Aliyah Royale, who plays Iris on The Walking Dead: World Beyond, talks about “the night the sky fell” and whether Iris trusts Elizabeth and the CRM.
Q: What drew you to The Walking Dead: World Beyond?
A: Honestly, the audition material had my heart. It wasn’t the sides from the actual script, but the scene opened with my character, who is definitely the student body president type. She’s very charismatic and professional. When the meeting concludes and everyone in the classroom is gone, she just breaks and she’s just exuding vulnerability in this room alone, breaking down. Nothing is as it seems. It was really fun to be both teary and enthusiastic and flip personalities in the same scene, but it was probably the hardest audition I’ve had. [Laughs]
Q: Are you a fan of the post-apocalyptic genre, in general?
A: I love post-apocalyptic and I also love psychological thrillers. I think when you take the world as we know it and present a threat or the fear of the unknown, it’s interesting to watch how people react and the choices that they make when that threat is staring them in the eyes. Every time Iris and her friends encounter an empty, it’s crazy to watch what happens.
Q: We’ve often seen the apocalypse through the lens of adults. What has it been like telling this story through the lens of a younger generation?
A: I think younger people just have a little bit more resilience and that “bounce back” factor where anything could happen. They might stumble for a moment, but we always come back from it. Most adults are quick to take the situation for what it is and sometimes they might expect for things not to work out in the way that they’d hoped for. The characters on our show acknowledge that there is a problem, or that one might pop up along the way, but they don’t let that take away their hope for the best-case scenario. I’m going into adulthood and I definitely want to make sure I take that childlike wonder with me forever. It is possible to lose it. I just want to have it always.
Q: With so many young people on the set, what was the vibe like? What did you and your castmates do on set to relax?
A: We have some very funny people in the cast. They are genuinely hilarious. Even in the most heated and character-defining scenes, they always find a way to take the pressure off and make everyone smile. We would be sitting around, just cracking jokes and making videos… like The Office-style with that deadpan stare into the camera and we would go into the “confessional.” [Laughs]
Q: What were some of the things that stood out to you about your character, Iris?
A: I definitely have to take it back to the audition scene. I immediately knew that Iris was going to be responsible and a charismatic leader, but that she was carrying a massive weight with her all the time, even if other people can’t see it. I think we’ve all felt that way before.
Q: How would you describe her relationship with her sister, Hope, who shares quite a different perspective on life?
A: I think they balance each other out. Hope has this realist and sometimes gritty perspective on life, and Iris brings the light and the love into view. When Iris can no longer see the good in people or in certain situations, it’s Hope that reminds Iris of the good is in her. Hope is literally Iris’s hope.
Q: What about her relationship with Elizabeth and the Civil Republic?
A: Iris is doing everything she can to separate her personal feelings and reservations about the Civil Republic from the greater good that she genuinely wants to be a part of. She wants to follow in her father’s footsteps and help find the cure to this massive problem, but Elizabeth puts such a forced feeling in Iris’s stomach. She starts to question who is working for the “greater good” and what that really means.
Q: We see a lot of flashbacks of the night “the sky fell.” How do you feel that night has affected Iris – for better or for worse – and how she shows up for her community?
A: The night the sky fell, it forced Iris to come out of her comfort zone. It definitely made her stronger and accountable for herself and choices. The thing is, it happened at a really young age. So, although she’s accountable for herself and own choices, she also took that as a lifelong opportunity to be accountable for other people and their choices, too. Watching that play out in the series is interesting. She’s always going back and forth about if she’s doing it for herself or doing it to show up for everyone else in a way that she couldn’t show up for her family that night.
Q: Iris is now switching gears when she decides to go save her dad, which means she’ll have to start killing empties. How did you enjoy playing with that element on set?
A: As much fight training as I could get, I was here for it. I knew killing empties would be one of my favorite aspects because I’ve never done stunts before. It was definitely a different experience. From Iris’s point of view, though it’s not just killing empties for sport. It’s for survival and to keep her moving forward on the journey. You have to knock a few down in order to keep going, and Iris gets that.
Q: At the end of the premiere, Iris and her crew set out on a new journey – having never been beyond the walls of their community. What are you most looking forward to as we prepare to walk into a whole new world?
A: I really love the idea of young individuals being able to make definite decision for their lives. There’s this idea that just because you’re young, you don’t know what you want. We’re going into this situation where we don’t know exactly what’s out there, but we know we have each other and that it has to be better than what’s in here. We’ve been in this comfortable community for a decade. I’m looking forward to the world seeing these people, who are just like you and me, do amazing things simply because they have the courage to do it.
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