Sarah Wayne Callies, who plays Lori Grimes in "The Walking Dead," attends the show's season three premiere at Universal Studios on Oct. 4, 2012. (John Shearer / Invision for AMC / Associated Press)Link
Carol (Melissa Suzanne McBride), left, Beth Greene (Emily Kinney), Lori Grimes (Sarah Wayne Callies) and Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) in season three, episode two of "The Walking Dead." (Gene Page / AMC)Link
Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) in season three, episode two of "The Walking Dead." (Gene Page / AMC)Link
T-Dog (Robert "IronE" Singleton) in season three, episode two of "The Walking Dead." (Gene Page / AMC)Link
Sarah Wayne Callies plays Lori Grimes in season three, episode one of "The Walking Dead." (Gene Page / AMC)Link
Sarah Wayne Callies gets that not everyone is pleased with the character she plays on “The Walking Dead.” Rick Grimes’ wife, Lori, emerged last season as one of the more controversial figures at the heart of AMC’s record-breaking post-apocalyptic zombie series, criticized for the choices she made as a wife and a mother, and for her reaction to the erratic, troubling behavior of Rick’s increasingly unstable best friend Shane. Now, with the impending birth of her child and the gulf between Lori and her husband (Andrew Lincoln) threatening to widen, Callies’ character is finding herself at something of a crossroads.
“I think right now, Lori is really seeking redemption,” the actress said this summer on the set of the show. “I think the first two seasons happened so fast that she didn’t have a whole lot of time to sit and think, but in those moments where she was able to reflect even for a second I think she looked at her decisions and kind of was left with the impression that she did all the wrong things for all the right reasons. I think that really eroded her sense of trust in herself and maybe trust in her marriage and trust in her mothering.”
Callies, a veteran stage actor whose prior television work includes a recurring role on Fox’s “Prison Break” and one-off appearances on such series as “House” and “Numb3rs,” studied feminist theory at Dartmouth, which gives her an interesting lens through which to view her character and the world of the series adapted from Robert Kirkman’s acclaimed comic book.
“We spend more time on the show exploring the ways in which the guns keep us safe than the nutrition keeps us safe because that makes for better television arguably and because that’s what the comic book is about,” Callies said. “You could argue that the story of Lori and Rick is that behind every good man is a good woman. But she’s also somebody who speaks up quite a bit.
“I think the danger with female characters in stories like this if we’re not careful as writers and directors and actors is that women can get shrill. If you’re not careful, you can kind of end up in that world. I think we’re all trying to be pretty careful, and I think we’re all trying to be pretty honest, which is to say that no, there’s not going to be 50% men and women going out to kill the walkers every day. But we’ve got some female characters coming down the pike who could give any man on the show a run for his money.”
She is, of course, referring to Danai Gurira’s fearless warrior Michonne, who’ll be the centerpiece of so much action on “The Walking Dead” in the series’ third season, which premiered Oct. 14 and drew 10.9 million total viewers, according to Nielsen. (The Season 3 kick-off ranks as the biggest telecast of any drama series in basic-cable history.)
As for Lori’s specific character arc in the upcoming episodes –the imminent arrival of her second child, for starters, and the looming threat that the screen incarnation might meet the same unfortunate fate as her comic book counterpart — Callies declined to get into too much detail.
She did say that from a psychological standpoint, Lori is on unsteady ground and eager to regain her emotional footing, but perhaps doubtful that she will.
“This is a woman who’s not a traditionally educated person and not working in a profession apart from motherhood,” Callies said. “I think she’s really used to, before all this, trusting her intuition, and trusting that she’s a good mom, she’s a good wife. In the process of all this, that’s started to crumble in her hands.
“When we pick up with her again, what we’re seeing is somebody who’s on very uncertain ground with herself,” she added. “I think there’s a level of instability and self-loathing that are pretty hard to navigate.”
– Gina McIntyre
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