The gates of Alexandria finally cracked open during Sunday’s episode of The Walking Dead, revealing a safe and thriving community of survivors inside. Rick and his group shambled in with their guards up and guns drawn, wary of Aaron’s “sanctuary for all”-type promises. But unlike Woodbury or Terminus, Alexandria actually seems... normal?
There’s running water, electricity, a makeshift school, and a leader who, so far, actually seems like a non-sociopath. Each member of the gang gets a free, furnished home and the rare privilege of eating food they didn’t hunt down themselves, brushing their teeth, and—gasp—showering. Carol trades in her warrior duds for clothes befitting a would-be Junior League member. Carl meets kids his age who haven’t had to slice open their own mothers to survive. And, lo and behold, ladies and gents, Rick gets a haircut and actually shaves off his beard.
He’s barely out of the shower when a striking new face shows up at his door: Jessie Anderson, a character straight out of Robert Kirkman’s Walking Dead comics. She’s fearless, friendly, and a jack-of-all-trades. In the show’s source material (beware, comic book spoilers ahead), Jessie also develops a short-lived romance with Rick after he confronts her abusive asshole of a husband Pete and kills him. (We get a short glimpse of Pete in this episode as he smokes a cigarette out in the middle of the night. “Welcome to Alexandria,” he tells Rick, with detectable bite in his voice.)
In “Remember,” there are hints galore that this storyline might make it to the series: Rick and Jessie strike up a rapport almost instantly as she cuts his hair and makes conversation. She teases him for showing up to his door with shaving cream still on his face and mentions wanting her two boys, Ron and Sam, to meet Carl—“if it’s okay with you and…?” (Rick mutters, “It’s just me” and, voila! Now she knows he’s single). Rick later crashes into a homemade metallic sculpture in Jessie’s front yard, prompting an endearing apology for breaking “...whatever it is that I broke.”
But perhaps most significant of all is Rick’s explicit mention of his dead wife, Lori—someone he has not talked about in a very long time, though he still wears his wedding ring. He gazes around at the quaint houses of Alexandria and reminisces about driving through Georgia with Lori. Carl also mentions his mother, saying, “This is the kind of place my mom wanted for us.”
Bringing Rick and Jessie’s romance to life on screen could come with dark consequences, however. In the comics, Jessie and her son Ron suffer a gruesome fate after walkers overrun Alexandria. She’s torn apart and later reanimates as a walker, though of course there’s no way to know if the TV version of Jessie will suffer the same fate. It’ll be an interesting ride for Alexandra Breckenridge, who makes her debut as Jessie in “Remember.” She spoke to The Daily Beast about the spark between Rick and Jessie, avoiding the comic books, and what to expect in the weeks ahead.
What’s your take on who Jessie is, as far as the TV series goes?
She’s a survivor, definitely. She’s a very strong woman but she’s also a little bit broken from some of her experiences. But she’s strong enough not to let that overtake her. I always enjoy playing those characters because I find that an admirable quality in a person. But I’m still discovering her and where she’s going.
She’s also pretty brave. She goes right up to the house of this shirtless stranger and offers to cut his hair.
Oh my god, I know. Isn’t that great? He comes to the door shirtless. You’re like, “Woah, hello.”
There’s a bit of a spark between Rick and Jessie after that, wouldn’t you say?
I think that there is. I don’t know how much of that she acknowledges at first because she is married, but I think she sees parts of her own struggle in Rick. They kind of have this underlying similarity to them and I think that’s what makes them click. It’s not really apparent—you wouldn’t ever look at Jessie and think, “Oh, she’s kind of like Rick”—but I think they feel pain in the same way. She feels so much empathy for him and his group, that’s why she goes up to his house in the first place. She genuinely wants to help them.
Jessie is a character straight out of the comics. Did read up on Jessie’s role in them after getting cast?
I was sort of warned, “Maybe don’t read them,” by the showrunner and the producers, just because they base characters off the comic books, but [the show is] not entirely specific to that. I feel like Jessie in the comic book is maybe a little weaker than Jessie on the show, you know what I mean? And also I was told that sometimes people die in the comic book and they won’t die on the show. But eventually I got really curious and I had to pick it up. (Laughs.)
Uh-oh, so you know what happens to Jessie in the comics.
Oh, of course! (Laughs.) That’s pretty grim. I mean, maybe she’ll die, maybe she won’t this season. I can’t tell you.
I figured. But you were brought on with the possibility of signing on as a series regular for Season 6, right?
Oh, yeah, though it’s really their option. “We might kill you, we might not.” I dunno.
The suspense! How did the audition process go for you?
I got this audition that was three pages for a role called “Samantha” but I was reading for a part that doesn’t actually exist on the show at all, [a character named] “Emily” who has cancer and all of these things. I think what they were looking for was a strong woman who was also vulnerable at the same time. I really didn’t know what role I had been cast in, so when I got to Atlanta and discovered the part that I was playing, I was like, “Oh! This is wonderful!”
Were you a fan of the show before?
You know, I hadn’t really watched it before because I didn’t know that I could handle all the blood every week. But when I got the part, I watched all four seasons in like a week and discovered that the show’s not really about that. I mean it is, but it’s really about these people’s struggle to survive and what that pushes you to do morally. I found that fascinating, like, “I really hit the jackpot, didn’t I?”
How did the cast welcome you in?
It’s been literally the most wonderful experience. I’ve worked on some shows that had great casts, lovely crew, writers and producers, but I was really blindsided by the feeling of community and camaraderie that this group has. You know how some sets will be, “Well, the actors are the actors and they’re more special than everybody else”—that’s how they’re treated, but on this show, there’s no class system. Everybody’s just there doing their job, which is how it should be. I feel very, very lucky to be a part of something so wonderful.
Is there anything else you’re looking forward to doing on the show? Stabbing zombies or fighting bad guys?
Yeah, I mean I obviously can’t say whether I’m coming back next year or not, but that was something I was hoping would happen this season. I think that she’s an extremely strong and capable woman and I’d like to see her get in some fights with the zombies. But it’s also really terrifying at the same time. You see those guys walking around the set at lunch—it’s pretty gruesome.