TikTok's @living_dead_josh gets role playing dead body on "CSI: Vegas" – The Washington Post

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Josh Nalley makes a lovely corpse, because he’s had practice — lots of it.
Nalley, a 41-year-old restaurant manager from Elizabethtown, Ky., has spent the past year playing dead in short daily videos he posts to his TikTok account, “living_dead_josh.” In hundreds of clips, some racking up over a million views, he’s filmed himself lying face down in muck, slumped in a rocking chair, strung up by his wrists and draped over a bar. He’s died at the foot of a bounce house, by a bank of pinball machines and under a sign with an arrow directing hikers to Tranquility Trail.
Yet, despite having created a body of work consisting of more than 250 videos by midsummer, Nalley still hadn’t achieved his goal of landing a role on a TV show or in a movie to play “an un-alive body.”
Then, “CSI: Vegas” reached out. In July, the show flew him out to Los Angeles, where he spent nearly a week. Nalley plays an unspecified dead person in an episode that airs next week. He said he’s going to host a watch party with friends at the restaurant where he works.
Nalley started playing dead in October 2021 because he was bored and wanted to capture “a little bit of virality” on TikTok, he said. He hoped to parlay a skosh of whatever internet fame he might attract into an acting gig, even though he had zero experience and isn’t particularly comfortable being on camera.
With all that in mind, he homed in on a role suited to his talents and sensibilities: a corpse.
“I figured that was the easiest way that I could actually get onto a TV show or movie, you know, without actually having to audition or move out of Kentucky.”
“Laziness is part of it,” he added.
But playing dead has been more work than Nalley thought. Even though his videos span mere seconds and all he does is lie still, he’s done that every day — and multiple times a day, on occasion — for a year.
“It’s perseverance,” he said.
Nalley said he’s gotten better at being dead. In some of his early efforts, he often got only half his body in the frame. His shot was occasionally out of focus. Even when he managed to get the technical aspects right, his performance was sometimes less than believable. Reviewing those first takes, he noticed his chest rising and falling and other involuntary movements that outed him as alive.
Nalley said he’s since learned how to better control his breathing and, having identified his physical tells, figured out how to mask them.
Pretending to be dead has helped Nalley live, he said. He gets a lot of his material while out walking on his days off. While traipsing around a state park, he’ll spot something he thinks would make an interesting background. He whips out the camera and shoots the video himself or, if he has company, deputizes a friend.
He’s used his project to connect with family, like the time he filmed a video with his niece. In the eight-second clip, she stands triumphantly, hands on her hips, at the top of a staircase as the camera pans down to reveal Nalley splayed on the floor, looking like he just broke his neck. A cat comes over to check on him.
“I really enjoyed that one,” Nalley said. “She got a kick out of it, too.”
In June, while traveling through Arkansas with his nephews, Nalley spotted a triceratops statue at a roadside attraction. Inspired, they pulled over to shoot a seven-second clip set to the grand orchestral horns of the Jurassic Park soundtrack. In it, one of his nephews petted the triceratops while the dinosaur chomped on Nalley’s lifeless arm.
And he’s made sure that several videos shot throughout the past year feature his dogs: Jango, a chocolate Lab; Ollie, a black Lab; and Gracie, a foxhound.
Even though Nalley has achieved his goal of making it to the big leagues of corpse acting, he said he plans to keep going, although he’s not sure exactly how. He’ll probably keep up the playing-dead shtick but floated the idea of aiming for a more ambitious part in a movie or TV show.
“Maybe one day, getting a speaking role,” he said.
Nalley said he’s excited to see the “CSI” episode when it airs Nov. 3, something he’ll be doing for the first time along with millions of other viewers. He also plans to live-stream his watch party and is eager to see how his fans react.
Although Nalley and his friends find his project funny, the seriousness of the subject matter is not lost on him. He’s aware that he started making the videos when he was 40, as he and his friends entered middle age. His parents are getting older. Mortality is becoming more and more manifest in his life.
Playing dead is Nalley’s way of coping.
“I can face death and not really have to worry about it because, you know, I’ve seen myself dead so many times,” he said.
“It’s a good way to process it.”


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