Actress Laurie Holden has moved on from killing zombies on television to fighting sex traffickers in real life. The former Walking Dead star was recently involved in an undercover sting operation in Colombia to take down a notorious sex trafficker. According to ABC News, the mission, dubbed Operation Underground Railroad, was the creation of former CIA and Homeland Security agent Tim Ballard, who recruited “a ragtag group of volunteers” that featured two CrossFit instructors from Utah, a door-to-door salesman, and Holden, who portrayed “Andrea” on The Walking Dead for three seasons.
The mission, which was profiled on Nightline and will be the subject of an upcoming documentary called The Abolitionists, helped liberate around 55 sex slaves, Us Weekly reports, as well as bring down trafficker Marcus Bronschidle. Holden’s role in the mission was to distract the girls – some as young as 12 years old – while Ballard and his team exchanged the money with Bronschidle, which was filmed and later used as evidence against the trafficker. The sting was set up as a fake children’s birthday party so the traffickers would feel at ease bringing young girls into the house, ABC News writes.
“When they first showed up, some of them looked really terrified. I talked to a few of them and asked them how old they were. Some were 12. Some were 13. Most were 14. One of the girls came in, embraced me, started to cry, then I started to cry,” Holden said in a post-sting interview. “What makes me sad is that yes, we got four traffickers, and I hope they fry, but what makes me sad is that so many of these little girls, they don’t know any different. I know we did some good tonight. But I know that more needs to be done.”
Holden’s real life heroism comes as a serious departure from her next major film role: Playing a villain in Dumb and Dumber Too.