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Q&A – Sarah Wayne Callies (Lori Grimes)

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The Walking Dead’s leading lady discusses her motivations for keeping an apocalyptic “go bag” on hand, explains why she prefers hiking boots to stilettos and describes the make-up regimen required to make Lori look outdoor chic.

Q: When it was announced that you were playing Lori, did any fans of The Walking Dead comic approach you?

A: Actually, I was in a comic book store in Vancouver and I was looking through for the latest issue that had just come out and the owner of the comic book store came up to me and said, “I see you’re checking out The Walking Dead. It’s amazing.” I said, “Yeah, I’m a huge fan.” And he said, “You know they’re making a television show for AMC. It’s supposed to be really good.” I kind of looked at him and I froze. I just went, “I’ll keep an eye out for it.” And I ran out of the store. I mean, what kind of jerk goes, “Yeah, I’m playing Lori.”

Q: Do you do a lot of camping in your real life?

A: Yeah. The rite of passage of learning to build a fire that will burn all night with one match is not an insignificant one in my husband’s family, and I grew up camping and backpacking. I love to camp. I think I’m probably much better at the boots and pocket knife thing than I am at the high heels and martini thing. And thankfully, Lori is so comfortable with it. For all the parts of her that were work, that felt like home.

Q: How much time do you have to spend in make-up to–

A: To look that bad! I’ve had so many journalists who see this thing and go, “Don’t take this the wrong way but you look like s—.” It’s dirty out there. It’s hot. Most of the make-up revolves around sunscreen. They paint dark circles under my eyes. This is not a show that is particularly amenable to vanity.

Q: Lori took her family photo albums when she had to leave town. What would you take if walkers were invading?

A: I’ve got a go bag. It’s a backpack that’s ready in the closet at all times for whatever. So that’s all packed.

Q: Is that something you decided to do after working on the show?

A: My husband’s family is military. Preparation is just, from that family perspective, it’s just a part of what makes sense to do. You buy insurance for your house; you have a go bag. There’s no photo albums in it though. There’s one picture, but photo albums are heavy.

Q: How do you wrap your head around what Lori is going through, especially when her husband appears to come back from the dead?

A: That was an interesting scene. As opposed to most reunion scenes, the first thing that she feels when she sees him is horror, because the only possible explanation is that he’s a walker. Shane said he died. The next thing that goes through her head is a different kind of horror, which is: Shane lied to me. This changes everything. As significant as the apocalypse is in changing her marriage, she only comes to find out after the fact she’s committed infidelity.

Q: What’s the first thought that goes through your head when you see a script like that?

A: Don’t f— it up. [Laughs] It’s food. It’s joy. And I get to do these things with Andy Lincoln and Jon Bernthal, and they are extraordinary men. The love triangle that exists between these people constantly reminds me of Camelot. You have Arthur, Guinevere and Lancelot. Which two of those three love each other more? Arthur and Lancelot may love each other more than either one of them love Guinevere. And they actually love each other so much and so unsustainably that they will destroy each other. There’s no way this ends well. Let’s do that. That’s amazing.

Q: Did you find yourself feeling protective of Chandler Riggs, the actor who plays Carl?

A: I love the kid. But I’m very aware that he is an 11-year-old working with a bunch of adults, and on long days he’s seeing people smoking and swearing and telling stories. I don’t want him to grow up too fast. I love the days when for lunch they’ll order burgers and shakes, and you’ll just see him running around with a chocolate shake bouncing off the walls like a kid. You want to safeguard that as much as possible, partly ’cause that’s his job and partly ’cause this is just TV.

Q: Your Prison Break character had a fan campaign to keep her alive. Do you think fans will be as supportive of Lori?

A: That Prison Break campaign was just one of the greatest honors of my professional life. I don’t think there is an award you could give me that would mean more, because it came from people that I work for. An actor without an audience is rehearsing. That said, they’re going to have to take a bit of a leap of faith on Lori. They’re not going to like me for a while, or at least they may not, and I don’t blame them. It’s part of what I loved about the character. You meet her neck deep in some very questionable decisions that she spends the rest of the series paying for, negotiating and trying to figure out.

Click here to read an interview with the actor who plays Lori’s husband, Andrew Lincoln (Rick Grimes).

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