WOODSTOCK, Ga. — Most 12-year-olds get to battle zombies in only video games, but Chandler Riggs gets to fight them for a living.
Chandler, the son of William and Gina Ann Riggs of Towne Lake, plays Carl Grimes, who flees his small town with his mom, Lori, to escape the zombie apocalypse in the AMC show “The Walking Dead.”
“It’s like a video game in real life,” Chandler said.
His agent found the role and Chandler, who has been acting on stage since age 4, said he never thought he would land the part.
“We never thought we’d get this zombie TV show,” Chandler said. “But it’s been such an amazing ride.”
The most recent episode aired Sunday and features Chandler’s character throwing rocks at a zombie trying to attack him in a swamp. William Riggs said fans were excited to finally see more of Chandler in the show.
“They gave me these fake plastic rocks to throw,” Chandler said. “I accidentally hit [the actor playing the zombie] on the head.”
William Riggs said his son’s good throwing arm is a result of years of playing baseball.
Chandler began acting at Hillside Methodist Church, where his family still attends, in a Christmas play and went on to watch his parents perform in productions at the Cobb Playhouse Theater.
“Even when he was really little, he just had a really uncanny memory,” his father said. “I was in ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’ and at the age of 4 he could remember all 28 colors of the dreamcoat.”
Chandler’s breakout role was in the movie “Get Low” with Robert Duvall, soon after filming the Lifetime Television movie “The Wronged Man,” starring Julia Ormond.
Chandler’s other movie roles include “Jesus H. Zombie” and “The Rough Cut,” and he has appeared onstage in “Oklahoma!” ”The Wizard of Oz,” ”A Country Christmas Carol,” ”Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” and “The Great Songs of Broadway.”
His father said Chandler worked with producer Gale Anne Hurd on “Get Low,” who went on to produce “The Walking Dead” and liked Chandler for the role of Carl.
Chandler finished filming season two of the zombie series in November, but he’s not giving anything away from this season’s finale.
“It ends with a really big cliffhanger,” he said.
A big comic book and video game fan himself, Chandler spends breaks between filming going with his parents and brother Grayson, 9, to media conventions such as Comic-Con throughout the world. So far, the family has traveled to about 20 since the show began filming, his father said.
Before filming the next season in May, the family will travel to Australia and England for various events to promote the show.
Though the 12-year-old maintains a tightly packed schedule during filming and in the off-season, William Riggs said he and his wife, a Cherokee County schoolteacher, work hard to make sure Chandler has time to be a kid.
“He goes to cotillion and church activities during the week,” he said.
Chandler said he loves to go play computer and video games with the same friends he grew up with in elementary school. For now, he does his schoolwork through Georgia Cyber Academy online classes and his father, a former special education department head at Etowah High School, helps him with his classes while on set.
The Riggs family is still able to live in Towne Lake, where they’ve called home since 2001, because “The Walking Dead” films just south of Atlanta.
“It’s home for us,” William Riggs said. “It’s a little bit of an adjustment, but it’s what Chandler wants to do. He’s always wanted to be an actor.”
In the future, Chandler said, he hopes to land more movie roles. A recent audition for a science-fiction film starring Ethan Hawke didn’t pan out, but he said he’s very attracted to movie roles within the sci-fi and action movie genres.
“Right now, we’re just focusing on school, going to comic conventions and auditioning for things as they come along,” his father said.