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Melissa McBride, The Walking Dead

AMC

Well, we know which episode Melissa McBride will be submitting for Emmy consideration this year.

On tonight's episode of The Walking Dead, which picked right up with Carol (McBride) and Maggie's (Lauren Cohan) shocking capture, the women at the center of the hour delivered powerhouse performances as they fought for their lives while in the clutches of a group of desperate Saviors, led by Alicia Witt's Paula. It was a stunning episode that proved just how far Carol and Maggie have come, while also forcing us to consider whether all this badassery will soon push our heroes past the point of no return.

Lauren Cohan, The Walking Dead

AMC

With those heavy questions weighing on us, we had to get McBride on the phone to get her take on Carol's struggle and its long-term effects. What follows is our unedited Q&A, wherein the actress touches on Morgan's lingering effects on Carol, previews Negan's upcoming villainy, and considers whether or not the good guys are still good.

Before we get into the events in tonight's episode, I wanted to go back to the final moments of last week, right before they were captured. Why does Carol tell Maggie she's supposed to be somebody else? What does she mean by that? And what about Maggie brings out this protector in Carol?
Well, Maggie is an expectant mom. She's got a little baby and Carol doesn't want to see her out there, endangering her life. It's hard to say, it's just dangerous now or a little less dangerous. Nothing's safe, but to put herself in a less dangerous situation. Protect the baby. Also, we're dispatching walkers and we're killing people, and she doesn't want Maggie to have to deal with these Savior people. She basically just wants her safer. And to be somebody else means don't be out here doing this. You're supposed to be someone else. Not me.

Lennie James, The Walking Dead, Season 6

AMC

Carol admits that she had a clear shot to take Donnie out, but chose to shoot him in the arm. Is there a bit of Morgan's argument that's getting to her?
Yeah, I think this whole episode, for Carol anyway, is about that struggle with maybe there's something right about what he's saying because, you know, looking at her list and thinking about all those situations when she's had to kill someone, I imagine she's thinking about that, when she doesn't have to think. Just take out the threat, eliminates it. I think everything is building up, and certainly Morgan and the Wolf attack, all of that, is playing a big part in what I think was inevitable, in some way or another.

Knowing how pragmatic Carol is, how much of that panic attack she had while tied up was real and how much of it was her trying to formulate a plan to free herself as quickly as possible?
That's a good question. It did what it's supposed to do. I think, as viewers, we're not sure: Was that real or not? It's blurry, you know? I mean, the struggle is real. The struggle is real. But, she's going in and out of a lot of things and it's difficult to discern if this is her for real or if this is another rouse.

The Walking Dead, Alicia Witt

AMC

By encountering Paula, does Carol see what she could become if she doesn't start to question her pragmatic elimination of threats?
Yeah. They're almost direct mirror images of one another, these two women. And there was a very physical, an internal, visceral weird experience while we were shooting the scene where she's pacing around, talking about her life before the apocalypse and the inspirational email that she was reiterating to Carol was probably one that Carol got. She's seen it before. "Yeah, I remember that one. Yeah, I know the punchline already. Be the coffee bean. Yeah, change the world, don't let the world change you. Yeah, I get it." I can see Carol looking at her going "This woman is me." Except for that when she's talking about those double digits, you know? "That's when I stopped counting. That's when I stopped feeling anything about it." I love this episode so much because, even in the title "The Same Boat," we are, we're in the same boat. We are them, they are us. They are beholden to something. We have to do what we have to do to survive. I could be you, you could be me. But, it's that humanity, it's that consciousness. That girl says to Maggie, "You're not the good guys." That's frightening. Have we become that? It's frightening.

It's interesting because, as terrible as we've heard Negan and the Saviors are and seen them to be, there's still the perspective that you guys have just gone and murdered them without much cause.
Yeah, we did. We did. Carol said to Sam, "The only way to keep from becoming a monster is to kill." Wait a minute. This is getting serious. I love this episode. I just love it for the way it brings up all that it brings up.

Melissa McBride, The Walking Dead

AMC

For all that Carol and Maggie must do together to survive this episode, how does it bond them? Change them?
It's hard for me to speak for Maggie, and really I don't think much has changed at all. I think their relationship is stronger because they survived it together. They fought together for one another, certainly, but they've been doing that all along. And then at the end, Maggie has this personal revelation of her own, feeling that she can't do this anymore. That was just her t-shirt, that was so frightening. That was so close. And by the way, it was so great to finally work with Lauren Cohan like that, in this capacity. It was just such fun.

The back half of this season has been so expertly building expectations for Negan, knowing that we're walking on this path to meet him, really building up how terrifying this person is going to be when we get there. How scared should we be for when we finally meet this guy?
You should be very scared. This guy is the composed evil, which is, I mean, it's terrifying. I was reading the script. There were some pages in there that I realized my mouth was open and it's just so dark. He's just evil. God, I can't wait for this finale. I'm dreading it, but at the same time, I'm so excited. But I'm just like, "Oh, God."

The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC.