Franklin native Michael Mason sat nervously Sunday night, anxiously awaiting for the newest episode of AMC”s hit show, “The Walking Dead.” Mason’s anticipation wasn’t because Rick’s group were destined to run into some problems with the Saviors, but rather because he was waiting for his big screen debut.
“I applied on Facebook through the site, ‘Extras Casting Atlanta,’” said Mason. “They do a lot of work for ‘The Walking Dead.’ When the show needs extras, ECS will post what kind of people they are looking for. All I had to do was email a photo with my height, weight, and contact information and I was lucky enough to make the cut.”
In the opening scene of Sunday night’s episode, Mason played the role of a Savior, the newest antagonist for the show. He, along with other members of Negan’s army rushed members of King Ezekiel’s forces. The good guys won this battle, which unfortunately for Mason, meant his group was ambushed in the surprise attack and his big screen debut was short lived.
Mason was selected on May 31 to film for the show and reported for filming the very next day in Atlanta. He showed up for wardrobe fitting on June 1 and then on June 2, spent the day in the Georgia heat, which saw nearly 100 degree highs, filming his scene.
Despite the heat, Mason said the best part of the experience was being in front of the camera.
“There is so much down time it can get very boring and hot,” recalled Mason. “It was 95 that day and I was wearing two shirts. But as soon as you were called on set everyone got excited. It was so fun. For me it was like being a kid again playing cops and robbers. On set we ran around shooting at each other and when you heard your number called that was the signal for you to die.”
More than five months passed from the day Mason filmed until his scene made TV, forcing him to keep his experience a secret to not spoil the show.
“For me it was impossible,” Mason said of keeping it all a secret. “I didn’t keep it well. But my friends that I told did and I thank them for that.”
Leading up to the 9 p.m. airing of the show, Mason was giddy with excitement.
“I felt nervous all day Sunday,” said Mason. “I knew I wouldn’t get much screen time, if any, but I still keep thinking over 10 million people are watching tonight. I had a lot of people in Franklin who don’t watch the show tell me they were tuning in just to look for me.”
Over Halloween weekend, Mason attended the Walker Stalker Convention in Atlanta and got a chance to see more of the actors from the show. It was his first convention and is now something he hopes to do again next year. While as a fan, Mason has toured several of the public places the show has been filmed, he said filming the show gave him behind the scenes perspective.
“I enjoyed getting to go inside the studio and getting to see so many sites that have been filmed over the years such as the prison, Negan’s compound, Oceanside, and the Junkyard,” said Mason. “A lot of fans of the show will never get to see these sites and I was lucky enough to do that.”
Mason hopes his first appearance on the show isn’t his last.
”Next year I have been thinking about going back for a role as a Walker. Since the time of filming I’m down 30 pounds and now fit into the typical person they look for. One day, I would like to see other people from Franklin make the show. It would be so fun to watch them on TV and listen to their stories about their experience. I enjoyed the autographs I got from Ezekiel and Jerry and the comments they made about our scene.”