The Walking Dead: Carol cosplay with Amelia Swedeen

Photo Credit: Justin Althaus/AMC
Photo Credit: Justin Althaus/AMC /

If you had the pleasure of attending SDCC or watched any of its coverage, surely you saw many cosplayers. Cosplay is short for “costume play” and it is very popular at comic conventions and other pop culture fan gatherings. So, how exactly does one get started with cosplay? I had the pleasure of asking this and other questions of Amelia Swedeen who fabulously cosplays Carol from The Walking Dead.

For those new to cosplaying, what exactly is it?

Cosplay is like the next level up from Halloween costumes. People who cosplay are dedicated to bringing pop culture characters to life as accurately as possible. Cosplay can mostly be found at comic and pop culture conventions.

How did you get started?

Before I knew what cosplay was, I loved building costumes of my favorite characters. Then I started tagging along to conventions with friends and realized it was something I could do all the time, not just for Halloween.

Why did you choose to cosplay Carol from TWD?

I think she chose me. She’s my all-time favorite fictional character, so I was disappointed to see cosplays of every other Walking Dead character at conventions except her. That was back when she had more of a supporting role, and I would say “Carol is my favorite Walking Dead character” and people respond “who is that again?” I just wanted to see her represented, so I started cosplaying her in 2012. I had never cosplayed seriously before. No one recognized me at cons and there were no other Carol cosplayers in the game. Now I get stopped constantly and there are a bunch of other committed Carol cosplayers and we’re all friends; we have our own network to help and support each other. My experience with cosplaying Carol has paralleled the way Carol herself has grown as a character on the show. It’s been wonderful.

Were you excited when you saw her wearing sweaters or disappointed?

I was horrified! When I realized the cleverness of her deception, I enjoyed wearing her Alexandria outfits a lot more. Now my floral Carol sweater is probably my most treasured possession! But I’m definitely ready for this arc to wrap up. She deserves to show Alexandria what she’s really made of!

Photo credit: Gene Page/AMC
Photo credit: Gene Page/AMC /

Do you think the sweaters will have longevity on the show or do you think we’ll see her in her “battle” gear again soon?

Watch that season six trailer again (if you blink you’ll miss it) and you’ll have your answer!

You were called up on stage for an episode of Talking Dead with Melissa McBride, Norman Reedus, and Lennie James. How did that come about? What did Melissa McBride have to say about your sweater?

I think a lot of people thought I was invited beforehand, but it was a complete surprise to me. I didn’t know it was happening until about 90 seconds beforehand. I had only worn the sweater to the show in case I got picked for an audience question. But then Melissa saw me in the hallway before the show, and during one of the last commercial breaks I got called up. Melissa is incredibly supportive of cosplayers; she loves her character so much and she appreciates anyone who genuinely appreciates Carol, too. She asked how I’d found the sweater so fast (the answer is help from my friend Steph and an almost unnatural amount of luck).  

Approximately, how many conventions do you attend each year?

Over a dozen. Some are young and growing, like Scare LA. Some are impossibly huge, like San Diego Comic-Con. All are so fun in their own way. Walker Stalker conventions, dedicated specifically to The Walking Dead, are my favorite.

Is cosplaying just a hobby or can it parlay into a career?

I work in the film industry so it’s strange to see my professional life and fandom life intersect. I run into past bosses all the time in cosplay. But this has never been anything more than a hobby for me. Some cosplayers are “professionals” with huge followings who get paid to do appearances and promote brands on their social media. I’ve had a few small paid gigs, but I doubt I’ll ever see monetary returns anywhere near what I invest to do this. But that’s fine, I’ve never cosplayed with profit in mind.

Your cosplay group is called Reel Guise. How long have you been together? Do you have to “audition” to be in the group? Do you have more than one member cosplaying as the same character sometimes?

Reel Guise started at WonderCon 2014, and in just a year they have become my family. David and Paul were there as Rick and Walker Shane, and as soon as I joined them for photos, a crowd formed. It felt sort of magical. That’s also where I met my best friend Jackie, who was cosplaying Maggie. We all contacted each other after the con and discussed starting a group. We brought in friends for some characters, and asked established cosplayers to join us for other characters. It’s really incredible and flattering how many people ask to join our group, but we don’t have auditions or applications. We mostly are concerned with maintaining a close family dynamic, so we invite people to join if we feel they would mesh with us well. Usually it’s people with whom we already have an established relationship. And we never have characters that overlap.

How can fans keep up with Reel Guise?

Our social media accounts are updated regularly.

What tips do you have for fans who want to try cosplaying for the first time?

My advice for cosplayers is the same as the classic advice for writers: just finish! Throw something together, even if it’s all from your closet and Goodwill. As soon as you have something finished, however rough and basic it may be, it’s much easier to focus on finding or making specific pieces individually. Build something rough, then replace and perfect it one piece at a time.

Finally, is there such a thing as poor cosplay etiquette that should be avoided?

There’s a growing discussion among cosplayers about whether it’s ethical to charge for photos. I agree with most cosplayers’ reactions that I’ve heard so far, that it’s in poor taste and not in the spirit of the community. And a good tip if you want a photo with a cosplayer: just ask! We do it because we love the recognition and how happy our work makes other people. But we often have certain poses and expressions perfected for photos. It’s frustrating to find candids circulating online that look terrible or out of character. It’s good etiquette to ask for a photo and give us a quick second to get in character.

Thank you to Amelia Swedeen for sharing so much insight regarding cosplay. Be sure to follow her cosplay journey via the Reel Guise links above!

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