‘TWD: World Beyond’: Julia Ormond on Rick Grimes, the CRM’s Secrets & Elizabeth’s Ending
It’s funny, how post-apocalyptic karma works.
Some of World Beyond’s characters — like sisters Hope (Alexa Mansour) and Iris (Aliyah Royale) — got the uplifting endings they very much needed in the series finale. Some, like poor Huck (Annet Mahendru) and Percy (Ted Sutherland), got tragic endings. But in the case of the Civic Republic Military’s Lt. Col. Elizabeth Kublek (Julia Ormond), perhaps all that can be said is that, in being ousted as the military’s leader, imprisoned for treason and suffering the loss of her daughter, she got the ending that she maybe deserved. (Committing genocide and lying to everyone about it tends not to beget a “happily ever after.”)
We chatted with Ormond about her thoughts on Elizabeth’s dramatic final scene, whether the plans for her character’s arc changed with Jadis’ (Pollyanna McIntosh) introduction, if it’s possible Elizabeth will ever return in the TWDU and if she thinks her character has ever run into a certain Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln).
What did you make of Elizabeth’s ending? Did you feel sorry for her, or did you think she got what she deserved given what she did?
I felt that it was appropriate, and I liked that it was open-ended in terms of the possibilities of where she goes and what happens next [to her], as a character. I also feel as though the cracks were beginning to show in terms of her conviction, and from a military perspective, she was making some odd choices that seemed to be driven by her connection to and relationship with Jennifer. She’s not totally shown integrity around the CRM for some time.
When I chatted with Pollyanna McIntosh, she said that Jadis’ involvement in the second season came about because another show she was working on was delayed. Given that, was the original ending of Elizabeth’s story different?
That, I don’t know. They don’t give you everything, but I don’t believe the introduction of a new character necessarily changed the Elizabeth arc. I love the fact that Pollyanna came onto the show. I think she’s brilliant. She’s one of the characters that I really love from Walking Dead, and I also thought it was a great follow-on because Jadis is the character that takes Rick away. It was interesting because, as a spinoff, I think there’s something where you’re kind of looking up in awe at the people who turned this series into a success. It was kind of like having a “grown-up” on set! I loved where she took the look and the vibe. She was fantastic. So, whatever the planning around it was, I thought it was a stroke of genius to bring her in.
In the end, Elizabeth is questioning whether what she’d done was right. Had Jennifer survived, do you think she would’ve had those same doubts?
I love that question! No, I don’t. I think it’s the fact that as a parent, it’s this connection with her kid that she sees has been lost because she doesn’t step up as a parent and she’s not protective of her, as a parent. She becomes narcissistically abusive, and she loses her kid as a result. I think that’s devastating to her, and that’s the thing that cracks through the conviction that the pragmatism is okay, the genocide is okay, all of that. I love that you asked that question!
Their relationship was so central to the second season, in particular. And it was interesting to see Elizabeth in such a broken place in that last scene — I noticed she wasn’t wearing her uniform there, either.
I love that you picked up on that! She’s kind of been disintegrating, she’s kind of been getting there for a while. She’s deconstructing, literally. When you make those choices with the costume… it’s, “How do we show this impact?” There are so many different choices you can make with the character. It would’ve been another interesting choice to have her not be affected by the loss at all.
I think her frustration and indignation are because she feels like she has given everything and sacrificed so much for the CRM. At the same time, I wonder if in the hindsight of looking back, when she’s angry with Jennifer or trying to hold her to account, I wonder if there’s some sympathy — you can see she was trying to put [Jennifer] in a better light. But for me, the scene that it pivots on is the breaking of the arm. There was no justifying it.
Of all the main characters, you were probably the most closely tied to the CRM throughout the show. Did you know about some things before they were “official” in the scripts, like the poison gas or what was going to happen to Omaha?
Yeah, I knew it right at the start. I knew it when we filmed the first episode. The guys were uniquely good about the things they shared because I think different actors have different approaches. For me, it was important to know as much as possible. For other people, it’s almost as if it’s more helpful for them to not know certain things. They trod this really fine line in terms of honoring who needed to know what. I don’t know how [showrunner Matt Negrete] holds all that in his head, to allow everybody their own unique creative optimal space. But yeah, I did know stuff.
What was your favorite scene for your character?
What came to mind immediately was the little scene where she’s typing up the report, and she goes to pull that hidden photograph out of her desk drawer. For me, that was one scene that revealed something, emotionally, about where she’s at and it’s the start of the chipping-away. That’s kind of the beginning of the end.
Were Elizabeth’s story to continue, where do you think it would’ve gone?
My fantasy version — and I don’t know that my fantasy version tracks with what we ended up with — is that I would like to see her processing what’s happened and turning a corner and grieving, and coming out of it leading people to a different future. But I think there’s a certain amount of accountability she’s got to face as a character, in the same sort of trajectory that Negan (Dead‘s Jeffrey Dean Morgan), as a character, went on. You can’t just have an epiphany and take it all back. There’s got to be some penance, some sacrifice, and whether or not she survives that, I don’t know.
Do you think Elizabeth has met Rick?
My answer to that… it’s not come from creative higher-ups, no spoiler blurting, this is my own imaginings! As I see it, as the character, I thought, oh my God, it’d be kind of genius if they played it this way: I think she has come across him, but I don’t think he’s registered in the way that he probably should have. I think it would be great storytelling if Elizabeth encounters him, moving forward. I feel as if at some point, she should encounter him, but I like this idea that in the mess and the obnoxious pragmatism of what they’re doing, he has encountered her, but she is unaware of who he is.
What are the chances we see Elizabeth resurface elsewhere in the TWD Universe?
I don’t know! I think that’s part of their dexterity as storytellers. It would be perfectly valid to leave her in jail — to say, “That’s it for Elizabeth” — and it would be perfectly valid to bring her back. I would love for Elizabeth to continue. I entertained this fantasy where it was going to be revealed that she was the head of the resistance all along, but nope. She just ends up in jail! [Laughs] I don’t think I’m going to have my fantasy version.
The Walking Dead: World Beyond, all episodes now streaming, AMC+