'The Walking Dead' star Melissa McBride on Carol's evolution in 'Consumed'
[SPOILER ALERT: Read on only after watching Sunday’s “Consumed” episode of the The Walking Dead.]
What happened to Carol after Rick kicked her out of the prison? We finally got the answer to that question in Sunday’s “Consumed” episode of The Walking Dead. Unfortunately, we were left with a brand new question: What will become of Carol now that she has been taken by Officer Dawn Lerner’s creepy cops into Grady Memorial Hospital? The episode also marked a deep character study for Carol and Daryl as well as a return to the urban horrors of downtown Atlanta, which we have not seen since back in season 1. We chatted with actress Melissa McBride to get the scoop on all things Carol…including, yes, that bed scene with Daryl.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So let’s start with the most pressing question: What do you think of that piece of art on the wall?
MELISSA McBRIDE: [Laughs] It looked like a dog took a crap and wiped its ass! I concur! Nothing wrong with that though — the dog expressing himself.
Yes, the dog was the artist, I guess. Okay, we see all these flashback bits and pieces of what happened to Carol in this episode after she was kicked out of the prison by Rick. Was it nice to fill in the blanks on some of what happened there?
Yeah, it was nice to go back to illustrate what is going on in her mind with her memory of all that she has had to do, and how that has affected her and who she is now and the way she is looking at herself in the world. It was wonderful to see how she had struggled with what she has had to do.
My favorite flashback, and I was lucky enough to be there on set that day when you filmed it, was the scene right after you’ve left Rick. You’re just sitting there in the car and a zombie starts banging his arm on the window and you yell “GO AWAY!” just like you can’t be bothered with this nuisance right now. What’s Carol feeling there?
I think that’s symbolic of this overall nuisance of the world as it is, and everything she’s trying to do is coming up against her in a way. This episode explores so much of that and what are these fine lines? And what can I do in the strength that I have and the weaknesses that still exist? And what am I able to do to help? She has very significant points of view from where’s she’s been to where she’s ended up. She’s trying all that she can and is still kind of being shot down. So there’s this conflict of knowing and feeling what she needs to do, but with the fear of being shot down. And it is to help the people that she’s with, and there is so much in her mind as far as I’m concerned — so much.
We get to see that when she’s at the window talking about how she was very passive in her former life and was just kind of waiting for something to happen. And then she learned to be more proactive. This world forced her to be more proactive. So you can take a passive role or you can take a proactive role, but damned if you do, damned if you don’t. What are you waiting for and what are you fighting for? These real world challenges and mental challenges still exist. They always will in that world. I especially like the teetering of the van. I took that as very symbolic of the teetering of the mental states of these characters sort of teetering.
So much of this episode was what you’re talking about and Carol coming to terms with how she’s evolved and what she’s become. And we see her changing a lot even in the current events in this one episode. At one point she wants to shoot Noah for stealing their weapons, but then later she insists on saving him. Why the change of heart?
There is this undercurrent of a theme of judgment with what I said about taking a passive or very proactive stance. Either way, you’re gonna judge yourself or someone’s going to judge you for it. But what are the consequences? Does that matter at this point? And this is what she is struggling with. And she says at one point, “I don’t know if I’m going to hell, but I’m going to put it off for as long as I can.” And I am putting it off for as long as I can. She wants to help these people survive and she has ideas of how this is done. She can’t stand around. And if she’s projecting judgment on herself, she can struggle with that personally, but how am I going to fit in this group? I can’t just stand around. I know what I’ve done. I know what I’m capable of. I know that I would do anything to save these people. But Daryl’s looking at her sideways kind of, or she thinks he is. Tyreese doesn’t want some of the things that happened mentioned. So she’s feeling kind of like there’s a straphold…is that a word?
It is now.
So she’s exploring all of this, and I love that this episode allows her to explore it with Daryl, who has his own points of view. When we see the book that was taken from the shelter — I love that because we’re still who we are, but these things in this world and what we’ve had to do just illustrates once again who we were before, and we still maintain these elements no matter how much of us is consumed by what we had to do. We’re still at our core who we were, and are, and always will be. I love the theme of the show and the title of the episode — “Consumed.” I love what it symbolizes, and even the dreamy music of Bear McCreary was just beautiful. And I don’t think I’ve seen an episode where so much of it is underscored.
I noticed that as well.
And also things like the heat coming up off the flames and warping our perspective, and those sort of things. It’s like the confinement of the people on the bridge when we walk in and we see them confined in their sleeping bags and their tents — in a narrow space. And these were people that were just trying to survive. Whatever happened, I don’t know. And there was so much restriction, and I think that’s another element of what’s going on — we’re restricted and confined to our own selves in a way, just trying to figure this out. It’s a theme that will run probably until the day this series is over. You have to hold onto that one piece of you that’s surviving being consumed and yet out of the ashes of that comes something different.
I’ve definitely felt that this season. Obviously, it’s always been there, but previously so much of it was about pure physical survival, but now it is survival of the soul and how am I going to survive who I used to be in this new world? I’ve definitely noticed that ramped up across the board this season.
Yeah, and it has to do with surviving with other people. Carol recognizes that is the conflict. You’ve got to be around. You’ve got to be with people. What is the point if you’re not? Who are you fighting for?
This is the first time we’ve been back in downtown Atlanta since season 1. What was it like getting out of the studio and out of the woods?
It was really nice getting into a new location. You know, some of the fans got some sneak peeks into what we were doing because it’s very difficult to keep that under wraps in the middle of a big city with skyscrapers and everybody looking down. But it was fun. Also, that whole territory is a threat because they had hoped they had moved away from a city being overrun by walkers, and here we are going on 85 north back into Atlanta, so that was an unfortunate new threat, following this car. And you see how poignant it is to look out the window and see all that decay. She says, “How did we get here?” That’s the really big picture. This whole thriving city is just a wasteland with death all around.
When I was on set as you guys were filming that scene in the temporary housing, Norman told me the following: “There’s a certain yin-and-yang element to [Daryl and Carol], which flip-flops every 5 minutes. Sort of like me and Melissa, to be honest. I mean, I love Melissa, she’s fun to work with, and at the same time we’ll scream at each other. As soon as the camera stops rolling, we’ll start yelling at each other and we’ll be back to normal like in two seconds.” Would you agree with that assessment?
I would agree with that! However it doesn’t happen very often. We’re much more playful than we are screaming at each other. Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever screamed. There’s no screaming.
What is the dynamic like filming with Norman?
It’s nice, and Norman does his thing. I enjoy sitting back watching Norman do his thing. And its fun to get kind of lost. We both realized when you’re in that zone — when it’s done, we both know that felt great. We could tell we were really in the zone together. And that happens a lot with him.
You know all the Carol and Daryl shippers were freaking out when you guys started to lie down on that bed together, as innocent as it was. You knew people were going to freak out when that happened, right?
Yeah, even seeing the Daryl and Carol shippers making suggestions on where that little teaser was going when they first showed it. Some hopeful comments, but I’m afraid they may have been disappointed.
Do you get it, all the people who want to see that happen and are so invested in that relationship?
Yeah, I get it from a fan point of view. I get it. But there is a certain part of that fandom that reads a lot of the fan fiction, and fan fiction goes there. I’ve read one fan fiction ever, and it was very lovely and sweet. It wasn’t the smutty stuff. But I’ve heard about it. It’s fun though. But there are so many ships — so many ships sailing. They’re going to conk into one another, and it can get a little nasty and that kind of makes me sad. They can get nasty to one another. It’s just a TV show. No need to get nasty to each other. Especially because nothing has happened.