On the hit AMC television series The Walking Dead, actress Laurie Holden plays Andrea, a successful civil rights attorney who was on a road trip with her younger sister Amy (Emma Bell) when the zombie apocalypse occurred. They were stranded in Atlanta when they were rescued by Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn) and they’ve been living with him and a small group of survivors ever since, as they fight not to become infected.
With just the finale left in the highly rated first season, and already picked up for a 13-episode second season (which viewers might have to wait until October 2011 to see), the series promises to go out with a bang. In a recent exclusive interview with Collider, Laurie Holden talked about this being her third collaboration with executive producer/director/writer Frank Darabont, how much fun she’s had with the physical side of Andrea, how emotionally draining the work is and how surreal the huge success of the series has been for everyone involved. Check out what she had to say after the jump.
LAURIE HOLDEN: Well, I’ve worked with Frank on two other collaborations, The Majestic with Jim Carrey and Stephen King’s The Mist. When The Walking Dead officially got greenlit, he called me up and said, “My passion project just got off the ground. There’s a role I think you’re perfect for. Would you consider the role of Andrea?” And I was like, “Wow, I’d love to take a look at it.” So, I read the pilot script and was knocked out. And then, I picked up Compendium 1 of Robert Kirkman’s graphic novel and was just blown away by the storytelling, and I signed up immediately.
Was there anything in the comic that helped you in forming this character, or have you developed her separately from the source material?
HOLDEN: I think that the AMC version of Andrea is a little bit different than the comic book. In Robert Kirkman’s version, she’s a bit younger, she’s a law clerk, and there’s only a two-year age difference between her and Amy. I think Frank [Darabont] wanted to make it a much richer, deeper, more complicated relationship, so he made it a bigger age difference between the two characters.
The character of Andrea, in the TV show, was actually a very successful lawyer prior to the apocalypse, and her relationship with Amy is rather complicated because they were never really raised together. Andrea missed out on a lot of important moments in Amy’s life and carries a lot of guilt for not being a better sister, just in terms of having been away at college during birthdays and graduations. You find this character trying to make up for a lot of lost time, in a world that has no hope. In many ways, it does follow the graphic novel. Obviously, Amy’s death is a defining moment in Andrea’s life and will change her forever. The arc and the journey of the character is going to be pretty much exactly the same.
Even though you have the script and you know what’s going to happen, was it still difficult to shoot that scene where the camp gets attacked by zombies and they get Amy?
HOLDEN: Yeah. I think it would be difficult for any actor. It’s so important because it’s the defining moment that changes my character forever, and if you don’t buy the death and the grief and the loss, then so much goes out the window. It was really important that that be as real and authentic as possible. But, I was really blessed because I had the most amazing co-star. Emma Bell played my sister and we were really tight, on screen and off screen. We created this wonderful dynamic between the two of us and it just made it so much easier because there was so much love and trust and we were allowed to go to some pretty dark, vulnerable places. We created this bubble around us, of safety, that allowed us to just be free, creatively.
Without giving anything away, what can you say about the remaining story for this season? Is there anything that you’re particularly looking forward to fans getting to see?
HOLDEN: Things are only going to get darker and more intense. In many ways, Amy is Andrea’s heart and she’s the only family that she has left, so when Andrea loses Amy, it’s like someone ripped her heart out of her, and there is so much guilt. She had this one responsibility to take care of her baby sister and make sure that she is okay, and she failed. The guilt, the remorse, the self-loathing and the mind-trip that does to Andrea is pretty overwhelming.
In Episode 5, when she refused to leave Amy’s body and could not even be reasoned with, she pretty much checked out. At that point, Andrea didn’t care if she was coming back as a zombie. She just wants to see if there’s a part of her sister, even if there’s an inkling of her left in there, ‘cause she can’t let go.
In this zombie world, we don’t understand any of this. We don’t know what this apocalypse is. We don’t know if it’s a virus. We don’t know if it’s bio-chemical warfare. My character had not seen somebody she loves die and come back as a zombie. We’d all heard these tales of people getting bit and coming back as zombies, but for someone who has never had a one-on-one experience, there’s a fascination. Amy was bit and Andrea knew she was going to come back, and she wanted to look in her eyes and see if there was some part of Amy still in there. It was grasping onto the last part of her that is left.
Will the series address the reasons this zombie apocalypse has happened, or the effect it’s had on other parts of the world?
HOLDEN: I think that it’s going to be alluded to in Season 1, but I think that that will probably remain a mystery for quite some time. If you watch a lot of zombie movies, every one that’s been done before has a different explanation, whether it’s a virus or it’s some sort of man-made bio-chemical thing that got out. It’s definitely an infection, of some sort. What I think is just so interesting about our show is that, when you watched the pilot, Morgan (Lennie James) looked out and saw his wife, and you realize that there’s obviously something in the zombies that’s still holding on to something that we don’t understand as humans, by the very fact that his wife keeps coming back to the house. That’s what makes it so conflicting, in terms of putting down the people you love. Your brain goes crazy, asking, “Well, there must be some part of them still in there because why does she keep showing up?” I understand that. I think that’s very much how Andrea feels with Amy.
Do you enjoy the more physical side of this role?
HOLDEN: Yeah. I’m a tomboy. I really love sports, so for me, it’s great, especially as we get more into Season 2 and 3 and the more warrior side of Andrea emerges. I really love that. I’m really looking forward to being the sniper gal, running around and shooting zombies. I find that really exhilarating. Mind you, I wish it was a little cooler in Atlanta and not 110 degrees, but you can’t have everything.
Is it freeing to work on a show that’s so grimey, where you don’t have to spend hours in hair and make-up?
HOLDEN: It is what it is. In many ways, it is freeing because it goes without saying that we’re going to look like hell. We’re supposed to look like hell. There’s nothing pretty about it. They put dark circles under our eyes, the lighting is kind of harsh, and we’re covered in bug spray and suntan lotion. It’s not like any other show on television, where you get your lip gloss and your concealer and you get to feel pretty. It’s really just a raw show about people trying to survive. If people are looking for beauty, they’re checking into the wrong show.
As an actor, does it help that you have actual people in zombie make-up and prosthetics to act opposite, instead of having all of that added in later?
HOLDEN: They have to be there because they’re actual, physical people. They can’t really CGI it. It wouldn’t really work. Yeah, it helps a lot because Greg Nicotero and K.N.B., who have done all the special effects on the show, have done such an amazing job that, when you’re on the set looking at these zombies that look so disgusting and so authentically frightening, it really does help. They look so real. You can’t even smell them. They smell bad and they look disgusting. It’s really quite gruesome. I can’t even eat my lunch, most days. The thing that makes this show so poignant is that every single zombie was a living, breathing person who had hopes and dreams and a first love, and something happened to them. They’re walking the earth in a form of purgatory and it’s so sad. It’s a really dark, emotionally wrenching world that we’ve created on The Walking Dead.
How has this ensemble been to work with?
HOLDEN: I love the ensemble. We’ve got such an incredible group of actors, but equally as important, they’re also such incredibly wonderful people. There are no egos. There’s not a stinker in the bunch. Usually, you work on a show and there’s one hothead that you have to dance around. Not on this show at all.
Is there anyone that you haven’t really gotten to work with much yet, that you’re hoping to have more scenes with, in the future?
HOLDEN: I love working with Andrew Lincoln. I wish that I had more scenes with him because it’s such a joy. I really look forward to having stuff to so with Sarah [Wayne Callies] because I feel like, this season, our characters just didn’t connect, for whatever reason. We just didn’t really have scenes together, but I think she’s such a powerhouse talent and I’d like for Lori (Callies) and Andrea to become friends.
Having been in the business for awhile, I’m sure you can tell when you’re a part of something special, but did you have any idea that this show would be as popular as it is, right from the start?
HOLDEN: I had no idea. I knew that we’d have a big following because the graphic novel is so popular, and I knew that with Frank Darabont and Gale Ann Hurd at the helm that we were doing something very special. They’re A-list movie people. The scripts were coming in and were so fantastic, I knew the production value was great, I was pretty knocked out by a lot of the work that my fellow actors were doing, and I knew that AMC was behind it, so I thought, “Okay, this could be a popular show.”
I thought it would fit a niche. I didn’t anticipate, nor do I think anybody did, that it would become this global phenomenon, the way that it has. The critics have been so kind and favorable, it has really garnered such wonderful praise, and the numbers have been through the roof. It’s actually been quite surreal. I’m still pinching myself because it’s amazing. For me, we went to Atlanta and we spent our summer shooting this little zombie show, and it was ours. It was our sweet little zombie show, and the world has embraced us. I think I can speak on behalf of everybody, in saying that we’re just so grateful.
Was it surprising to find out that the show was picked up for a second season, after just two episodes?
HOLDEN: No, because the ratings were quite spectacular. I think that just based on the numbers alone, AMC was like, “Okay, let’s run with it.”
Did that create any extra pressure for the show and the actors to continue to deliver on that level?
HOLDEN: I don’t know. I think we all put pressure on ourselves, from day one, just because we all love what we do and we love the project. For me, I think that we’re just going to go back and work as hard as we did before and just try to tell the most authentic story possible. We’re going to just keep trying to raise the bar. There’s no stopping here.
Are you concerned at all about the huge time gap that people will have to wait to see Season 2?
HOLDEN: I wish that we were shooting sooner, but it’s just the way that it is. It’s just the reality. They’ve got to pen 13 scripts and get the production up and rolling, and that just takes time. I’m hoping that people love our show enough that they’ll be patient, and it will be okay that we’re not going to be back for another year.
HOLDEN: I have no idea. But, I know that we’re all going to be trying to make it happen as soon as possible. I think this is common for a lot of shows. Lost went off the air for awhile. Mad Men goes off the air for awhile. Maybe it’s not too out of the norm.
Do you collaborate with the writers and producers on your characters at all?
HOLDEN: Yeah, absolutely. For me, when I picked up Compendium 1 and read it, I didn’t get very much. I know who Andrea becomes. She becomes this bad-ass warrior. But, there was very little backstory about her and her sister. They’re just two little girls, walking around in cute sweaters. She shoots a gun, her sister dies and that’s it. There really wasn’t anything about who they were, prior to the apocalypse. Especially because Frank [Darabont] hired me, who is obviously older than the comic book version, I had a lot of questions.
Basically, what I did – and I know that Sarah Wayne Callies did the exact same thing – was write a biography of who I thought she was and I said, “Please tell me where I’m wrong. Please tell me what needs to be changed and where I can fill in the gaps.” I wanted to get a sense of who this woman was, where she grew up, what her education was, what her hopes and dreams were, whether she was a romantic, what kind of music she listened to, what kind of law she was involved in, what her relationship with her sister was like. I tried to fill that in, to the best of my ability.
I handed that over to Frank, and then he worked with me and said, “This is along the lines of where I think Andrea is, and these are other things to consider.” It was pretty collaborative. A lot of it is never going to be seen and a lot of it may never even be alluded to, but it helped me bring more of a three-dimensional character to the screen.
Does it help to have the creator of the comic so involved, since all of these characters are his creation?
HOLDEN: I was pretty nervous when I met Robert Kirkman. It’s very strange to meet someone who created you. Andrea is still very much alive and kicking, seven years into the comic book, so to meet Robert and be like, “Hi, I’m Andrea,” I had to just hope that he was happy with the decision. Especially when he was on set for Episode 4, I can’t even explain it. It’s like the ultimate wanting to please. Here was the comic book creator, on the set, watching me perform the scene as a character that he created and I was just looking at him like, “What do you think?” He’s been so supportive and so wonderful. It just makes us want to work that much harder and invest that much more because we know that the people that gave us these jobs and created these roles are so over the moon excited and supportive of what we’re doing.
What have been the biggest challenges in doing this show?
HOLDEN: The biggest challenge would probably be the heat. We shot this show during a heatwave, in the summer, in Atlanta, where there were days, especially when we were shooting on the roof, that it was about 152 degrees, and I’m not exaggerating. Actors were passing out and had to be carted away in wheelbarrows. The heat is very difficult because sometimes it’s really hard to stand. So, that’s a challenge, but I do think that it really helps the show because it creates a rich, apocalyptic, survival aspect that, if we were shooting in easy weather, might not be there. Personally, I think some of the emotional depths of where we need to go are challenging, to put it mildly. It’s not always easy to show up in front of 75 people and rip out your kidneys in despair. But, it’s all fun.
Are you looking to balance doing this series with doing films on hiatus, or do you prefer to take a break and recharge during hiatus?
HOLDEN: It really depends on the hiatus. Right now, I don’t really feel like I’ve recharged because we finished shooting and it’s been non-stop promotion. If it goes later in the Spring, I’d like to fit in a movie, if I can. But if not, I’m 100% happy to just enjoy life and love my family.
Is there any type of role or genre that you’d still like to do, but haven’t had the chance to do yet?
HOLDEN: Yeah, two things. I really, really, really want to do a silly romantic comedy where I can just have a crush on the guy, trip over myself, and laugh and be goofy. I just feel like all I do is cry, sob, and fight zombies and the bad guys. I also wouldn’t mind doing some sort of sexy thriller. I think that would be fun. I’d love to play a femme fatale. And I wouldn’t mind working with George Clooney.
HOLDEN: Oh, I think that we’re going to be there every year. I think that we’re going to be there so much that they’re going to be like, “Go home!” Seriously. I think that Comic-Con is just a wonderful forum. It’s just the perfect place for our show and the fans have embraced us so wonderfully. I would be shocked, if we weren’t back every year. I doubt they’ll have all of us there. Every year, they’ll probably switch up the characters, which they should. I really hope that Steven Yeun is out there next year. I’m sure he will be because he is the most loved comic book character. I actually shot that scene where Amy died in Andrea’s arms at 3 o’clock in the morning, three hours before getting on a plane and flying to Comic-Con and going all day. That was a big day at the office. One of the biggest highlights that I’ve had working on the show is working with this cast. I absolutely adore working with Andrew Lincoln, who is not only the quintessential gentleman, but is such an incredible actor.
What have you enjoyed most about being a part of this show?
HOLDEN: One of the biggest highlights that I’ve had working on the show is working with this cast. I absolutely adore working with Andrew Lincoln, who is not only the quintessential gentleman, but is such an incredible actor. I love working with Jeff DeMunn, who plays Dale. He’s everybody’s favorite. But, working with Emma Bell was truly a highlight for me because not only did I just love our work as Amy and Andrea, but I really fell in love with her as a person. I miss her so much, and I can’t even imagine going back next year and not having her there. She was a bright ray of sunshine, for all of us. Emma and I got along like gangbusters. We have a lot in common and we actually have the same birthday. We were thick as thieves. We carpooled every day and rollerbladed on the weekends. We were really tight. I can’t even imagine being in Atlanta without her. Andrea’s grief will continue, as will mine.
What do you think it is about this gruesome zombie apocalypse show that has really struck a chord with viewers?
HOLDEN: I think that it resonates with people because it’s in the zeitgeist. There’s a little apocalyptic feeling going on, in the world today, with everything that’s happening with global warming, the oil spills, the war and nuclear weaponry. I think there’s a collective consciousness around the world that there are things beyond our control that have the power to annihilate us, as a species, and it’s all rather frightening. In many ways, the zombie apocalypse is a metaphor for a lot of the chaos and fear that’s going on in the world today. The show really is an exploration of the human condition. It’s about what happens to people with tremendous adversity. When forced to survive in an apocalyptic world, there are some characters that embrace their higher selves with some emerging as natural born leaders, and others succumb to their more base and primal selves and basically transform into savages. It’s really a fascinating character study in the exploration of the human psyche.