Fall TV Preview

Sarah Wayne Callies: The Walking Dead Season 2 'Somehow Makes Last Year Look Tame!'

The second season of AMC’s gruesome, gritty, and incredibly poignant saga, The Walking Dead, is finally upon us (kicking off this Sunday at 9/8c). TVLine spoke with Sarah Wayne Callies — who plays perpetually conflicted alpha female Lori Grimes — about what shocks and gnaws Season 2 will bring. (Her response: More of the same, only better… and gorier!)

TVLINE | The Walking Dead‘s Season 2 premiere seems to elevate Lori to a whole new, take-charge level, particularly when it comes to her devotion to Rick. Is that the season-long arc for your character?
Everybody’s expectations start to wear on Rick (played by Andrew Lincoln) and erode him, and Lori becomes simultaneously very protective of him and also tries to take the burden off. Rick and Lori’s story in the first seven or eight episodes is that of two people trying to protect each other by shouldering responsibilities meant for the other person, and ultimately they collapse under the weight of trying to do that independently. Before the world went to hell, these two people hadn’t figured out in their marriage how to be a team or work together, which is why there is so much tension. The irony of the apocalypse is that it may be the best thing to ever happen to their marriage. [Laughs]

TVLINE | Talk a little about Lori’s relationship with Shane in the second season. It seems more conflicted than ever.
One of the most dangerous things that happened to Lori in Season 1 was Shane (Jon Bernthal) saying, “I love you, and I think you love me, too.” This season, she’s very torn about his decision to leave [the group]. On the one hand, it simplifies a lot of things for her; on the other, her husband loves him, [her son] Carl loves him, and he’s needed to protect the group. For whatever water’s under the bridge between the two of us, he’s also one of two people alive on the planet right now — as far as I know — that knew Lori in high school, and we’re in a world where you can never underestimate the value of somebody knowing your history. Letting go of Shane becomes much more emotionally difficult that she expected, and whatever choice he makes, she’s going to feel she made the wrong decision out of impulse.

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TVLINE | How much of the season will be spent examining these two relationships of Lori’s? Or does she eventually lean more towards one of the men?
Certainly Lori goes back and forth with Shane’s decision to leave. A big decision she has to make this season is which of these two men can best keep her son safe? Is it Shane’s more pragmatic approach? Or is it Rick’s hope in the world? Rick and Lori have a whole lot of issues to work out — even though he may not be aware of what they all are. There’s a major secret hanging between the two of them that just gets more powerful the longer it’s left unspoken.

TVLINE | What is Carl’s journey this season? What’s that dynamic between mother and son?
Carl (Chandler Riggs) has a really interesting journey this season, and it’s a shorter one than Lori would have wanted. Something that happens during the premiere really changes Lori’s parenting decisions. There’s now a sense that keeping him too sheltered is a risk. It’s no longer a matter of how we can keep this kid safe until we reach safety. We now have to teach him how to survive in this world, because he’s got to grow up here.

TVLINE | Are there any standout moments for you so far in Season 2?
Lori finally does get involved in a more hand-to-hand combat way with some of these walkers. There is what I think is the grossest zombie we’ve had so far, and it shows up at a certain point and I’m in the scene, and the actor that the walker was closest to actually almost threw up. [Laughs] [Executive producer] Greg Nicotero is a mad scientist and keeps coming up with ever more-horrific ways of destroying the human body. There’s also a cool scene with a horse that was a lot of fun to shoot. And we’ve got some new actors this season, and that’s amazing. [Scott Wilson, Lauren Cohan and Pruitt Taylor Vince play Hershel Greene, his daughter Maggie and ranch foreman Otis.] Scott Wilson is something else, a real powerhouse and someone I have real admiration for. Working with him has been an incredible honor. I won’t spoil it for you, but there are also some amazing scenes between two characters you would never expect to give comfort to one another. They are some of my favorite scenes in the new season so far — just these new relationships, which are extraordinary and really human.

TVLINE | Having seen the second season premiere, there appears to be much more punch in every episode. Is that a safe assumption?
Absolutely. I thought Season 1 was amazing and I’m so proud of it, but somehow this season makes last year look tame! And I don’t quite know how they did that. [Laughs]