The Walking Dead: World Beyond start this Sunday, October 4, in the USA, after having its launch postponed due to the pandemic of COVID-19.
The show delves into a new mythology and story that follows the first generation raised in a surviving civilization of the post-apocalyptic world. Two sisters along with two friends leave a place of safety and comfort to brave dangers, known and unknown, living and undead on an important quest. Pursued by those who wish to protect them and those who wish to harm them, a tale of growing up and transformation unfurls across dangerous terrain, challenging everything they know about the world, themselves and each other. Some will become heroes. Some will become villains. But all of them will find the truths they seek.
The Walking Dead BR talked to actress Aliyah Royale, who played Iris Bennett in World Beyond, to find out what we can expect both from her character and from season 1. Aliyah told us about her audition process, about working with Alexa Mansour (Hope), about her favorite episode and more!
Without further ado, check out our exclusive interview with Aliyah Royale:
Welcome to The Walking Dead family! To begin our interview, tell us about how this opportunity came to you and how was your audition test to get the role in World Beyond. Did you feel a little intimidated by joining such a consolidated franchise?
Aliyah Royale: I am so happy to be a part of this family! I got the audition on a normal sunny day in California and I didn’t think much about it. I am terrified of Walkers so I did not even imagine that I would actually get the role! It was such a quick audition process, I was on the ground shooting in Virginia within a week. But I really identified with the heart and soul that Iris possesses. She’s strong, she’s determined, and that’s the kind of young woman I want to play.
Iris is Hope’s quiet and calm sister and they seem to be very close. What can you tell us about what we can expect from the two characters venturing into a world full of challenges and problems? And what was it like working with Alexa Mansour?
Aliyah Royale: I love Alexa! She’s half of Iris. My character wouldn’t have the same courage without Hope. The sisters have different personalities, of course: one is more quiet and calm then the other is more lively and mischievous. But we get to see that narrative change throughout the season. The sisters take on each other’s qualities. They develop in their own individual way, and we all know sisters fight, but they are a powerful combination and are their best when they are together.
Your character has a certain instinct for leadership and responsibility within the Campus Colony, and that ends up having a lot of weight on her. Do you think she will be able to let go of these “obligations” when she is venturing out with others during her mission? And is having these instincts, in your opinion, positive or negative for her in this world?
Aliyah Royale: I really enjoy playing a young woman in a leadership role. In my life, accountability and self awareness are key to being myself and being able to love and support others. Iris’ biggest challenge has been her need to take responsibility for other people because she feels like she’s forever obligated to her sister and even the rest of the world. It hinders her. It stops her from taking care of herself. The audience will get to see how Iris’ relationship with herself influences her relationship with her sister, Hope, and the rest of the group.
Can you tell us about your first days on the World Beyond set? Do you remember any fun backstage moments to share with us?
Aliyah Royale: As I previously stated, I was terrified of Walkers. During our first night shoot, I heard that there were several groups of them lurking around the corners of the set. But I had no idea where! I opened the door to walk into the catering hall and 20 to 30 Walkers came out single file. I hid behind the door. That was the best introduction to The Walking Dead universe that I could’ve gotten.
The Walking Dead is completing 10 years on air in October, fans have seen several stories and characters over the seasons. What is new about the World Beyond story that the fans have never seen before?
Aliyah Royale: World Beyond is giving Walking Dead fans a brand new perspective on the dead. We don’t see Walkers, or Empties as we call them on our show, as the end. We are curious about them and what this new world looks like with us and them in it. On the other shows, the storylines are about surviving for the future. World Beyond is about living in the now. We have hope.
We know you were a fan of The Walking Dead before you entered this universe. If there was a crossover between World Beyond and the main series, which character – or characters – would you like Iris to meet? Why?
Aliyah Royale: I would be elated if Iris got to meet Rick or Negan. Iris has a similar leadership style to Rick’s in the way that she wants to keep everyone safe but is ready to take the right risks when it’s necessary. And Negan… well he’s my absolute favorite chaotic character. I would love to share the screen with him.
Iris is inspired by her father and the work he has done in the community. What kind of conflicts will we see Iris go through with carrying this kind of “legacy” from her father?
Aliyah Royale: Many kids have had some kind of moment where they are mirroring their parent’s achievements or progressing from where their parent’s left off. Iris wants to leave her mark on the world and be a part of the solution. But that becomes really complicated as she and her friends figure out that it’s very possible to have more than one problem to solve at a time. And sometimes the best solution isn’t so black and white, or good or evil.
When passing through the walls of Campus Colony, the four teenagers may be walking towards their greatest fears and insecurities. In what ways do you think this journey will change who they are? Do you think they can lose their innocence?
Aliyah Royale: Iris, Hope, Silas and Elton are aware of the dangers of the world beyond the walls of the Campus Colony. But at some point they realize they can’t become who they want to be until they leave. The fear of the outside world isn’t nearly as strong as the curiosity or hope they possess individually and as a group.
What is your favorite episode of the 1st season of World Beyond? Why?
Aliyah Royale: Every episode has its special moments. But episode four gave me and Iris something that we never experienced growing up. I love that I have a job that can give me back the moments that I missed in my real life. Episode four has my heart forever.
Which World Beyond character do you think is the most prepared to survive the apocalypse? And which would be the least prepared? Why?
Aliyah Royale: Felix and Huck are probably most prepared to survive the apocalypse. They are badass. Their combat scenes with the Walkers are my favorite. I hate to say it but I think my sister, Hope, is the least prepared. Or maybe I’m thinking of Alexa in real life… I love you, sister!
The shows in the The Walking Dead universe has always featured strong and determined female characters, and Iris seems to follow that same line. What was it like for you to compose and act in such an empowered and self- reliant character? How important do you think this representation is to other women?
Aliyah Royale: Too many stories we tell in television and film today still predict young women as these easily impressionable creatures that can be swayed one way or another by the right guardian or adult figure. Iris is decisive. She may not always know how to execute but she knows what she wants. And she didn’t need an adult to tell her what she should want. That’s the kind of young woman I want to see on my screen. It’s a blessing to play her.
What would you like to see Iris doing that you haven’t had a chance to do this first season? And speaking of the future … Is there any forecast for the beginning of the shootings of the 2nd season? What is the production status today?
Aliyah Royale: We are going back to work in the near future. Our writer’s room has already developed an incredible season two storyline. Iris is a dream role. All I want is to see her continue to develop into the woman that she is. She has so much to say, so much to do. And I’m excited to find out what that looks like with the rest of the fans.
One of the things that has not yet been widely addressed in The Walking Dead universe is the cure for the virus. In one of the World Beyond trailers, we see a short excerpt from a conversation between Iris and Hope on this subject. What can you tell us about the healing approach in the series? Can we wait for more information on a possible way to turn the world back to what it was before?
Aliyah Royale: World Beyond is going to show fans that although everyone is working hard on developing the cure, it’s hard to tell if certain forces are working towards the cure to help the world or to control it. I’m so excited for everyone to see this storyline grow.
We know that the pandemic has postponed many projects, including the debut of World Beyond that was supposed to take place in April. How has the pandemic affected you? In addition to World Beyond, did any of your other projects in progress had to be postponed? And how are you taking care of yourself during this difficult isolation moment?
Aliyah Royale: I have a pretty strong will and a strong mind. But the World Beyond not coming out in April definitely broke my heart. Still, I feel like everything has its proper time and place. I’m excited that the show is coming out now! And that’s what I’m choosing to focus on. I take care of myself by eating good food from my favorite local restaurants. They need our business during these times!
To conclude: here in Brazil we always send a lot of love to everyone involved in The Walking Dead universe. Brazilian fans are very passionate! Has this affection ever reached you through social media?
Aliyah Royale: The Brazilian fans are the loudest and proudest! I appreciate your affection and I hope that at some point I get to safely meet the wonderful people of this fan base. I love you, Brazil! Thank you for welcoming me to the Walking Dead family!