The Walking Dead celebrates 10 years of TV history on October 31, 2020. In celebration of this historic milestone, we I nterviewed several actors who have participated in the show over the years. These interviews started to be published in early September and run until the end of October, are being launched daily. When we will end with a big surprise that we prepared exclusively and with great affection for the fans.
Our guest today is Samantha Morton, who played Alpha during seasons 9 and 10. The actress told us about the creative process for Alpha’s personality, about shaving her hair, about working with Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Negan) and Ryan Hurst (Beta), about the importance of having strong female characters on TV and in the movies and more!
Without further ado, check out our exclusive interview with Samantha Morton:
It’ an honour for us to talk to you in such a special moment for The Walking Dead. It’s not just any show that reaches its 10th anniversary. Can you start by telling us how was the audition for the show? How did you hear about the part? Did you know the show beforehand?
Samantha Morton: I did not auditioned for the show, it was a conversation with Angela about what they provided for this character, and me talking about the process and if that connection worked, and if there was a potential spark there.
I didn’t know the show. I didn’t know beforehand, not that that was a problem. I didn’t have TV where I lived, and being a very busy mother I didn’t watch the show, but then I watched the show and thought it was absolutely extraordinary, you have a show that is very cinematic and every attention to detail is taken very seriously, everything is well filmed and I just find it very inspiring.
You probably heard this many times, but it’s worth repeating: your acting as Alpha was flawless and memorable. Can you share with us how was your work to develop the character? What was your inspiration for Alpha?
Samantha Morton: Developing the character was an ongoing process as I read scripts as I realized what she was doing or what she had done in the past, or what she was about to do. And I think my inspiration for playing Alpha was really a collaborative working alongside Cassady and different directors, in particular, Jessica who worked with me in my voice, helped me with the past, who Alpha was before she became Alpha, making sure that the voice was accurate, and then, thinking about Alpha’s relationship with Beta and living how nature intended and how that affected her.
Yeah I think that was really an ongoing process working with Greg Nicotero, making sure that I had the walk properly and yeah, that was my inspiration.
Maybe one of the most outstanding steps of your preparation was shaving your head to give life to Alpha. How was this experience for you?
Samantha Morton: It was fine shaving all my hair off, I was a little bit sad the first time because I had very long hair, I was a little bit sad but once I got into character and became Alpha it was fine, and also is really hot in Georgia, where we filmed, so for me was really liberating to not have hair because it was just so hot.
You and Alpha are physically very similar. You portrayed her gestures and the way she talks pretty much like the fans pictured Alpha. Did you follow Alpha’s story from the source material to develop the character or did you keep it on the scripts?
Samantha Morton: I didn’t make references to the comics, I did look at the comics but when I play characters like Jane Eyre or Mary the queen of Scotland, so I think you have to make these things your own, you have to try and find the character in you, because if you just mimic things it becomes harder to be free with that.
The relationship between Negan and Alpha happened exactly like it did in the comics. How was it to work with Jeffrey Dean Morgan, playing such iconic characters?
Samantha Morton: Working with Jeffrey Dean Morgan was fun and exciting, and a little bit nerve wracking because obviously he’s been on the show longer than Ryan who plays Beta and myself, so yeah, it was a lot of fun and he was very kind to me and for me it was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had working with a male co-star because it’s hard with men sometimes, because obviously they’re doing a lot in their characters and sometimes they kind of caught up in what they are doing, but I found that Jdm doesn’t have an ego and he made sure that I was looked after and okay, and you know, we looked after each other.
You had some unforgettable scenes and we already mentioned how amazing your acting was, and how similar to the comics your character ended up being. But can you tell us about a scene or a moment that really got to you, that defined you as a villain?
Samantha Morton: I think I struggled with scenes where Alpha was being very violent quickly, and it took me a while to get to apex in that moment, but I was fine if could have a dialogue before the violence and stuff like that, but being violent very quickly was very hard, the flashback episode was really hard, I was playing kind of pre-Alpha and I was having to look after Lydia and I found that quite upsetting and hard as a mother.
The Whisperers are a community that basically abdicates life in the post-apocalyptic society and chooses to live as “a bunch of animals”. But sometimes Alpha would let her human side surface, like when she wanted to get Lydia back or even in her relationship with Negan, for example. How do you see that? Was Alpha, deep down, more human than she thought?
Samantha Morton: Deep down Alpha was more human than she thought, you can’t totally disregard your humanity and I think that Alpha post-apocalypse had adapted to survive the way she had, and I think that was her manifesto if you like the way the whispers lived, not like a bunch of animals, but they would kind go back to nature in a way that was inspiring.
You and Ryan Hurst seem to get along very well in scene. Tell us how was your relationship on set. Do you remember any funny moments behind the cameras?
Samantha Morton: It was really fun to work with Ryan Hurst, he used to play little pranks on me and pretended there were spiders on me because I was scared of spiders on set, I am a bit of a wuss, scared in the woods, as Sam actually, so playing Alpha who was afraid of nothing was really an effort that I had to put there, and I think just having him there made everything better, sometimes the hit got to me or the hours were long, you need to have friends around, you need to feel that you got each other’s back, that you are going to get through the day or the scene, and I was very lucky.
What about the rest of the cast? As much as Alpha and the good guys didn’t like each other very much I imagine that, behind the cameras, everyone was pretty friendly.
Samantha Morton: Everybody is incredibly friendly on the set of The Walking Dead, they really are a family, everybody is equal to everybody else, everybody takes care of each other, the crew, the cast, the characters, I mean, the people you know, who lead, they are absolutely lovely, especially the makeup department.
The fans of the comics knew what was Alpha’s fate and it did happen as predicted. But we feel like your time on the show, as intense as it was, was too brief! Do you think your character could have added more to the story of do you think she said goodbye at the right time?
Samantha Morton: I was upset when my ending came when it did, but I also really respected why, and I think no character is bigger than the show, we are there to support and to serve, if you like The Walking Dead and if The Walking Dead needs that to happen for an unknown reason, that’s what going to happen, The Walking Dead is The Walking Dead and I felt really proud and privilege to be part of it for as long as I was.
How did you react when you got the script in which Alpha would die?
Samantha Morton: I knew that she was going to die when I was casted, there was a suggestion that was probably going to happen, so I was prepared and I had to be very quiet about it.
Most of the fans were waiting for a direct conflict between Alpha and Carol, because of the latest’s need for revenge after Henry’s death. This revenge came indirectly, since Carol ordered Alpha’s death. Did you also expect to get a face to face with Melissa McBride?
Samantha Morton: Actually, I didn’t have expectations of having a scene with Melissa Mcbride. I could see why the fans wanted it and the story itself might wanted it, but I didn’t expect that at all, but I thought it was interesting how they decided to join these two women together inside Carol’s head, and I loved working with Melissa for those scenes.
An interesting discussion emerged lately on The Walking Dead: it basically says that when you have people opposing each other, every side thinks they’re right and the other is wrong. If you see it that way, there are no good guys or bad guys, but people trying to defend themselves. Do you agree with this theory? If yes, can Alpha not be considered necessarily a villain, but actually just a person trying survive in the new world?
Samantha Morton: I agree, I think a lot of the characters in The Walking Dead often do horrific things in order to survive, and they have to make certain choices certain sometimes that other people may not agree with. The camera and the direction are always going to be the perspective of the protagonist, from the good guys and women, so, I didn’t play Alpha as a villain at all, I played her as that was her journey.
Unfortunately, for the fans, Alpha didn’t meet Rick on the show. Did you get to meet Andrew Lincoln or see him as Rick Grimes on the set at some point? A conflict between those two characters would have been epic!
Samantha Morton: Yes, I did meet Andrew Lincoln. He was around a little bit when I first got there and it was lovely to meet him, see him and spend a little time with him and I was really fascinated to have that moment, he has done remarkable things on the show and as a bit of a fan it was really nice and it would’ve been great to have a scene with him but that didn’t happen.
The Walking Dead always had strong and powerful female characters and Alpha was definitely one of them. How was it to you to make up and play such a strong character? How important do you think it is for other women to see characters like that on tv?
Samantha Morton: I think is very important that we have female characters like Alpha on tv and films, often the really juicy roles… certainly in the Bond films, the villains are the men and the women are side lined to being pretty or maybe they’re clever, but you know, I think that was important to have Alpha and yeah, we need more of that, we need more strong women on screen.
Besides The Walking Dead, you’re also part of another beloved franchise: the Harry Potter Universe, in which you play the no-maj Mary Lou. Can you give us a hint of what happens to her in the next movies? How was it to be part of the Fantastic Beasts project?
Samantha Morton: I loved being part of Fantastics Beasts, it was really fun and again, another opportunity to be part of something that has a history and a future, and I loved working with Ezra Miller.
We know the pandemic postponed a lot of projects and The Walking Dead fans are still suffering for the season finale. How did it affect you? Were any of your projects postponed? How have you been taking care of yourself?
Samantha Morton: I am okay. I am lucky, I am safe with my family and we are taking it day by day and wearing our masks, trying to be safe and encouraging other people to wash their hands, keep their distance and wear their masks.
To wrap it up: we Brazilians always send much love to those involved in The Walking Dead. Brazilian fans are very passionate! Does this love get to you somehow, either in conventions or in social networks? Can you send a message to your Brazilian fans?
Samantha Morton: Yes, I joined instagram when I joined the show and the brazilians fans have been saying “hello” to me on instagram which has been joyful. And I say “hello” back and hello to Brazil. I love brazilian fans and I would love to go to Brazil one day, I have never been to South America so it would be very exciting for me and so is this, I mean, the fact that I am talking to you right now it’s important and it’s important to the show, you know, we wouldn’t have a show without the fans and that’s why everybody is super important to us, and thank you so much.