A virus has stricken humans, causing all who die to reanimate as low-functioning but intensely hungry and volatile beings.
There is no government. There is no power grid. While looking for your next meal, you might become something else’s.
The remaining survivors call the undead “walkers,” and the living are far outnumbered in a world where the basics of survival — food, clothing and shelter — are daily battles and any sense of security proves to be temporary.
That’s the universe where 12.4 million viewers — the most of any cable network television series last season — saw baby “Judith Grimes” during the finale of the third season of “The Walking Dead” on AMC on March 31.
Judith was also seen in several other episodes after being born during the fourth episode of the third season, which aired on Nov. 4, 2012.
The little one was played by two triplets with strong ties to Pender. Girls Loudyn and Leighton and their brother, Brody, are the children of 1993 Pender High School graduate Ben Case and his wife, Kristina, who grew up in Niceville, Fla. Ben’s parents — Gene and Vicky Case — are Penderites.
The couple lives in Atlanta, Ga. and has an older daughter, Sienna, who will be three in January. The babies are nearly 16 months old today but were between four and seven months during filming, which took place between the months of October 2012 and January 2013.
The Case baby girls debuted as “Judith” in the ninth episode of the third season, which aired for the first time on Feb. 10.
It’s a common practice in the television and film industry to use multiples, such as twins, to play the parts of younger characters. That way, if one isn’t in the right mood, they can quickly be swapped out to keep the cameras rolling.
According to Kristina, Loudyn was “Judith” in nearly all of the scenes — “95 percent of them.”
“In the first day of filming for us, Loudyn spit up on Andrea (played by Laurie Holden),” Kristina said. “Wardrobe came in, fixed Laurie up really quickly and we switched babies.”
How they got the gig
The Atlanta area has become a hotbed for the film industry in recent years due to tax incentives and a reliable climate. The recent Denzel Washington movie “Flight” was filmed in the Case’s immediate neighborhood, as was the forthcoming “Anchorman 2.”
Filming of “The Walking Dead” also takes place in the area and most of it is set in Georgia.
The Case family is part of a “multiples group” — a group of other families with twins and triplets — and it was through this that they learned that “Scary Movie 5” producers were looking for babies to play a role.
Kristina had one prior experience on a movie set as an extra in the 2006 film “We Are Marshall” about the 1971 football season that followed a plan crash that claimed the lives of virtually the entire 1970 team.
“It was fun going through hair and makeup and seeing how it was behind the scenes,” Kristina said. “I turned in the girls’ pictures and later got a call from the casting agency. They wanted to see if they would play a baby for the rest of the season of “The Walking Dead.”
When Ben and Kristina learned it was a zombie apocalypse-themed show, they had reservations about it. But they were assured that if there were any scenes where there would be scary elements involved — such as zombies — that a fake baby would be used.
Big fans of the show
Kristina was on set with the babies most of the time. With millions of fans worldwide clamoring to know what the next episode will bring, secrecy is an important part of the creative process.
Kristina was able to watch the scenes involving “Judith” get filmed, so she had a few bits and pieces of the storyline to go on. But the Case family had to watch the episodes premiere on AMC just like everyone else. What they did know, they were contractually obligated to protect.
Since the show was halfway through the third season when the Case children became a part of it, Ben and Kristina decided they should watch the show from the start of the first season.
“To be honest, neither of us would have started watching the show if we didn’t get considered for it,” Kristina said. “But after two or three episodes of season one, we were hooked. Needless to say, we caught up pretty fast.”
While the series is no doubt an extended gory zombie flick, it has attracted a wide audience due to its deep storyline involving human nature, survival and even romance.
Without revealing too much of the storyline for those who’d like to start at the beginning and watch from episode one, Judith’s story is a complicated one. Her mother died during the birthing process, her brother has had to grow up fast and learn to defend himself from walkers and unfriendly humans, and her father is either the leader of her group of survivors — or his friend who died in season two. Yep, love triangle.
That’s just a taste of the drama that also includes escaping from an Atlanta populated by thousands of walkers and a war with a neighboring group of survivors led by a phsychopathic leader known as “The Governor.”
Cast and crew like family
The Cases were treated like part of the family while on set.
Many of the actors are becoming household names, but they were welcoming, Kristina said.
They were able to witness one of the cast and crew’s rituals, which is to crowd around and watch the final scene of any actor who is “killed off” the show.
“The way they all treat each other — you wouldn’t know who are the actors and who are the crew members,” Kristina said.
One member of the cast who plays the role of “Beth Greene” and is Judith’s primary caretaker on the show is originally from Wayne and graduated from Nebraska Wesleyan University in 2006.
Actor/singer Emily Kinney was especially good with the babies. At the time, they had no idea that Kinney had lived just 24 miles from Ben’s hometown.
“Beth had a touch with her. She has a beautiful singing voice, as well. Very calming,” Kristina said.
Kinney has music available for puchase on iTunes or at emilykinneymusic.com. Loudyn especially liked Kinney, while Leighton’s favorite actor was her “dad,” Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln).
“She crashed in his arms in one scene and they were able to get both shots done with one take because she did so well,” Kristina said.
Babies grew apart
Despite the hectic schedules of a young family with four children and two working parents, the Cases would have welcomed their babies remaining in the role of Judith. But as time has gone on, their features have grown apart. Their hair color is now different, and five pounds separates them.
“I am so jealous right now. With as much face time as Judith is getting (in season four), I would have really loved seeing the girls on television. Plus, I really miss the actors and seeing all of it go down.”
The Case family won’t rule out another venture into the movie or television world if something were to come along, but it’s not a goal.
“When they get older, they will enjoy knowing this. If another audition fell into my lap, I would probably turn in their picture, but I definitely wouldn’t press for anything.”
“The Walking Dead’s” fourth season debuted with 16.1 million people tuning in to AMC on Sunday, Oct. 13 — higher than any series on television, including all major networks.
The third episode of the season is coming up on Sunday. To watch previous seasons and catch up to the current episodes, there are a few options. Netflix routinely streams past seasons. They are also available for puchase on DVD and Blu-Ray at major online and physical retailers. Viewer discretion is advised due to the violence.