Melissa McBride On Carol Taking On Mary, Reuniting With Daryl & Rick

Do not mess with Carol Peletier’s loved ones on “The Walking Dead.”

On Sunday night’s Season 5 premiere of the AMC zombie apocalypse drama, Melissa McBride’s Carol found an even deeper courage and inner strength as she heroically put herself in grave danger to save her old group and reunite Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) with his infant daughter Judith.

“I was really surprised that Carol had so much to do and [she was] being instrumental in helping them to get out,” Melissa told Access Hollywood, when asked to recall her first reaction to reading the Season 5 premiere script. “And then, the fight scene with Mary was very surprising and I couldn’t wait to get to it. It was a lot more than Carol has done, a whole other side of her, whole new requirements and I was so proud of her at just taking it, you know, just owning it and doing what she had to do. I was proud of her and happy and excited for the story, for everyone, and getting reunited so quickly.”

The Season 5 premiere was big TV, explosive and emotional, and driven by two strong and courageous characters, both changed by the events of Season 4 — Rick and Carol. Melissa spoke with Access about the big moments in the episode, including Carol’s emotional reunion with Daryl and that moment her character saw Rick again. They’re called the Termites and you [as Carol] are the Terminator!
Melissa McBide: Oh, that’s funny. That’s so funny. Yeah, there’s lots of nicknames for all of our characters coming up. That’s a funny one (laughs).

Access: You mentioned Mary… I thought that was a very interesting juxtaposition with these two women who were both victims in their lives, and have come out in two different sorts of places. What did you think about that? It’s a very interesting scene. You’re in there as hero and she’s standing in there in a room with signs on the wall that say ‘Never again…’
Melissa: Right, and just trying to understand that whole Terminus place. You know, ‘Never again’… So we eat people? … It’s very complicated, but I love that it illustrates how far people go in this world and what’s so interesting about ‘The Walking Dead’ is that it just sort of — it’s like a big magnifying glass or magnifying mirror, to issues that are here in this world, here and now, and people trying to cope. But it’s like the very darkest side of that, and the whole — the magnified, exaggerated side of the things that we deal with on this side.

Access: One of the things that I loved at the end of the episode wasn’t just the Carol/Daryl reunion, but Rick’s face as he looked at Carol and said, ‘Did you do that?’ Tell me about shooting that with Andy. He’s a very emotional actor.
Melissa McBide: He is. All this cast is so awesome to work with and I love working with Andy because he’s very generous and he’s so present and he just goes places, just lets himself go places and in that presence of whatever is happening in that very split second, that moment, he just lets it go and that was such a poignant, beautiful, profound scene that opened a lot of things and also ties a couple things up. And his face with the baby was just so — the tears and awww… relief, and then probably like just the responsibility, it all comes crashing in. I can only imagine it feeling a hundred million things at the same time.

Access: It’s such a beautiful moment and restarts their relationship in a way. Do you think that’s an OK assumption?
Melissa McBide: Well, perhaps one aspect of it. Yeah, perhaps one aspect… being able to bring him to one of the most important elements of his life, and the thing that we all fight for that he thought was gone. I think that opens up avenues for discussion and for renewed heart valves so to speak… just to see where that goes. It’s going to be interesting, I can tell you that.

Access: What did it mean to you to see Daryl and Carol reunited, loving these characters as you do?
Melissa McBide: I was very happy to see that happen in the first episode as well, and loved playing the scene and Norman [Reedus] was just so unpredictable and lovely as Daryl, and cute and sweet and I’m sure that — just that hug, it felt so good to Carol to have someone embrace her from the group, you know? And still, yet, she doesn’t know who knows what.

Access: You said ‘unpredictable.’ Isn’t that something you guys as actors thrive on — when someone brings something to their performance that you weren’t expecting because you can react to it?
Melissa: Yeah, and that happens all the time. It’s such a great cast of actors to work with because there’s not a whole lot of rehearsal. Rehearsal time usually is just about either blocking or kind of letting things – seeing what’s going to come to the surface and then… once we get in there, things may change and a line is delivered a different way, or there’s a revelation that comes to one’s mind when the words leave their mouth. And it’s always fun, it’s always exciting and it’s always exhilarating and thrilling to work with these people.

Access: People really love your character, and the love for her has really grown over the years and especially [with] your work last season too, in the Lizzie episode. What has it been like to feel that outpouring from people — of love for this character and respect for your performance?
Melissa McBide: It’s an amazing feeling, and [I’m] just floored with gratitude and it makes me… I’ve said it before how real Carol is to me, and I know women like her, very close to me and it kind of — it makes me feel very happy and grateful that people see something in her that they can relate to, and it makes the world feel a whole lot smaller to me. I love intimacy and that kind of understanding — when you have an understanding toward someone who you are perhaps very different from, you realize we all have a lot more in common than we like to think, and then — at times – [more than] we could imagine, and I just love the feeling that it makes people closer and it makes this big world feel a lot smaller. And enough can’t be said about just the voice of the fans and how much love is generated and how much good energy comes my way from it.

Access: Did you enjoy having Robin Lord Taylor back on set for a very brief period of time? Now he’s on ‘Gotham’ as the Penguin [to be].
Melissa McBide: Yeah, I didn’t get to work with him in the premiere, but it was a really interesting little turn to have him show up there at Terminus. … And such a horrible fate.

Access: Yeah! But it was cool to see him again.
Melissa McBide: It really is. And look at him. Look at him now, doing this awesome role in ‘Gotham.’

Access: He’s very good.
Melissa McBide: Yeah, he is. He’s great. While we’re on it, there’s a lot of really good new cast members coming.

Access: We just saw some wonderful reunions, you’re back in the group, you’re on the road. What do you want to hint at about what’s ahead?
Melissa McBide: It’s left to be seen how — we’ve just been reunited — how are they going to react with one another? How are these relationships deep down? What’s next for them? There’s so much I can’t say!

“The Walking Dead” continues Sundays at 9 PM ET/PT on AMC.


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