Interview by Michael J. Lee, Executive Editor for
June 11, 2021, introduction updated December 2021

A two-season limited series in the sprawling universe of The Walking Dead, World Beyond views the zombie apocalypse from the perspective of young survivors who have grown up in the undead shadow of global crisis and ever-present danger. Determined to reunite with their scientist father, sisters Iris (Aliyah Royale) and Hope (Alexa Mansour) are joined by friends Elton (Nicolas Cantu) and Silas (Hal Cumpston) as they leave the shelter of their community and embark on a treacherous cross-country journey.

While the first half of the show focuses on the core group's learning curve in dealing with the dead and the perils of the road, the second half zooms out for the bigger picture, detailing the machinations of the Civic Republic Military, a shadowy organization intent on rebuilding from the ashes of society by any means necessary. The CRM serves as the primary antagonist of World Beyond, while establishing continuity throughout the franchise with surreptitious appearances on both The Walking Dead and Fear the Walking Dead. Their narrative also addresses the science of the zombie plague in a way not seen since the first season finale of the prime series, further distinguishing the spin-off from its predecessors.

In this exclusive interview conducted between seasons one and two of The Walking Dead: World Beyond, Alexa Mansour shares her experience of diving into the role of rebellious, academically gifted teen Hope Bennett. She also talks about making the most of the real-life apocalypse that was the COVID-19 lockdown of 2020, productively using the time in isolation to work on her music and acquire a quarantine companion.

Season one of World Beyond is available on Blu-ray and DVD from RLJE Films.

Both seasons can be streamed on AMC+. To what extent were you familiar with the universe of The Walking Dead, and the zombie apocalypse genre in general, when you landed the role of Hope on World Beyond?

ALEXA: I had watched a couple seasons of the original show. I wasn't too familiar with it, but I knew kind of the backstory of it. And I liked it, I was just too young when I started, and a little too scared. [laughs]

Given that Hope and her group are relatively inexperienced at fighting the dead, did you have to "unlearn" a lot of things we are accustomed to seeing from most of the franchise's protagonists?

Honestly, the way that we react on the show is probably how I would react in real life. So it was just kind of being myself, in a way. [laughs] I don't think I would have been very good at killing a zombie if it was put in front of me. So I think that part was pretty easy, because we were all just super new to it.

How would you imagine faring in a zombie apocalypse?

I think I would be the person that gets her family together, builds a fortress around the house, and we just don't go outside unless we really need to--we just bunker up and enjoy our time inside a giant house. I don't think I would be brave enough to go out into the real world. I mean, I'm sure if the moment came and I had to, I would be like, "All right, let's go." But if the whole world was experiencing a zombie apocalypse, I wouldn't really see the point in going anywhere else if the whole world's going to be the same. [laughs]

How do you approach a role like Hope, who is younger and perhaps less equipped to deal with emotional challenges than you would be?

I think it's just comparing the things that Hope's going through to some of the things that maybe I've gone through in my life, and then going from there. My issues might have been a little bit smaller than a zombie apocalypse...But yeah, just tackling it the way that I would have tackled it. I might be older, but I'm still a big baby at heart.

We see a lot of Hope's backstory through flashbacks. What did you think of getting to watch those scenes performed by other actors, and seeing someone else play a younger version of Hope?

I thought it was amazing. I thought they all did such a great job, and they helped bring the story to life. And because they did such a great job, I was able to evoke the same emotion. (Or, I would hope that I did as good of a job as the other actors in bringing everything to life.) You're watching, it's like, "Okay, this is giving me a little bit more information on my own character." So I was really blessed to have such amazing actors on the show.

Hope is very close with Annet Mahendru's character Huck from the very first episode. In creating their dynamic with your co-star, are you both told about upcoming plot twists in their relationship? Or do the show's creators get very method, and perhaps only tell Annet about certain story elements while keeping you in the dark?

We all had the option to find out what would happen, and I just kind of said I'll figure it out as I go along. I don't know about Annet. I'm not entirely sure if she knew anything, but I had no idea.

You released an EP entitled Turbulence in 2020. How are you splitting your time between acting and music these days? And which passion came first?

It was music. I started doing music when I was a little kid, and I got into acting so I could get more known, and have people be more inclined to get my music. But then when I started doing acting, it kind of happened a little bit quicker, and the process was a little easier. [pauses] Not easy...It was hard! But, I mean, you audition, you get a role or you don't, whereas music, there's so much that you have to go through to actually make it. And then I realized, "Okay, well, I actually really enjoy acting." So I stuck with it. And then when COVID hit and I had the time, I made that EP. And music, I still go back to it if I have the time, but I think acting is definitely my first choice right now.

Some artists like to keep their worlds separate, but would you consider combining the two, and perhaps do music for something in which you're acting?

Oh, I would love to do that.

Composing a score or writing lyrics for a song?

The songwriting process. I think lyrics are where the emotion comes in. Obviously the melody plays a big part, but I'm much more for writing the lyrics.

While filming on location for various projects, have there been specific places beyond your hometown of Los Angeles that you've been excited to explore?

I haven't really been anywhere crazy with something. I did a movie in Mexico City when I was like 17 or 16, and that was really fun. That was a whole new experience. I'm half Mexican, and my mom's from Guadalajara, which is different from Mexico City, [but] it was just really nice to be somewhere and kind of be a little bit more rooted into where my mom's from, and get to know the culture a little bit better.

I can't help but notice through social media that you have a dog. What can you tell us about your four-legged friend?

His name is Romeo, and he is a long-haired Chihuahua mixed with a Yorkie. I got him on Craigslist last July.

Were you specifically looking for a quarantine sidekick?

Yeah. I didn't have a boyfriend, so I figured I would get a dog. [laughs]

Some would argue that a dog is a better choice than any significant other...

Yeah, 100%. 100%!

I'm guessing COVID has maybe impacted your opportunities to audition for other projects, but can we look forward to seeing you in anything aside from the second season of The Walking Dead: World Beyond?

There's a show that I did in Canada called Home Before Dark...And then anything else is going to be a surprise to all of us.

What can we expect from your Home Before Dark role?

Honestly, I don't know much about my character. It was all very hush-hush. But she's very different from... [pauses] Actually no, she's pretty similar to Hope. Without all the zombies and stuff. I think my character has a little bit more confidence than Hope does.

Alexa, thanks for your time. It was fun talking about zombies and dogs. Have a good day!

[laughs] Thank you. You too!

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