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Nico Tortorella & Jelani Alladin Talk The Walking Dead: World Beyond Season 2

Jelani Alladin and Nico TortorellaRecently, AMC premiered the second and final season of The Walking Dead: World Beyond. At the end of last season, Felix, played by Nico Totorella, was reunited with his boyfriend Will, played by Jelani Alladin. Will, who was originally a security guard at the campus colony, escaped the CRM when they tried to kill him for asking too many questions. He recently revealed the devastating news to Felix and Iris (Aliyah Royale) that the Omaha campus has been completely destroyed.

During a recent roundtable interview, the two talked to SciFi Vision about the betrayals their characters have faced, Will by the CRM, and Felix by Huck (Annet Mahendru). Alladin said that after being lied to his character will be less trusting. “I think it's a matter of ‘I don't believe anything that anybody says. I believe their actions,’ and your actions are going to give me answers to what your moral compass is. I think that we'll see that throughout the course of the season, the interactions with Will and the CRM, Will and Huck.”

Tortorella agreed that’s it’s hard for their characters to trust. “Not only that, [but] their entire town is gone. Their home has completely disappeared, and we don't really know how or why that happened. I think that the level of unknown is so massive, but it's not bigger than a zombie apocalypse. We've already hit peak of like, ‘What is going on?’ and then everything else becomes less surprising after that. So, yes, they don't trust the people around them, but I think it's hard to trust the world when, all of a sudden, you could have dead people coming back to life to eat you.

‘…I think the bigger question for this season is what is the difference between good and evil? The space between those two is a lot wider than any of us would care to admit.”

The two also talked to the site about what they have learned about themselves from working on the series. Jelani realized how much he loves getting to do stunts and action sequences. “For all the fights, for all the stunts, I think that was a such a cool part of the universe, something I've never really gotten to do in any job I've done before. So, it was great to be in fight training and learn how to use different weapons and actually get to apply that.”

Tortorella talked to SciFi Vision about how much life has changed with the pandemic and not knowing what’s to come. “It's just that every day is really different, and you never know what the world is going to look like tomorrow, who you're going to be at work with or how those energies are going to mend. As human beings, our experience on this planet is a traumatic one, and we have to find reasons to make it joyous and loving and worthwhile. That's really what this show is about. It's about creating life and sustaining life in a time when life is fragile, and we all know what that's like now. Every single person on this planet knows what that's like now, and I need to take that with me every single day.”

For the full interview, read the transcript below and watch The Walking Dead: World Beyond Sundays on AMC.

Zoom Interview
The Walking Dead: World Beyond
Nico Tortorella and Jelani Alladin

September 23, 2021


Jelani Alladin and Nico TortorellaQUESTION:   Talk about the relationship between Felix and Will.

JELANI ALLADIN:  I think the playing of this relationship was extremely fun. It was extremely fun to be vulnerable with Nico. It was extremely fun to yell at Nico and have people making jokes and laugh at me. Throughout the course of the season, there's no part left unexplored. That's what I loved about playing Will and Felix, is that you get the whole picture, and it's not a pretty picture. That's what relationships are, at least my history of relationships.

NICO TORTORELLA:  Yeah, I'm just gonna expand on that for a second. I just think it's nice to be able to even have the option to rely on a relationship in The Walking Dead universe, because it happens so far and few between, and this is one that's never really been done or seen to this extent. There is a responsibility and a power to that. That's been really rewarding, for sure.

SCIFI VISION:  So Huck (Annet Mahendru) betrayed Felix and the CRM betrayed Will. So, my question is, how has that affected them, and are they going to be less trusting maybe now as time moves on?

JELANI ALLADIN:  Yeah, I think 1,000% less trusting. I think it's a matter of “I don't believe anything that anybody says. I believe their actions,” and your actions are going to give me answers to what you're moral compass is. I think that we'll see that throughout the course of the season, the interactions with Will and the CRM, Will and Huck.

NICO TORTORELLA:  Not only that, their entire town is gone. Their home has completely disappeared, and we don't really know how or why that happened. I think that the level of unknown is so massive, but it's not bigger than a zombie apocalypse. We've already hit peak of like, “What is going on?” and then everything else becomes less surprising after that. So, yes, they don't trust the people around them, but I think it's hard to trust the world when, all of a sudden, you could have dead people coming back to life to eat you.

JELANI ALLADIN:  But there's an interesting thing that is like, what about the people that do put their arm out for you, that are like, “I'm going to actually take a risk and do something for you?” Then that becomes a special and specific kind of morality that these characters take to heart and take very personally.

NICO TORTORELLA:  Especially when it's supposed to be a bad guy that reaches an arm out, right? I think the bigger question for this season is what is the difference between good and evil? The space between those two is a lot wider than any of us would care to admit.

QUESTION:  Nico, Felix has had such a troubled adolescence, but yet he still feels comfortable trusting Bennett and Will. Talk about how that troubled adolescence has shaped him going forward and I guess their current circumstances though, as well.

NICO TORTORELLA:  Yeah, I think that being kicked out of the house for who you are is heavy and weighted. Felix isn't the first person that it's happened to and definitely not the last person. Years after that happened, the entire sky fell and the world changed all around him, and I think that it probably took weight off of his childhood that he didn't even know was possible. I think that we can all kind of relate to that over the last couple years. Anything that seemed like the most important thing in the world before 2020, then that happened, [and] it's like, “Oh, was that really as bad as I remember it?” And I think Felix has an ability to really see what's in front of him at any given point and live for that, rather live for an excuse of the past. That's what it means to not only survive, but to live. How do you thrive in your daily moments? I think that's the only way to be able to do it. You can't just continue to blame your past and where you came from or who you are in the world, and I know that's harder said than done.

QUESTION:   So, he's not really compartmentalizing anything. He's just kind of living in the moment, because all of that stuff in the past doesn't matter; right here and now matters the most?

NICO TORTORELLA:  And he's probably really good at disassociating and pretending like nothing happened. Like, I don't know anything about that. [laughs]

JELANI ALLADIN:  [laughs] I think that's also what makes Felix a great character to love, because it's why Will feels like, “I constantly want to be nurturing towards you; I constantly want to be allowing space for your flaws and your mess.” Will has a doctorate, but the sense is that, “There's things that you have not unpacked, but I want to unpack them with you. I want to go on the journey with you; I want to love you and accept that all of that is part of who you are,” which I think is fun to play.

Nico TortorellaQUESTION:  So, the relationship of Felix and Will is so refreshing in the universe of The Walking Dead, and, obviously, the way you stumbled upon each other in the final episode was just so heartwarming. So, like you said, this is the final season and everything is going to culminate eventually. So, could you elaborate on any twists or turns that viewers can expect from season two in your relationship?

JELANI ALLADIN:  I think that both these characters know that nothing in this world lasts forever, and at any moment, you can lose everything that you have, and that is alive and present every minute of these episodes for these two characters, once they have each other back. I already thought he was dead once, and who's not to say that if he goes away again, that I [won’t] lose him again forever? So, it's constantly, at a certain point, it's like, what do you have in your life, like, what you own, and for me, I have Felix, and I don't want to lose him ever again, and everything is a fight to keep it.

NICO TORTORELLA:  Yeah, and just in terms of twists and turns in this season, this season is a lot different than the first season was. The stakes are higher. We have more people involved, more storylines, more different areas of our world colliding. Anything that you thought this show was, I think as it continues to move on in the season, it becomes something else entirely, and be ready.

JELANI ALLADIN:  The stakes are high. The stakes get very high.

SCIFI VISION:  So, obviously the show was still about a virus, originally - has being on the show made you look at the pandemic differently, and on the flip side, has living through a pandemic made you look at the show differently?

NICO TORTORELLA:  Yeah, look, it's crazy how life imitates art and art imitates life. The messages are constantly all around us. We shot the first season of this show up until December of 2019. 2020 happened, and then we shot for six months in 2020, or 2021. Whatever, we were still deep in it, so we got that before and after. For me, personally, it felt like I got training for five, six months pre-pandemic. Okay, like this is what it's like live in this world. Then I had to live in the world for real, and then I got to go back and fight all over again with the stakes being so much higher both in waking life and television life. But also, The Walking Dead felt more relatable post-2020, and it didn't feel as horrid. And I think our job, as actors, the number one reason that we are hired, is to make a story feel relatable and to not have it feel foreign, and it was just easier the second time around, for sure.

JELANI ALLADIN:  Yeah, there's a line from the first episode of season two that haunts me; it haunted me like every day. I was there in Richmond, Virginia and it comes from Indira. She asks, “What do you live for?” And I think that after the pandemic, it put my whole world in perspective, like what do I live for? When you take away our jobs, what is left? What was left for me? For me was people that I love. I live for the people that I love, and I think that I was able to bring that to Will from learning living through this pandemic, and then the show then left me the gift of constantly asking myself, “What do I live for? What is the deeper meaning behind any of this?”

QUESTION:  Nico, it seems like Felix and Iris (Aliyah Royale) have a deeper bond this season. Talk about that. And Jelani, do you you notice that, how close they are as characters?

NICO TORTORELLA:  Now that Hope (Alexa Mansour) is gone and Felix is unclear on exactly what safety looks like, what's going on with Leo (Joe Holt) and the two people that he has in front of him are Iris and Will, and Iris being his sole responsibility in terms of needing to still take care of her, it's inevitable for them to grow closer. They're like kind of all they have in this moment. Obviously, Will is included in this, but not having access to Leo, I think, for Felix right now means that he kind of has to have that Papa Bear mentality doubled. I think it's also been interesting to see Iris grow up. She's not the same person that she was when we started this. And you have to get closer to someone in order to give them more freedom. That's just how relationships work, and we see that unfold in the second season, and it continues for the rest of the ten episodes.

JELANI ALLADIN:  And I think Will is an outsider to Felix and Iris's backstory. It's like the step wife that comes in. “Oh, this is your family? Okay, cool. I'm gonna learn how to interact with you and your family.” Right? So, Will's sensing that Felix and Iris, they have this burning desire to find Dr. Bennett (Holt); they have this burning desire to do whatever they need to do to take down the CRM and Will is like, “But I need you all to also think about this for a second. I understand where your pain and your fire's coming from, but also, I want you to be safe.” And I see the two of them on one side of the aisle, and then I'm on the other, and I'm trying to say, “Can we all work together to accomplish the same goal?” We all have the same mission, but it's clearly two very different ways of going at it.

NICO TORTORELLA:  It's not just two. There are many.

QUESTION:  Nico, I love Felix's relationship with Dr. Bennett. Does he just innately trust him because he took him in and helped him after the separation from his family? Is that also why he's willing to risk his life for these girls just because of his connection to the doctor?

NICO TORTORELLA:  Oh, yeah. He is in so many ways the only father figure that Felix really has. They have the shared experience of the trauma of the entire world together.That brings people closer, and Leo gave everything to Felix in a way that he had never experienced before, and Felix will always be indebted to him for that reason. I think a lot of this season is trying to figure out what it actually means to give back and how you can give back for yourself in order to honor what was given to you.

SCIFI VISION:  What's something that each of you learned about yourselves after working on the show for two seasons?

JELANI ALLADIN:  Action sequences, sign me up! For all the fights, for all the stunts, I think that was a such a cool part of the universe, something I've never really gotten to do in any job I've done before. So, it was great to be in fight training and learn how to use different weapons and actually get to apply that.

NICO TORTORELLA:  It's just that every day is really different, and you never know what the world is going to look like tomorrow, who you're going to be at work with or how those energies are going to mend. As human beings, our experience on this planet is a traumatic one, and we have to find reasons to make it joyous and loving and worthwhile. That's really what this show is about. It's about creating life and sustaining life in a time when life is fragile, and we all know what that's like now. Every single person on this planet knows what that's like now, and I need to take that with me every single day. So, thank you, Walking Dead.

Jelani AlladinJELANI ALLADIN:  That shared commonality I think allowed space for more collaboration than I've ever had before. It really allows space for what are you feeling. What am I feeling? What do you want to give; what I want to give? Nothing really became selfish. It actually became even more selfless and became more about, what is the connection that we're all having in this moment? What are we all trying to share? What are we all trying of say? And the care for each other was was really large at this time, and it's something I will never take for granted, how much care was put into the work and each other.

NICO TORTORELLA:  Yeah, we definitely had a crew on this job, not just the actors, the cast and the crew. Shooting anything in 2020 or 21 has been really, really difficult. The set is not the same as it used to be. Families were built, for sure, and relationships were established, and no matter how often we talk or how often we see each other, this moment in our lives will be remembered as one of the most important. And I miss it. I miss it all the time.

Like I was at a Yankees game. This is an aside now, but I was at a Yankees game a couple weeks ago, and there were a bunch of dudes, a group of friends just sitting together watching the game. We had such a solid crew that was always together when we were shooting this TV show, and it made me miss all of you so much. I was like, “Oh, I wish Jelani and Ted [Sutherland] and Hal [Cumpston] and Nick [Cantu] were all here and we were watching the Yankees game,” but you all are special people, and I will cherish the time we spent together forever.

JELANI ALLADIN:  I will have to say that we laughed a lot. So many ridiculous things happened, and you can't not explode in laughter. It got to the point where I couldn't actually do scenes with some people, because I would look at them and start laughing immediately, and it could be about nothing…It was like, “Okay, we're going away to camp, and we're all gonna come together and make this show, and we can't see anyone else, so we have to really spend the time with each other.” And it was the most beautiful bubble of exploration and fun and losing yourself a little bit and being like, “I'm gonna really go with the flow.” I second what Nico said about our crew. I think, without our crew, I would be so lost. I mean, our whole camera department who was holding my hand basically through the entire experience, I'm really thankful for them. Everyone came to work knowing that we had this obstacle in front of us, the pandemic, but we still wanted to get our jobs done as best as possible. And everybody came with a game spirit and I really -

NICO TORTORELLA:  Almost everybody. Almost everybody.

JELANI ALLADIN:  Yes, but I really, really appreciated the crew a lot. The crew for me, mad respect.

QUESTION:   Guys, was there a particular walker or maybe it's several walkers that impressed you as far as their level of being gross?

NICO TORTORELLA:  Gross? Well, the one that pulls his face off, that was definitely a real sequence. A lot of the walkers that we get to work with on a daily basis are stunt stunt folk, and we form these relationships with them, and there's a lot of times where it's the same person, just in a different mask. [laughs] So, it's easy to forget that they're zombies, because you have this relationship with them. But the makeup on on this job - and I think, post-2020 just rules around makeup had to to shift. We couldn't put contacts in walkers' eyes anymore this year, so masks had to change, and CGI is different this year than it was the year before. So, I'm excited to see exactly what they all look like this year. In the rest of the season, we get some pretty spectacular scenarios, but everyone showed up and did what they had to do.

QUESTION:  Anyone impress you, Jelani?

JELANI ALLADIN:  They all impressed me, because they all commit 1,000%. There was a day, and I think it actually is in the first two episodes, where they were standing in water and I was like, “They are going for it.” Some people are like mouth deep in the water, and you're just like, “wow, the commitment is really, really amazing.” I think they all brought their A games. That part of the unit, without that the show doesn't work. Without them feeling alive…it doesn't work. And so I thought they all brought their A game.

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