Karen Cooper herself, Kyra Schon, was kind enough to answer some questions for Zombie Zone News. Not wanting to squander this amazing opportunity, I came up with what I believe are the most pressing and relevant questions to today’s undead community. This interview presumes that you have seen Night of the Living Dead. If you haven’t, please stop what you are doing and watch it right now. Immediately. Post haste. It’s in the public domain, so downloading it is perfectly legal. And by “seen” I mean that you have watched it from the beginning to the end with limited interruption, in a single sitting. I don’t mean you saw the Nick at Night overdub where it’s actually a surprise party, or that you caught a few minutes of it last Halloween. It is the best, first, and most important zombie movie ever made—the Citizen Kane of zombie movies.
WLF/ZZN–Let’s start with an easy question: You’re probably the most iconic female in all of horror. How’s that going for you?
I’m flattered by your premise that I’m the most iconic female in horror, but it’s not true. There are dozens of others who are vastly more deserving of that status. For me, personally, Elsa Lanchester’s Bride of Frankenstein is, by far, the most iconic. I do think it’s possible, however, that I’m the most iconic 9-year old female zombie in the original Night of the Living Dead. Even within those very limiting parameters, it’s pretty amazing! I’m always delighted when I see a new tattoo of my face on a total strangers body!
WLF/ZZN–Do you ever wish you got to say more than 2 words?
I’m so thankful I only had to say two words. Just knowing that I was on camera made me a nervous wreck, and I would not have been physically capable of uttering more than those two words. I still feel that way when I’m on camera. I just hate being rendered speechless.
WLF/ZZN–The first time I read your FAQ, I learned that I’d been pronouncing your name wrong my whole life. What else have fans gotten wrong over the years? Anything you’d like to correct them on?
Many fans seem to think that Marilyn Eastman was my real mother. She wasn’t. (Karl Hardman was my real father, though.) Some also seem to believe that I never grew taller or older, and that I remained a chocolate-smeared, 9 year old zombie. Not long ago, I was at the Chiller Theatre convention, sitting behind my table. A friend’s 16 year old daughter was sitting next to me. A fan walked up to the table and starting chatting up Mary, believing her to be me. The film was released more than 40 years ago, but in that fan’s mind, I had only aged five or six years. If only I’d found that time warp!
WLF/ZZN –I understand that you prefer not to be in front of cameras these days. Is that so that the walking undead are not able to track your location?
The living dead are actually pretty good at tracking us through social media, so that’s really not the issue. I’m simply as camera-shy as I’ve ever been.
WLF/ZZN –The Affirmation Zombie on your website is fantastic! Do you think zombie-based self-esteem will catch on?
You mean it hasn’t already?
WLF/ZZN –It is well known that you’ve long been a fan of horror and the macabre. Is there a non-zombie milieu that is especially appealing to you? Vampires? Werewolves? CHUDs?
I’ve never found vampires to be frightening, even as a kid. Werewolves are just big, ill-behaved dogs, so they’re not scary, either. CHUDs – absolutely! Aside from C.H.U.D. itself, one of my more recent favorites is The Descent. I have a real fondness for creature features of any kind. Sharks, crawling eyes, reptiles running amok, slimy slugs from space – bring it on!
WLF/ZZN: Twilight or Harry Potter?
(WLF Note: Harry Potter does contain zombies. Book 6. Look it up!)
I’m a total geek for Harry Potter. I read all the books, and I’ve seen all the films so far. When the final book was released, I barricaded myself in my house and didn’t turn on a TV or computer, or answer the phone until I finished it. How’s that for geekery? I’m happy to report that I’ve never read or seen any of the Twilight series. I don’t even have a perverse curiosity about them.
WLF/ZZN –It has been asserted that zombies are not cannibals because as zombies, they are no longer human. Where do you stand on this highly controversial issue?
I agree with that assertion, and I believe that if zombies were able to shop and prepare meals, they might not choose to eat people at all. I really think it’s their lack of coordination and money that fuels their predation. But, people are plentiful and relatively easy to catch, so why not eat ‘em?
WLF/ZZN –NotLD contained the first matricide scene I’d ever watched on film (WLF Note: Psycho doesn’t actually show the matricide, and I didn’t see Carrie until later). Do you consider the trowel killing of Helen Cooper to be a matricide even though it’s completely devoid of the rage that would normally accompany such an act?
I suppose it’s technically a matricide, but, much like the cannibalism argument, it might be something different. Karen was already dead when she killed her mother, and zombies don’t seem to recognize family as anything other than food. She didn’t eat her, though, because she went directly upstairs to attack Ben. Perhaps Karen had a touch of A.D.D.
WLF/ZZN –You have said in the past that you are opposed to what I call “the sprinting undead” and that logically, the dead would move slowly. Do you stand by this, and if so, is it possible that is just wishful thinking on your part?
I still stand by it. The concept of running zombies is absurd. I don’t believe they would have the coordination or strength to run, jump, fly through the air, turn over cars, or leap over tall buildings in a single bound. Unless they are zombie ninja.
WLF/ZZN –I saw your amazing trowel necklace charm online some time ago. I know that now you create a lot of spooky, custom jewelry. Could you tell us how that came about?
I started making lost wax cast jewelry in the mid-90s. I was primarily working in sterling silver, and occasionally bronze, but as silver became increasingly expensive, I switched to pewter (lead-free, of course). I sculpt the originals in wax, and then cast them in metal. It’s fun and it keeps me off the streets. My neighbors are grateful for that.
WLF/ZZN –What can we, as humans, learn about our selves through continued and rabid consumption of the zombie genre?
Zombies persevere. They exist solely in the present. They don’t let obstacles or failure, or past disappointments divert them from their goals. I think we can learn a lot from them. Plus, they’re cute.
WLF/ZZN –Thanks so much for taking time to answer these questions. Before we close, is there anything else you’d like to tell your many, many fans?
Only to say thank you to the fans of the film. My gratitude for them is off the charts. Horror fans, and zombie fans in particular, are the greatest people in the world.