IGN: With your character, it’s interesting, because of the four core family members, by the end of the first episode, she doesn’t see what they see yet, to the extent of how far this goes. Can you talk about what her perspective is? For any of us, it wouldn’t be easy to process what is happening but how do you think she’s taking this situation as it develops?
Alycia Debnam-Carey: Well yeah, as you said, out of the core four family she’s the only one that hasn’t been exposed to this new situation, this virus. She’s heard talk and conspiracy theories. Obviously stuff’s going around school, word’s spreading but in the first episode and in the trailer I think, there’s that moment where they’re shooting on camera and she’s like, “That’s not real.” She’s still trying to justify everything and that’s the amazing thing about human beings. You’re thrust into an incredible situation and you’re always trying to justify it realistically and logically for yourself and so part of that is the family always trying to protect her. They’ve been through a lot, obviously. As a family, we’ve lost a father and a husband. She’s got a brother that’s wayward and isn’t around much anymore, so she’s kind of been in the dark a lot and this is almost the final push where it’s like we just want to keep at least someone safe and innocent and protected.
In a way then, she’s sort of in a similar position to the audience because as an audience this is a completely different introduction to the world of The Walking Dead. It’s before anything has happened. You don’t really know kind of what symptoms to look for or what happens when people become infected. And so she is in a similar position of the audience in a way of, “I don’t know what’s going on.” Obviously, the audience has the rest of the franchise behind them, but it was hard because they were really hard scenes to film, a lot of them. Because when you have really little information, that whole putting together bits and pieces of what everyone’s telling you, that’s quite hard to actually do in a scene. Because you’re like “Oh, wait, I don’t know that yet, do I!?”
IGN: It’s a six-episode season. Are things going to move pretty quickly in these first episodes as far as where things go?
Debnam-Carey: No, I think you’d be actually surprised that the slow actually takes it’s time to unfold, because we can. We have that luxury of this is a time period that was never explored in the original and so we’re lucky we get to really flesh out these moments and what happens when a society crumbles. But I think it’s amazing how fast a society crumbles too and how quickly people become defensive and people become suspicious of things. At the same time, by the end of this season, we’re still not really at the place where Rick Grimes is, you know?
IGN: While Alicia is the younger sister, because of her older brother’s drug addiction, she has to take a different role than is normal in that dynamic. Is she fed up with it all, while still loving and caring about her brother?
Debnam-Carey: I think they were always close as kids and they had a great relationship and obviously they’ve shared an experience that no one else they know can relate to. They’re siblings and they lost a father. That’s an incredibly traumatic thing to go through and so they have that connection already and I think they are alike in many ways, but I think that situation has taken them on very different paths.
Siblings are often very opposite. Like I know with me and my brother, there are some things that because I do well he’ll do something else very well. You kind of compensate for each other, your flaws and attributes. I think with Alicia and Nick, they do have a good relationship, but it’s obviously very fractured and it’s going to take time to rebuild. I think she’s just heard it so many times – like, “I’m going to get better” or, “Nick’s going to be fine. He’s going to be okay” and it’s like, “Well, no, he’s said this a million times and he’s not getting any better and he’s not changing.” And she is a straight kid and she gets As in school and she’s super smart and she’s got her wits about her, but it means because Nick has gone off, she’s had to be very self-sufficient. She’s had to be in control and that goes against you in some way because you do so well and you want some praise for that but instead Nick gets all the attention because he’s the one that’s screwing up and we have to take care of Nick and it’s all about Nick, so she’s just so ready to get out.
IGN: What’s this whole process been like for you joining the show? You went to Comic-Con for the first time last month, so are you having that, “Wow, we are part of this giant franchise!” feeling?
Debnam-Carey: Comic-Con was something else, that’s for sure. It was weird because I didn’t get to experience it completely. It was very — we were shuttled around a lot and you’re in hotels and you’re in different rooms and you don’t get to see a lot of the fans but then finally when we did and we got to walk around a little bit I was like, “Oh my gosh, there’s this incredible energy about the place and everyone’s in costume” and it makes you feel like that’s why this is all possible and this is why this show is so successful because of these people here. It was so fun. I think I slept like 6 hours because it was just go, go, go. I think it was nice to see too because no one knew who we are, we were kind of a little bit — it was more of an observer point of view for us too in a different way than The Walking Dead can be.
IGN: Next year though…
Debnam-Carey: [Laughs] Next year. That’s what people keep saying!
IGN: Walking Dead is known for its amazing makeup and effects. Have you gotten to see some cool stuff on set?
Debnam-Carey: Oh yeah. It takes its time to unfold but there’s some great stuff for the audience to enjoy, that’s for sure. It’s just a slower burn by Greg [Nicotero], who is in charge of the make up stuff. He’s just phenomenal and it’s genuinely scary too.
Did you watch the original “Walking Dead”?
I hadn’t watched it before, but once the [“Fear”] gig arrived, I was like, “I’d better investigate the world a little bit.” And then I became addicted to it, very quickly.
Is that the kind of thing you gravitate to usually?
No, I never thought this post-apocalyptic drama genre was something I was going to fall into, but it turns out, that’s basically all I do now. [laughs] It’s my niche. It’s really fun. But I remember the phone call [about auditioning for “Fear the Walking Dead”]. “I don’t know if that’s really my thing — the zombies, lots of blood and gore. I’m not good with that.”
I’m such a wimp with gore.
Me too, I’ll be covering my eyes. But on set, it is so fun. What “The Walking Dead” and “Fear the Walking Dead” do so well is they bring a very real world to life, it’s very serious, but there’s sort of a campiness about it too. I don’t know if that’s the right word to use.
It’s theatrical, yes, that’s perfect. Yes. Have you seen it?
I’ve seen the original show and two episodes of “Fear the Walking Dead.”
Oh, I’ve only seen one. What did you think?
Well, I’m not really a horror/zombie fan as such, but I’m a big fan of character development, so I’m interested to see where they take the people and the families they’ve set up.
Yeah, it’s a lot about that, which I think is great. I think you’ll really care about the characters once they start having to make some difficult choices.
Can you talk about where your character goes? It seems like she’s kind of cut off from her family emotionally, because her parents have split up and her brother’s this wayward guy.
She starts in a difficult place, but I think she also starts in a much more hopeful place. She’s a good kid, she does well in school. She’s sort of had to compensate for what [her brother] Nick isn’t good at. They share this huge experience of their father not being around, but Nick’s taken a path that is a lot more destructive.
She’s very invested in moving on and moving out and being the good kid and getting over it. It is hard, because he takes all the attention. There’s nothing worse — I remember being a kid in school and you do all the work, but it’s the kids that don’t do anything and get in trouble that get all the attention. Obviously, she does feel cut off initially from her family, but she’s also decided to make a choice for herself. “I’m going to move on, I’ve got to go, I’ve got this beautiful boyfriend. I’ve got plans.” That’s what makes the apocalypse so hard for her, she’s going to fall hard and fast very quickly. Because [at the start] she’s got hope.
Her dreams were her lifeline to get out of a difficult situation.
Exactly. Now she has nothing.
And she’s stuck with her family.
Yeah, she’s really stuck. Hope turns into hopelessness, and that’s an awful place to be.
I’ll be honest, that’s something I struggle with when it comes to “The Walking Dead.” It can be quite hopeless, and so what’s the endgame? Where does it go? As an actor, do you struggle with that?
I do, and it was really hard, actually. That was the hardest thing, I found, with Alicia. I felt a lot of the other characters, they have a very specific endgame. Frank has an addiction — his goal is to get more drugs. It’s a concrete direction. For Alicia, it’s like, where do you go?
The characters don’t have things put in front of them, they have things taken away.
And they’re left with nothing. And I remember, though, that’s what was so great about Carol’s character in the original series. At first, when I watched that, she was such a hard character to relate to because you didn’t know what she was going to do. She was just stuck. But it was so realistic.
Looking at her journey now — she’s mind-blowing. Where she’s come from — the journey is incredible. And that’s what the writers do so well on this show, as well. They’re very connected to a long-term journey and where you’re going to go. It is one morsel at a time, which I really appreciate. So it was hard, but it is a slow burn, this first season, because we haven’t really gotten to the apocalypse yet. No one really knows the full extent of what’s happened.
I have to ask you about “The 100.” Can you talk about that scene, the one where Lexa tells Clarke that she’s breaking their alliance? What was it like to shoot that scene? Was it one of your more difficult moments on the show? Were you just tired and it was 2 a.m.?
It feels like a lot of that show, it is that — “We’re in the forest and it’s raining and it’s always 3 a.m.” [laughs] But it was a hard day, and we had a lot to cover and there were 100 extras, all with weapons, and it was raining. There were a lot of stunts we had to cover and a lot of positions and parts to that scene.
But that moment, I think, was actually the relief of that whole day for me. It was a huge release. For me as an actor playing that character, it felt very honest, and it was open. And especially for Lexa, too. It’s the first real time you get to see — apart from the kissing — this is a scene where she makes a really strong choice, but you can see that it’s hard for her to do, and she does care. Eliza’s so brilliant and she’s so great to work with and between the two of us, we were just very connected with each other and made sure that that was the strong force of that scene.
Lexa has had to be very contained to protect her people and to also protect her own heart. So the kiss with Clarke was one form of release, but showing that she cared, even in that moment of betrayal — that was like, “OK, finally I can be real.”
Yeah, “This is who I am, I am not really going to change.” She’s very blunt. [laughs]
What can you say about Season 3? How many episodes will you be in?
I can’t say. But I just read the first script, I’m very excited to go up and see everyone.
I’m sure Clarke will be excited to see Lexa. Won’t that be a fun reunion?
Not so much. [laughs] Eliza and I will have a great time, but … I think people will really enjoy it, the way it pans out. There’s a great scene for Lexa’s introduction [in Season 3].
In the first episode back, will Clarke and Lexa have a scene together?
I can’t say. But there’s a great [Lexa] scene in that episode.
Despite the history that Clarke and Lexa had, would Lexa’s people always have come first?
Yes. That’s in her blood. Her people are so close to her, that’s what she’s been groomed to be. She comes from a really harsh culture and she has huge responsibilities. I think she’s very loyal to that. Maybe in a world where Clarke was able to assimilate to their culture as well and become more of a right-hand man, then maybe I think Lexa could — then that would be a merger of two people. But no, I think she’s brutal and she’s a pragmatist, but not out of unkindness. It’s all she’s ever known.
And that’s how she got to where she is.
Exactly. And why she is a good leader, as well, even though people might think she’s ruthless.
I do think “The 100” is one of the most morally interesting shows out there. Psychologically, morally, emotionally, it’s really tough.
Yeah. And they also don’t shy away from showing the effects. Every character is brutally beaten down and affected by the elements and by each other and they really show it. I mean, obviously, they’re all incredibly attractive human beings, but even then, in the makeup trailer, it’s always, “I swear, I’ve had this cut for seven weeks. Can it go away, finally?” “Sorry, no.”
Even the emotionally after-effects, they always show that. The knowledge of what they’ve done, both Clarke and Lexa, is not easy for them.
No. And that’s why you shut off, as well. In Lexa’s case, she becomes emotionally void to a lot of people.
Do you think that could change?
I’m not sure. That’s up to [executive producer] Jason [Rothenberg].
What about the fandom? Whenever I look at what they’re up to on Tumblr and elsewhere, it’s impressive.
It’s incredible. I’m not great with social media — I find it very overwhelming, honestly. But what a great medium to show the passion and talent people have. There’s such creativity. They extend what we’ve made into their own world and I think that’s perfect. Comic-Con was such an amazing experience, too. It was this great landscape of people making their own stuff.
I wasn’t there this year, but I saw some pictures of Lexa cosplay.
That is so humbling and surreal, it’s an amazing experience. I love it. I’m lucky they put me in such a badass costume and makeup. It’s funny, we did a whole day of tests with that makeup. We were like, “Should we do this? Should we do tears? Should we do the bindi?”
Did you collaborate on it?
Yeah. We were emailing Jason. He had his opinion. We were like, “No, we like this one better.” [laughs]