Yvette Nicole Brown: Why I Still Love ‘The Walking Dead’
One day in 2010, I was watching AMC and I saw a promo of a sheriff on a horse riding into a horde of dead people. In my memory, this image was in black and white. I don’t know if it really was. Something about that image—a lone man against a horde of darkness—made me feel like he was going to prevail, and I wanted to see him prevail. The show was The Walking Dead and I was hooked from Episode 1.
But get this: The Walking Dead is so the opposite of what I would choose to watch! I’m not the typical horror fan. I’m not a horror fan—period. I don’t like gore. I’m squeamish at the sight of blood. Apocalyptic stories give me the willies. The things that I’ve seen on this show are the kinds of things I usually avoid like the plague. In fact, I watch most episodes sheepishly peeking through my fingers. I’m sure a lot of people don’t watch the show for that reason: the blood and the guts. And I want them to know: I am just like you! This is not my kind of situation either!
But there’s something about the humanity of this show that makes me wade into waters that I would normally run from. You see, The Walking Dead is about zombies the same way that Friday Night Lights is about football. It’s there, on the periphery of the story. I know right now you’re saying, “But Yvette, the zombies are all around!” Yes, walkers—as they’re called on The Walking Dead—are everywhere, but the show is really not about the zombies. That’s something I don’t think people who don’t watch the show realize. The Walking Dead is about relationships and friendships and whether you are a hero or not. There’s just something about those themes and these characters that is so engrossing that you overlook the parts that are, well…gross.
Over the years, the shocking plot twists and gut punches have taken their toll. But thankfully, through my frequent guest appearances on Talking Dead, I’ve formed friendships with most of the creators and the cast. Whenever I feel like my own guts have been pulled out, I can text or call someone. The show’s executive producers Greg Nicotero and Scott M. Gimple have learned to expect my texts if an episode is especially rough. When fan-favorite Glenn said his goodbye this season, I texted Steven Yeun, through tears. He responded immediately and comforted me in a way that I don’t think anyone else could have in that moment, because it was an immediate reminder that my buddy Steve was fine, no matter how graphic Glenn’s last moments were. Still missing you, Glenn.
I think shows like The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones—series in which characters we love could die at any time—have prepared us for uncertain times. As long as I’ve been alive, I don’t remember ever having this much anxiety about simply turning on the news in the morning. And there aren’t any dead people roaming! It all seems so unpredictable. And this may sound silly, but I feel like I’m better prepared having watched The Walking Dead. Because the reality is this: None of us know when we’re going to go in real life either. The situation on the show is heightened because there literally are monsters walking around trying to bite people’s faces off! But we drive every day. We get on planes. We cross busy streets. Shoot, a plate of shellfish eaten by the wrong person could be as deadly as a zombie. Not to be morbid, but the truth is, every day could be our last. The Walking Dead asks: But how are you living it? That is why I love this show!
I have a conversation about The Walking Dead every single day I leave my house. I will run into someone who’s a fan of the show and they’ll have a question or want to discuss the finer points of Richonne. Which is a ship that became canon and, well…I digress. Simply put, this show about zombies has opened up my world in a beautiful way because I get to have conversations with strangers who aren’t strangers because we have this mutual love for this wonderful creation. I can find a friend in any city I visit. I can find a friend in any grocery store I enter. They’re every race, every age, men and women. Some of them are children, some of them are 80 years old. And we can all just come together and have a wonderful conversation about a zombie show. —As told to John Russell
Yvette Nicole Brown hosts Cosplay Melee, Premieres Tuesday, March 21, 10/9c, Syfy
The Walking Dead, Sundays, 9/8c, AMC