‘TWD: World Beyond’: Nico Tortorella on Felix’s Sexuality & Mission to Protect

the walking dead world beyond felix
Carlos Serrao/AMC

As fans prepare to welcome the third series into AMC’s The Walking Dead universe, The Walking Dead: World Beyond, viewers will have plenty of fresh faces and names to learn.

One of the more notable characters entering the TWD world is Felix Carlucci, played by Younger‘s Nico Tortorella. This is far from the actor’s first turn towards horror, after a stint on Fox’s serial killer drama The Following, but Felix will certainly be a character to watch out for in the journey to come. World Beyond follows a group of teenagers — later joined by Felix and his pal Huck (Annet Mahendru) — who embark on a quest across the country. Along the way, they’ll grow and face down threats both dead and alive.

During a set visit for World Beyond outside of Richmond, Virginia, that TV Insider attended, Tortorella previews Felix and what to expect in Beyond. Here’s what you need to know, below.

Who Is Felix Exactly?

Felix is head of security at the self-sustainable midwestern compound called the University. That means, he’s one of the more capable survivors and has built up some skill killing empties (their word for “walkers”), which comes in handy when he joins Hope (Aliyah Royale), Iris (Alexa Mansour), Silas (Hal Cumpston) and Elton (Nicolas Cantu) on their quest across the country. However, Tortorella notes, “Felix has seen some of the world outside of the walls, in terms of keeping track of what’s going on in the immediate area, but for the most part, has been pretty sheltered post-apocalypse.” Before the world ended, Felix was living on the streets after he was kicked out of his house for being gay.

Why Tortorella Loves That Felix is Gay

While Felix isn’t the first LGBTQA+ character to appear in the Walking Dead universe (Ross Marquand‘s Aaron on the flagship and Maggie Grace‘s Althea on Fear the Walking Dead, among others), Tortorella, who identifies as bisexual and gender-fluid and released a memoir last year titled Space Between: Explorations of Love, Sex, and Fluidity, admits, “I think that this binary divide that exists in our country and the world right now has never been stronger.” And sure, romance does still exist in the TWD shows, but Tortorella adds, love stories often “take a backseat to [survival].”

There was one thing, the actor notes, that stood out when on the phone with showrunner Matt Negrete and co-creator Scott M. Gimple before accepting the role of Felix. “What Scott said to me that really grabbed my attention was, ‘The only binary that exists post-apocalypse is dead and alive,'” Tortorella recalls. “And that just really struck a chord with me. I want to live in that world. I want to know what that feels like. And diversity was a huge thing coming into it. We have people from all walks of life on this show — genders, sexualities, race, religions. It was a no-brainer for me.”

The Walking Dead World Beyond

Photo Credit: Macall Polay/AMC

How Does Felix Fit Into the Group?

Felix is essentially the adopted son of Hope and Iris’ dad, who helped Felix after he was disowned by his family. Now, Felix serves as a guardian for the girls while their father is away in New York helping the Civic Republic Military (CRM), and he’s, “in full dad mode,” says Tortorella. “After the first episode, the stakes are at maximum levels in terms of our safety and our fight for survival. Felix is the one that has the most training, and he’s the one that has to take care of situations and figure out what we’re doing and make sure everyone’s safe.”

What’s Felix’s Main Goal?

“First and foremost, it’s to protect the girls, to take care of his chosen family, no matter what,” Tortorella says. But Hope and Iris don’t necessarily make that easy for the guardian figure, as the young adults grow into their own outside of the University’s walls. “He comes to a lot of realizations that they’re at a certain point in their lives where they can take care of themselves and make decisions,” Tortorella says. “We’re at a point in the story right now, that we’re filming, where we’re all at a crossroads. We can either all go in the same direction or all go in different directions. I think Felix is just now being able to take a step back and be like, ‘Y’all do whatever you need to do.'”

Photo Credit: Macall Polay/AMC

Beyond‘s Emotional & Physical Challenges

“The dramaturgy of this show is challenging in a way that Younger never could provide,” Tortorella says of their other current gig. “The show is so easy and fun and lighthearted, and really a joy to be a part of, but I’m not showing up to work being challenged as an actor, you know? And I am [on World Beyond] every day. Emotionally, physically, this is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I’ve worked more on this than any other job I’ve ever been on. And there’s an emotional demand that is an actor’s dream.”

As far as physical demands go, it doesn’t get much worse than a zombie apocalypse drama, especially one that takes its characters on a cross-country trek. “We’ve been in a bunch of fight training, and [have] these weapons that we’re using that are called s-poles, which are not the friendliest of weapons,” Tortorella says. “I mean, it’s not the first time I’ve killed someone on camera, so I’ve gotten used to that — and being killed on camera, for that matter. Hopefully, that doesn’t happen anytime soon here, but you never know. It’s The Walking Dead. That’s what I keep telling these kids, I was like, every single day that you’re here is an audition. Do not get comfortable. I was on The Following, I know how this goes.”

The Walking Dead: World Beyond, Series Premiere, Sunday, October 4, 10/9c, AMC