Meet Jadis: New Walking Dead cast member Pollyanna McIntosh speaks
SPOILER ALERT: Read on only if you have already watched Sunday’s episode of The Walking Dead, “New Best Friends.”
Friend or foe? That’s the big question regarding Jadis, the enigmatic leader of the new junkyard gang who captured Rick Grimes and Co. in Sunday’s “New Best Friends” episode of The Walking Dead. She talks a little weird. She looks a little weird. And she has — make that had — a weird weaponized walker named Winslow used to greet guests. So, yeah, she’s a tad unique.
So who is this new mystery woman? We took a trip to the junkyard to track her down and it turns out her real name is Pollyanna McIntosh. At least that is the name of the actress playing Jadis, and we’re happy to report that unlike her character, she actually speaks in complete sentences! Read on to hear her take on landing the job, helping to create the look and feel of the character, working in the junkyard, and rooting against Winslow. (Click though both pages to read the entire interview, and also make sure to read our episode Q&As with Andrew Lincoln and Norman Reedus.)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Why don’t you just start off by taking about the auditioning process and how you landed this role.
POLLYANNA McINTOSH: Well, it was a very exciting audition to get, and it was just kind of going in and doing the work and being encouraged in the room and having a good time. And literally being put on tape for the producer, and then the next day it was looking good. The next day it was “Yeah, they want to offer it to you.” So it was the most incredibly simple casting process for something with so much weight to it.
Was what you were auditioning for pretty close to what it ended up being? Or was it different?
It was actually pretty close, but of course, it was just one scene that I had, but her name was different and it said that she could be a man or a woman in the breakdown, so that was something very cool to see that they were being so open-minded. People were talking about this A character [from the comic]. There were rumors about whether she would be in and who she was before I even knew that she wasn’t in the comic book, if that makes sense. And of course, now I know that it’s Scott’s creation and not in the comic books.
Once you got the part, what sort of guidance did showrunner Scott Gimple give you about the character and how to play her?
He told me some stuff about where she’s been and he told me how he saw her, but it was a very trusting and collaborative way of working. There were certain things that I knew, but there was a lot that I didn’t know and there’s a lot still that I don’t know, to be honest. She’s full of mystery, this one.
And what about the way Jadis communicates? A lot of hand gestures and she’s very economical with her words. She’s almost created her own language here. What can you say about that?
Exactly that. The way I see it is like you say, it’s direct. Has no time, nothing is wasted on the heaps, you know, in our junkyard home. Everything is being used, as you can already see by the costumes and the weaponry and everything. We make use of things. So there’s no waste with her language either. I feel that it’s a way to make the group feel more cohesive. They’ve got something that marks them out amongst themselves as being part of this group and this almost army, and then it also kind of gives us a bit of a weird, intimidation separation from outsiders, too. Even playing the role, I can feel with Rick’s character when I was in the mode of Jadis that he was going, “What the f— is she? Why is she talking like this?” So I wander away. I know what’s going on. It’s like something that she knows that other people don’t know, and I think it’s a useful tool for keeping that distance, and a little intimidation, too.
What about the look of the character with the hair and clothes and everything?
Yeah, that’s funny. I caught something online the other day and there were about six or seven people saying “God, that hair — it’s awful. What’s up with those bangs? It’s terrible!” So, for me, it was my hair before I got the job. It was a hairdo that I’d done for a different film beforehand, and like the character, I wanted to be kind of a little edgy and a little outsider looking. It just happened to work for Jadis, which is wonderful.
The costume is half-military to me, and half kind of urban-fashionista. Those boots are pretty fantastic as well. Everything is just very practical, the way I see it. Like the gloves got the little battle circles on it, a little bit of protection, and it’s also another kind of leader sign — not getting her hands dirty, and she’s got those big old boots on. She looks a little bit intimidating, but she’s also quite sleek and minimalist, the same as the language.
I was able to walk around this junkyard area when I was visiting the set recently, and it is absolutely unbelievable. What it was like when you first saw that?
I felt like a kid on Christmas morning seeing that set. It’s incredibly impressive and so beautiful to me. And oddly, when I was a kid I used to look at junkyards and I wanted to have one of my own. It’s really weird, but it’s true and here I am, in my junkyard home. So there are piles and piles of cars stacked together, particularly exciting. Just the incredible amount of work that the crew put into designing that and then getting everything there — it’s just a massive undertaking and I think it’s really beautiful. It’s very, very exciting to walk in on that.
NEXT: Watching the big pit battle scene, and negotiating with Andrew Lincoln
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Do you have any favorite details about it? Specific pieces of trash or just the way it’s designed?
POLLYANNA McINTOSH: Yeah, a lot of it is a wooden structure and then they’d piled junk on top of it to make it look like it’s all just massive piles of trash. So I was looking up at it at one point thinking, and seeing this baby and carriage on the top — secured on but just looking like it was piled on. Just imagine the guy or girl that went up there to the very top to get that held on as the kind of final piece and how great it looks. I just get a sense of the whole commitment and artistry of everybody working on the show when I look at it, as well as feeling like it really is a big, giant, junkyard that we’ve made ourselves and there’s a sense of pride in that, too.
What was it like getting to work for the first time with Andrew Lincoln? I’ve watched him on set a lot and the dude is intense. There’s a lot of pacing and yelling and sometimes hitting things in between takes.
Working with Andy was really inspiring. I love an actor who’s just free and does what they need to do to get themselves in the right headspace to do the work. All that stuff you mentioned is just great fun for me to see because I just know that they’re free, they’re committed, they’re comfortable in their own skin and they’re super happy on set. That’s exactly how Andy is. I just loved working with him. He was great. It’s weird because of course I know him as a British actor from my own country, and he keeps an American accent the whole time. He was a lot more Rick than he was Andy in a way because he’s got that accent that he keeps up, which is great because it keeps him in it.
It’s funny, when we were doing that little negotiation scene after he’d come out of the pit — we had a lot of fun with that. Jadis, she really enjoys doing the bargaining. She really enjoys doing the negotiating, so I got to really get into it with him and enjoy it, and he had a little smile on his face too, and at the end of it he said, “That was really fun!” And it made me feel very welcome and very much accepted and it was lovely.
Let’s talk about Winslow, the helmeted spike zombie. What did that thing look like up close?
It’s phenomenal! I was watching that scene like an audience member because I was watching it on a monitor. Of course, there are moments when Jadis looks down and she is keeping a little bit of mystery in her face most of the time as to what she’s really thinking. But me as Pollyanna, I’m standing there watching the monitor and like, “Get him! Get him! Don’t get caught! Run this way!” I was excited. I was just totally into it,, and a lot of people had come down to the set to watch that scene because it was the first time we’d had a weaponized walker in the story.
So everyone was really excited and Norman came down the first time that day just to see it. Again, I just got this wonderful sense of camaraderie amongst the cast and crew. I felt for the actor. The heat down there is intense and he had not only all the makeup on, but all the metallic kind of costuming on top of it. No complaints from anybody, just getting on with it, doing their best, and it was really exciting to see. So I think it’s quite an exciting turn for the show to take with that.
So what’s the deal with this group? Jadis says later that they just sat there and waited for someone else to get the supplies off the boat so they could just steal it from them. She says “We take. We don’t bother.” So is their M.O. basically to avoid risk as much as possible and let others do the work?
I would say as much as possible, yeah. We will take a risk when we need to but yeah, as much as we can take and not bother, that’s how we function and it’s kind of amazing as a fan to see the size of the heaps and it doesn’t appear that those walls have been breached yet. We’ve managed really well the way we’ve been going, so why would we change our ways, you know?
What can you say about what’s coming up for Jadis? Clearly they built this incredible set so we’re going to see it again.
I’m excited going forward. This is a show where anything can happen and I’m going to be finding out stuff as much as everybody else is. We’ll see. I hope for more adventure.
For more Walking Dead intel, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.