Interview: Melissa McBride talks Carol, The Walking Dead 1014

Photo Credit: Jace Downs/AMC
Photo Credit: Jace Downs/AMC /

Undead Walking had a chance to chat with Melissa McBride about The Walking Dead “Look at the Flowers” and Carol’s evolution over the years.

The Walking Dead would not be what it is today without Melissa McBride bringing Carol to life. She has been a driving force throughout the years but even more so in season 10 as her quest for vengeance has taken her to the edge and back. We had a chance to speak with Melissa McBride about “Look at the Flowers” and Carol’s evolution over the years.

I would love to know what your thoughts are about this season and anything you would like to say to fans about this season.

Oh my gosh, it’s been one of those seasons where we were shooting while the show was airing. We were working on finishing the season and it seems like this season, it seems like we shot it forever ago. The feeling I get is that it was so long ago because so much transpired during the season. These episodes are so big and heavy and it just seems like it took a while to shoot but it didn’t actually take longer than any other season, it was just more massive. And it was so long ago that we shot that, it’s kind of a time warp for me for some reason. 

And there were a lot of firsts for me, and doing some really fun stunt work. Even when I think about that, I think, ‘Was that this season’? And it was, it was earlier this season where I was hanging upside down and jumping rocks. It was just such a super fun season to shoot and I’ve had a great time. 

Having to say goodbye to Danai was hard. I don’t like goodbyes so I want to pretend that they don’t happen. But it has been such a great season so far and there’s so much story to tell. 

Undead Walking has been doing a rewatch of season 1 and we just watched “Tell it to the Frogs”, where we meet Carol for the first time. It’s amazing to see Carol’s growth over the course of ten seasons, and it must be enjoyable as an actor to be able to bring that to life. 

It is so much fun! Carol has so many aspects to her, and so many other disguises up her sleeve to get through a situation. It’s just been real fun to play this character. On one hand it’s been very enlightening to play this character, and it has also meant a lot to me personally to play this character and to see her evolving from how we met her in season 1 to now. And when the fans put together a picture of season 1 Carol next to season 10 Carol, it kind of blows my mind. I think a lot of fans relate to her in that way, with her evolution from season 1 to 10. 

She’s inspiring. She means well. It’s what I’ve always loved about Carol is that she always means well. 

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That’s something that’s reflected in fan feedback. Fans love her development and what an inspiration she is. And now we get to see you working with new people on the show like Jeffrey Dean Morgan. I know from a personal standpoint I’ve been dying to see Carol and Negan in scenes together. 

Yeah, I was so excited to finally get to work with him. I was really, really happy. I think there’s a lot of time to figure out who we become in that world setting, Robert Kirkman’s fictional world setting and relate it to our actual lives in some way, why we do what we do, who we become, how we become, what we become, what will become, you know, the world around us. And there’s a lot of time for her to consider it. They’ve all done things in that world that never would have imagined they’d be doing, and some of the themes are who really are the monsters. 

And I think when she considers Negan, there are so many questions. Even when I was watching Negan, I was curious about what made him this way. What in the world made him that way, aside from survival? To be such a monster that he was, she’s heard stories about him because he’s a legend like that. And now he’s faced his death, and what must he be thinking about that?

So regarding all of that, he was interesting and it made sense for her to bring him on board with a plan because he had the most to gain. He said ‘I’ve been in prison for seven years and I’ve lost everything.’ And what he wanted was respect. She could give him respect, and she could free him, and she could get rid of the Alpha and have some sense of vengeance. 

It’s funny to think that when JDM was on Grey’s Anatomy he appeared as a ghost or subconscious manifestation for one of the characters. When it comes to Carol her subconscious manifests as Alpha, the one person she hated the most out of anyone she has met in the apocalypse so far. That’s a really interesting choice considering that it could have been anyone we’ve seen thus far, or someone she has lost over the years. 

She was on the verge of thinking that in many ways she and Alpha were very similar. And that could have been her. It could have been anybody. You get to a point in that world where again, I don’t know what Alpha went through to become what she became, but what was Carol becoming in her quest for vengeance? She made a call to kill Alpha. And we all get that it was revenge for killing Henry. But was there any salvation for someone like Alpha?

These questions are really interesting. And is it up to Carol to make that decision? Realizing when she had Alpha’s head on the pike and seeing it and realizing everything that took place between the time Negan set out and the time she got the head in her hands and she’s looking at it. Was that really enough? Does it change the way she feels, considering everything that took place and all the damage done in an effort to get to that place. It’s a really big deal. 

So I think there’s also that question of what Carol has done, that she’s done this. And the string of events that took place. And she has to go off and think about that. Alpha even said to her, ‘You chose me because I can get the job done” which I thought was very interesting. 

Absolutely, because at the foundation of it there was Carol and Sophia and then Alpha and Lydia.

Yes! And you know, there are many parallels between the two in two different sides of the same hand. It’s very tragic and beautiful and powerful. 

And after Danai’s final episode we’re starting to really see how one decision could have changed everything. Carol could have snapped back in episode 104 and that could have been the birth of Alpha. 

Exactly! And we’ve been exploring how one little thing could have snapped it all. The fear, the fear of the unknown, the horde and not knowing where it is. There’s always the threat and you just have to try to keep yourself together the best you can. 

So what do you think keeps Carol going? What’s her motivation at this point? (Thanks to @serpentinefire99 for that question!)

I think Carol’s motivation is love. And when I was watching this episode, love and life, all of the things that her subconscious was telling her after Alpha kept asking her what is it that she wants. What do you want? She said she wants to be alone. She answers herself, saying no that’s not it. And whether or not Carol knows what she wants or not, or if she is afraid to even say it because she may or may not be able to manifest it because everything she tries to do, Alpha reminds her: No matter what you do you lose people. Is it worth going forward?

And the things that pull her back out, the thing that gives her the impetus to hold her breath and free herself from under this pile of stuff in this metaphorical pile of stuff to fight for her life, was love. Not wanting to lose Daryl. She’s going to go back. She doesn’t want to be alone, she’s going to go back and help the people that she loves.

And it’s a fight between her subconscious, Alpha, saying that you know they’re always pulling you back. Always pulling you back. Carol’s going to fight it because it’s because of that, she would lose people that she loves. 

So do you think that, with all of that in mind, there’s a way for Carol to ever achieve the peace she’s looking for, or that maybe she doesn’t know she’s looking for yet but would like to have someday?

I hope so. At the end of that sequence with Carol and she says it’s never too late, I want to think that it means it’s never too late to try again. Never too late for anything. 

Melissa McBride as Carol Peletier, Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan – The Walking Dead _ Season 10, Episode 14 – Photo Credit: Jace Downs/AMC
Melissa McBride as Carol Peletier, Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan – The Walking Dead _ Season 10, Episode 14 – Photo Credit: Jace Downs/AMC /

I asked our readers for questions and this one was interesting because of what we learned about Beta in 1014. @pookiesmcbride would like to know if Carol had a favorite band or musician from before, who would it be?

When I first got the news that I would be playing this part, when I first heard I was considered for this role, I was reading the comic books trying to learn more about the character. In my mind, I was thinking she was a little more edgy in my brain. Before knowing anything about the series itself, she was a little more edgy, kind of rock and roll.

She was very different from the physical portrayal of what we ended up going with. I remember the wardrobe in the beginning and it was very defining for me in playing a character. You see it, not so much in a mirror, but from your eyeballs looking down and seeing it on you. As a whole, it does something to you. It’s a very important aspect. 

Do you feel like a warrior when you’re putting on the wardrobe? Carol has worn so many looks over the years, so do you feel like a badass when you put on her battle gear?

Not necessarily badass, but what’s interesting about it is that the clothes she’s wearing when we’re first introduced to her were her clothes of choice. Now we are where we are and it’s a matter of what we find and it has sort of an industrial purpose to it and Carol’s attitudes toward certain things have changed. She’s evolved, period. There are a lot of accoutrements to her wardrobe that are a heck of a lot of fun. 

I can’t say that I’ve ever felt like a badass, but I will say what I’ve said before is that Carol is a badass and I like her attitude and since she’s come out from under the control of others, so to speak, the control of Ed, that she’s peeled back the layers of her own self that were piled on and piled over by other stuff, other worldly things, other situations.

She was called to action in this world and livened up those aspects of herself that were kind of dormant and had no reason to exist in the other world to this extent, certainly. She tried to save herself when she was with Ed and she got to experience freedom, which is what I love about it. And I think it was a great foundation for her and for the character to survive in this world. 

Carol has been having some big moments in season 10 and from a viewer’s perspective it’s an emotional roller coaster. From an actor’s perspective, the consensus from your costars  seems to be that the toughest moments on screen are the most enjoyable to bring to life. Do you enjoy it?

I enjoy any kind of challenge that I can to a role or that the role brings to me, and I enjoy it all that much more when it’s more challenging. And there are times where it’s no so much physically but I approach it gently, and I approached her gently. Because I know her pain. I think the biggest challenge for me is to really step aside and be careful and not be a witness to Carol. 

I want to feel as her and not for her. And that role, and how she inspires me, and people that she reminds me of, the challenge is to step away from that. And so playing her is just a remarkable experience for me. I don’t think I need to decompress from anything, but physical emotion does take a toll and when there are a lot of emotions – which there are many! – I think I need to go stretch or move around. It doesn’t dwell on my heart and it doesn’t hold me down. 

I kind of live with a proverbial lump in my throat because I’m a sensitive person. You know, I feel like I’m always on the verge but I’m also not aware of it until it pops up. I also have an extremely dark humor and find humor in ironic things. But it doesn’t take a deep emotional toll. I can distinguish the reality. I just need to move and exert some energy. 

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Thanks go out to Melissa McBride for taking the time to chat with us and to take a deep dive into Carol’s psyche!

The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9pm on AMC.