BGSU alumnus checks playing a zombie off his bucket list
By Matt Markey '76
Adam Baggs '93 knows it will be tough to find the right place to put this on his resume: experienced zombie.
It will require an extensive explanation, still photos, and maybe some video clips. The laughs will follow, once it is determined that Baggs was only acting, and that he is not really a member of the flesh-eating undead.
Baggs, who received a master's of public administration from BGSU in 1993, has had a very successful career in higher education administration. His days as a zombie were few and they didn't result in any Emmy nominations, but they certainly were memorable.
“It was just a bucket list kind of thing,” Baggs said about his brief role as a zombie extra in "The Walking Dead," a series on the AMC network that has a dedicated and enthusiastic following.
Baggs, the assistant vice-chancellor for school, college and regional development at Texas Christian University (TCU), has been a fan of the show and had some experience acting in commercials when he was younger. Then, while he was visiting some friends in Georgia where the post-apocalyptic drama is filmed, the opportunity came up for a bit role in the background which is frequently filled with dozens of frightening-looking zombies.
“I just sort of fell into the opportunity,” Baggs said. “It was a very secretive production, with a closed set, and they took all of the cell phones away so no pictures or anything leaked out. It was eye-opening, seeing how something like this television series gets made.”
Baggs found the world of make-believe to be quite convincing.
“For the zombie experience, they have a makeup process that can take hours, and involves layers of splattered blood,” he said. “They make it look pretty darn real, and if you didn’t know better, you would think it was all real.”
The reality factor jolted Baggs out of character in his initial scene, which forced a quick re-shoot.
“My character gets shot, so I’m supposed to be dead on the ground, but then someone comes out and shoots the guy next to me. When the gun goes off and the cartridge hits the ground, I jumped, but I’m supposed to be dead so they did that scene over.”
When the series aired for its third season in 2012-13, Baggs was in two of the episodes. The show’s producers utilized the university administrator turned actor in another scene, and this time Baggs got to play one of the living citizens of the small town under siege by the zombie horde.
“There are a lot of people involved in this series, and the hours they work are incredible. They work really hard, and sometimes they film all night,” he said. “It takes forever to set up some of the scenes since there are so many actors involved, and if something goes wrong they have people rush in and get it fixed. Seeing how the show is done on the inside like that, with the tremendous amount of time put into the makeup and costuming — it really gave me an appreciation for what they do.”
But Baggs will not consider a career change at this juncture. His zombie days, however memorable, are very likely in his past. He continues to work toward a doctorate in educational leadership at TCU, while directing a staff of 16 development directors and support personnel.
“I get to work with the deans and all of the development people on academic fundraising and endowed program support,” he said. “I have had the opportunity to build some great relationships over the years, and I value those greatly. We really involve people in the life of the university and help them meet some of their philanthropic passions.”
Baggs is a native of Perrysburg who did his undergraduate work at Hillsdale College in Michigan, earning a bachelor’s degree in political science with minors in German and history. His parents both attended BGSU, and Baggs recalled taking piano lessons at the University back then and utilizing the Student Recreation Center.
“Since my parents both went there, I feel like I grew up there,” he said. “I had a great experience.”
After earning his master's degree from BGSU, Baggs learned that, despite his initial interest in working in municipal government or city management, that was not where his career path would take him. He initially worked in admissions at Hillsdale, and then did a stretch as an administrator for the city of Northwood, Ohio, and also worked as a research associate at BGSU.
In 1993 he moved into the post of Director of Giving at Adrian (Mich.) College, and has worked in development at institutions in Texas since then, first as an annual fund officer at TCU in 1995. After a stint as a development officer at the University of Texas at Arlington, he returned to TCU in 1998 as a senior associate in development and has steadily moved up the administrative ladder.
“Now I’m just promoting the university in a different way,” he said. “It has been a very rewarding career.”
Baggs said he cherishes his days at BGSU, and enjoys returning to campus to visit.
“I loved being a student there, and I loved the collegiate atmosphere, the friendliness of staff, the student body and the great faculty members,” he said. “I benefitted from having just excellent professors who challenged my world view. I’ve found that the campus has been transformed in a lot of ways, but I still feel really close to the place. I talk about it with pride.”
When the episodes of "The Walking Dead" he appeared in aired, Baggs was pleased he made the editors’ cut, and he even appeared in one of the commercials promoting the show.
“It was fun. I had people call me and say they saw me on the show,” he said. “I’d go back if I was fortunate enough to have that opportunity, but it was a great experience to have been a part of something like that. And as a bonus, I think my kids respect me more now.”