Look, any one of us living through an apocalypse of any kind, especially one of the zombie variety, is going to have to deal with changes in our appearance. So we totally get how many of the actors playing characters on The Walking Dead are going to look different IRL. In the real world, they get to shower, eat regularly, wear nice clothes – and mostly avoid getting zombie guts and blood all over them.
Some of these characters, however, have been through the wringer, and it shows. They are beaten down, dirty, sweaty, rocking dark circles under the eyes – and, at least with the men, very hairy. Long stringy hair plastered to their faces with beards. Lots of beards, some scraggly, some rough, some bushy. Frankly, who has the time or the inclination to shave? Very few, that's who. Rick did try at one point when he first got to Alexandria, but he's given up on that now.
Then there are few on the show who choose to really look odd (see our first entry) and put on a certain appearance for effect (kingly or warrior like), which also makes sense because in this new world order, you have to stand out sometimes.
Here are 15 actors who look a whole lot different from their TWD characters. Just be forewarned, there are some SPOILERS from last season ahead!
15 KHARY PAYTON (“EZEKIEL”)
With his long dreadlocks and makeshift armor, Ezekiel is the leader of the Kingdom and fancies himself an Arthurian-type king, with a working, peaceful community, loyal subjects – and a badass tiger. As played by Khary Payton, we come to find out that Ezekiel was a zookeeper pre-apocalypse and that he saved the tiger's life. He also performed in community theater and thus, using his flair for theatrics, is able to become the “king” his Kingdom needs. He has maintained peace by never rocking the boat, but now that Negan has forced his hand, he joins ranks with Rick.
Payton sports a bald head in real life, which probably makes it easier to get that dreadlocked wig on and off. Along with The Walking Dead, Payton has a very busy career as a voice actor, having provided vocal work for shows such as Young Justice, Justice League Action, and more, along with an assortment of video game titles.
14 POLLYANNA MCINTOSH (“JADIS”)
Pollyanna McIntosh just recently made her debut on The Walking Dead this past season, playing Jadis, the leader of the Scavengers, a group of survivors living in a giant junkyard. Jadis definitely takes some getting used to when you first see her, with the severe straight-across-cut bangs and the weird, clipped English that she speaks. Maybe she spoke like a caveman before the zombie apocalypse, but now, she has fully embraced it. Still, she's very cunning and clearly is only looking out for herself and her group, double-crossing Rick at crunch time because she got a better deal from Negan. That's how her cookie crumbles.
Naturally, the Scottish actress is gorgeous in real life, but for some of the roles she's chosen in her career, she definitely isn't afraid to shed all that (check out The Woman, for example). Along with reprising her role in the upcoming season of The Walking Dead, McIntosh will also be seen as the leader of an all-female motorcycle gang in the indie film Blood Ride.
13 SONEQUA MARTIN-GREEN (“SASHA”)
Ah, Sasha. Portrayed by Sonequa Martin-Green, the former firefighter has had a rough go of it in the post-apocalyptic zombieland. She and her brother, Tyrese, hook up with Rick and the gang early on, when they find sanctuary at the prison. But as they continue on in the world of the undead, she sees Tyrese and her boyfriend, Bob both die. Suffering severe PTSD, Sasha finally finds some solace with new love Abraham, only to see him and Glenn bludgeoned to death by Negan. Sasha ultimately sacrifices herself and thwarts Negan's plans to defeat Rick. It was sad to see her get walker-ized, but the way she creates the distraction needed is pretty awesome.
Although we will miss her terribly on TWD, Martin-Green has already moved on to a plumb lead role in the new Star Trek series, Discovery, which is premiering this fall on CBS All Access. The fresh and futuristic vibe her new gig affords her is a good look.
12 CHRISTIAN SERRATOS (“ROSITA”)
Christian Serratos plays Rosita as a tough cookie, but she really isn't. It's not quite clear what Rosita did before things went to hell – she hinted at serving in the military – but she finds her niche when she joins Abraham and Eugene on their journey to finding a cure (which we all know now was a fool's errand). She falls for Abraham, but when they end up at Alexandria, Rosita falls apart after Abraham dumps her for Sasha and is then brutally killed. She joins the club of seeking revenge against Negan (along with Sasha, Carl, etc), but finally realizes she's better off sticking with the people who care about her and fighting the good fight.
As an actress playing a woman living in a world full of zombies, it has to be fun to just slap on a hat, some grungy clothes, and go to work. The Walking Dead has really put Serratos on the map, but before the AMC series, she did a stint on the ABC Family show The Secret Life of an American Teenager.
11 DANAI GURIRA (“MICHONNE”)
It's hard to recognize Danai Gurira when she isn't portraying Michonne. From the first time we meet this fierce warrior goddess with her long dreadlocks and signature katana, she's dragging two mutilated zombies (actually it is her boyfriend and close friend) on chains behind her, and we know we'll never see anyone else like her. Even though she's stoic in demeanor, Michonne really has become the heart and soul of the show since she joined Rick and the gang – and eventually fell in love with him. She desperately wants to find a place where they can live in relative peace and is more than willing to fight against those who threaten to destroy it.
Again, like Khary Payton, Gurira keeps her hair very short for Michonne's dreadlocks wig. In fact, she's recently shaved her head (even putting in a cool design, as seen above) to play another warrior, Okoye, in the upcoming MCU movie Black Panther, playing King T'Challa's head of special forces. Intensity is Gurira's game, that's for sure.
10 ANDREW LINCOLN (“RICK”)
Boy, Andrew Lincoln has sure gone through a transformation as Rick, the former sheriff who wakes up from a coma in the hospital to find himself immersed in a full-blown zombie apocalypse. Going from clean shaven and earnest to full-on grey beard, sweaty long hair, and surly deposition, Rick has seen and done a lot of messed up things. But ultimately – whether he wants it or not – he is the leader of his group, and it's finally time from him to gather allies and defeat an enemy greater than the walking dead.
When Lincoln first took on the role as the Georgia lawman in the AMC series, many couldn't believe it was the same guy who pined for Keira Knightley in Love Actually. Although he has maintained the beard and slicked back hair to continue playing Rick in the upcoming Walking Dead season(s), the handsome British actor didn't always look like that – and when TWD is all over, he can go back to just being Andrew again.
9 JEFFREY DEMUNN (“DALE”)
We miss Dale. As played by Jeffrey DeMunn, the TWD character was a fan favorite for the first two seasons of the show. Wise and level-headed, wearing his signature Gilligan's Island hat, Dale was a beacon of hope in the otherwise bleak landscape, offering comfort to many, especially Andrea. He was retired before the apocalypse began, having bought an RV to travel across the country with his wife. When she died of cancer before they could start their journey, he was left alone, but when hell broke loose, he finally found a new family. His gruesome disembowelment by a ravenous zombie in Season 2 was a real blow.
It's amazing how much you can change your look when you shave off a beard. Veteran actor DeMunn has done a lot of work in TV and movies, and he's a particular favorite of director Frank Darabont (who was TWD's showrunner for the first season), co-starring in all three of his Stephen King adaptations: The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile and The Mist. DeMunn currently stars in the Showtime series Billions.
8 ALANNA MASTERSON (“TARA”)
Alanna Masterson's Tara has often been a ray of light in the bleak circumstances, thanks to her wry sense of humor and faith in humanity as a whole. Pre-apocalypse, Tara was training to be a police officer, so she's got some skills with a firearm. Post zombies, she's been through hell and back – with her sister, niece, and dad dying, to dealing with the Governor, to finally finding her place with Rick's group. Now, she's the one trying to bring in a new group, the women of Oceanside, as allies to fight Negan. Their leader, Natania, doesn't want to get involved, but Rick's going to take their armory whether they join the fight or not. Let's hope Natania comes around.
Masterson usually has to look pretty frumpy as Tara, but her Instagram account shows a whole different view of the lovely actress. She has appeared in TV shows such as Mistresses and more, but she hit gold when she signed on to The Walking Dead. We can't wait to see more Tara in Season 8.
7 LAUREN COHAN (“MAGGIE”)
Lauren Cohan really had her work cut out for her playing Maggie this past season – and it shows on her battle-weary face. Up to this point, she's seen many of the people she loves die, including her father Hershel and her little sister Beth. But when her one true love, Glenn, has his head bashed in by Negan's Lucille, it almost kills her. Almost. Knowing that she's carrying Glenn's baby, Maggie has somehow found inner strength – and realized her potential to lead the people at Hilltop. She's not going to back down from the fight against Negan, and she inspires the Hilltoppers to follow her.
Poor Cohan has recently been made to look pretty worn out from being newly pregnant, losing her love and all that, but when she gets to clean up in real life, the actress is a knockout. Cohan has been doing a few movies in between TWD seasons, including the Tupac biopic All Eyez on Me and the horror film The Boy. And she may have an even bigger role to play in the DCEU as Martha Wayne than anyone could have anticipated.
6 TOM PAYNE (“JESUS”)
As played by Tom Payne, Jesus (real name Paul Rovia) came on the scene in Season 6, and he 100 percent embodies his nickname. He introduces Rick and the rest to the Hilltop Colony, and is a very easygoing, charming guy who could lead but chooses not to, in order work his magic outside the lines. He sees potential in Maggie, though, and helps bolster her confidence in taking over from the ineffective Gregory, because he knows they are going to have to band together to defeat Negan.
This dude clearly has to sport some serious facial hair and long locks to look like Jesus, but, like probably most of the male cast of TWD, he'll want to shave all that off once it's done. Payne, also British (who isn't these days?), has had a career mostly in TV, having co-starred in a few series such as Waterloo Road and the short-lived HBO series Luck, along with a few movies, including The Physician.
5 JON BERNTHAL (“SHANE”)
Oh, Shane. Portrayed by the intense Jon Bernthal, he was honestly one of the most compelling characters the show ever had, and even though he had to die because he was just too dangerous, we were sad – and horrified – when it happened. After shanghaiing Rick's life as the apocalypse goes down, taking over as pseudo-husband to Lori and surrogate father to Carl, Shane's whole world crumbles when Rick returns alive and well. Shane's resentment for his former best friend grows into murderous intent. The final confrontation between the two is heartbreaking, especially as Rick stabs his friend, and then Carl shoots the re-animated Shane in the head.
The buffed, sometimes scary-looking Bernthal has had a wonderfully successful career since breaking out in TWD, both in TV and movies, and he's changed his looks for many parts. Currently, he is portraying Frank Castle, aka The Punisher, in the upcoming new Marvel series for Netflix.
4 SCOTT WILSON (“HERSHEL”)
Hershel's death was another hard one to take, especially after he survived a few particularly close calls. Scott Wilson played the kindly farmer with patience and wisdom – even if he was a little deluded at first, thinking the walkers were still people. When he's in the prison and gets bitten by a walker in the calf, Rick acts quickly and amputates his lower leg. This Hershel also takes in stride, as he's just grateful to be alive. So when the Governor captures him and then beheads him in front of his two daughters, Maggie and Beth, we feel their anguish.
Wilson began his career in the '60s with two high-profile films, In Cold Blood and In the Heat of the Night and has worked steadily since. After TWD, Wilson cleaned himself up to co-star in new series Bosch and The OA.
3 JOSH McDERMITT (“EUGENE")
Eugene is a TWD character you'd really love to kick the crap out of sometimes, and Josh McDermitt plays him brilliantly. Highly intelligent, anti-social, and eccentric (and probably on the spectrum), Eugene has mostly been a detriment to those around him, but has, at times, endeared himself to the group with some of his much needed skills (like making bullets). However, he is ultimately a coward, and when faced with either standing up for his friends or self-preservation, he picks himself every time. And since he feels Negan is the one who will prevail, he's going to side with him.
Sporting that god-awful mullet can't be easy, but McDermitt, who is naturally strawberry blonde, pulls it off. The actor has mostly stuck with TV in his career, with guest spots in shows like Mad Men and the new Twin Peaks, but it's The Walking Dead that has given him his big break.
2 DAVID MORRISSEY (“THE GOVERNOR”)
The Governor's appearance on TWD was almost as anticipated as Negan's, as the eye-patch sporting villain in the comic books was a fan favorite. David Morrissey did a fantastic job bringing the leader of Woodbury to life. Seemingly benevolent but ruling with a stern but fair hand, the Governor is actually barely holding it together – and when Michonne discovers his secret (keeping his zombie daughter in a closet, along with severed heads in tanks) and dispatches her, while also gouging out his eye, the Gov begins a full-on descent into madness. He is eventually slain, but after he destroys the prison, scattering Rick and his gang to the winds.
Of course, remove the eye patch and Morrissey turns into the hard-working British actor he always has been. He has starred in a variety of British TV shows and movies, most recently in Extant and Starz's The Missing.
1 AUSTIN AMELIO (“DWIGHT”)
As played by Austin Amelio, the scar-faced, weaselly-looking Dwight is probably one of the more inscrutable characters on the show right now. You're never quite sure which way he is leaning, even though he still seems to be fully in Negan's corner after pretending he was defecting to Alexandria but then double crossing them. But could he actually be defecting? Negan did take away his wife and burn his face with an iron after a minor infraction. Time will tell if Dwight is truly Daryl's nemesis, or if he is in a long con to take down Negan once and for all.
Amelio is definitely the most shockingly different in real life. His face is not really scarred, for one thing, and if you cut the hair and shave the scraggles on his face, he's good looking guy. Save for a few acting stints (including Richard Linklater's Everybody Wants Some!) playing Dwight on The Walking Dead is Amelio's true claim to fame. We're looking forward to seeing what he does in the future.
Is there someone we missed? Let us know in the comments, and make sure to tune in when Season 8 of The Walking Dead premieres on October 22 on AMC.