Published on March 9, 2016, at 5:00 p.m.
by Mackenzie Ross.
“The Walking Dead” fans were in for a treat when Johnny Depp made a cameo appearance in Sunday night’s episode. Well, sort of. Protagonist Rick Grimes had to send a head as an offering to the brutal, authoritarian figure Negan. So Rick’s crew chose three heads to possibly send — one of which bore a striking resemblance to Johnny Depp. News outlets like Yahoo, Time and others immediately picked up on the likeness and began writing stories about it. This extra publicity for the show reminds us how influential short cameo appearances can be for a show or movie.
While this cameo was not an official appearance, it does mark Depp’s debut on the show. “The Walking Dead” director Greg Nicotero said in an article in Time that the design was intentional. “I think we had sculpted an emaciated version of a dummy head for something and we used Johnny Depp’s head as a basis just for clay sculpt.”
Since first airing in 2010, “The Walking Dead” has amassed good reviews and millions of viewers, but Depp’s recent cameo is causing even non-fans like me to become interested in the show. When a celebrity makes a cameo appearance, it causes people to ask: What is this show? and Why did the person decide to be in it?
The appearances often last only a few seconds, so why would a well-known actor or singer want a cameo?
According to an article on ScreenRant.com, celebrities sometimes make an appearance because they are passionate about a particular piece of work. Other cameos include directors who leave their mark by appearing in their own movies. These surprise appearances rarely go unnoticed. In fact, they can strengthen viewers’ appreciation for a show, almost like an inside joke, or attract new viewers because of the hype surrounding a cameo appearance.
Cameos are nothing more than opportune collaborations between celebrities and the entertainment industry — a practice that public relations professionals know all too well. When publicists or agents arrange for their clients to make cameo appearances, they do so in hopes of boosting their clients’ fame, while also benefiting the shows.
Successful cameos get people talking, whether on social media or in news articles and blogs. Depp’s cameo became a topic of conversation on Twitter as viewers commented on his appearance, and later, news outlets divulged the details on why his likeness was used in the scene. This buzz caused people like me to become curious about the show, which in turn helped broaden the show’s fan base.
This attention is the exact kind of success publicists hope for when they arrange for cameos. So, props to Johnny Depp’s publicist and the directors of “The Walking Dead” for arranging this appearance. And to other public relations professionals in the entertainment industry: Don’t underestimate the influence five seconds of screen time can have.