SAN DIEGO -- While making "The Walking Dead," actress Laurie Holden had to consider life after death every day.
"It's the worst part of my imagination. It's murder. It's so dark," says the co-star of the hit zombie drama (which airs its season finale 8 p.m. today on AMC).
Holden plays Andrea, a former legal clerk on a road trip with her sister when the world was overrun with zombies. The sisters were rescued by a kindly old man (Jeffrey DeMunn) and joined a small group of fellow survivors, led by a Georgia policeman (Andrew Lincoln).
"A lot happens to her in six episodes," Holden says. "She goes from being this woman who went on a road trip with her sister to what's happening in this apocalypse. She's trying to figure out the best way to survive.
"She has to overcome a lot of adversity and challenges. She really evolves as a character in the first season."
Andrea has transformed perhaps more than any other character on the show. She has gone from being an office worker to something vastly different just to get by day to day. "I like that she is becoming this female warrior," says Holden, 38. "I'm a tomboy, and she's a tomboy."
She needed that sort of toughness to get through the harsh production days of "The Walking Dead." They shot in Georgia during one of the hottest summers on record.
"It is really beyond real," she recalls of the work. "I wore the same clothes every day for a month. They were filthy.
"We're shooting things until 4 in the morning. The producers and the writers love (that) we are in the heat because it makes us look so miserable. The sweat dripping off of us on the show is real sweat from the heat of that day. There's nothing fake about it.
"In a way, it's a good thing for the actors because it is authentic for the show."
The sweat and hard work have paid off. "The Walking Dead" is averaging 5 million viewers a week, becoming one of the biggest dramas on cable this fall.