Fangirlish got a chance to speak with The Walking Dead: World Beyond star Aliyah Royale all about the AMC spin-off. Royale plays Iris Bennett, a survivor of the zombie apocalypse who lives in a gated community 10 years after the end of the world. This student and leader leaves the safety of her home in search of her missing father and sets off on a journey that will change her forever.
Fangirlish: What do you say to fans of The Walking Dead who call World Beyond a YA version of the AMC show?
Aliyah Royale: They’re 100% correct. You’re looking at this universe from a much younger perspective. Yeah the characters are young, but the differences they have, trauma that totally goes beyond age. There’s serious secrets, serious issues, that have not been resolved and that are coming up along the road. You can definitely say like, “It’s a total young adult version of The Walking Dead.” But the fact that Hope had to make a decision that she thought was a justice based decision to harm and kill a pregnant woman after seeing her mother die in front of her. So it’s like, “Yeah, we’re younger but we’ve seen some stuff.”
I like that there’s a younger perspective on The Walking Dead because we don’t have the same view of the world being dead and the world already ended. We don’t think like that. We know the dangers and we know the risks. But we are more focused on what our lives look like at the end of the world and not the walkers or the empties.
Fangirlish: What parts of Iris Bennett and her journey do you personally relate to the most?
Aliyah Royale: I definetly take on a leadership role in my life. Just keeping everyone safe…you know, the reason why everyone’s on the road because of a decision that Iris made to go after her father. She had to encourage her sister to make the same decision and then the rest we’re like, “We’re gonna go if you’re gonna go too!” Which was totally unexpected. Iris was just fine with putting herself in danger for a greater good or as a means to an end. No one wants to put other people in danger, especially when you’ve grown to love and appreciate these new friends, this new family that she has. So that worry of making sure that everyone around me is ok, that’s always something that’s at the forefront of my mind.
Fangirlish: As a woman of color, I wanted to ask why do these stories continue being so important?
Aliyah Royale: I love it and I think it’s important to tell a story from a woman’s perspective, especially a woman of color. I think it’s the first time we’ve had two women of color at the forefront, leading the series. This entire journey is based on Hope and Iris. And the fact that we’re young adds a lot to it.
Just the way that young people in general, especially young women, are portrayed in TV and Film today. We’re still seen as these delicate and impressionable creatures. And that’s not the facts for each and every young woman out there. I was very developed, very assertive, very mindful and self aware of who I was by 15 at the very latest. And the fact that we get to tell these stories of young people making decisions, being decisive, accepting the hazards and still choosing to carry on. That’s a big deal.
People are quick to call it “rebellion” and “they’re naive, they don’t understand” and maybe I do understand. Maybe I’m just not afraid. And being able to play a character like that is very important. And I think we should see more young adult women in TV and Film Today.
Fangirlish: And how do you feel about joining the ranks of Michonne and Rosita?
Aliyah Royale: Honestly, they’re iconic and I’m blessed to live in the same universe as them. I admire them and I definitely look up to them. I just, again, I feel blessed at being part of a franchise that has women like Michonne. It’s a blessing.
Fangirlish: What do you think your characters reaction would be like if she crossed Michonne?
Aliyah Royale: I would be like, “I want to be youuu! Can you teach me everything you know?” Easily. I think the reason why Iris confided in her therapist so much is because she’s a strong woman, you know what I mean? I think Iris has been missing that figure in her life. I mean, she has Felix, who is like an older brother. And she has her dad. But she lost her mom at a really young age. There aren’t a lot strong females in Iris’ life so to have someone like Michonne around to probably…Iris probably would adopt her as maternal figure. Just this powerful and strong woman, that’d be incredible for Iris to see.
Fangirlish: The Walking Dead: World Beyond seems to have tons of physicality to it? How’d you conquer and did you become a badass by the end of it?
Aliyah Royale: We were tired by the end of it. I was like, “Wow, I should’ve done some training 3 months prior to this.” Because this was a lot. I didn’t know that the physicality would be that vigorous until we had landed and were literally doing four hours of stunt training a day with different weapons and learning different combats. And then when I had my actual weapon, she was much heavier and larger than any of the weapons I had trained with, so I was like, “Thank you for that!”
It was definitely hot under those leather jackets and the boots and the backpacks. For the first two episodes I was able to wear my weapons collapsible. Like, across my back. But then after that, “Just leave her extended.” I’d rather have my weapon in my hands 24/7 than carry any of the backpacks or the travel packs. Having that weapon, your character weapon, is what makes you feel like a Walking Dead warrior. It’s what makes me feel like I was really part of this universe. It made it all more real. I loved having my character weapon.
Fangirlish: Were the packs, were they light or heavy as well?
Aliyah Royale: No, they were definitely heavy. There’s just so much…just the water bottles and half the time the packs were stuffed with blankets or something. And other times, we have to take items out of them. And just to do that with the jacket and weapon. It was a lot. I’m definitely going into season two way more prepared than what I did in season one.
Fangirlish: Can you tease a little bit about what comes next for Iris when it comes to the rest of the season of The Walking Dead: World Beyond?
Aliyah Royale: Well…there’s definitely love in the apocalypse. And Iris finds it. Whether she can hold onto it or not is a different story. There’s this awesome relationship that you see developed…we finally meet Felix’s boyfriend Will. But then there’s a lot of challenges for Hope and Iris. That relationship is going to be strained as time goes on and certain things that are revealed. But I’m excited for everybody to see it. Again, The Walking Dead: World Beyond, come for the empties and the walkers and the slaying of it all, but you stay for the characters, you stay for the investment in the storyline. And you want them to be ok at the end and I’m excited for everyone to see whether they’re ok or not at the end.
The Walking Dead: World Beyond airs Sundays at 10/9c on AMC.