Melissa McBride: Carol Represents 'The Walking Dead' Viewers

'Each episode feels more dangerous,' says the actress

Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon and Melissa McBride as Carol on The Walking Dead
Gene Page/AMC
Norman Reedus and Melissa McBride as Daryl Dixon and Carol on 'The Walking Dead'
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Last week, in anticipation of The Walking Dead's fourth season premiere, Rolling Stone published exclusive interviews with six cast and crew members, including Andrew Lincoln, Norman Reedus and David Morrissey. But we were just getting started. Check back tomorrow and everyday this week for more conversations with your favorite characters, including Carl, Michonne and today, Carol.

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Did you think Carol would last as long as she has?
I thought for sure I would be dead. When I got the job, from what it sounded like, there was no guarantee the series would be picked up – no guarantee the character would be recurring.  I'm amazed that you and I are here talking, three and a half years later.

Why do you think she's survived?
She's got a fan base. Maybe she's lasted because there's just something about Carol that represents something in the viewers. I also think there was a lot of story to be had with her coming from the background of abuse that she had – coming from the world that she had come from. There was so much room for exploration and growth.

Do you live in fear of that phone call saying it's over for Carol?
[Producer] Glen Mazzara called to tell me that he was planning on killing Carol last season. I said, "It's really a shame, because there's a lot to her." He had the writers all on speakerphone. He was interested in knowing what I thought. I went into saying, "Carol is probably this woman that's got the Avon starter kits and Tupperware starter kits in that back bedroom. She took that course with Tony Robbins. She knows she's capable of so much more, but she's just in that cycle. So, it's a shame, but you've got to do what you've got to do. I understand." I never heard words come out of my mouth so fast and so sure. I was defending my own life.

How does Scott Gimple's way of running the show differ from the past showrunners?
Scott is just one of the most interesting people I know – he has such a great depth of knowledge. He's written some of the best scripts we've had. What's great and different about this season is we're going to be seeing a lot more character development. Each episode feels more dangerous and more intimate. He's going to very dark places. It feels more important. This season, the issues that they're dealing with, the situations that they're getting in, the tensions in the relationships – it's about very important things.

Do you have a sense of why the show has been such a phenomenon?
There sure are a lot of theories, aren't there? The zombies represent financial breakdown or the people who are just going through life asleep, hungry. I think because we play it for real – like this is a terrible, terrible thing that's been unleashed on the world and we don't know what it is but it's killing the people that we love and we have to do really hard things to continue to survive. It's interesting to see death chasing you around like that.

There's so much feedback for the show – from blogs, recaps, reviews and Twitter. Do you pay attention to any of that?
Yeah!

Do you respond to any of it, either publicly or personally?
I will while I'm reading it, like, "Oh my God, what an asshole!" "How old are you?" It's one o'clock in the morning and I can't believe I'm still reading this shit. Every once in a while, just as much as I say, "You've got to be kidding me," I'll say, "I understand your point of view. I was kind of thinking that myself." It doesn't filter back into what I do except every once and a while I'm thinking, "Gosh, you know, it would be nice if I didn't have such gray hair." But it's too late now to do anything about it.