Julia Ormond on if Elizabeth is friend or foe on The Walking Dead: World Beyond
The Walking Dead: World Beyond showrunner Matt Negrete teased that the series would start to reveal a lot more about the mysterious CRM that we have seen pop up on various other Walking Dead shows over the past few years, and that was certainly the case in the very first episode as we learned the Civic Republic has formed an arrangement with communities in Portland and Omaha, plus the campus colony where the action in the premiere took place.
But naturally, as some answers were revealed, new questions popped up. Questions like… what’s up with this Lieutenant Colonel Elizabeth Kublek? She has a fleet of helicopters and a troop of scary-looking soldiers at her beck and call, and also is showing a definite interest in the two young sisters Hope and Iris, whose father is currently in unknown CRM territory. Not only did Elizabeth seem unfazed by being flipped off by Hope and called out in a speech by Iris, but she also provided the girls with a coded map of where their father is allegedly located.
So what gives? Is this Elizabeth Kublek friend or foe? We went straight to the source, actress Julia Ormond, for answers. We also spoke with Ormond about joining the world of The Walking Dead, learning later on the show would only run for two seasons, working with such a young cast, and what we should make of that final massacre scene. (Also check out our Walking Dead: World Beyond series premiere burning questions with showrunner Matt Negrete.)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Before we get into what we saw in the series premiere, tell me how you ended up on The Walking Dead: World Beyond.
JULIA ORMOND: When they first approached me [about the role], I actually hadn't gotten into [The Walking Dead] when it first started, and then I thought, "You know what? Millions of people can't be wrong. Why don't you give it another shot?" So I binge-watched it and sure enough, three episodes in, I was completely hooked to the point where I binge-watched it all the way through. It's a quite gripping and often quite brutal binge-watch, but I just really loved it. I loved the characters that they create. I think they pull it off. I think they've created a universe that is very specific, and that's always really helpful as an actor.
What would your take be if Elizabeth Kublek sauntered into your community? What would you think of her?
You mean if she landed with her helicopter and her guards and her tridents and swiftly took some zombies out? I think I wouldn't really want to be friends with her. I've got to be honest. I would want to stay off her radar. Maybe that's too much of a giveaway, but I think I'd probably hide.
The show was originally supposed to premiere back in April. I think it was about two weeks before you guys were about to premiere when obviously the world went to hell and the show got moved. What was it like to have the rug at least temporarily pulled out from under you there?
I think a lot of people were struggling with it. I think everybody was struggling with such big, big stuff at the time and everything that the world has gone through since. From a professional standpoint, it didn't really register so much on the big picture, but I guess the decision made sense to me, and I think what we've seen now is that they've had this opportunity as a result of it to get the writer's room going early. I think one of the things that happen in television quite often is that the studios or the backers or whatever, they have them write as you go, and so they've been able to actually avoid that.
So I'm quite hopeful and intrigued as to what that means for the production and what that means for the arcs. I think they've got something quite complicated to deliver in terms of the wrapping up of the series. It's not like it's just going to continue and then stop. I think they're going to be working through the story lines in a more satisfying way. They've turned it into a really great opportunity, and I love the fact that it's hopeful and it's youthful and it's really good. We've got a really lovely, young cast. I think it hits the refresh button in a really great way.
I was talking to your showrunner, Matt Negrete, who's mentioned that there's sort of a Stand By Me influence on the show, where these kids are going on this quest. It is a young cast. What sort of vibe on set do you have when you have that much youth and energy?
Yeah, it really does make you feel old. I mean, it makes you feel old, but it also makes you feel more youthful at the same time. It's just really great. I think it's the way that the guys have written it. There is this game on or game over vibe, and there is something about the bandwidth of the younger cast that is very distinct. They’ve done this really good job of making each of the characters very distinct and, in traditional form, the spin-off has its own vibe.
It has its own temperature and all the rest of it, but it's also got these very well-delivered character arcs that are original. They take you by surprise. People have been commenting on how vulnerable it is. I think one of the values of starting again, or starting with this generation who've been born into this or who were kids and didn't really know the world prior to the apocalypse and the pandemic, is that you start that whole journey again from a more innocent perspective of how are these guys going to tackle it? What's the world they're going to make?
You get this job on this show and maybe you're thinking, "Wow, I might be doing this for years and years and years." And then they announce, "Okay, this is going to be a two-season show." What's your reaction to that?
Yeah, it was a little bumpy the way that it got rolled out, but they are our boss, the studio. That's how they roll. I think, I don't know. It's a double-edged sword. I would also say that whatever the announcements are — it's television, they could always change their mind. But I do think it's an opportunity for them to write in a different way. I think it holds them to a different type of storytelling that I think could be good for it. Well, let's hope that it's good for it and not bad for it.
What was strange about it was that it's such a successful show. I'll be honest, from a commercial point of view, you don't really know who the audience is in terms of coming in and out. When you've got a show that's gone on for that length of time... No doubt there is a core group of diehard fans, but there's also new people coming in and out.
I think they've quite successfully shaped Fear the Walking Dead and Walking Dead: World Beyond, as they are entities in and of themselves that can have a completely new, different audience. As I said before, that creative dance of being able to honor this is the universe, these are the rules, and at the same time have these three different tracks is quite tricky, and I think they do a really good job of it.
So let’s talk about what we saw in this first episode. It's pretty clear that Elizabeth has this interest in Hope and Iris, even after one of them flipped her off when she stepped off the helicopter. What does she make of these two young women? What can you tell us about her interest? Is it just purely because their dad is working for the CRM? Where does it come from?
I think it's quite an interesting moment in the fact that Elizabeth clocks being flipped off and doesn't really react to it. She's almost quite amused by it. I think what you should have the sense of is that she's expecting that and knows more about them. It taps into that thing of, there are the parents, there are the authority figures, and then there are these young kids. Obviously, when it comes to Iris and Hope, Elizabeth has an agenda. She has an agenda that she has to fulfill that's around a philosophy, and I think it's the episodes to come that will unpack for us to what degree is she transgressing what she's meant to do. Is she doing it for her own volition? Why is she doing it? All those things, I think, are story points to come.
Just piggybacking off of that, so why does Elizabeth tell them where their dad is and give them that coded map? I can't help but feel there's an ulterior motive there. What do you want to say about that?
I guess what I would say about it is that they have to make their own decision as to whether or not they trust it. I mean, it could be completely false and setting them up for failure, or it could be driven by something more altruistic, and they ultimately have to make that call. I think it's indicative of the fact that for Iris and Hope, they have nothing to lose. They have this sense that their dad is in danger, and they have to try and get to him. I don't think at this point you should necessarily be able to work out where Elizabeth sits within all of that. She's obviously dabbling, nudging in some way that's a little bit inappropriate.
There's that scene during Monument Day where Iris is making the speech and turns to you and says, "I don't trust you." And then you respond, "You will. Your father does. Someday you'll understand." That's a bold thing for Iris to do in the middle of the speech, and yet your character is so composed in the response, which I found very interesting.
Well, I hope that that comes across as more nuanced. If Elizabeth were dismissive, then she could have them taken out then and there. I think there's a compassion around it in terms of... There's a certain journey that I think Elizabeth knows they all have to go on, and that it's going to take a certain amount to get them out the door, and that they're not necessarily going to be happy about all of it.
So I have a theory that I'm going to run by you, which is going to make me look really smart or really stupid. I don't think the dad sent the coded message. He said not to tell Felix, which is weird. You're giving them this map. I am, by my very nature, a very suspicious person and I'm very suspicious of all of this. It's almost as if someone else wants them to head out looking for him for some reason. What do you make of my theory, Julia?
I think the writer's room would be particularly interested in your theory. I think you could quite happily join the writer's room, but it is just a theory. It could be, and it might not be.
What can you say about the final scene there? There's been some massive massacre back at the campus colony. The brick wall has been knocked down. There are all these dead painted walkers everywhere. What can you tell us about what exactly happened there because it's a quick scene?
It's a very quick scene and, clearly, there's been this massacre. Something has happened and Elizabeth has gone in to deal with it and to either try and work out what's happened or respond to what's happened. And again, more to come.
Also check out our Walking Dead: World Beyond series premiere burning questions with showrunner Matt Negrete, and for more TWD scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.