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 4, we meet Amy and Dr. Everett, a would-be settler of the dead sector and a naturalist who’s commitment to science reigns supreme. In this interview with amc.com, we speak with Poppy Liu about Amy’s true intentions in the dead sector, what it was like working with Anthony Edwards, and her favorite memories from being on set.
Q:This is a really unique episode that dives into both scientific and philosophic perspectives in a post-apocalyptic world. What did you first think of the script when you read it?
A: It's pretty cool to get a script like that. I don't think you really see TV scripts with just two characters on screen for so long. It almost felt like a play where you just kind of live with someone for a while and you hear their thoughts and their ruminations. I really loved that about it. I think in TV it’s always a radical and great move to slow down. There’s an urgency with TV and the tendency to be like, "It has to be action! Things have to be happening at all times!" To really give these characters room to figure things out, to live with them, and hear them talk for longer than just one beat is really cool.
Q: Were you familiar with The Walking Dead Universe before joining the project? It seems like your story takes place far enough into the Universe that major physical changes have been made to North America, like the building of the trench.
A: I actually wasn’t very acclimated to The Walking Dead Universe beforehand, but my boyfriend is definitely a huge fan. He was so psyched about it, so he gave me a really quick Walking Dead boot camp of sorts. He was like, "Oh my God, this is the best and coolest thing ever!" For me, I think there's something humbling as an actor to step into a universe that has such a diehard, huge and expansive fan base. When you're making something new, you have the luxury to be like, "We can make whatever!" There's no previous reference for it. It's just, "Here's what it is. A new thing!" Whereas when you have such an established universe and such a loyal following like this, it feels like all of the fans rightfully feel a bit of ownership over the universe as well. They have a lot of opinions, a lot of thoughts. They've followed characters for a long time. They have, in some ways, grown up with the Universe because it's been around for such a substantial amount of time. So, I hope we do right by the fans. When they're watching it, they're not just watching a story. They're watching a piece of something that they feel personally invested in.
Q: Amy is so clever and quick with her wit that it's unclear when she’s lying and when she’s not. The first time we see her she’s holding a chomper head, but she denies being a skull hunter. She speaks highly of her community and tries to convince Dr. Everett that they’re good people who just want to resettle the dead sector, but at the end of the episode we see "her people” have a huge truckload of walker heads in their possession. What was your understanding of Amy? Was she actually a survivor looking for a home or a ruthless skull hunter?
A: That's a really interesting question! One thing that I love about Amy is that I feel like, despite living in this ruthless, cutthroat, survival-of-the-fittest world, she still has, for some reason, an openness of heart and hopefulness. I think one of the biggest contrasts between her and Dr. Everett is that she believes in humanity, she believes in hope, she believes in something, which I think he finds appalling, naïve, and extremely ignorant. But I think it's one of her best qualities, and also one of the best qualities that we can hold onto.
It's really easy to get cynical when things are bad. For myself personally, as Poppy, when I can still reach into some sort of well of hope, I feel like my spirit's still intact, like my spirit hasn't been broken yet. And to see a character like Amy who just keeps holding onto hope again and again and again, even though there's no reason to, I admire that a lot about her. But going back to your question, I think with that in mind, she’s not manipulative at heart. I think it is a bit of willful ignorance to be like, "We aren't skull hunters, but okay sure we have worked with them, and they've helped us. But I personally am not a skull hunter, like I'm not out there collecting skulls, and neither are my people. They’re our close collaborators, but it's not us."
Q: Well, she's playing the game to try to survive.
A: For sure. I think she doesn't feel she owes this person, Dr. Everett, all of her information either. As far as she's concerned, she's like, "We're both humans. We're on the same side. It doesn't really matter, like why do I need to tell you my life story for you to feel like you need to help me?" So, I think she does what she needs to do to be like, "Open up to me. Help me. Why is this hard for you to do?"
Q: There are so many ups and downs between Amy and Dr. Everett. Their conversations feel so authentic, going back to what we were saying about it feeling like a two-person play. What was it like working to craft this relationship on screen with Anthony Edwards?
A: We did a lot of rehearsals, just the two of us. We shot in Atlanta. He was coming from New York. I was coming from L.A. We were both displaced for those couple of weeks from our families and communities etc. and so we just had time. Our hotels were a couple blocks away from each other, so we would literally go on walks. We'd go on walks and do our lines because a lot of the dialogue is the two of them just walking and talking. It also is nice to be able to – again, feeling like a play – do rehearsals with your co-star.
There’s so much in the words that it felt like we’d be doing a disservice to the script if we started off in a heady place. Because sometimes you start with the script and dissect every word and find the beats. But because this script was so word-heavy, it felt good to get it on its feet and get it verbalized as quickly as possible. In the act of speaking it with each other and walking through it, we were able to find the rhythm and give it some shape and tempo. That was something that was really helpful. I also feel like the characters played off of our dynamic a bit too. He had mentioned a couple times that I'm around the age of his children, so having that inter-generational aspect built into just who we are, I think comes through a lot. We just had to lean into some of those aspects and trust the casting process that brought the two of us together for a reason.
Q: Thinking about those conversations that Amy has with Dr. Everett and their very different perspectives, I'm curious – which side do you, Poppy, find yourself on in their debates? Their conversations about human nature, survival, community, and science were so thought-provoking.
A: It's so true, oh my God! Wow. Where do I personally stand? Hmmm… well I don't know if I'm biased because I played Amy, but I think overall I tend to be the Amy in the situation. I think translating that to what I know of the world right now, she's very human-centric in a way and Dr. Everett is very nature and evolution-centric. He really thinks that maybe humans don’t have a place on Earth anymore. I feel like translated to today’s world, Amy is a young and spirited activist. I think you see in their dynamic that the older generation’s POV is like, "Well, this is the way things are already. Changing it is useless. The systems are in place. This is the world that we live in. That's that. Period. Adapt or be left behind."
When I was in my early and mid-20's living in New York, me and most of my friends were community organizers and we were all activists involved with many different human rights-centered movements. Those are things I'm still very passionate about and still in very close proximity to. Looking back on that time, for me there was something so golden about it. Everyone was like, "The revolution is imminent, the fight must continue, we're all here for the movement and we're doing it and it is our life and soul and blood." I feel like that energy is so generationally unique. There’s so much wisdom to be gained from the older activists, but this hopeful spirit feels so specific to being young. For some reason Amy isn’t totally jaded yet. She still really believes, "I think we can do this. We can still win. We can take care of our people still. We can make sure that there's no person left behind." I love that. I love that about her spirit. I think that's a really hard thing to stay firmly attached to. I just see her as a young activist, so of course I'm rooting for her. She hasn't been broken down yet by the world, in a way that Dr. Everett seems to have been.
Q: Chompers, homo mortus, sonambulos, dead eyes, toe tags, walkers, empties—there’s so much amazing nomenclature that’s come out of The Walking Dead Universe to name the undead. What was the most exciting part of entering this universe for you? We talked about how it's this well-oiled machine and some of the pressure and excitement of the fan base. Were there any little things like language or costuming that you were super excited about?
A: I loved meeting the walkers, because a lot of them have been with the Universe since even the original Walking Dead. It never got old to me to see these people in full walker head-to-toe just being the sweetest sweeties ever. There were a number of fight scenes that I had, so I ended up working mostly with walkers I was fighting. They're great and they took really good care of me. In one of the first fight scenes when Amy rolls down the hill, there was supposed to be a walker that comes up from behind and knocks me over to the ground. They were trying to figure out how to do it in a safe way, so we tried it once and I remember the note from [director] Haifaa [al-Mansour] was "That was really great, but I think in this take it kind of felt like you were trying to cushion her fall a little bit too much. You were taking too much care of her." Which I just thought was so sweet! What you see on screen is terrifying and gory, but then behind the scenes walkers are taking care of us as the knock us over! I loved that.
I haven't done a lot of horror-adjacent stuff or anything even remotely scary at all, so being behind the scenes of something like The Walking Dead was amazing. You see dozens of walker extras just hanging out eating chips and talking to the stunt people. It was a really charming experience. Oh, and also loved being behind the scenes and seeing Lee Grimes doing all of the prosthetics. The transformations that take place and all of the work that goes into a single walker looking the way that they do is just really cool. It's like a work of art!
New episodes of Tales of the Walking Dead air on Sundays at 9/8c 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.