[SPOILER ALERT: Read on only if you have watched Sunday’s midseason premiere of The Walking Dead.]

Alpha finally made her long-awaited debut on The Walking Dead in the very last seconds of Sunday’s midseason premiere, but it was another comic book character making her TV debut that really drove the episode.

Alpha’s daughter Lydia was captured by Michonne and Daryl, brought back to the Hilltop as a prisoner, and then interrogated to gain intel about the enemy. As the Hilltop folks begin to learn more about this mystery teenager, we spent some time getting to know the actress who plays her, Cassady McClincy. How did she nab the role? What were her first days on set like? What’s her take on the character? And what can we expect coming up? We did our best Daryl Dixon impersonation and interrogated McClincy to get answers! (Also read our midseason premiere Q&A with showrunner Angela Kang, who shares an alternate Negan storyline.)

Credit: Jackson Lee Davis/AMC

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: First off, tell us how you landed this role of Lydia?
CASSADY McCLINCY: Well, I got a taped audition and I didn’t hear anything for a couple months. And then out of the blue I got another tape with different sides. And then I found out I booked it about a week later. And I had to be on set the next morning.

The next morning?
Yeah, the next morning. I was literally on a horse the next morning.

Were you in Los Angeles or Atlanta when you got that call?
I was in Atlanta. But it’s crazy because I was supposed to fly out and move to L.A. the day that I booked it. So, instead of moving to L.A., I just moved closer to set. So I had all my stuff packed and everything.

Wow. Once you realized whom you were playing, did you go and read the comic book to see what Lydia was like in that original incarnation?
I had a meeting with [EP and director Greg Nicotero], and he gave me this huge compendium filled with all the Lydia comics. But he wanted me to use it as a blueprint, not gospel. Those were his exact words. So I just tried to do Lydia justice. But, obviously, there’s differences from the comic and the TV show, so I tried to change what makes sense for the change in characteristics.

So what was the first thing you shot?
The first scene I shot was being on the horse and coming in to help out, but the real first scene was the bridge. So that was really cool to get all of that intensity out on the first take. Because it kind of set the bar for the rest of shooting.

What was the vibe like when you first showed up on set? And were you nervous?
I was terrified! Because I had grown up watching the show. So, I was a huge fan of everybody. But they’re so comforting and professional but also playful. So it was very nerve-racking at first, but then, once I kind of got to know everybody, we just became a family. And it was great.

Let’s talk about some of the stuff we see in your first episode, and specifically when Lydia gets put in that cell at the Hilltop. At first, she’s saying, “Oh, we’re just trying to see if they were good people, but they attacked us.” Clearly, not the truth there that she’s spouting. What is her plan when she first gets in that cell and she’s been taken prisoner by a group that she doesn’t really know a whole lot about?
I think that she is very smart. And she knows how to use her vulnerable, childlike persona of being a teenage girl to her advantage to keep herself safe. So she tries the whole crybaby act at first. And then she’s just throwing out all the cards.

Credit: Jackson Lee Davis/AMC

What about the fear? Because we see you beg for your life and scurry into a corner of the cell. Is that fear genuine, is it part of an act, or is it a little bit of both?
I think a little bit of both. Because she’s definitely terrified in that situation. But, also, strong and able to keep her wits about her. So I think she is a little complex.

We also see a bit of connection forming between Lydia and Henry, which mirrors one she had with Carl in the comic book. At this point, is that connection real, or again, is she just acting and maybe manipulating him a bit?
I think, probably, a bit of both. Because she’s never seen him. I think maybe there’s a bit of connection when he saves her from Darryl, but we’ll have to see.

You’re working a lot with Norman Reedus in your first episode. What was that like?
Oh, my gosh. I was so terrified at first. But I just love him. He is so playful and fun to work with. But at the same time, super professional in a comfortable way, if that makes any sense. We had a lot of fun with those scenes. He will just do random things that are not scripted. So, it’s really fun and unpredictable.

What can you say about what’s coming up for Lydia?
People will see how screwed up the zombie apocalypse can make people, and more about the Whisperers.

Also make sure to read our midseason premiere interview with showrunner Angela Kang, and for more Walking Dead intel, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

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The Walking Dead

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

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