Melissa McBride, who plays Carol on AMC’s The Walking Dead, talks about joining the Kingdom and when it’s time to “Get off your ass and fight.”
Q: What’s it been like being so separated from most of the cast this season?
A: On one hand, it’s been really interesting working with new faces and characters, opening up the world of The Walking Dead even more and exploring new territories and points of view. That freshness is interesting to me as a fan of the show and watching it evolve… at the same time, I really do miss the rhythm that we get into and that core group of people. After six years of working together, it was really strange shooting Season 7 and wondering, “When am I going to see everyone again?! Where’s the story going? What’s happening?!” [Laughs]
Q: Carol’s spent so much time in the Kingdom. What do you make of Ezekiel?
A: He’s such a fascinating character – a character that he’s chosen – and I think he and Carol have something in common where they are having to put on these faces. Even though the motivation is perhaps different, I think there is a common denominator with these two. Khary Payton is a really great actor to work with and he’s so easy to get along with. When he showed up to set, he was very open. We got together early on and hung out with Logan Miller (Benjamin) and we all got to know each other.
Q: Do you think Carol made the right choice staying out of the fight with the Saviors until now?
A: You don’t know what’s going to happen when you make a decision and you think it’s the right one. I think she felt like she didn’t have a choice. She just had to go to save herself and I understand the reasons why she left. That in itself would be the right move to make in that moment, but the world still goes on around you, things happen and you come to new decisions. She was trying to save what was left of herself. Every time you have to do horrible things, a little piece of you gets shredded away.
Q: What side of Carol do you enjoy playing more: Hermit Carol, fighting Carol, or faux-meek Carol?
A: There’s a little something to every side of Carol that I like. With trying to maintain that core of who she is through all of it, I really have to think about what part is her defense and what is a tactic for her own survival. That comes in waves of being standoffish and just perhaps downright rude [Laughs]. She genuinely is just not wanting to be responsible for people’s lives and doesn’t want to be put back in the position of having to fight again because she knows exactly what that means for her and what that will do to her. At the same time, she’s denying herself wonderful people and that makes me sad, but it’s such a rock and a hard place that the circumstances of the world have put her in. She’s got her own set of issues, her own history and her own way of dealing with things.
A: It’s been amazing working with each of them. They’re very different relationships. There’s such a deep, special place in my heart for Carol and Daryl. They’ve come such a long way together and through some very similar histories… just watching them both struggle on their own, even as a viewer, with what they’ve had to go through and how Daryl is coping with this world, coping with himself and getting closer to other people. I love his character and in the story, there’s such a deep place in Carol’s heart for him for all those reasons – and of course, I love working with Norman. The relationship with Morgan is very contentious, but at the same time, Carol recognizes he’s a good man and they’re coming from a very similar mindset. I think Morgan and Carol have a very special bond. They both wish they didn’t have to kill to survive. How do you balance that in that kind of world? Their quandaries are very much on the same page, but I think their temperaments are quite different.
Q: When Morgan is ready to pursue the Saviors himself, Carol ends up echoing King Ezekiel’s words and tells him he can “go and not go.” What does that mean?
A: The first time King Ezekiel says it to Carol, it’s befuddling to her. Now she gets that it’s a safe haven and a respite for a minute. Go, but don’t go away. Take the time, but don’t leave us. Don’t go where we can’t find you. Be on your own and do what you need to do, but don’t go away.
Q: By the end of the episode, King Ezekiel admits the Kingdom must fight. Is it exciting that more people are ready to rise up against Negan? How ready are you for Carol to link back up with the larger group?
A: I, for one, am so ready for it! [Laughs] I hate what he’s doing to our people. I’m so glad Carol is aware of what’s going on now. She had an inkling that something was up when Daryl came to the Kingdom. As much as she doesn’t want to do it, I’m so glad to see her initiate to King Ezekiel that they have to fight.
There were several things in this episode – seeing how broken Morgan and Ezekiel were over Benjamin’s death, realizing exactly who the Saviors are and the deals they make, and hearing that they’ve killed so many of her people in Alexandria. She was trying to save what was left of herself and that put Daryl in a horrible position to save the truth and not share that with her. I remember shooting that scene when Morgan tells Carol what happened and the first thing that came into my mind was Daryl sitting at that table over to my right, telling me what he told me, and I just broke. The heartache and what it meant for Daryl to keep that to himself — it broke her heart that he felt he had to do that, I think. So, it was a lot of things and now’s the time. I do believe this is the time to rise up. Enough already! There’s really no way around it. You can go but don’t go, but you’ve also got to get off your ass and fight! [Laughs]
Read an interview with Seth Gilliam, who plays Father Gabriel.
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9/8c on AMC.
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