With a breakout role in American Horror Story and regular voice work on Family Guy, plus an eye for photography that keeps her artistry diverse, Alexandra Breckenridge is now one of the newest additions to The Walking Dead, with a recurring role in Seasons 5 and 6 as Jessie Anderson, widely reported to be Rick’s love interest.
Alex talked to Rogue about what it’s like being “the new kid,” how to survive lunch on set when surrounded by the undead, and what actually scares her.
Being one of the new kids on the block last season, what was it like joining such a tight-knit ensemble? Were there any funny hazing stories? Was it welcoming or intimidating?
I’m always nervous the first day of work. I think I’ll suck and get fired, but the cast, crew, and producers are some of the sweetest people I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with so those nerves went away pretty quickly. Almost all my scenes the first season are with Andy Lincoln [who plays Rick], and I couldn’t ask for a better person to be acting opposite. He’s extremely kind and giving. He’s so present as an actor that it just pulls you into this world and makes it so easy to imagine zombies are actually chasing you.
Were you familiar with comics or a big fan of the show before being cast?
I had heard of the show but hadn’t really watched it. I saw the pilot episode around the time it first came out because people had been saying how good it was. I thought it was awesome but didn’t want to see zombies every week, so I didn’t watch it again until they said I might get the job. Then I watched every season in about a week and a half.
What’s an average day on set like? Is it strange eating lunch surrounded by a bunch of extras in zombie makeup?
Obviously every day is different and crazy, but walking around zombies just becomes funny because they smile back at you when you pass them and they hang out talking in-between takes. Of course, it looks insane and hysterical. I try not to look at them at lunch… it’s too gross.
What’s something that scares you in real life?
Well, being eaten alive actually really bothers me! And my comic book counterpart’s life ends that way, so if that’s how Jessie goes on the show, I hope I can laugh it off after and not end up with nightmares.
I can imagine the Georgia heat really lends itself to the intrinsic intensity of the scenes.
It’s so hot. I mean, I thought I knew what hot was... but no. This is another level. Wearing tight black jeans and thick socks with black boots and a long sleeve shirt definitely lends itself to the discomfort [that] actually living in the apocalypse would feel like.
From an acting technique standpoint, do you have a blueprint for a scene going in, or do you live in the moment and let things evolve organically?
I always have an idea of the tone and certainly my character’s intentions, but that can change when you get to set and start working on it. I try to live in the moment as much as possible. Working on this show in particular has helped me with that more than any other job I’ve had.
I know you can’t say much about the plots of the next season, but is there anything you can you say about Season 6? What excites you about it? How is it different than the last?
Season 6 is gonna be amazing. It’s just nonstop! Poor Rick has to run a lot.
In a show, which pushes the extremes of humanity, what do you feel is the appeal of this show? Why do you think fans are so obsessed with the show? The writing, the gore, the characters, the psychological tones?
You know, I’m not entirely sure… I think they love the characters. The group that has survived until now has been incredibly strong in overcoming everything they are faced with, and people get attached to and root for them. That’s what made me a fan when I started watching it. I cried numerous times watching what these people went through.
When you have to perform something darker, how do you connect to that mood or place?
[Through] empathy for my character more than anything. If something is happening in a scene that I feel deeply about, it obviously makes it easy to connect.
If there were a zombie apocalypse in real life, who would you pick to fight by your side?
The Terminator because he can’t die by zombie bite–or die at all, really!
What do you think of the show’s underlying message about right and wrong, good versus evil?
Honestly, to me, it’s about what extreme conditions and survival will force a person to do morally. You see that over and over on The Walking Dead.
Do you have a favorite Walker kill from the past seasons?
I think it’s all pretty gross. I have to cover my eyes a lot, but there was one episode I think [where] Daryl ripped a zombie’s head off through its eye sockets or something like that. That was very elaborate!
What’s something people would be surprised to find out about you?
One woman recently told me she was surprised I was so “tiny” in person because on the show my ass looks so big! I laughed and said, “Well, they say the camera adds ten pounds...”
What is inspiring you lately? Any awesome bands, photographers, or books that have become a source for inspiration?
Being in nature is inspiring to me. And music. I’ve been listening to the first three Strokes albums recently in the car to and from work, and Sia. I know they aren’t very similar. It puts me in a good mood.
What is your favorite thing about your life right now?
My fiancee and my job.
Name 3 things necessary to your happiness.
Family, work, and vacation time.
photos by Shalon Goss
written by Brittany Perkins