Interview with Aliyah Royale of “The Walking Dead: World Beyond” on AMC by Suzanne 11/3/20
This was a very fun interview. She’s very professional and knowledgeable for someone as young as she is, since she’s been acting for a long time. I really enjoy her show, which is a little different from the other two “Walking Dead” shows.
Suzanne: So, tell us how you got the role of Iris…
Aliyah: Oh, my goodness! I had actually auditioned under these, I guess I’ll just call them – fake sides. It wasn’t the real script, and her name wasn’t Iris yet. I can’t remember what her name was, but it was a scene where she was giving this student council meeting. She’s the class president. She’s telling everyone, “What do you need from me? What do you need done?” and they’re telling her what they need from her. Then the scene switches – the same scene; it’s one scene all the way through – the scene switches, and she’s in the classroom by herself. Everyone has left, and she just breaks, and she starts bawling, having a full on mental breakdown. She just cannot catch a break. She can’t catch her breath either. I remember going like, “Wow, that’s crazy,” especially to be depicted in a young person, the fact that we can handle our business so long in life, you know, go through the motions, but then when we’re finally stopped, and we have a moment to ourselves, sometimes we’re not okay. And the fact that I had no idea if this is Iris with the fact that I was looking at this character and these sides, I was like, “Oh my god, I’m totally playing this role.” I’m like, “This is going to be so much fun.” I had totally forgotten that it was a Walking Dead project, because if I would have remembered that, I would have been scared out of my wits and terrified of walkers. The fact that I even got the role, it’s an insane opportunity. I’m happy to be here.
Suzanne: So, when you have to take on the role of Iris, what do you do mentally or physically to prepare for it?
Aliyah: Physically, the moment we touched down in Virginia, we had to do a lot of just physical training, hand to hand combat working with different weapons. My weapon is actually really long. She’s taller than me, and I’m 5’3’’, and she’s super heavy. So, getting used to having that on me for several hours a day and working and running, jumping, doing stuff with it, I definitely had to switch up my lifestyle. I love food; I love a good cheeseburger. I love my carbs. I definitely had to adopt, or attempt to adopt, a healthier eating lifestyle when you’re on a show that does stunts and has such a like physically vigorous role, just getting into it in general. Although, she’s a lot like me. She’s young, but she’s fierce. She’s motivated. She knows what she wants. She just really has to figure out how to execute it, but she’s doing what she wants. And I love playing a young adult, especially a young woman painted that way.
Suzanne: Have all 10 episodes for the season been filmed already?
Aliyah: Yes, we filmed all the episodes; we shot from July to December of last year, so totally pre-pandemic.
Suzanne: Have you started yet on Season Two?
Aliyah: We have our writers room up and running. Right now we had to push back production due to pandemic reasons, but early 2021 we’re back in motion. Season Two is already even crazier than season one, so I’m super excited.
Suzanne: How was it living in Virginia?
Aliyah: My mother was actually born in Virginia, and I have lived in Virginia before. It’s no like foreign place to me. It was crazy actually, being on the ground shooting in the backwoods. We had to go to the outskirts of Virginia to shoot, because we have to shoot in the forest, the woods, and really rundown abandoned locations. It was crazy. It was like 105 degrees with the most absurd humidity you can ever imagine. Sometimes there would even be lightning storms in the summer while it’s 100 degrees. Virginia’s strange place.
Suzanne: Yeah, I’ve lived in Georgia, Alabama, and now I live in Arkansas, so I know how those thunderstorms can be, and the humidity.
Aliyah: I did not know that there were thunderstorms in the summer. I guess I just didn’t remember that growing up. It was crazy.
Suzanne: And it doesn’t always cool off afterwards, either, like you would expect it to.
Aliyah: No, not at all.
Suzanne: So, I hope you don’t think this question is rude or too private, so tell me to move on if it is, but… is Royale your real last name, or is it “royal?”
Aliyah: That’s awesome that you asked that. My first name, my legal first name, is Aliyah Royale. So, Royale is not my last name. It’s part of my first name. It’s a fun little thing. It’s like Mary Jane or something like that. Whatever, you know, my parents were bougie. That’s the most I can say about that.
Suzanne: That’s fine. I mean, usually I go to like Wikipedia and look it up, and they’ll say, “Oh, her original name was blah, blah, blah,” but you’re not on Wikipedia. You gotta get on there!
Aliyah: You know, I think that was the new source that I was trying – we were specifically told not to use it in school essays and everything. I think like, “If it’s on Wikipedia, is it even true?”
Suzanne: Yeah, most of Wikipedia is true, just because anybody can add stuff, but they have people who oversee it and throw out stuff (that’s not true).
Aliyah: Yeah, my birthday is still wrong on Google. I haven’t gotten around to fixing it.
Suzanne: I understand. Google can be hit or miss. They have all kinds of different sources. But I think, as far as TV, at least, and celebrities, Wikipedia is usually fairly accurate. I mean, they’ll leave out stuff sometimes…
Aliyah: Yeah, absolutely.
Suzanne: So, it was announced there are only 2 seasons of the show. How do you feel about that?
Aliyah: I think, honestly, just where I came from, the first, like, 2, 3 years of my career, I was doing background work, extra work. I wasn’t getting any auditions. I really just had no chance. So, to be just working regularly, I’m blessed whether I get to do it for 2, 10 seasons. I am just blessed to be here, and I’m thankful for the opportunity to go to work every day and do what I love, because I remember sitting on the bench waiting for this opportunity for 3 years.
Suzanne: Were you a fan of the other Walking Dead shows before you got the show?
Aliyah: No, no. I I think I was 9 or 10 when the first season of The Walking Dead came out, and I could scare pretty easily as a child. So, the undead walkers, they– they held a special place in my nightmares. I avoided them at all costs; but my two brothers were immediate fans. They still are just completely into all that. I’m even working on a show they have adored for 10 plus years. I’m a fan now.
Suzanne: That’s good. Yeah, I don’t actually watch the other two shows. I’m not a fan of zombies at all. So, I don’t even like watching them on TV, if I can help it.
Aliyah: They’re just so scary. I don’t know why, but there’s one creature – like I can handle, I don’t know, like ghosts or spirits, vampires, werewolves, whatever you want to come up with, but those? I’d rather have to sit face to face with a clown. Be near a walker? Like, no way.
Suzanne: Because they’re gross and creepy. You can run away from them, but still. And you can tell whoever you see – that’s in charge – that I’m very glad they don’t seem to have as many gross zombies on your show as they do on the other two, at least so far.
Aliyah: Yeah, our show is definitely more character-based, story-based. You have the action and the gore when it’s necessary and pertinent to the story, but it’s really important for us – I think this is the first series where we’re really, really focused on just developing really cool storylines with characters that anyone can identify with.
Suzanne: Yes, definitely. I love that. That’s the best thing about TV, as opposed to movies, is the characters and the development of the characters.
What is the most challenging part of playing Iris?
Aliyah: Just, growing up, I’m a military brat. I am the youngest, but I just grew up very – I knew who I was the moment I came out the womb; that’s just who I am. Playing Iris, you know, she is younger than me, but it’s also this idea that she’s a kid, and I have to keep some of that naivety to her, but it was also important to me to keep the strength that she has, the fierceness. You know what I mean? She’s not living in fear. There’s a difference between a teen who was rebellious and a teen who’s just curious and just wants to learn. I mean, it was important to me to keep her naive qualities and that innocence that I didn’t really have growing up, while still maintaining her confidence, her assertiveness, and just the way that she decides her fate. That’s an interesting life to learn when you’re a young age, and I can say it thoughtfully, because I did live it.
Suzanne: What’s been the most fun part of playing Iris?
Aliyah: Oh, definitely just the stunts, and never have I ever done stunt work in my career. I mean, I’m only 20; I’m pretty new at this, but being able to just slice and dice and work with my weapons, it really makes you feel like a type of superhero, a type of warrior. I’m thankful for that opportunity, because I have so much fun with my weapon, and whether we go 2 seasons or 10 seasons, I am taking her home with me, for sure.
Suzanne: So, are you’re gonna get into martial arts and stuff now do you think, after the show’s over?
Aliyah: Oh, my goodness. You know, I’ve always wanted to play kind of like Nikita, that kind of role going forwards, and Red Sparrow, some sort of like special intelligence kind of role. I’d totally be down for it. I think that’s a fabulous opportunity. I definitely have to get in better shape though. I have to get real serious, like some Marvel superhero type of training for sure.
Suzanne: Do you have any fun or interesting behind the scenes stories that you can share with us?
Aliyah: There’s a reason Alexa [Mansour] and I are very, very close, actually. Virginia is a very haunted place, and in my first week being there, I was in my apartment; I was sleeping. I woke up from this ridiculously terrifying nightmare, and I went to open my bedroom door, and a spirit walked right through me. It scared the daylights out of me, because not that I don’t believe in paranormal activity, but I stay far away from it for the most part. The fact that just this thing, just the way that I felt after, I had called my mom screaming, kicking, crying. I was like, “Mom, I can’t be here. You don’t understand what just happened. Something literally walked through me; it was so strange.” And it’s funny, because I’ve gone to set and talked about it. Everyone’s like “Oh, yeah, this is Virginia. That happens all the time.” Everyone here has a ghost story about Virginia. I remember calling my sister, well, Alexa who plays my sister on the show. I was like, “Bro, there was a whole ghost in my apartment,” and she was like, “Say yes; move in with me,” and I did. We lived together the entire rest of the shoot the whole six months. We were inseparable. That’s my best friend.
Suzanne: Oh, cool. That’s really nice. And did you see any more ghosts once you moved in with her?
Aliyah: No, no more ghosts at all. That was the end of that, but you know, I’m not upset about that.
Suzanne: Well, I guess that’s a good note to end on, then.
Suzanne: Well, thank you very much. I really appreciate you talking to me.
Aliyah: Thank you. I can’t wait till we talk again.
Suzanne: Yes, yeah. I really enjoyed the show, and I will keep watching.
Aliyah: Oh, my God, thank you so much. I think episode seven is one of my favorites, because Iris gets a little– a little love interest; I’m excited.
Here is the audio version of it.
Additional questions that fans posted and Aliyah answered via email:
Suzanne: Do you feel that the post apocalypse would really be the way it is on the show?
Aliyah: In many ways, yes. I think the living conditions are especially accurate! There’s no hot showers, no more pizza delivery. Then in terms of how people interact with each other: there’s definitely a greater push and pull between neighboring communities. You’re in survival mode at all times. It’s so much harder to trust someone. But you also want to be able to meet and befriend someone else because it’s so rare. World Beyond does a great job of throwing light on these issues in a realistic way.
Suzanne: Even though the show itself is so far a completely separate storyline than the other two main shows, do you feel at all connected to the other two Walking Dead shows?
Aliyah: World Beyond is its own entity and that’s evident from the way it’s shot to the way the storyline develops. And that’s what makes it significant. We’re still showing the daily struggles and problems that arise in the apocalypse, just from a new place and a new perspective. And that’s why it’s a valuable Walking Dead series.
Suzanne: Will we learn more about the CRM?
Aliyah: Absolutely! Season 1 shows a lot of hidden looks into the operations of the Civic Republic and the CRM. But Season 2 goes even deeper. We are going to learn a lot from Julia Ormond’s character, Col. Elizabeth Kublek.
Suzanne: Do you think there would be a crossover to the other shows?
Aliyah: I sure hope so! It would be a blessing to collaborate with the legends on the other series. There’s so much possibility in the Walking Dead universe.
Suzanne: What were your thoughts about the first big herd that Iris and company had to fight?
Aliyah: That was one of my favorite scenes to shoot. Everyone working together to keep each other alive. There may be disagreements within the group on which road to take and how best to execute a mission. But when it comes to life and death situations with these walkers, we’re always going to band together and fight until everyone is safe.
Suzanne: What’s your favorite episode of the first season and why?
Aliyah: My favorite episode is number four! The moment where Silas and Iris are dancing in the school gym and the other students appear around them is so special to me. I never had that experience in high school. So getting that moment from World Beyond means everything to me.
Interview Transcribed by Jamie of http://www.scifivision.com
Proofread and Edited by Brenda