Just because Nico Tortorella and Annet Mahendru play the adults in the room on AMC’s new zombie spinoff The Walking Dead: World Beyond, don’t expect them to actually act like adults.
“Nico and I are very childlike,” Mahendru told Decider, laughing, in advance of the series premiere this weekend. “We very much, maybe wrongly, assume we’re one of the kids.”
Tortorella, who fans might know from their role on TV Land’s Younger or appearances on the RuPaul’s Drag Race franchise, co-stars as Felix, one of the residents of the series’ central Campus Colony and a friend/protector of sisters Hope (Alexa Mansour) and Iris (Aliyah Royale). Felix is teamed up with fellow technical adult Huck (Mahendru), who is probably best known for her role as Nina Sergeevna Krilova on The Americans. And both on set, and off, there was an immediate bond between the duo.
“The second we met, we saw ourselves in each other,” Tortorella said. “There’s this lust for life, this childish enthusiasm that we both share, that definitely transcends to our characters. We are very similar off-camera as we are on-camera. I think we’re both less serious in real life than we are as Felix and Huck, at times. But she’s amazing. And this relationship continues to get more intense and more complex as the series progresses.”
Mahendru agreed with Totorella’s estimation, adding that, “We’re sort of like twins. We don’t look anything alike, but we have this weird connection. It’s just been so much fun. Because we absolutely work as hard as an ox, and we are also very silly and very curious. We will go above and beyond, and we will do our own stunts. In a way, we have a healthy sibling rivalry going on — which really is just hilarious. We’re both really serious, but very clumsy. Every time before a serious scene, Nico’s really into it and I’m like, ‘Dude. We’re just dumb and dumber.’ Being badass with all our weapons, but don’t really know how to use them.”
Even with the Farrelly Brothers vibes on set and self-professed clumsiness, Mahendru still did enjoy getting to participate in the action. And in fact, she met of the rest of the cast for the first time in the training room. “We just started punching. I’m like, ‘I should probably say hi.’ Because I was a little bit late.”
As for Tortorella, this is actually their second time joining a huge, globally known franchise, after playing Trever Sheldon in Scream 4. They noted that the feeling of joining The Walking Dead was similar to the Scream franchise, in terms of, “knowing how large the fan base is, but not realizing how large it is until the show comes out.” But there’s one big difference, and that’s that The Walking Dead, even with a new series, is a well-oiled machine.
“Going to set… This is a science that’s been worked out for the last 10 years,” Tortorella said. “We know how the show is made, we know how the show is shot. There wasn’t a ton of discovery, in terms of the semantics of production. It was already there. We got to step into this massive universe. And it’s massive. That was probably the most surprising — way bigger than Scream ever felt.”
Mahendru similarly felt a bit overwhelmed by the experience of joining Walking Dead, until she got the thumbs up from an alumni: Michael Cudlitz, who played Abraham on The Walking Dead and directed an episode mid-way through the first season of World Beyond.
“It’s a big world,” Mahendru said. “Everyone just has to dive into it. We were the newcomers. When Michael Cudlitz came to direct us, it’s when he really settled us. We needed that okay. He was like, ‘You’re okay.’ It was like, ‘Thank you!’”
Ultimately, though, World Beyond — and Felix and Huck — will forge their own path as the show continues over the course of two, ten episode long seasons. And given that the duo will be paired together, at least for the first couple of episodes, and the tightness of Mahendru and Tortorella, it’s natural to think that fans might start ‘shipping them. Not so fast, says Tortorella.
“Oh yeah, it’s totally going to happen. For sure,” Tortorella said, smiling at the suggestion of fans swooning over #Hucklix before adding, “I mean, Felix is gay. So good luck, girl.”
The Walking Dead: World Beyond airs Sundays at 10/9c on AMC.
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