By now, you’ve probably stopped sobbing over this week’s episode of The Walking Dead — probably! — and, if that’s so, it means two things: 1) You need some Visine. And 2) you have questions.
To answer them, TVLine turns to Sarah Wayne Callies, whose final scenes as ill-fated Lori Grimes were as beautiful — and as horrifying — as any we’ve ever seen.
In the following Q&A with TVLine, the actress opens up about lying to the world for five months, her biggest regret about leaving the show, why she believes Lori’s final wish was the right one, whether she will continue to watch the show and much more.
TVLINE | Your performance last night was amazing, but I have to say, what really impressed me was that you kept this secret for so long. You shot the episode in June, which means you had to basically lie your way through Comic-Con.
It was the single hardest thing of this entire process, knowing that I had to [keep quiet] from the middle of June until the middle of November. And then I had to work on another project, [the film Black Sky]. I got onto that set and there were a lot of people who were fans of the show that were like, “Aren’t you shooting right now?” And I basically told them that every character this season has more episodes off than they’ve ever had, and the writers were kind enough to accommodate this schedule — all of which is true. But it was also deliberately misleading. It was by far the hardest thing. But [AMC] was very clear: You can tell your mom, you can tell your husband, and that’s basically it. [Laughs] It was a real challenge. I think we were all very conscious of the ways in which Shane’s death got out [before the episode aired]. And while it didn’t diminish [Jon Bernthal’s] performance, I think it diminished the experience of the audience watching it. So the publicity team at AMC said, “Look, we’re going to keep working like you are still the leading lady of the show for the rest of the season. And then when you die it’s going to be crazy.” And it seems like that worked. To be honest, I can’t believe it. I’m floored.
TVLINE | I was looking back at the interview I did with you at Comic-Con [scroll down for video] and I actually asked you what it will be like when the inevitable day comes when Lori dies — and you lied to my face. Well done.
Well, I do lie for a living. [Laughs] I’m an actor.
TVLINE | I want to ask you about the choice Lori made to sacrifice her own life to save her child’s. What would you say to those folks who think it was a selfish decision to saddle Rick with not one but two children in the apocalypse?
I think that’s ridiculous. [Laughs] She’s providing the most powerful symbol of hope and renewal that exists — which is this idea that life can go on and can grow, even in the midst of the end of the world. She was also losing about a cup of blood a minute. And if you can’t deliver the baby and you can’t stop the bleeding then she’s dying one way or the other. As soon as the blood hit Maggie’s hand Lori knows she’s not leaving the boiler room. And if she dies and the baby dies then the baby turns. So then someone’s going to have to put a bullet in that baby. She realizes that one of them could potentially come out of this alive or they could both die for sure. And given how hard Rick has worked to protect Lori and the baby, the greatest gift she can give him at that point is at least the success with the baby. He did it. He did it. He got her to term; he kept the baby alive.
TVLINE | Were you on set for the climactic scene in the prison yard where Rick learns that Lori died.
Andy [Lincoln] asked me not to be on set. But I couldn’t leave, so I was at base camp with the trailers. I could hear him screaming and crying [while shooting the scene]. I was sitting there with IronE Singleton [T-Dog] kind of going, “Oh my God. This is horrible.” And then one by one as the scene ended they came back to the trailers to change and go home, and I put my arms around Andy. When he goes down the rabbit hole he goes all the way down. I put my arms around him and I was like, “Look at me. I’m right here. I’m alive! Andy and Sarah are just fine. Rick and Lori are over, but Andy and Sarah are just fine.” [Laughs]
TVLINE | What did you think of that particular scene when you saw it for the first time?
I thought it was brilliant. I thought it was brilliantly shot to have Carl strong and cold in the foreground and Rick collapsed. I know they shot it a bunch of different ways. There were a bunch of different ideas about how that scene could play. But it was beautiful because in some ways it’s the apotheosis of Carl. It’s this young boy having just performed a great act of both mercy and violence [against] his mother recognizing that dad’s not going to be able to get me through this right now, so I’ll be the strong one.
TVLINE | Is there any part of you that’s bummed you never got to play a zombie?
[Hesitates]. No. [Laughs] Not really at all. The only regret that I have about that is that [Walking Dead special effects guru] Greg Nicotero has these amazing stylized posters made of the people who have left the show as zombies, and the one of Jon is phenomenal. And I asked him, “Do I get a poster?! I want a poster!” And he was like, “You didn’t turn into a zombie.” But I remember Jon telling me that the zombie transformation is so hard. We spend the entire show hating them and running from them and trying to kill them. And to watch that transformation would be incredibly difficult. Greg has told me that they’ve had people weep in the chair. Some grown-up actors needed a scotch. It’s an emotional transformation. And I think maybe I’ve had enough emotion already. [Laughs]
TVLINE | Will you watch the show as a fan now?
Yes. I’m kind of looking forward to it [because] it’ll be the first time I’ll be watching without knowing what’s going to happen. I get really easily scared, so I may have to watch from across the room with a pillow over my eyes for some of it. [Laughs] But they are phenomenal actors. Especially David [Morrissey]. The stuff he’s doing this season [as the Governor] is just blowing me away. One of my biggest regrets is that I don’t get to work with him. We were both really looking forward to working together.
TVLINE | Are you interested in another TV gig? And, if so, would you be looking for something, um, a touch lighter?
My mom and my best friend have both asked that the next thing I’m in involve ponies and rainbows. [Laughs] To be perfectly honest, I can’t imagine anybody casting a sitcom going, “I know — we need Sarah Wayne Callies!” [Laughs] If I was looking to star in the next 2 Broke Girls I don’t think anyone would take me seriously. That said, a good script is a good script. And whether it’s television or theater or feature films, you go where the writing is. I shot Black Sky over the summer and right now I’m not doing anything. [Laughs] I’m taking off for the holidays. But starting in January, they’ll send me a bunch of scripts and I’ll read them and see which ones I love and see which ones love me. And we’ll figure out what comes next.