Gene Page/AMC
Dalton Ross
October 03, 2015 AT 03:27 PM EDT

Did anyone have it worse than Deanna Monroe last season on The Walking Dead? She lost both her son and her husband in quick order. And she also had to watch the community she runs, Alexandria, begin to implode under her leadership. Actress Tovah Feldshuh says we will see the toll these events took on her character when things pick back up for season 6 on Oct. 11. We spoke to Feldshuh to get her thoughts on what to expect coming up.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Deanna is such a fascinating character going into this season considering what happened last year, so let’s start right there. What can you say in terms of how Deanna is dealing with the loss now of not only of her son, but her husband as well?

TOVAH FELDSHUH: She has a complete understanding now that there has to be a shift in her reality and her point of view of how the world runs in order for her to survive. So we have a woman transitioning from statesman to warrior. What you learned last season was that due process of law, even inside the most civilized community, sometimes doesn’t work.

It won’t work, and that’s why she says the famous line to Andy Lincoln: “Rick, do it.” And he kills somebody in a summary way without due process of law, without trial, but a swift justice versus due process of law. It’s statesmanship versus a military reaction because she realizes the state of siege, and desperate measures for desperate times. And this season her past becomes very vivid and makes a huge change in her path of action — huge.

I was wondering whether she was going to be grappling internally with the decision of what she said, and it seems like everything she stood for she’s now having to reevaluate and reexamine.

She reevaluates and reexamines in her head for about five seconds, and then she realizes she has to employ her trust and her instincts for survival. She goes to lower brain function in order to make it through. It’s called the amygdala and the hypothalamus — the parts of the brain that respond to fight or flight. And she commits heroic acts, as many heroes do, without thinking. She just instinctually does it. I think for her, it’s an explosion —  an explosion reaction to all life has subjected her to, the death of her son and the death of her husband. And then something also happens with Spencer, so it’s pretty rough.

Her entire ground is being shifted from the circumstances that have presented itself in this post-apocalyptic world. She’s a great orator, she has great command of live language, but you notice she starts to speak less. Language starts to get curtailed and cut down, because the only thing that helps you survive in this world is your actions.

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And how does this impact her relationship with Rick? They clearly had two different visions last year. Are they going to be more aligned now after this tragedy?

Not only more aligned, but I think that she elevates it. She gets it finally. She gets that he might be the one possible answer she’s got to salvation. She manages to combine to take swift action and good judgment. After all, her judgment’s been off. Aiden was not appropriate for outside. Deanna chose to ignore the dangers of Pete in light of his medical contribution to the community. That ended up being a very, very, very poor judgment, and there you go.

How, then, is she going to deal with this town divided?

There’s going to be much more than a town divided for her. [Showrunner Scott M. Gimple] cuts very deep into the soul and spirit of Deanna Monroe in this season — very, very deep. So much so that there were no words for her to express it, so there were times when she couldn’t speak and she only acts. Once you go into the nonverbal, there’s no rehearsing except in front of the camera. You don’t know what you’re going to do so it’s pretty demanding and interesting. The question is whether she can maintain her status — whether she wants to maintain her status as head statesman, or whether she wants to give it all to Rick. What is her will? How has her will been affected by the death of these people?

And that is an interesting question, Tovah, because a lot of people in power crave power. But Deanna has never struck me as that person who craves power, so if she thinks “I’m not the right person for this job.” I could see her giving it up.

That’s right. The greatest good for the greatest amount of people.

Check out a video below of the cast talking about which of them would die first in a real zombie apocalypse. And for more Walking Dead intel, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

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