'The Walking Dead': Tovah Feldshuh reveals the ideas she pitched to try and change Deanna's fate
[SPOILER ALERT: Read on only if you have already watched Sunday’s midseason finale of The Walking Dead, “Start to Finish.”]
Once the walkers made their way through the broken-down walls of Alexandria, it was clear that not everyone would make it out alive, and the character of Deanna Monroe happened to draw the short straw, as Deanna was bit while attempting to help Rick flee from the oncoming herd.
Cry for Deanna, but not for the actress who played her, Tovah Feldshuh, who already has another TV gig on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and will be breaking out in song Monday night on The CW. “I make my singing debut with a huge musical solo called ‘Where’s the Bathroom?’ ” says Feldshuh. “I get bitten and my days are doomed at 9 o’clock [Sunday] on The Walking Dead, and by 8 p.m. [Monday], I’ll be singing up a storm as Naomi Bunch.”
But before she moves on to that and other appearances (like on Starz’s Flesh and Bone), Feldshuh spoke to EW about her Walking Dead run and Sunday’s midseason finale. Feldshuh reveals what was in those notes for Spencer and Maggie, the different types of takes that filmed for her last scene with Andrew Lincoln, and the alternate story lines she pitched showrunner Scott M. Gimple to keep Deanna alive. (Click though through both pages to read the entire interview.)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How and when did showrunner Scott Gimple let you know that Deana’s time had come?
TOVAH FELDSHUH: He was incredibly respectful and he felt compelled to give me quite a bit of notice. He’s just the most wonderful man. I was looking at various rental properties that would have various leases, and when he got wind of that he called immediately. And so I’ve been holding this secret for a while. Everybody comes on The Walking Dead to die and no actor is not told or doesn’t get that call before it happens. But very often it’s just a few weeks [of notice]. He was incredibly respectful and we all have an NDA that’s very thick and I completely honored it. So nobody knew and I hoped against hope and tried to give him other ideas, but this is the way he went. And it did fulfill my original contract. I will be in 12 episodes.
None of it is personal. The way The Walking Dead works is you get attached to a character and then they take the character away from you. I didn’t start this pattern. I arrived in season 5. And it’s always unexpected, like death itself, Death plays no favorites. I mean, maybe Daryl because I guess there would be a world conflagration. But short of that …
So on a personal level I was very sad, but I’m not a nitwit. I didn’t take this personally. This is the way the piece is structured. This is what he felt was best for the series and I could not convince him otherwise, so now my sentence is, “Who do I have to sleep with to be in a flashback?”
I love that you were pitching Scott ideas to stick around a little longer. What were those?
I thought she should try to interconnect the various pods of humanity. She would have to find another Alexandria. Nobody knows whether we’re completely alone out there. We know we’re not. There have to be other pods of survivors. It’s beyond comprehension that every decent human being is dead. I wanted Rick to be my brawn, to be my Colin Powell, to be my great general, and I wanted to be the political brains behind a building web linking one decent community to another, even if it was just a dozen people. And somehow we would do away with this walker situation. My other idea is that even though I have been bitten, I’m the one with the cure. It’s in the blood. I’m the one with the immune ability somehow to survive it. But that’s yet to be seen.
What was Scott’s reaction when you pitched him these ideas?
He just went “Tooooooovah.” I don’t hold out much hope, but I’ve had a wonderful run.
Tell us about Deanna’s reaction after she finds out she was bit. She tells Michonne that “working with my family towards a better future — it’s all I ever wanted. That’s what I got. I got to do what I wanted right up to the end.” Why is she so damn positive at this terrible moment?
Happiness is a choice, and the reason she’s positive is she wants to go from generation to generation. She wants to infuse into Michonne the fact that she must carry on this legacy of the possibility of a sane civilization returning to the planet Earth, which is now drowning in blood and negative forces and evil.
Why does she not let Michonne end it for her and instead says, “I’ll do it myself. It’s my life — start to finish”?
I think she wants the elegance of free will. The fact that there’s a human being here and a human being that matters and can take control of her circumstances and have the dignity to decide when she is going to end her life. And apparently, that’s very important to a lot of people. It’s why people want to die in their own bed. Deanna wants to have the heroic dignity of having to burden anybody else. They have other things to do.
The only other thing I could have done, which I didn’t think of until last night, was to jump out the window, and have them eat me alive and distract them from Rick and his mighty band, who escape by wearing the guts of other human beings on ponchos.
NEXT: Why Deanna did not shoot herself and what was in those notes to Spencer and Maggie[pagebreak]
She says, “I’ll do it myself” and we see her with the gun to her head, but why then does she not take herself out and instead gets up to shoot and scream at the approaching zombies?
Her thinking there is, what’s the greater good? And it’s better even if you only have five bullets left in your gun barrel to kill five walkers and five of the enemy and sacrifice herself, because clearly we believe she would get mauled. She would have to be a superwoman to survive all this, and then maybe she dies on her own. She sacrifices the dignity of a bullet death for the probably much more painful death of being eaten by these horrendous people. And when she can no longer fight with bullets, she fights with screams. That’s not a scream of terror. That’s a samurai scream.
So she starts as the politico, and — in the last minutes of her life — becomes the warrior that she needs to be with a valiant fight for the survival of the human race. She does the very best she can, like the great Marines climbing to the top of the hill, knowing they’re going to die, but still killing the enemy on their way up.
Do you know what Deanna wrote in those notes to Spencer and to Maggie?
Yes. I certainly wrote to Spencer to carry forth and be courageous and to be wise, my boy. To be wise by being an observer learner. Stay near Rick and see what is wanted and needed in this space. To study Rick. To study Michonne. Those would be the two. Morgan, he doesn’t need. Morgan will not kill any human. He wants to save them, but as a result he jeopardizes the group terribly in wanting to save the wrong apples. But Michonne and Rick for sure. And Glenn. That’s another heroic character. And Carl, who doesn’t kill Pete’s son! He may end up paying a heavy price for that but this boy goes after him to kill him and he covers for him. So I tell my son to be wise, to listen and learn, and to always remember the four principles: always try your best, keep your word impeccably, presume nothing, and nothing is personal.
And what I wrote to Maggie is that this is her chance to step up to the plate, to become me as much as she can in terms of her belief of due process of law. She has all the skills, she has the gun skills, she has the legs, she’s going to have a child. There is going to be someone beside Judith that is new fresh life in the community. She’s the one who has the balanced path and the balanced abilities to become the leader of state, and not to forget that. So between her and Michonne I have a Plan A and a Plan B. In a way, because Maggie is pregnant, Michonne may be my best shot. Remember, I give Michonne my plans. She ends up with my plans. And though the physical entity of Alexandria may or may not go up in smoke, the principles that I brought to bear in Alexandria I believe will go forth.
Let’s talk about your final scene with Andrew Lincoln because I know the affinity you two have for each other. What was filming that scene like where you convince him that “they’re all your people.”
They actually chose the most reserved take. There were much more emotional takes. I would have preferred the more emotional takes, but they wanted that lean, very purposeful, very calm one. My main objective as I realize I’m going to die is to invoke what Rick and Michonne must do: Michonne must figure out, what is her larger purpose? And Rick must accept everybody as one.
We’ll have to wait to see if he is capable of going that. Finally, you asked “Who do I have to sleep with to get a flashback?” Any update on that since the show on Sunday night?
Well, I’m not at liberty to say, but I wouldn’t hold your breath on my coming back. I’m gong on to Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and just finished the ballet miniseries Flesh and Bone. I’m good. I want to savor the incredible experience I had on The Walking Dead.
For more Walking Dead intel, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.