To celebrate the Oct. 22 Season 8 premiere of The Walking Dead — the series’ 100th episode — Yahoo TV will be posting a new TWD-related story every day through the season opener.
Austin Amelio was virtually unknown to TV viewers when he made his debut on the sixth season of The Walking Dead. The 29-year-old actor plays Dwight, one of Negan’s (Jeffery Dean Morgan) top wingmen on the AMC horror drama, but in real life, he’s a much nicer guy. In fact, Amelio is nothing like his TWD character — although he told AMC he’s gotten “a couple of middle fingers” thrown at him and the classic “I love to hate you” thing from fans. “If they hate me, I think I’m doing my job,” Amelio said.
Of course, you’ll probably like the real Austin Amelio a lot more than you love to hate Dwight. Here are five things you didn’t know about The Walking Dead star.
1. He has a serious skateboarding background.
Before he was an actor, Amelio was a sponsored skateboarder and a fixture on the Austin, Texas shredding scene. He even appeared in the independent skateboarding film The Devil’s Toy. Amelio told Transworld Skateboarding he started skateboarding a year before acting and he has always gone back and forth between his two passions.
2. He was just about to move from Austin to L.A. when he got a casting call for Richard Linklater’s Texas-based spiritual sequel to Dazed and Confused.
Before he was cast on The Walking Dead, Amelio was living in Austin and stressing out about the lack of work in the Texas city. The actor told Entertainment Weekly he called his agent to inform him he was moving to L.A. when he got a notice about an audition for the role of Nesbit in Richard Linklater’s Texas-based 2016 comedy film, Everybody Wants Some. The ‘80s-set movie was the perfect fit for Amelio, who had just shaved his goatee and was sporting just a mustache and long sideburns. “When I went in there, it was 1980, and I was like, ‘Oh my God. This is perfect,’” he said. Amelio moved to Los Angeles soon after — but not for long.
3. The Walking Dead was his first TV role.
Not only was The Walking Dead Amelio’s first big television role, it was his first TV role period. In fact, before he was cast as Dwight on the AMC hit, Amelio had never watched the hit show — and he didn’t even own a television. “I’d heard of it through the grapevine here and there,” the actor told Variety of TWD. “It was this distant thing. I had no idea Dwight was going to be such a big character. I was living in L.A. in a small apartment in Echo Park, got the call, and thought, ‘Hey, nice, I get to go to Atlanta and do an episode!’ And then I talked to [showrunner] Scott Gimple. He was like, ‘Hey he’s a huge comic-book character.’ So I realized I had to move to Atlanta and all this crazy stuff.”
4. He gets trolled by the song “Easy Street.”
Amelio can’t get Dwight’s signature torture song — “Easy Street” by the Collapsible Hearts featuring Jim Ciano and Petra Haden — out of his head. But it’s not the actor’s favorite song. In fact, he can’t stand it. “It’s the worst song ever,” Amelio told E! News. While the song wasn’t playing continuously on set when Amelio filmed his scene, he said it drove him crazy by the third time he listened to it. And fans still get a kick out of trolling him with the annoying kiddie song. “I went to this bowling alley and a couple of people who worked there recognized me,” he told AMC. “They blasted ‘Easy Street’ over the whole alley while I was there. The amount of times people have tagged me on Instagram with that song… it drives me crazy.”
5. His prosthetic scar feels like a part of him.
TWD fans know Dwight has a large burn scar down the side of his face. Amelio spends an hour and a half in the makeup chair to get the prosthetic on his face, and another 45 minutes to get it off. The actor also revealed that he is strangely attached to his fake scar. “It kind of changes your physicality and your persona a little bit,” he told Business Insider. “That’s what the scar does for me. We had actually tested for three different styles of burn prosthetics. You know, it was freshly burned, not completely healed but not completely burned, and that’s the one that we went with. It felt like part of my face.”
The Walking Dead Season 8 premieres Oct. 22 at 9 p.m. on AMC.
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