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Julia Ormond: ‘Walking Dead: World Beyond’ is kids’ journey through apocalypse

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NEW YORK, Oct. 4 (UPI) — The Walking Dead: World Beyond, set to premiere Sunday on AMC, distinguishes itself from the other shows in the franchise by focusing on how teens, not their parents, deal with the zombie apocalypse.

“This spinoff takes elements I really relish in[[The Walking Dead and Fear the Walking Dead]and then adds its own fresh take,” series co-star Julia Ormond told reporters in a recent video conference.

“It’s not so much about what the parents will do to protect the kids,” she said. “It’s about the kids’ journey and the kids growing up and how they are going to define the world going forward.”

Ormond, who plays Elizabeth, the leader of a shadowy military organization, said the show reflects how young people in the real world are fighting for what is important to them.

“Elizabeth is a character who seems to have a certain level of power … that needs to be torn down or challenged. I think there is something about our world today that is being challenged — systems showing up to be flawed and out of date and not serving us,” Ormond said, adding it has been young people “taking up the mantle of leading us into whatever the world beyond is, making it new.”

At the heart of the show are Hope (Alexa Mansour) and Iris (Aliyah Royale,) teen sisters who are part of the first generation to come of age after the breakdown of civilization.

When they receive a distress message from their scientist father, they leave the safety of the Nebraska college campus on which they were raised to rescue him in New York.

Tagging along are their fellow adventure-starved Generation Zers Elton and Silas (Nicolas Cantu and Hal Cumpston,) and tracking the whole gang with the intention of bringing them home are the girls’ adopted brother Felix (Nico Tortorella) and his friend, Huck (Annet Mahendru).

Viewers don’t have to know The Walking Dead or Fear the Walking Dead to enjoy World Beyond, but fans of the other shows will be rewarded, the cast teased.

“You get some more answers and then some more non-answers to the questions that were posed in the other series,” Royale said.

“We start to deal with news on a national level, not just a local level like the other series, which have smaller communities that run into each other,” Tortorella explained. “We get big-picture puzzle pieces. It seems like the old versus the young and vice versa in a lot of ways, not just in age. It’s definitely a through line of the series.”

Cantu thinks World Beyond stands by itself, but will be recognizable to those already entrenched in The Walking Dead universe.

“What’s cool about our show is that it is a two-season, limited event, and we have a complete story that wraps up quite nicely. We know where we are going,” he said.

Like its predecessors, World Beyond explores the thorny ethics of its characters, trying not to judge its humans or paint them as all good or bad.

“It’s a fine line depending on which side of the argument you stand and who you are rooting for,” Tortorella said.

He then paraphrased series co-creator Matt Negrete, saying that by the end of this series, some of the characters will be villains and some will be heroes.

“But that means different things to different people,” Tortorella said, referring to people’s individual perspectives on the characters’ behaviors.

Royale said the biggest danger within the show isn’t flesh-eating monsters (called “empties” on the show), but rather who the humans become when they encounter them.

“It’s how we fight or flee,” she said. “It’s who we are when there aren’t any walkers near and we have to deal with the four of us and we are young and we are afraid and we don’t know if we can trust each other yet and different dynamics grow.”

Even the relationship between Hope and Iris changes over time, Royale warned, adding, “It grows and then it’s finicky and then it grows again.”

With themes like trauma, secrets, heartbreak, confusion, family and love, audience members of all ages should be able to connect to someone on the show, Royale said.

“The younger fans are going to see a part of themselves in these characters,” Sansour said, noting she expects some viewers will identify with the fictional teens’ struggles and be inspired to speak up about their feelings and, hopefully, “not feel so alone.”

Cumpston pointed out the personalities of the main characters on The Walking Dead already have formed because they were adults before the apocalypse.

“They know their moral code. These are teenagers,” he said of the characters on World Beyond. “They don’t even know how they should be reacting to these situations or who they are.”

“You’re watching these young adults make decisions for themselves — split decisions — in-the-heat-of-the-moment, life-or-death decisions without needing an adult to tell them, ‘This is what you should do,'” Royale said.

The teens may not know exactly what perils await them or how to avoid them, but they are smart, brave and have a strong sense of direction.

“We know that we’re going to get through it,” Royale said. “We make a choice very early on that, regardless of what happens, we would rather be out here in the field than be in the sheltered community.”

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