Carol was more of a background character when The Walking Dead first started on AMC. Sure, she had a crappy husband and had to deal with her zombified daughter, but she never quite seemed integral to the main story. That all changed last season when a hardened, no-nonsense Carol emerged and started recognizing that drastic times call for drastic measures. She killed Tyreese’s girlfriend and some other poor schmo and burned their bodies in an attempt to stop the spread of a deadly virus: That lead to her being kicked out of the prison by Rick. And then she shot and killed her adopted daughter Lizzie after realizing the girl was a complete psychopath. (But a super sweet psychopath, it should be noted.)
All of this was played to pure perfection by actress Melissa McBride, who has helped turn Carol into one of the can’t-miss-characters on the show. With The Walking Dead returning for season 5 on Oct. 12, we caught up with Melissa to chat about awards, spoilers, and what we can expect coming up.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You made it to Comic Con for the first time this summer. What was that experience like for you?
MELISSA McBRIDE: A lot to absorb, fighting some anxiety at first and then kind of easing into it. It’s a lot to absorb and I wanted to feel everything. It was really fun. My favorite part of the entire thing was interacting as much as we could with the fans — just their excitement over seeing everybody and seeing the trailer, which was awesome. I’m curious about Carol and her mental and emotional state as we’re going to see her in season 5 because she went through some serious stuff last season with the Karen situation, and Rick abandoning her, and then the whole Lizzie deal. How is she holding up after all that in terms of coming to terms with the person she has become?
I think she’s holding up pretty well considering how compounded these events were, one right after another since this whole thing started. The characters are adapting to that kind of world where you just can’t get a break. It’s interesting to see how they’re becoming someone new almost under the weight of this world. I don’t know how anyone could get through what she’s done and not be affected by it. It’s going to be great to see exactly how she is affected by it. Will she want to check out and go, “Oh this is too much for me,” or will love conquer all and caring for her group and continuing in this world to fight? I love the questions that this show brings. We fight so hard, holding out for something. What? What are they holding out for? Why? It’s so brutal. I love it.
You guys did your smaller stories in the back of the last half of last season and now it seems the band is getting back together, at least for a little while. Tell me about that.
It’s a whole other different kind of energy when we’re all there together. It’s just great to be among the big family again because you really do start to miss them if you’re doing the smaller episodes and everybody else is doing the smaller episodes. Your time in between seeing them is a little sad gap, but I do appreciate the small episodes to really dig into the independent storyline and see the development of these characters. And to see the intimacy of both is kind of breathtaking to me. But, it’s good to be back with the group too. It’s a whole other energy.
In season 1 we had this urban environment that we saw with downtown Atlanta, but since then it’s been suburban for the most part. I know you guys are going to be in the city for a lot of this season and it’s going to give it a different feel that the show hasn’t had for a while. Tell me about that.
I’m excited about all the different locations we have. It’s fun to be on the road like that. You feel the journey when they’re moving and you appreciate the pit stops along the way because the journey is so hard. The elements, there’s so much new texture, new feel, threats, knowing that they’re going back into territories that they were running from. I’m really loving the locations.
It’s obviously different from when you’re filming at the prison right there in the back of your studio. I’m sure it’s really fun in a way to get out there, but also there are logistics. What’s it like doing it with the fans being out there on top of you? I’m sure it’s exciting to see people camped out to catch a glimpse of you, but then they’re also trying to take pictures.
They are. I don’t like spoilers. I don’t like things being spoiled. It’s funny how people send me things on Twitter with spoiler pictures. They’re proud, they’re happy they found out, and I’m like “Oh, man, no — I don’t want to see that.” I just put #nospoiler on my on my Twitter profile, but they send me that stuff. It’s fun at the end of the day, but when they’re running around trying to catch stuff I’m like eehhhh. You can sometimes see them in the periphery when you’re acting a scene. It’s all the more focus required, but it’s great fun. It’s fun that they’re just so invested and involved. It’s certainly different than being at the prison. Being at the prison is very comfortable. It’s nice being on the road like that and out in the open because even just that threat that you’re being seen can forge the day ahead, trying to hide.
We had that big moment last season with Carol confessing to Tyreese. At some point she’s going to be reunited with Rick who left her out there and would not allow her back in the prison. Tell us about Carol’s mind frame. She’s already found Tyreese. She must know at this point that there’s a chance she’s going to meet up with Rick again. How is she feeling about that situation with this guy that left her out there?
I can tell you that she is very certain with some of her feelings, very certain, and other feelings she has, she’s got some mixed feelings. I think more than anything she’s ready to be accountable in whatever way.
I want to talk to you about awards, Melissa. You were nominated for a Critics’ Choice award, you won a Saturn award. Tell me what that whole experience has been like to get this sort of acclaim from people for the job you did last year.
It was a huge surprise. It feels really good to have your work recognized. That’s awesome. I can’t help but think back where Carol started, where I started with her.
I really thought, this is not going to last very long. To be recognized for the work I’ve done on this show in particular is very surprising. It’s surreal, humbling, and it felt really nice to be able to take one for the group because there aren’t enough awards for this show, I don’t think. This cast and this crew do a phenomenal job.