Exclusive Video Interview: Star Aliyah Royale Talks The Walking Dead: World Beyond Empties, Secrets, & More

Aliyah RoyaleThe newest series in The Walking Dead universe, World Beyond, premieres tonight on AMC. In Nebraska, a community has been living in relative safety during the zombie apocalypse for the past ten years. Sisters Iris, played by Aliyah Royale, and Hope (Alexa Mansour) journey out beyond the safety of the wall to look for answers, joined by their classmates Elton (Nicolas Cantu) and Silas (Hal Cumpston). Can they avoid the “empties” and make it out alive?

Royale recently talked to SciFi Vision in an exclusive interview about working on the series, being scared of the undead, and more.

Be sure to check out the full transcript following the video.

Zoom Call
The Walking Dead: World Beyond
Aliyah Royale

October 2, 2020

Aliyah RoyaleSCIFI VISION:  Thanks for talking to me, Aliyah. I appreciate it. I enjoyed the first two episodes we've seen, a lot. I talked to you a tiny bit at the press junket a couple weeks ago, but not a whole lot, so it’s nice to talk with you a bit more.

So first, I know from what you had said during the junket it seemed like you were not a fan of zombies before this.


So, what is it then that made you want to do this, that made you think it was was perfect for you?

Oh, it was definitely the audition material. Zombies, walkers, the undead, the dead-ish, they just freak me out. They're absolutely terrifying in my book, but upon reading the script for the audition - it wasn't the actual script for the show, because they had to keep that under wraps, but the sides that I got were 100% Iris, the character that I ended up playing, truly. It was a girl who was class president, and she's in this meeting, and she's like, “What do you need from me? What do you need? What do you need? I'll deliver.” I'm very professional, but kind and genuine.
Then, when the meeting is over, the lights in the classroom turn off, and she breaks down, and her broken heart is just bleeding on the floor right then and there.
I thought it was really powerful to see just a young person handling their business. I'm class president. When I'm on I'm on, and when I'm off, I am still dealing with a lot of stuff. That was just really important for me to see, because sometimes it's hard to pretend that you have it all together.

On the other side of that, sometimes you don't have it together, and it's powerful to see like, Nope, I'm good. Today, I'm going to work; today I'm going to do something, even though I feel like crap, and I don't want to, I'm going to do something good today, because I'm living. I'm breathing. I'm still here, so maybe there's something I should do. Iris is all of that. Then to be able to play that as a young person, and as a young woman, is really important to me.

Is there anywhere other than the script that you took inspiration from when creating her, anyone you thought of or anything like that who she's like?

Iris is 100% me. I think I've been lucky in my career to play characters that I just identify with on more than one level. It's several levels of Iris that makeup everything that I am. She's basically a younger version of myself: the same tenacity, the same strength, just I'm going to handle my business. I don't have everything together, but I'm going to handle my business until I do have everything together.
Aliyah RoyaleI think, in my own life, I did the same thing that Iris did, put everyone else first, take care of everyone else and think that by doing that I'm taking care of myself, but really I wasn't. I think Iris was a big reality check for me, a big wake up call, and being able to discover myself within her has been really powerful. In episode four, I want to say, something really changes for Iris and me. We both have a similar life in the way that we missed a lot of experiences that you get growing up. In episode four, we both got to experience something that we've never had before, and that really changed the character for me.

Well, I guess I can't ask you what that thing is! [laughs]

So, is there anything that you did to prepare? I mean, I'm guessing you didn't go watching a bunch of zombie movies, [laughs] but is there anything else you did? And have you at least watched the regular show at all by now? I'm just curious.
Oh, absolutely; that's how I know that Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) is my favorite character. I've seen bits and pieces here and there.

If my brothers were watching it downstairs, I'd like to sneak behind the couch, or I'd be sitting on the steps watching over them towards the TV, and then when something scary would happen, I'd cry and run, basically. [laughs] But yeah, I've read some of the comics just to see where we're coming from.
I think what I like about World Beyond, is that there isn't a comic for it. It's a brand-new story that literally is in the hands of Matt Negrete, our showrunner, our writers room, and us. We don't have a playbook like the other show had. These are all new characters that we're bringing to life, and I just hope that we're doing the same justice that we would be doing if we were working with the comic book characters.

Well, I'm enjoying it so far.

So, have any of the actors from one of the other shows talked to you or given you advice or anything like that about being on the new show?

We did a panel a little while ago, where several of them did give really good advice. Also, we have like a kickoff party that's airing [Saturday] where you'll see a bunch of cool messages from people from The Walking Dead and from Fear - from Carol (Melissa McBride)! One of the biggest things was just, “Enjoy the ride. It's an incredible fan base, and live in it.” And I swear, from the moment we stepped out on stage for New York Comic-Con, I have been living in this fan base. Especially the Brazil fans are crazy and amazing. I'm really happy to be here and be part of this family.
Aliyah RoyaleYeah, I think though it's probably going to change a lot more. You're not quite getting the full effect with quarantine and everything.

I think it's pretty lax; it's pretty chill right now. It's mostly direct messages and fan art. I can't wait until I'm back on set and there're a bunch of people just like on the set in Virginia. I remember, when we first touched down, everybody knew that we were there shooting The Walking Dead, like literally everyone. I remember someone saying, “Hey, I auditioned to be a walker on your show,” and I went back to production. I was like, “Hey, people have been coming up to me like, ‘Oh, I wanted to be a walker.’” They were like, “Yeah, 8000 people came out just to audition to be walkers.”
That’s a lot. [laughs]
[laughs] I was like, “Okay, they all just came to Virginia for that;” this fan base is awesome! I'm ready for it.
I don't know, it sounds like fun, but I think something like that would be, I don't know, claustrophobic-feeling, at least for me, with the whole makeup.
You've got a little bit of a taste of the makeup in your dream sequence. It wasn’t quite as much as a regular walker, but can you talk about that aspect of it?
That's crazy. That's truly crazy to just be in that. It's a four hour process, and that' for that just was for my face, my neck, and my hands, basically, anything that you could see, because I was in a long sleeve dress and cardigan, so I was covered pretty well, but that's a long process.

I have a super cool time lapse video that I'm going to post at some point, but just to be able to play both sides of it. It's hard to transform into a walker until they kill your character. [laughs] So, I was happy that I got to have that experience without taking Iris off [the show]. Yeah, I hope I hope I get to transform like that again.
I know you said the empties really freaked you out before. Has that gotten a little better with being on set and seeing all that all the time? I mean, after a while you have to kind of get used to it.
I want to lie and say, “Yes, I'm not afraid at all,” but that's a lie, so I'm not going to do that. During the day, it's easy, like when you're at catering, and it's lunchtime, and they have an iced tea in their hand or a Biscoff cookie. It's like, “Okay, you're a normal person,” because they don't have the teeth and the prosthetic and everything in. But at night, when it's a night shoot, and you got here at six, and it's two in the morning, and the world is a little foggy right now, no, it's still extremely terrifying. I sometimes I forget that I live in this Walking Dead universe. So, I'll step out of my trailer to head to set, and then I'll see groups of them just chillin, fully made up ready for action, and I remember I'm in The Walking Dead. [laughs]

[laughs] Do you have a favorite scene that you can tease without spoiling anything too badly?
Aliyah RoyaleYes, I do…there's a lot of fire on the show. There's this moment where we're trying to walk through the fire, and fires attracts the walkers that come in left and right, and we're trying to navigate our way through them, and Hope gets hurt. Then, Iris comes to her rescue, and she's battling these walkers, trying to keep them off of her sister. Then, when the walkers are coming after Iris, Hope does the same thing. It's this amazing scene where you just see [that] although these two sisters have their moment where they're like, “What are we doing? How could we have left the safe community? Why are we on the road? What's happening? What have we done, and why did we bring these incredibly nice people with us?” It's a moment where you see unity. The sisters are in one just mindset. We're working together, and the the point of it is, we're going to get out of this alive. I love that scene. It's a really powerful scene.

You had mentioned during the junket that there are a lot of secrets. I mean, obviously, you can't say specifics of anything, but is there anything you can kind of tease about that at all?
Our characters, they may be young, but they've seen some stuff. They've lived life a little earlier than expected, and certain things we've experienced that we never should have had to experience, but I think the biggest part of the show is me figuring out, you know, who's doing things for good and who's doing things for evil, I guess. We all seem like we're just kids trying to find our way, but the more these secrets come up, and you learn about our past, you wonder if there's ulterior motives deep down under the surface, and that's really fun to find out.
Other than being around the walkers - the empties, sorry - is there anything else that you found a particular challenge so far?

Probably the physicality of the role. I've never done stunts in my life, and I love a good cheeseburger, sometimes a double cheeseburger, and you don't want to eat that the night before you have a huge stunt sequence where you're battling several walkers, and you have your heavy weapon around, and you’ve got to get to work. So, I had to adjust my diet [laughs], maybe eat better maybe eat - What's that green stuff? Oh, yeah, salad or something. Something that would fuel my body but not be too heavy for when I'm jumping around. We were working in 110-degree days with the worst humidity and these very heavy leather jackets and these weapons and our backpacks, and to be able to do stunts with all that stuff on, you’ve got to be healthy. So, I definitely had to find a healthier balance between my cheesecake obsession while playing Iris. [laughs]

[laughs] Are you done filming the season? I'm not sure exactly when you guys were filming compared to the virus. You guys are done already for this year, aren’t you?

Aliyah RoyaleMmm hmm. We shot from July to December last year.

Okay, then you just made it. [laughs]
We just made it into postproduction, yeah. [laughs]
So, obviously, right now there are no physical conventions, but are you planning on doing anything maybe with the virtual ones that have kind of been going around everywhere?
Absolutely. I would love to just have an opportunity to see all the fans again and talk to everyone again. There's nothing like walking on that stage and just receiving the love and being able to talk to people off stage and be like, “Hi, how are you?” Just living the show with them is going to be so incredible. At New York Comic-Con, they hadn't yet seen the show. They'd seen some type of sizzle reel trailer, but now people are going to actually see what we're about and have so much more to connect with, and I'm ready to experience that with them.

Then, just really quickly, for the people who haven't seen the show yet, can you give me three words to describe her? I’m sorry, I know that's hard usually.
Oh, my character, Iris. I'm going to go, “fierce, loyal, the boss.” [laughs] That's how I'll do that. That's a phrase, but there you go.

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