Interview: Melissa McBrideMarch 26, 2018
With an unexpected invite to play the role of Carol in an upcoming TV series called The Walking Dead, Melissa McBride took the part and made it her own, turning a defeated woman into a strong, cunning warrior and a great ally. Recently, we talked with Melissa about her life before The Walking Dead, why she loves the character of Carol and embracing the fans and fandom. Sort of.
You’ve definitely traveled a different career path, going from acting to a commercial casting director, and then back to acting. While you were a casting director, did you still have your sights set on acting even before you got the offer to play Carol?
Melissa: I hadn’t really thought about it, I’m kind of drifty like that, and that was so awesome, having the experience of casting, it was really wonderful at the time, I had thought of maybe directing later, who knows? My attention span can be challenging, I like to be in hyperfocus mode and casting was that for me at the time, just the pace of it. I got to experience a lot of what I enjoy while casting, so I was happy with that. I am a firm believer in never say never but the casting, that was great at the time.
When you were offered the part of Carol what did you think about the character?
Melissa: Well, from what I knew, from what I was told and considering it was just a pilot, really, nobody knew what was ahead for any of us. Certainly, with what I had to do, I had no idea it would become what it has, both her character and the show. I expected, was hoping, for maybe three episodes and then really, I thought that would be it. I was very happy how it turned out however, I love who she’s become.
As an actor, what has been the biggest joy in playing Carol and conversely, the hardest thing as the seasons continued on?
Melissa: I think the greatest joy, somehow, paradoxically, is the greatest challenge. The great joy is Carol has found her strength and she’s managed to get out of a situation, she managed to stand up for herself, defend herself. You know, I cannot play this character and think about people that I know in real life that have been in a similar situation as Carol, that are struggling, didn’t make it, that’s bittersweet. To come to that place where she’s proficient and still her heart breaks for what she has to do, but she’s managed to do it, it’s interesting and complex.
In ‘Do Not Send Us Astray’, Carol comes face to face with another one of those moments where someone she cares about has to die, and by her hands. Do you think her pragmatic attitude to keep on fighting will be enough or will the next breaking point for her be the final one?
Melissa: Yeah, she has these little mini breakdowns, she’s had to just go off on her own and try and reconcile what it takes to survive. She doesn’t want people to get close so she doesn’t have to kill them and it’s so much about what she was saying to Tobin, when he said, we’re fighting to end the fight, but even then there’s no guarantee you’ll get tonight or even tomorrow, or another day, like you’re just living to fight.
The immediate effects of what the Saviors did in ‘Do Not Send Us Astray’ are obvious but down the road, the effects might be equally devastating, both mentally and physically. How hard is it for this group to not push back against the Saviors and become everything they don’t want to be?
Melissa: I think this whole time they are trying to manage that fine line and I know for Carol, she feels part of her struggle with killing is that she feels like the monsters become the monster you’re trying to save yourself from. I think there is always that feeling, that’s always part of the struggle.
How long did it take you to realize that this was a special cast to work with, the great chemistry you all had?
Melissa: Immediately, right on the first day when we were shooting the pilot episode. There was a comradery right out of the gate, funny, funny people, very professional people, both cast and crew and it wasn’t long before it was really feeling like a family.
Have you gotten used to the fandom now, the huge fan base, or is it still something that you are getting used to?
Melissa: It is still something that I need to get used to. I will tell you, the whole experience, I have a hard time wrapping my head around it. I feel like life became very different very quickly and also the fans are absolutely amazing, they really are. I just got back from London having met so many and every single one of them I met were just wonderful and so many people have a story to share with me. I’m sensitive and very sensitive to the fans when I meet them and sometimes get emotional and I’m grateful, always grateful and I don’t know that I’ll ever get used to it.
So have you given any thought about life for you after The Walking Dead?
Melissa: You know, I’m a terrible planner, I really am. I just look at what’s in front of me and kind of choose my path when the forks come along. We’ll see, I would love to keep acting, there is such a joy to be had in the process of acting, so many characters to play, some character work would be fun. Directing would be interesting, I enjoy working with actors, both in front of and behind the camera but we shall see, never say never. Directing an episode of The Walking Dead would be wonderful, it’s been great to be able to work with such a diverse group of directors, it’s very inspiring to me. I feel like there’s always something new to learn and I definitely learn a lot from the different directors.
I want to thank Melissa for taking the time to talk with us