By Dalton Ross
March 18, 2018 at 10:08 PM EDT
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SPOILER ALERT: Read on only if you have already watched Sunday’s “The Key” episode of The Walking Dead.

Do you trust a stranger in the zombie apocalypse? And what if that stranger wants your food and your… records? And what if all that stranger is offering in return is something she promises is a “key to the future”? Would you trust her? Or would you just do the easy thing and steal her food to feed your people?

Those were the questions facing Maggie on Sunday night’s “The Key” episode of The Walking Dead when she came face to face with an enigmatic visitor named Georgie (who came with two companions named Hilda and Midge). At first, Maggie did indeed steal the stranger’s food, but then reconsidered providing some of the Hilltop’s finest vinyl.

It was the right move as Georgie then not only shared her food, but that key to the future ended up being an instruction manual complete with handwritten plans for windmills, water mills, silos, schematics, and guides for grain and lumber. “Build this place up,” Georgie instructed Maggie. “I want those crates filled when I get back.”

So what’s up with this Georgie anyway? Where exactly does she come from? And will we see her again? We asked the woman who played her, Jayne Atkinson, all that and more, and we didn’t have to trade any records to do so! Read on, and also make sure to check out our episode deep dive with director Greg Nicotero.

Gene Page/AMC

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: First off, what you were told about this character of Georgie when you landed the role?
JAYNE ATKINSON: I was told that she’s an intellectual. She might have been a professor at a university — that she is unafraid and very smart and has been potentially studying human history for a very long time.

What’s her ultimate goal here in providing this “key to the future,” as she calls it? It seems like she’s on a mission of some sort.
Yes, that’s what I wanted to communicate, along with the fact that she comes in in a very wise and innocent way. Maggie says, “Why are you doing this?” She answers, “What else should I do?” I think her ultimate goal is, as I’m calling it, an inoculation of hope into a world that she sees has been destroyed and is barren of hope. And wanting to find a community — she says there’s very few of them — where she can see this hope and see a regeneration of where human beings were and can revisit that.

I believe that’s why she is sort of Robin Hood. I don’t know if she’s stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. I don’t know if she’s actually doing that, but clearly, she’s got resources, and I believe that’s what she wants to be. She wants to be a bearer of good news and help regenerate and revive the planet into its possible glory.

Were you given any sort of backstory for Georgie and her companions? Are they from a community and have built these things

like windmills and stuff themselves, or do they just travel around in their little van making it their mission to help other communities?
I wasn’t given that kind of backstory, but just from what we have and how I’m dressed and where I’m from and my lack of fear, I get the sense that she is from a community that is not just in survival mode. She has the luxury, in a sense, of being able to bring this. Maybe she saw it coming and she’s compiled this book. She was able to find a copy machine!

Yeah, what a luxury!
Universities have copy machines. I think that where she is from, I don’t know if it’s exactly built in the way that she’s suggesting they build, but it might be.

She’s got a record player, clearly.
Oh gosh, they were so excited about that record player.

I don’t know what it is she has against spoken word though.
Isn’t that funny? Maybe she’s just not into rap. I don’t know.

Everything else was a go.
There’s something interesting about this music and honestly, I wasn’t told anything about it so I think that’s just her being fascinating and quirky. Why would they have all those albums? How do they [at the Hilltop] have albums? Why is this the coin? Why is this this important commodity? I would wonder.

I was talking with Greg Nicotero [who directed the episode], and we’re all at the age where we came up in the ’70s and the music then was very political and dealing with an expansion of consciousness and wanting the old guard to move over. I’m wondering if in the words and the meaning of some of these records is also a message —a message of, you can’t just fight with swords. There’s creativity, there’s artistry. John Lennon was one of the most important game changers politically because of his message through his music. I’m just thinking about it right now, why the records? I wonder if that’s it.

What’s interesting to me about Georgie is that she’s trying to help these people at the Hilltop but she doesn’t get angry or annoyed when Maggie says no deal and is just planning to steal their stuff. How were you playing her reaction to Maggie’s less-then-friendly welcome?
I think she knows what she’s going to get. She doesn’t come totally unarmed, but I think she has chosen this person and this group very deliberately. My sense is that she has been scouting out where she is going to land and she is playing it like a chess game. When you have the point of view of all you’re offering is good, and you have food and you have safety and you believe the cause of what you’re doing and passionately, you’re willing to put yourself on the line. If she showed aggression or fear, they’re smart enough to smell it and I think that’s the kind of warrior she is.

I think she’s incredibly wise and she is right up to that line because I believe, in her heart, she knows that what she has is important and so she’s willing to walk through fire for it. She’s not afraid. She’s just not afraid. She expects them to do what they do and she doesn’t put up a fight and she’s not afraid, but I do believe that she chose them so she’s willing to wait it out.

Director Greg Nicotero told me he was a big fan of your work on House of Cards. What was the experience like of filming these scenes with him and then Lauren Cohan and the other actors?
It’s a well-oiled machine and so they’re just incredibly respectful. Greg is a lovely director. We had this one comedic moment that we were attempting to get. It got cut a little differently than it was. It went a little longer, which I really loved, but I understand why they did it because they don’t want these people to appear foolish. The two gals, maybe not the smartest tools in the shed, but they love Georgie and they’re going to protect her and they’re good at that job.

Everyone was just so welcoming. Lauren [Cohan] and I had great talks about being on the show and Danai [Gurira] was very hot. I kept making sure that she had water. I found out about her New York connections, she’s a playwright. One of the gals just had a baby and was missing it. I know what that’s like to have a child and to be working all the time and wanting to make sure that you don’t miss anything, so we really bonded. And it was all gals in our scene. I think they all really liked that and they really liked Georgie. It was lovely.

What’s not to like?
Right! Greg is just very energetic and gave great direction and I just felt very welcomed, respected, and they were very curious about me in the same way you are like, what’s going to happen with her? Seeing Lauren smile at the end of our scene together, after what she’d been through, I think, how wonderful for her as an actress and her character.

You just said, what’s going to happen with her? Georgie says in that episode that she’ll be back to check on their progress. Has anything been told to you in terms of a plan of bringing this character back at some point?
I couldn’t possibly tell you. Nudge, nudge. Wink, wink. You know what I mean? She says she’ll be back, I’m going to take her at her word.

Also make sure to check out our interview with director Greg Nicotero. And for more Walking Dead scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

AMC's zombie thriller, based on the classic comic book serial created by Robert Kirkman.
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