Interview with Joe Holt (Leo) and Natalie Gold (Lyla) of “The Walking Dead: Worlds Beyond” on AMC by Suzanne 9/23/21
This was such a fun interview, and I really enjoyed it. I loved how they let Joe call on us. Usually they have a PR person doing that. It was a nice change, and he was great at it. Personally, I think he should have his own talk show or podcast (if he doesn’t already). Both actors were very kind and funny. Don’t miss the season premiere 10/3 on AMC!
Question: Natalie, does Bellshaw have real feelings for this man? Or is it all just part of her need to get him there and keep him there?
Natalie: Oh, Lyla loves Dr. Bennett. Lyla Bellshaw loves Dr. Bennett. Oh, yeah, absolutely her feelings are real. I, as an actor, and Matt, and Joe and I have had a lot of conversations about that. Oh, yeah, it’s so much more interesting if her feelings are real and genuine. But yeah, she’s in love.
Jamie: This is actually kind of continuing on that. Natalie, she still, obviously, though, is, with the CRM also. So, my question is, do you think that she would be willing to potentially leave them if [Dr. Bennett] decided to do that and go against it? And can she trust him? I mean, maybe he’ll side with his daughters. Could you both talk to that?
Natalie: I think I kind of love the way that season one ends and teases that up, because those are all the questions, right? [Can] we trust Lyla? Does she have ulterior motives? What are her ulterior motives? It became kind of clear in season one, by the end of that episode, and that monologue that she has that she really wants to go and tell Leo, and she ends up not telling him that she’s kind of the catalyst for this whole thing starting. It’s because Leo came to Lyla and said, “I have this daughter who’s brilliant,” and Lyla obviously then told her higher ups. So, I think that this season is kind of a great exploration for Lyla’s character, her push and pull between her love for Leo and her real belief in the greater good. And one person what’s the balance? How much is one life worth versus hundreds of thousands of lives and the work that she’s doing? So, it’ll all be explored in season two.
Joe: Yeah, I mean, not to speak for her character, obviously, but I think that there’s absolute chemistry between the characters that is real, which probably creates some of the conflict for her with her duties. There’s a Civilian Republic, and there’s a Civilian Republic military, and I think the second season starts highlighting some of the differences. Like, I did not plan on being a pawn of the Civilian Republic military. I was working for the Civil Republic, as was Lyla. I do think that the theme of the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, as Spock stated in Wrath of Khan. I think that is a constant theme and a constant source of conflict in the second season. We each keep getting pushed to the next level. That tests that principle and that belief within ourselves.
Natalie: That was said so much more eloquently [by] Joe, as per usual.
Question: I think what’s interesting about both your characters is obviously you have a personal relation, and you have both kind of walking a tightrope with the military, but also, there’s the scientists’ portion of your lives to that. You want to do something for the greater good as well. So, talk about kind of balancing all that as characters and playing that as actors. That’s a tight rope you could easily fall off of.
Joe: I think that the joy of acting is conflict, and also, at the crux of any television show or movie is creating and constantly pouring gas on that fire. As an actor, you can sink your teeth into choices. The beauty of this character, and I think of all the characters in the show, is the constant tug of war between what’s right for me and what’s right for the greater good. Within all that we have to battle our own demons. I have to deal with the guilt that I have over leaving my daughters. I won’t speak for Natalie’s character, but every character, I think, in the show has some inner conflict. Then, they have an external conflict and trying to sort all that out is what creates a lot of joy, I think, for actors.
Natalie: Yeah, and I think as far as kind of Lyla’s love for Leo, she really fell in love with his mind. He’s one of the greatest minds and most brilliant soul she’s ever met. I think that that’s such a deep part of their connection is how well they work together. She found a real partner in him as far as that goes. I think everything Joe was saying is really right, the inner conflict and guilt that all these characters have, and I think it’s going to be cool as we learn more about all of their backstories in season two, but it’s really a push pull between falling in love with somebody, getting close, being in a relationship with somebody in this universe, because it’s a dangerous universe.
Suzanne: You just finished shooting the show in June, correct? Now, when did you start shooting?
Suzanne: That didn’t take too long.
Joe: It depends who you ask.
Suzanne: Joe, you play a character who’s supposed to be brilliant. So, besides the script and the costumes, what else helps you prepare for such an intellectual role?
Joe: The beauty of television is – this is gonna sound so obnoxious. They kind of cast the person that fits the role. There’s not much research you can do to become smart. So, hopefully, I can say the words they give me and not trip over them, but what was great was having a sit down with Scott Gimple and Matt Negrete, really, day one or day two, when I got in Virginia the first season, and having them talk about what Leo is operating from. And as actors, that’s the most useful thing is to understand [is] where is it we’re coming from? What is it that we want, and what are the things that have created us? That way, we don’t get into trying to characterize what a smart person does. Fortunately, we have good writing, good casting, and good storytelling, and then, as an actor you just need to try to be as honest and truthful with your circumstances as you can be. So, I credit them with making me seem like a smart person.
Natalie: Joe got his PhD in Physics in between seasons.
Joe: [laughs] Go back to grad school for six years in two months.
Natalie: He’s that good.
Suzanne: Well, you’re both supposed to be a very smart — too smart maybe for your own good. Natalie, is it safe to say that your character is not very honest, especially in your relationship with Leo, and would you say that she’s not a good person, or she is? What do you think?
Natalie: I think rule one of being an actor is to find the gray area. Rule one of being an actor is to love your character and to believe in what she does. So, I would never go as far to say that Lyla was not a good person. And I worked really hard and had a lot of great talks with Matt and with Joe this season as well that she – We have found out by the end of season one that she has not told Leo the whole truth. There’s obviously some stuff going on that he does not know about – her motives for doing what she does. We’ll find out more about what she does and why she does what she does in season two, but I think I always, for myself as an actor, had to believe that her reasons were and are formidable, and that the work she does, she believes in it, and that as people, we are capable of honesty and dishonesty and love and betrayal, all in one breath. So, it’s kind of fascinating as an actor to play that.
Suzanne: Great, and I have a feeling that your relationship will will not end well.
Joe: [laughs] Don’t say that. Don’t jinx our love affair. It was gonna be a wedding at the end of season two, what are you talking about? A purple wedding.
Natalie: Like every Shakespeare comedy.
Joe: That’s right. [laughs]
Suzanne: Well, you have a Huck, not quite a Puck.
Joe: Well played. Well played.
Question: Joe, I love the relationship he has with his daughters. Are we going to be getting more of a backstory though about his relationship with Felix to see why he trusts him with the most important people in his life?
Joe: I think the writers have a real challenge with trying to write for so many characters in a ten episode season, and [there are] definitely glimpses of that coming up in season two – without giving too much away – but I think that a lot of what we saw in season one really lays the groundwork for his relationship with Felix. He took Felix in. Felix was essentially orphaned when the earth fell, or when everything went wrong. Felix needed someone to take him in, and that’s when our relationship began. There’s just tremendous trust there.
In the second season, I think the writers were constantly trying to figure out a way to go forward and provide some sort of historical perspective. So, we didn’t get to go too far in anybody’s past, because we were trying to move forward so much, but the Felix/Leo relationship is family. I think that the relationship definitely gets flushed out more in the second season, and we get to learn a little more about what’s going on with it.
There are pictures of us on a camping trip.
Question: You and Felix, or the girls?
Joe: Yeah, exactly. Exactly.
Question: Then I should ask what’s on your desk at work. Whose pictures do you actually have on your desk at work?
Joe: Are there any pictures at all?
Natalie: He has pictures of himself.
Joe: High school prom king.
Jamie: Are we going to get to see you guys out of the lab at all? Maybe killing walkers, maybe not, but at least a little bit different atmosphere? Is there anything you can tease about that?
Natalie: Yeah, we venture out of the lab here there. I would say.
Joe: Yeah, I think that everybody gets put into uncomfortable situations is the best way I can put it. Everybody gets put into a situation. Every character gets put into a situation that they are not comfortable with, and that’s part of the measure of what their character is, part of the measure of their ability to grow. Their willingness to survive in this new world is how they respond to the new environment.
Question: There’s another component here that’s going on with each of you. Joe, you’re a father, and you’re dealing with that as well as everything else. Natalie, Elizabeth is putting a lot of pressure on you as well. So, it’s juggling lot of different things. Talk about playing those aspects of the characters.
Joe: It was really challenging in the best of ways to try to find that the truthfulness of those relationships, because he does have an obligation to raise these two young women who, despite their independence, intelligence and resourcefulness, need a father, and as we saw in the first episode, lost their mother tragically. So, he has got his own inner drama going on between trying to move forward, trying to find a solution for this horrible disease, and meeting this new person who he shares so much with. They have a real connection. He admires her mind, and in the same way she said he admires her mind and her soul, and I think there’s some guilt there of even trying to move forward, feeling like in some way you’re doing an injustice to your former life. So, all that stuff is wonderful in the way that it unfolds in season two. And, again, it just it pours more gasoline on that conflict fire of how many masters can you serve? And when you have to make [choices] who gets left out in the cold? So, that’s a really good question. It really does create a lot of tugs of war for Dr. Bennett in the second season.
Natalie: I think that for Lyla, she is definitely balancing the role that she plays in the CRM, and obviously, she cares about the science. More than more than anything else, I believe she wants to save the world. She wants to find a cure for this disease. She wants the world to go on. She wants it to have a future. She wants to teach all the generations coming up what she does, so that this facility can go on and the science can grow. It’s the only way that the future is going to happen, and she believes in the future. So, she’s balancing that, yes, with the pressure that she’s getting from Elizabeth, and the work that she needs to do and her feelings for Leo. There’s a lot going on internally with her and a lot that she’s struggling to balance as well.
Question: That’s half the fun, though.
Natalie: Oh, it’s so much fun.
Suzanne: In the trailer, it shows Iris and Leo hugging, so we know that they do eventually wind up – finally – in the same place. What was it like for both of you, working with the actresses who play Hope and Iris this season?
Joe: I nicknamed them “Thing One” and “Thing Two,” because they bring such different – It’s such a different energy to have them on set. They’re sort of getting started in this, and you’re dealing with, to some degree, moody teenagers, but you love them, because they’re so gentle and so wonderful and lovely, really, as people. It’s like, this is what a dad deals with. So, it was really just staying open to the energy that they bring, because you never know what they’re going to bring in. But I’ll tell you this much, when the camera rolls, these two young women know exactly what they’re doing. And, again, they have different personalities. So, it is like you’re the dad of these two different daughters, and the two daughters love each other and then have their own little rivalries. So, it really was a matter of like playing centerfield when you get on set just like what are they bringing in today? And how can I be of service? And how can I be Dad?
Natalie: Alexa and I met for the first time really on that first episode of season two, because we had not – I have said this, and Joe’s heard this ad nauseam, but the first season I worked by myself until we got to the tenth episode where, thank God, I got to work with the amazing Joe, and that was the best. So, Alexa, when I read the 202 [script] I was like, “Oh, I get to meet Alexa and be with her,” and that was so much fun, because we were kind of meeting each other as people for the first time as our characters were meeting, and I was able to kind of guide her and show her this world and give her a tour of that. So, it was really fun. I was trying to play the, “I love your dad, but I don’t think you know that yet, and I really want you to like me” and the stepmom thing, [and] “you have a brilliant mind, and I’m trying to bring you into this world and get you really excited about everything we’re doing here.” So, there was a lot of personal professional dynamics at play. Then, I mean, Alexa is great. She’s fantastic.
Suzanne: And Joe, following up on what you just said about the girls, I believe you were on As the World Turns. Was it about the same age as these girls, or were you a little older at that point?
Joe: As the World Turns was 2004, 2003 so I was 33. So, I was much older. I was much older than them. Stupider, but much older. Not as good as them; not as good on cameras they are, to my discredit.
Suzanne: Did either of you watch either the regular The Walking Dead or Fear the Walking Dead before you started on the show?
Joe: I didn’t before I started on the show, because it all happened very quickly for me. I got an audition on a Friday for I think it said “TWD 3.” I was aware of the show, obviously, but I hadn’t watched it. You get an audition, and you go do your thing, and you do the research you can do. But then after I got the part, I watched ten seasons of The Walking Dead. I binged it too, which I don’t recommend. I mean, I do recommend watching it, but bingeing it – like I was watching six episodes a day, and I think the theme song got into my head, and I was like waking up like a drug addict. Like, “I gotta watch Walking [Dead] It was addictive, as you all know, right? It pulls you in. But not before I did the show, and I’m actually kind of glad, because I think the whole point is these characters are starting from their jumping off point, and their jumping off point is with no knowledge of that world. But watching it afterwards, it was just great to watch Negan and Daryl and all those guys. It was great. And Michonne.
Natalie: I also am admittedly a wimp with anything horror. So, I had not watched The Walking Dead until I got the job. Then, I did exactly what Joe did, and I binged all episodes. And what I loved about it, and what I love about our show is, God, it’s the universe that is created by these brilliant people. It’s terrifying obviously, but it’s the human interactions that make it so rich, and the love between people and the betrayals of people. And, God, I have like an abnormal fear of the apocalypse to begin with, so anything apocalyptic, I’m like, “Oh, that’s not for me. I shouldn’t do that.” My husband read The Road, and I went to go see the movie, and he called me, he’s like, “Don’t watch the movie! I’m begging you!” I’m like, “I’m going to watch the movie,” and I did, and it was a terrible mistake. It’s always about –Joe: [laughs]
Natalie: It’s true.
Joe: I don’t think your fear of the apocalypse is abnormal. I think it’s okay to fear the apocalypse.
Natalie: Is it? It’s like not something you should wake up thinking about all the time. Maybe now, but it’s like, what’s going to happen in the apocalypse? But it’s people that are – I mean, the zombies and the monsters are terrifying, but it’s people who turn into monsters, who stays human, who wants to help, all of that, that’s kind of what I absolutely adored about bingeing The Walking Dead, the original, and then working on our show, as well.
Suzanne: Yeah, I’m the same way, in fact, because I don’t watch The Walking Dead either for that reason… but I like your show better, because it seems to have a little more human element and little fewer zombies. So, I like that.
Interview Transcribed by Jamie of http://www.scifivision.com
The Walking Dead: World Beyond’s ten-episode second season premieres October 3 at 10pm ET/9c on AMC with all episodes available one week early on AMC+, beginning September 26
Season Two trailer HERE
Season two of The Walking Dead: World Beyond concludes the epic story of Iris (Aliyah Royale), Hope (Alexa Mansour), Elton (Nicolas Cantu), and Silas (Hal Cumpston) — four friends who journeyed across the country on a mission that transformed everything they knew about themselves and the world. As they face off against the mysterious Civic Republic Military and fight for control of their own destiny, goals will shift, bonds will form and crumble, and innocence will be both lost and found.
The Walking Dead: World Beyond is executive produced by co-creator Scott M. Gimple, co-creator and showrunner Matt Negrete, Robert Kirkman, Gale Anne Hurd, David Alpert and Brian Bockrath, and is produced and distributed by AMC Studios. In addition to Royale, Mansour, Cantu and Cumpston, the series stars Nico Tortorella, Annet Mahendru, Julia Ormond, Joe Holt, Jelani Alladin, Natalie Gold and Ted Sutherland.
Episode 201: Konsekans – Premieres October 3 at 10pm ET/9c on AMC
Hope’s commitment to the future is put to the test, jeopardizing a potential reunion. Iris and Felix meet a new group. Startling revelations are made.
Episode 202: Foothold – Premieres October 10 at 10pm ET/9c on AMC
While some members of the group enact a plan to cover their tracks, others attempt to acclimate to their new surroundings.
Joe Holt was born on February 22, 1970 in Tachikawa, Tokyo, Japan. He is an actor and producer, known for The Walking Dead: World Beyond (2020), The Punisher (2017) and Delilah Check out his Instagram and Twitter
Natalie Gold is an American actress who has appeared in film, television, and stage productions including on Broadway. She is perhaps best known for playing Julia Harwell on the TV show Rubicon, and she has appeared in many films including Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, I Don’t Know How She Does It, and Love & Other Drugs. Gold grew up in Miami, Florida, and studied theatre at the New World School of the Arts and Emerson College. Find her on Instagram and Twitter!
Proofread and Edited by Brenda