In a Walker-infested post-apocalyptic world, there’s a good chance that a little scientific knowledge would give you the edge when it came to survival. So it might surprise you to learn that some of the cast members of AMC’s The Walking Dead might fare better than others in an actual zombie dystopia thanks to their academic backgrounds. That’s right, a select few members of The Walking Dead cast are our latest Secret Science Nerds!
The Walking Dead fans likely know Steven Yeun best as Glenn Rhee, a capable and crafty supply runner who’s been a major player on the show since the very beginning. But Yeun’s path almost veered quite far away from the Walker-filled streets of Atlanta. The son of South Korean parents who owned beauty supply stores in Detroit—his father was an architect in their native country—Yeun pursued an academic career that would put him on the path to becoming a doctor. He did his self-described “nerd thing” by attending Kalamazoo College as a pre-med student majoring in psychology with a concentration in neuroscience. But his parents’ wish for him to become a doctor didn’t jibe with his own, and when Yeun discovered improv while at college, the acting bug bit him; he hasn’t looked back since.
Danai Gurira, a.k.a. Michonne the katana-wielding badass, is the youngest of four children of Zimbabwean parents; her mother is a university librarian while her father is a chemistry professor at University of Wisconsin-Platteville. This academic upbringing eventually led her to Macalester College, where she graduated with a major in psychology. She planned to pursue a PhD in the field until she decided that a career in theater was a more effective tool towards social change.
The pattern of psychology majors in The Walking Dead cast continues with Sonequa Martin-Green, best known as Sasha on the AMC show. Like her previously mentioned co-stars, Martin-Green had originally planned to pursue a degree in psychology; unlike Yeun and Gurira, she opted out of this track in the 10th grade, just before graduating high school as a salutatorian.
As for actors who are, sadly, no longer with the show, but also have scientific backgrounds, there’s Laurie Holden, who played the character everyone loved to hate: Andrea. Though she grew up in the acting business thanks to her parents’ professions, Holden surprised everyone when she revealed her plans to become a banker. This led to her attending McGill University where she majored in both economics and political science before being drawn back to acting. She later pursued a master’s degree in human rights at Columbia University. Her advice to young actors:
“I tell them the most important thing is to get an education — to educate yourself in history, theatre and science — because you’ll draw on all of that in your work all the time.”
Our final Secret Science Nerd from The Walking Dead is a fan-favorite: IronE Singleton, a.k.a. T-Dog. Singleton survived a tough childhood in Atlanta and worked hard to overcome circumstances beyond his control, earning both academic and football scholarships to attend the University of Georgia. There, he completed a double major in theater and speech communications, both of which have served him quite well in his continuing career.
Now that you know the Secret Science Nerds hidden among the cast of AMC’s The Walking Dead, what other shows would you like us to profile? Let us know in the comments below!