A story for the scripts

Following a rough childhood, alumnus makes break in “The Blind Side” and “The Walking Dead”

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A story for the scripts

Photo by: Frank Ockenfels/AMC

IronE Singleton remembers a sweltering day in an abandoned Georgia prison, when a horde of gruesome zombies attacked his character T-Dog.

He didn’t make it out alive.

But zombies were just part of daily life on the hit series “The Walking Dead,” in which Singleton (AB ’98) played the zombie-killing juggernaut T-Dog. Prior to this role, he was cast in “The Blind Side,” playing the part of the menacing thug Alton.

Singleton’s path to stardom, however, had its own obstacles. He was born and raised in a rough neighborhood of Atlanta, where characters like Alton were all too real.

“I knew college was the only way out,” he says. “I needed a totally different environment and constant education.” With God as his inspiration, Singleton was determined to leave the projects behind.

He spent his first year of college at Kentucky State before transferring to Georgia to pursue a degree in drama and play football. Starting as a defensive back and later becoming a running back, he played for four years at UGA, participated in theater productions and was president of the Black Theatrical Ensemble.

“UGA was one of the greatest times of my life,” he says. “I became a man at Georgia.”

At football practice, Singleton’s teammates would ask him to perform Shakespeare monologues. “Acting was all I wanted to do.” He remembers thinking, “This will be my life.”

Singleton had his first big break in the industry when he auditioned for a role in “The Blind Side” in February of 2009.

“I gave the audition of my life,” he says.

It paid off, and two months later he was on the set with actress Sandra Bullock. “It was surreal,” he says. “When I got the call, I could have yelled so loud the entire neighborhood would have heard me.”

After landing this role, producers and directors began to notice Singleton. In June 2010, he was cast for AMC’s “The Walking Dead.”

“I had never done a horror [show] before,” he says. “Once I became T-Dog, my mind just shifted. I was living in an apocalyptic world.”

Theodore “T-Dog” Douglas appears in the first season of the series, as one of the original characters in the survivor group the show follows.

Singleton says his life experiences and strong relationship with God are a part of everything he does, on and off set. Whenever he’s preparing for a new role, he studies the character and injects his own personal experiences into the part.

“My core is always who I am.”

Recently Singleton’s autobiography, Blindsided by the Walking Dead, has been his focus. Written with Juliette Terzieff and published in February, it tells his story of overcoming the struggles of his youth to his time at UGA and the roles he succeeded in landing in the film industry.

“We all have an incredible story,” he says. “Now I can use my experiences to tell mine.”