Gene Page/AMC
February 19, 2017 at 10:06 PM EST

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.

Gene Page/AMC

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

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