guy? One glance and you knew he meant business, and his business was eating human flesh, and holy hell, you better grab a nail-abetted baseball bat, because if not, your business and his business would soon be one.
By the time it was my turn, I tried to take what I'd learned and go with it. But even as I did my first audition, I knew I wasn't going to get it: my legs were not limp enough, my head was not tilted correctly; I kept wondering if my zombie was too flamboyant. And it also became obvious to me WHY I wasn’t going to get it: I hadn’t worked at it, forever, like these people had, and I hadn’t put in hours to a passion for acting, whether it was playing Macbeth or, well, committing to scaring the shit out of tourists at Universal. It didn’t matter to barista girl or mohawk guy what the audition was for: they had spent years in improv classes, and dance classes, and possibly zombie-walking classes, perfecting the way to make their body move just right to get the part, whatever that part was.
We heard about callbacks immediately afterwards. I was not picked. But, for sure, when the attraction opens this summer, I'll be one of the first in line. And I'll be looking into dark corners for a man who used to make his money as a human sculpture on Hollywood Blvd. And I’ll be scared as hell.
And I’ll also respect the shit out of him. Well, more than before, at least.
Jeff Miller likes both slow and fast zombies. He's on Instagram at @jeffmillerla and Twitter at @Thrillistla.
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