***The folowing interview contains spoilers for 2.08***
In this week’s episode of The Walking Dead: World Beyond
, “Returning Point”, Will is deeply affected by the death of Indira (Anna Khaja)’s son, a young man who he didn't know very well. Why was Will so moved? Actor Jelani Alladin thinks that for Will, Dev (Abubakr Ali)’s death “symbolizes the death of humanity of [the CRM], that they simply no longer care. No matter who it is or who you are,” Alladin told Scifi Vision, “they will kill you if they feel like you’re a threat, and that shakes Will to his core.”
For the actor, Dev’s death also raises real-life issues. “On top of that, you add another person of color being taken out of this world. I think that is the connection that I personally was invested in. How do you go to a mother and tell them that their son has just been shot, killed? And reflecting all the things that we went through in the year of 2020, bringing all of that into the mix? I was like, ‘The police, the threat, this huge organization just innocently took your son, and I couldn't do anything about that. I don't even know how to begin to apologize to you or have the words to say I'm sorry.’”
In our interview, Alladin discussed how Will’s feelings prompt him to initiate a shootout with the CRM. In The Walking Dead
universe, selfless risks don’t always end well - especially when they are out of character. And Alladin thinks “it is wildly not in Will’s character to actually take that risk.
“…[Will] is always calculating the ways that things could go down, where there is minimal conflict, minimal upset,” Alladin reminded us. “Here, he has this gun that's, first of all, not his own. This was given to him by Dev, and this is his chance to kind of redeem Dev's death by saying, ‘I will not let them kill your mom. I will not let them kill anyone else.’”
But there’s more to it than saving lives, said Alladin. “It's more of an act of defiance against the CRM and defiance against every principle he's ever lived, ever had. It's like, ‘Okay, now at this point, I have to kill someone. I actually have to go to there.’ We always say, ‘when they go low, you go high,’ but this point, Will just goes low with them. He's like, ‘I'm going to go low too. If that's where you want to play, that's where I have to play to survive. I got to go there.’”
Alladin also teased what fans can expect in the final two episodes. “I think that people should hold on to their seats a little bit. What I love about our show is that just when you think you've got it figured out, you think it's boring, just when you think ‘these characters are annoying,’ it surprises you completely. There are lots of surprises in store in episode nine and ten. I can't say more than that, but I will say that when I read each of those episodes, I actually audibly gasped out loud many times. So, I think that it's pretty wild what happens.”
Alladin also spoke in detail about filming several key scenes, including Will’s conversation with Indira and the shootout at the Perimeter. Read the complete interview below, and don’t miss World Beyond
Sundays on AMC.
I'd love to talk about Will's emotional arc throughout this episode. In the early scenes of this episode, he seems to be deeply affected by the death of this young man, who I think he didn't really know that well.
At the end of episode six, when we found out that Dev is dead, we were talking about that, about “will people care?” Will people care that this character is gone? We have not seen much of this character; there's not much investment made around him in particular, but I think his death symbolizes something far greater for Will. It symbolizes the death of humanity of this organization, that they simply no longer care. No matter who it is or who you are, they will kill you if they feel like you're a threat, and that shakes Will to his core.
Then, on top of that, you add another person of color being taken out of this world. I think that is the connection that I personally was invested in. How do you go to a mother and tell them that their son has just been shot, killed? And reflecting all the things that we went through in the year of 2020, bringing all of that into the mix? I was like, “The police, the threat, this huge organization just innocently took your son, and I couldn't do anything about that. I don't even know how to begin to apologize to you, or have the words to say I'm sorry.”
And I think it was really cool that the opening sequence was shot MOS and that the only line that was written in the script was Will says, “Indira, I'm sorry,” but the journey of how we got there was all invented by us on the day with [director] Lily [Mariye], every actor being present in the moment, every person on set being aware that this is a very intense, emotional scene for everybody. Let's have the respect of giving everyone their space. We came to work that day, and I remember, specifically, it was a gloomy day, whereas every other day, that week was absolute sunshine. I remember the energy of each actor feeling so tuned into each other and so dependent upon each other that no one actually carried the heavy load, the emotional load of the scene. It was shared. It was one of the coolest days I had at work on set at The Walking Dead
.In the next scene, or the next act, Will has a conversation with Indira about being selfish. She feels that her son's dead because she was unwilling to die, because she was selfish. I was really worried that Will might die in this episode, because he expressed a positive, hopeful attitude towards the future, and I was like “Oh, it's The Walking Dead. You're dead, sorry.” As soon as you're positive about the future, the writers are going to kill you.
When I was reading it for the first time, I thought that as well. I said, “Oh, you're going to die by the end of this episode.” I absolutely thought that. I absolutely said, “He's done.” I was like, “Why haven't they called me and told me that I'm dying? This is happening right now.” And I agree with you, I think that is something we actually don't see a lot. I think, in The Walking Dead
universe, someone expressing this idea of hope, this idea that I have this [dream], it's like an “I Have a Dream” speech. He's like, “I have this dream of my future,” and sharing that with Indira, I think it's the first person he actually shared it with, ever.
Not even Felix?
Not even Felix, no. I actually think their relationship is far more complicated in that we've actually never even seen them say, seen Felix say to Will “I love you” back. This is one of the things we discussed with Loren [Yaconelli] and Matt [Negrete], that sometimes people show love through actions and not words.
But I think that with Indira he feels so safe, and there's an energy of gratitude around this character who has sacrificed everything for his safety, that now he wants to inspire her, to be like, “You have taught me how to be this strong and actually how to be a fighter. So don't pass judgment on yourself, because what you think you did was bad or good. You did what you had to do to survive, period. And there's nothing wrong with that. And there's also nothing wrong with fighting for what you want.” I think that's a very strong moment [for] any to humans to have. I don't know if I've had them with my best friend in real life.
I became even more convinced Will was going to die when he talks to Indira about how “it's okay to be a little selfish,” and then he acts in a wholly selfless way when the town is under attack. I was like okay, “Now he's really dead,” but that bullet caught someone else.
Can you talk about that? I think if you've been watching, it's in Will's character to take that risk, but could you speak to that a little bit?
I think it is wildly not in Will's character to actually take that risk. He says in episode five to Felix, “smart and safe,” right? “Do what you've got to do and get out of there.” He's always calculating the ways that things could go down, where there is minimal conflict, minimal upset. Here, he has this gun that's, first of all, not his own. This was given to him by Dev, and this is his chance to kind of redeem Dev's death by saying, “I will not let them kill your mom. I will not let them kill anyone else.” It's more of an act of defiance against the CRM and defiance against every principle he's ever lived, ever had. It's like, “Okay, now at this point, I have to kill someone. I actually have to go to there.” We always say “when they go low, you go high,” but this point, Will just goes low with them. He's like, “I'm going to go low too. If that's where you want to play, that's where I have to play to survive. I’ve got to go there.”
I'd like to talk about filming that shootout. It was unusual that there are no zombies involved. We've seen battles [where] all that shooting brings zombies in or some forces will use zombies as a proxy soldier, but this was just a good old-fashioned shootout.
Which I think is a little unusual, so I'd like to talk about that and also, reading on your background, you've done Broadway; you've done some lighter fare. You've done a bunch of episodic television, but you haven't done a ton of action, I think.
No, and this is my first. So, we'll work backwards. This is my first action-packed series. Will, this season, has used multiple weapons, and now here I am being taught how to use a gun on set, very safely. I was just thrilled to get the chance to explore something like this, because, as an actor, unless you're in a Marvel film or you're in a film about world war, you don't get to do much of this. So, learning the pieces, learning the language, learning the body language of how to come off as convincing with all of this as well, that was really, really cool and interesting for me, as an actor, to go through the journey of that. I felt entirely safe the entire time, and I'm thankful to all the people on set that made that happen.
The Perimeter is a gated community, or a guarded community, so the zombies are kept out. So, the actual idea of this happening at the Perimeter means that this is truly humans on human, and that is rare for The Walking Dead
, because it's always the humans versus the humans with the dead as a decoy or as a way of distraction or as the weapon, period. Here, it's like, “No, it's my spirited myself versus your spirited yourself.” I think it's just the beginning of what the showdown between the CRM is going to be. It has to be. These are people being like, “What I believe in is stronger than what you believe in,” and they're going to fight until the end, until it's taken down and destroyed. All of that was really, really fun, as an actor, to dive into. I think that I look forward to doing it more. I remember walking off set being like, “Oh, I want more. I want more. Can someone call Marvel please? I'm ready. I'm ready now. Thank you.” [laughs]
Okay, well, maybe they'll read this and make that call. [laughs]
I hope so, I hope so. [laughs]
So, there are two more episodes left, and they promise to be action-packed, I think.
Yeah. I think that people should hold on to their seats a little bit. What I love about our show is that just when you think you've got it figured out, just when you think it's boring, just when you think “these characters are annoying,” it surprises you completely. There are lots of surprises in store in episode nine and ten. I can't say more than that, but I will say that when I read each of those episodes, I actually audibly gasped out loud many times. So, I think that it's pretty wild what happens.
Great. I want to ask you what comes next, but I know better than to ask anyone in this franchise for a spoiler; I know you won't give me one. There's always a chance for any actor to cross over onto another show or into the movies. Setting that aside, the show is coming to an end. Do you have any other things queued up? Is there a chance for your fans to see you in another show or another or movie or on the stage again, while we wait for more?
Those things are being finalized as we speak. So, at the moment, it's all up in the air and in the universe, and I'm a free agent, and I'm trying to figure out what things are going to stick for the next year of my life. In terms of Walking Dead
, if my character survives these last two episodes, if he survives, I would love to. Or if he doesn't survive, actually [still], because the Tales of The Walking Dead
is happening. I would love to see more of Will and continue to unpack more of him. Yeah, I think that the fans should just hold on. More information will soon come, and all will be revealed. I think it's worth the wait. I think it's worth the watch.