Tales of the Walking Dead features six original life-or-death, high-stakes stories of survival with an all-star cast of both new and familiar characters set against the undead apocalypse. In Episode 6, we meet Idalia and Eric, two travelworn survivors who seek shelter in a house with haunting consequences. In this interview with amc.com, we speak with Daniella Pineda about her love of horror anthologies, why playing such an ill-fated character paid off, and why Idalia and Eric’s relationship is even more complicated than viewers realize.
Q: When we first meet Idalia and Eric it seems like they’ve fled a group situation that was quickly deteriorating. They even refer to a walker following them by name, Maria, and she’s the one who told them about the house. What did you know about Idalia’s backstory before we meet her and Eric?
A: We had all talked about it and what came out of those conversations was very helpful to all the actors. We were a group traveling, and Maria the walker following us, was a friend. There's also another element to the relationship between the three of them that wasn’t specifically called out but was really used by us in our performances: Eric and Maria had a thing! So, Eric’s guilt manifests in her beckoning him to let her in, to help her, but also in the fact that she was left behind even though they had had a romantic tryst.
Q: At the beginning of the episode, you just assume that Idalia and Eric are fighting walkers. But the more you learn about their story, and the more flashbacks you see, you realize, “Oh my God, they're actually fighting other humans!”
A: Yeah, they are! And you realize that they're kind of shitty. [Laughs] You're rooting for them in the beginning because they're just like anybody else — they're seeking shelter and safety, which is something everybody wants. Then slowly as the story chips away, you're like, "These people are awful."
Q: Were you familiar with The Walking Dead Universe before joining the project? We’re not exactly sure of the timing or geography of your story in the larger TWDU, but it seems like it still may be relatively early on in the apocalypse.
A: I had seen a couple of seasons. I'm a big Steve Yeun fan! So this is a little interesting lore, but during the first season of The Walking Dead I was also in Atlanta shooting a show. It was my first big series regular part, and I was renting a car while I was down there. It was a Ford Focus and the guy who was renting it to me said, "Oh, you know who was just using this car for a while? Andrew Lincoln!” So, the Ford Focus he used was passed down to me by this local Hertz rental shop and I was like, "This is crazy. This is amazing!" Even back then, I knew that was a very big deal. So, let's just say I've been in the shadow of The Walking Dead Universe in more ways than one!
Q: The house itself is a character in this episode. It also feels reminiscent of one of the most loved episodes of TWD S11, Episode 6 “On the Inside,” when Connie and Virgil find themselves in a terrifying mansion surrounded by cannibalistic Ferals. Like that episode, this episode of Tales makes use of the house as a way to really heighten the tension and horror of what happens within its walls. What was your understanding of the power that the house possesses? Were there supernatural elements that allowed the house to mess with their heads?
A: I definitely felt that there was a supernatural elements at play. This woman, La Doña, was a bruja. That was her sanctuary. When they disrupt that, I think a combination of a few things happens. I think she was really haunting them from the dead, and the house was the conduit from which she could do that because she put her mark on everything in there. And then the other piece of it, which is actually a sub-component to the genre that I really, really enjoy, is when a character’s own guilt starts to eat away at them. They’ve been traveling. They've been on foot. They've just been surviving. Now they're stopping to take a bath, they're stopping to sleep, and they're finally having a chance to process and reflect on everything. Now it's all caving in on them — what they've done and their impact on other people.
This is a very surreal episode that makes you question where this is all coming from. Is it them, is it the house, is it her? Which is intentional? There’s so much religious iconography on the walls, and [episode] writer Kari Drake and I talked a lot about that. "Well, you know, she's a witch, but there's all these crosses and Catholic iconography," and she said, "Well, that is true and that's intentional. It’s cultural. I saw it a lot when I was growing up. A lot of it tends to blend in together." Which, I have to say, I'm also Mexican – my family's Methodist, so we're just weird – but I was like, "Oh, that's interesting!" So that was coming from a direct experience that the writer had, but also it's a blend of Catholicism, guilt, and self-reflection. Those things all really tie together.
Q: It seemed like La Doña was trying to save Idalia and Eric from the clutches of the house, but they just didn't listen. Idalia obviously believes in religion and brujeria and has a lot of reverence and respect for both, but Eric isn’t a believer until things go sideways for him. In your mind was La Doña someone to be feared or someone to align with?
A: I think that the reason she said, "You can't stay at this house" was because she saw the mark on them. She sensed their essence and the darkness they were capable of. Had they really truly just been two people passing by who needed help, I think La Doña would have helped them. But because of their baggage, I think she sensed all of that and she sensed the danger they brought with them. These were truly intruders.
Q: There’s so much amazing nomenclature that's come out of The Walking Dead Universe to name the undead. In this episode with get a new one: sonambulos. What was the most exciting part of entering this universe for you?
A: I think the way that I entered was kind of perfect because it's this existing massive, massive I.P. with this crazy, dedicated fanbase. That was so cool! When I got approached to do this, I was like, "Oh, this is great because it's a one-and-done and it's totally original! It can be a standalone episode but still very much be a part of this world." For me, I loved that Channing [Powell], the showrunner, really tried to figure out how to give a really fresh, fun take on The Walking Dead. I'm also a huge fan of anthologies. I freaking live for anthologies. The Twilight Zone, Night Gallery, The Cryptkeeper. I'm obsessed with all of those anthologies! So for me, I was like, "Oh my God, this is so fun!" Because it's something that I would watch. I thought our episode was really clever, different, and inclusive. It just checked a lot of boxes for me.
Watch the entire season of Tales of the Walking Dead on AMC. Full episodes are available to stream on amc.com (with a cable provider login), the AMC apps for mobile and devices, and a week early on AMC+. AMC+ is available at amcplus.com or through the new AMC+ app available on iPhone, iPad, Android, Fire TV, Apple TV, and Roku. AMC+ can also be accessed through a variety of providers, including AppleTV, Prime Video Channels, DirectTV, Dish, Roku Channel, Sling, and Xfinity. Sign up for AMC+ now.