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'Walking Dead' star Tovah Feldshuh on Rick-Deanna showdown

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Has Rick met his match? While Rick Grimes kind of lost it last week on The Walking Dead, Alexandria leader Deanna Monroe remained calm, cool, and collected. Not easy to do when a guy with blood all over his face is waving a gun around. Deanna is one of the most intriguing characters we’ve met this season on the show, and the question heading into Sunday’s season 5 finale is: Will she and Rick end up as friends or foes? Tovah Feldshuh, who plays Deanna, stopped by Entertainment Weekly Radio (SiriusXM, channel 105) to talk with Jessica Shaw and yours truly about that dynamic as well as share a tease on what to expect in the finale.

DALTON: Last time we spoke you were in Tanzania about to climb up Mt. Kilimanjaro.

TOVAH FELDSHUH: That decision was made after the conclusion of filming season 5. I think The Walking Dead is so successful because it gets down to the bone of really being alive—what it means to exist with guns at your head. What does that existential threat feel like when it really feels like that? Rick and the great Melissa McBride who plays Carol, Norman Reedus…They get inside the walls and they say, “Are we being weakened by this? Are we being trivialized?” Little Chandler Riggs, who plays Carl, doesn’t wanna play video games. Why does he need to play video games about violence? He has lived it: He had to kill his mother! They’re already in posttraumatic stress syndrome. That’s why Rick loses it last Sunday night. He lost it. 

DALTON: What’s so interesting, too, is that usually anyone who has been against Rick is the enemy. But Deanna is someone that viewers are learning to love and she seems like such a competent, strong—in a different way—leader. Now people are wondering who is right in this situation. 

The thing that unites Rick and myself—not to mention, I love Andy Lincoln. He’s one of the great human creatures of the planet. He is kind, he is good. He’s the head of a series. The way he and Scott Gimple behave sifts down through the entire community. It is the kindest set I’ve ever been on. It is the most generous set, loving. You join that club and they say, “You’re doing great.” But Rick and I share one incredibly important pillar: that community is fundamental to existence, to survival. Therefore, I want his brawn. I want his muscle, his military savvy, and he needs my civilization. I’m offering him sleep, I’m offering him a nap, I’m offering him a babysitter and structure. I’m offering him an exhalation from the fear of death. And he’s offering me the potential to survive for a very long time because they understand how the workings go outside the walls. And when I violate that, either with my son or with Nicholas, we get in big, big trouble. 

JESSICA: That scene at the end when Rick’s losing it and waving the gun at people. That scene is so intense. What was it like shooting that scene?

Every scene shooting with those actors is—the word isn’t easy but in essence it is attainable because the actors are so committed. Andy Lincoln never lets up—I’m talking between takes. I actually was with him in London last week, it was the first time I heard him speak with his own speech pattern. When he’s on set, he never breaks his speech pattern. He’s always speaking in a slightly southern drawl. So it’s just a privilege to be with him. He also takes his time in front of the camera so the camera can see process. You know, you have to have a clear mind. You can have a still face but you have to have a clear mind because the camera moves into the eyes of the actor and the thought of the actor. It’s been a wonderful journey.

The scene was difficult. They were all over the asphalt and they never gave up. Whatever the director wanted, it was 100 percent committed. The question is whether Rick and his pirate troop will thrive inside the safety of Alexandria or inside the trivialization of their lives inside Alexandria. Does it weaken them? Does it strengthen them? No question, as long as I can keep them civilized and have their guns outside, they’re a great asset. 

DALTON: That scene on the asphalt was unbelievable. I was down there on set for that and the one thing you don’t see on the show that I did is Tovah booking it down the street, running a million miles per hour. 

They did film me running, but they left it in the editing room. Maybe they’ll YouTube it. My hope is to get in great enough shape that whatever happens to Rick—because after all, we see The Walking Dead through the eyes of Rick Grimes—and the more you can align with him, the longer you’ll live. As long as you’re not sleeping with him, and I don’t think I’m fodder for that. 

DALTON: How does Deanna make heads or tails of this group when she has Gabriel and Nicholas telling her one thing, and then presumably Maggie and Glenn telling her another story on the other side?

Well, one of the things she does is videotape things so she can review and review and review and watch body language—watch the twitching of the eyes, what denotes lying, what denotes telling the truth. Also, when you have an actor like Steven Yeun, he’s irresistible. he’s just a truth-ometer. As is Maggie. People in general, I think, come from love or they come from fear and when you can allay their fear so they can come from who they are, they’re very kind. This is a mess with poor Rick at the end of the last episode. He comes from fear because of prior similar circumstances where the world has turned against him.

DALTON: I love the look on his face when you said, “That’s never been more clear to me than it is right now.” And you see him trying to process that in his head. He can’t comprehend why she would think that about him. 

I think it’s paramount for Deanna to talk the walk if she’s gonna represent the “head” of civilized living. She needs to maintain that equilibrium. Does she start to let go of due process of law for swift justice? These are the questions that we’ll be met with in the finale.

DALTON: How would you describe the season finale on Sunday?

I don’t know what I’m at liberty to tell you, but clearly like any good finale, certain things are brought to a head. But unlike a symphony, not much is brought to a resolution. 

For more ‘Walking Dead’ scoop, follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

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