Fear the Walking Dead Q&A — Colby Minifie (Virginia)
Colby Minifie, who plays Virginia on Fear the Walking Dead, talks about Virginia's fraught relationship with Dakota, discovering more about her character in Season 6, and why John Dorie is so valued.
Q: What's it like entering your second season on Fear the Walking Dead?
A: I get to revisit and go deeper with the character. I get to find out things that I didn't know about the character -- but [that] the writers knew -- so it's this amazing discovery space. It's actually been really nice to get to know Virginia more. In Season 5 they encouraged me not to play her like a villain, and I'm learning so much more now about why she does what she does. I'm learning about her motives and philosophy, and that's been really interesting and really fun.
Q: How do you humanize Virginia and keep her from becoming a pure villain?
A: I'm sure you've heard this a million times: nobody actually thinks they're doing anything bad, so I subscribe to that theory as well. I think Virginia actually really does think she's doing good stuff. I think anytime she kills somebody, there's a reason for it. She's utilitarian. She's very specific about what she wants and how she keeps people safe, so if that requires murdering someone to keep her numbers down and only keeping useful people in her service, then she'll do it -- which is pretty intense.
I would probably not do the same thing in the apocalypse, but I can't judge. As an actor it's very easy to judge her, to be like, "Whoa, what are you doing?" I have to be very careful about not judging her. I also worry about getting too mustache-twisty this season. She likes being a leader and she likes having fun in that space. She enjoys the control that she has, but she definitely doesn't think that she's doing anything bad. She thinks she's saving people's lives.
Q: How are you able to so completely convey the air of authority that Virginia has?
A: What's amazing about playing a leader, is that everybody around me plays it like that too. I have unbelievable background actors supporting me in that! The people on my team who bow to my every word and follow every move I make, and everybody that says 'hi' to me when I walk down the street. That is half the work of being a leader—having people around me playing that up really helps. Plus, coming from theater, you have to learn how to command space pretty quickly.
There's one other thing that helps. There's a post-apocalyptic kind of 'f-k it power' that happens. When you're living in the apocalypse, there's this strange mentality that develops: "I've been through so much. The world is ending. I've had to completely recalibrate how I live my life and how I make decisions." So there's no room for insecurity, hesitation, or lack of confidence. You just have to go do what you need to do in order to make things work.
Q: Dakota seems like trouble for Virginia. Do you think Virginia worries that she's not like her or perhaps too much like her?
A: I think Virginia's very worried that Dakota has learned the wrong lesson from her. Virginia is ruthless in the way that she runs her settlement, but she has reasons for it and she doesn't do it without pain. When she shot Morgan, there was no lack of feeling there. She really had to think about it, and she didn't like having to take that shot. She doesn't like having to kill anybody. I think Dakota has seen that behavior from Virginia, and was also much younger when this apocalypse started. So sadly I think that she thinks killing is just part of life, a normal thing, which I think scares the sh-t out of Virginia.
I do think that they're different and Virginia knows that, but she's worried about the role model that she's become for Dakota. I don't think she's able to communicate that. I think their relationship is strained in a lot of ways, so she's not able to communicate to Dakota the reasons behind her actions.
Q: What is it about John Dorie that Virginia values so much?
A: Well, I think Virginia is a law and order leader. She very much believes in making people feel safe, even if they aren't. She believes in the power of optics. John Dorie's a sheriff, and she values his understanding, his belief in law and order, and his loyalty. He's very loyal to June, and even though she separates the two of them, I think Virginia understands that that loyalty is valuable. He'll be loyal to who employs him, so I think she really values that. I think she also values his honesty, and those are all assets to the community. Sheriffs, rangers, and lawmakers in Virginia's town are all very valuable members.
Q: Virginia calls John Dorie a hero. Why is she willing to overlook the fact that he wanted to keep investigating Cameron's death and exonerate Janis?
A: I think she's rewarding his sense of investigation. I don't think she wants to keep him from continuing that kind of behavior. But I do think because he kept quiet about what happened with Janis, and he's accepting the story that we've put out there, that I'm rewarding him for that behavior. I think Virginia's saying, "Okay, you followed my lead. You get a special award for this, and just continue doing what you're doing." I do think that there will be other times when she's going to want him to be as specific as possible in his investigations. The optics are that John Dorie has investigated a murder and discovered who the real culprit was -- who Virginia says is Janis -- so for everybody in the town, it shows that John is a hero, that his investigative attitude is saving them all.
Q: A few times in this episode Virginia talks about making the residents of Lawton feel like they're safe. Do you think she actually means that? Or is it all about power?
A: I do think she wants everybody to feel safe, because if everybody feels safe, then her sister will feel safe and be safe. There'll be less opportunity for revolt of any kind. If people don't feel safe, then they're going to look at the leader and say she's the problem. I think Virginia really believes that if people feel safe, then no kind of mutiny will happen. Even if they're not completely safe, she can take on all of the behind-the-scenes work to make it look as though they really are. She knows that fear is one of the biggest factors in action or revolt in any settlement that she operates.
Q: The Old West motif is so amazing this season. How do you, your fellow castmates, and the crew go about bringing that to life?
A: I think that is the tremendous work of Jo Katsaras, the costume designer, Colin [Thurston], the props guy, the cinematographer, and the location guys—they all got that set together. That and also, once again, the background actors. It's very easy to step onto a set like that, interact with the people on set, and feel like you're in the old west or an old western town. I mean, the hats alone with the smoke and the flags -- it's very easy! Once that world has been created it's not a lot of hard work on the actor's part.
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