Alycia Debnam-Carey Discussed "The 100," "Fear The Walking Dead," And Which Roles She Auditioned For (But Didn't Get)
"It was an ode to how much these characters loved one another and to have some healing for the fans."
Alycia Debnam-Carey has taken on some incredible TV roles in the last few years. From her work as Lexa on The 100 to Alicia Clark on Fear the Walking Dead, she has a way of bringing strong and powerful characters to life. To celebrate the recent season of Fear the Walking Dead, Alycia sat down with us to chat about everything — like which roles she auditioned for (but didn't get), her favorite FTWD episode, and if she kept anything from The 100 set. Here's everything we learned:
1. First, what's the last TV show you binge-watched?
The last show I really was just hardcore invested in was Succession. That's like what I was so into. And when the pandemic hit, I was just like, "All I want is the new season of Succession." So I just cannot wait for Season 3. That's what comes to mind.
2. Which emoji do you use the most?
Oh, I love that question! I'm going to look at my phone and give you an accurate answer. Well, actually, right now it's the crying face (😭), which perfectly sums up 2020. But other than that, it's probably the little stars (✨) or the love/heart eyes (😍), I think. But right now, it's currently just the stream of tears.
3. What's your favorite movie of all time?
I never have a good answer for this. I never do. I feel like I like movies for very different reasons. I love Pulp Fiction, but then I'll really love How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. And then there's just, you know, a smorgasbord in between. There's just stupid ones I want to watch all the time, like Superbad. You know, I feel like it's really hard for me to pick a favorite movie of all time.
4. Is there a movie that has impacted you the most?
I constantly think about Melancholia.
5. Who have you been the most starstruck by?
Recently, I saw Quentin Tarantino and that was a real like, "Oh my god. Oh my god." Pulp Fiction is one of my favorite movies. And I remember seeing him and just being like, "Oh my god, oh my god. It's happening. I am seeing you," and he, like, looked at me for a moment, and I was like, "It's happening." And that literally was all that it was. We locked eyes.
6. What's a hobby you've picked up or gotten back into during quarantine?
Reading was a big one. I also started playing piano. I don't know how to play piano, but I kind of started doing that. I also was painting and drawing a lot. My time was quite creative time for me. I didn't have a lot of plans, so I just decided to see where it would take me, and those were the three main things for me.
7. What's the last book you read?
The last book I read was Pachinko. During quarantine and lockdown, I was part of a little book club with my friends from Sydney, which was really, really great. So we all actually started reading a lot of books. So the last book I read was Pachinko. We've yet to discuss it, but I've got some mixed feelings about it. I liked it, but I didn't love it.
8. What's the one thing you can't live without?
I have a small collection of photos from friends and family and Polaroids. I travel so much so it's like, I always carry them with me on the go. And they're just there in my diary and I've had it for, I think probably the last seven or eight years. It's a reminder of just the people in my life and people I love, and I think that's something that I really cherish.
BuzzFeed: And there's something so different about having the physical photos as opposed to looking at them on your phone.
Absolutely! Actually, a few years back, I got one of those little photo apps where you could put all your photos from your phone in and a company would print them out for you. So also at home I have this huge box of photos. I actually want to do that again because I do look at them. I remember thinking when we were kids, you probably had the same experience, of like looking through photo albums and it's no longer really a thing. It's amazing just sitting down and rifling through the years, your growth, and the people in your life. We don't do that as much anymore.
9. What's your favorite thing to cook?
I am not a huge cook, but I do make a really, really good baked salmon with grilled broccolini and sautéed spinach. I can really nail that.
10. Is there a role people would be surprised to find out you auditioned for and didn't get?
BuzzFeed: Yes! It's actually one of my favorite videos.
I watched it and I was like, "This is like me." I remember going into The Bling Ring and seeing [Brie Larson] in the audition room with me and thinking, "You don't need to be here. Why are you even in this audition room? You should have been given this part."
Recently, I think the things that come to mind are Black Widow and Little Women. There are just so many. If you go through my emails, it's just constant. I mean, there are so many.
11. Who's your childhood celebrity crush?
Probably Zac Efron. When High School Musical came out, I was 12 or 13. I was just like, "Wow!" That was the start of it. The little swoopy haircut. He had it all.
BuzzFeed: He had like the original Justin Bieber haircut before it was cool.
That's the thing! He had it before it was cool. I was obsessed.
12. Is there another celebrity you often get mistaken for?
I get told I look like a lot of people. I get Miley Cyrus a lot, we have the same face shape. I get Fiona Apple. I've had Faye Dunaway before. It's the face shape usually. I got, for a while, Emilia Clarke.
13. Is there a specific story you remember of when you were mistaken for another celeb?
I remember, this is funny, I went to a Hollywood Bowl concert and it was the Game of Thrones orchestra playing. So, I was walking in and the guy who was [taking] the tickets was like, "Oh my god, I can't believe you've come. This is such an honor." And I was like, "What is he talking about?" And then I realized he thought I was Emilia Clarke.
14. What's your wildest fan story?
I think it's always just really crazy to see people that have had my eye makeup from The 100, like my eyes or my face, tattooed on their body, which is always a pretty crazy thing to see. That's a level of dedication. I'll always be watching you now.
15. In most of your TV shows and movies, you have an American accent. Has it gotten easier to do?
Yes, I think it has. I mean, it's because most of my work I've done has actually been in the States and all of the work I've done has all been in an American accent. I've never played an Australian over here. And, especially working on a show for the last five years, I spend so much of my time in an American accent, so it does become kind of second nature. But, of course, every now and then there's a slip up and I'll go, "Wow, that really just came out." My accent is always stronger when I come back from being in Australia.
16. Do you ever go back and watch any of your previous work?
I'll watch what I've done, but usually only once. I usually do it just to see how it came out, to see what it looks like, to see if it translated the way I thought it was going to. I almost look at it more from a very critical perspective, not an emotional perspective of like, "Oh god, I look so terrible. Oh, that was awful. I should have been better," nothing like that. I want to see how it turns out and I like seeing the final product. But I rarely look at things a second time and if I do, it's then years and years later. Then, I have a very different perspective on it, where it's like, "Oh my god, I look so young."
17. Do you remember what your audition was like for Fear the Walking Dead?
I had quite a quick audition process because I'd done a pilot with AMC previously that had fallen through. It was a Ridley Scott pilot, and everyone was like, "Oh my god, it's gonna go, this is gonna happen," and for whatever reason, it just didn't. So they were already casting [Fear the Walking Dead] and by that point they thought I could be really right for this. So I went in and I think after the first audition, I was then put in chemistry reads with everyone.
18. Is there a chemistry read during your Fear the Walking Dead audition process you remember the most?
The one I remember the most was being with Frank Dillane, who was playing Nick. I remember in the audition, he kept calling me Alicia, and originally, I'd been given dummy sides. The character was actually called Ashley, and in the audition, he kept calling me Alicia. I was like, "I don't know maybe this guy's like some British method actor, like whatever I don't care." Then, it turned out as we all got the gig we're sitting around having this giant table read with AMC, executives, producers, and the character is now called Alicia. I was like, "Oh, wait, what is happening?" It was a long process, but it was also quite fast and furious, too.
19. Alicia has undergone such character growth since Season 1 and has become such a strong character. What has it been like portraying her growth?
I look back at it and it's been really rewarding. I think it's very rare to get that opportunity where you work with a character for so long and be able to have such a hand in their transition and their metamorphosis, you know? I think what has been really special about it, is the fact that I got to have her from a teenager and see her through to becoming a young woman. That is a rare opportunity, especially to mirror that with then pre-apocalypse and post-apocalypse. Seeing a character grow not as just a human but also grow in response to their environment is really great and exciting.
"I think it's very rare to get that opportunity where you work with a character for so long and be able to have such a hand in their transition and their metamorphosis."
20. Did you know what Alicia's story arc would look like from the beginning?
I mean, with TV shows you don't get the full arc necessarily of how it's going to pan out like you would a movie. So it's a little harder to plot the major beats [from the beginning], but I do think it has been amazing. She has had the most growth because she's had probably the furthest to go. The audience is learning as she is learning. It's kind of a rare opportunity, but a really wonderful one.
21. Do you have a particular Alicia moment you're most proud of so far?
I always think back to Season 3, to be honest, and I think of when I was first thrust in the bunker. I remember that being a really big moment because it was my episode. It was the first time I really had like a singular episode. I remember feeling like this has to be the moment where Alicia evolves and changes to become not just a daughter and a sister and a teenager, but she has to rise to the occasion. So that was a big moment for me.
I also think, having that episode with Charlie and Alicia in the house during the storm during Season 4, that was also a major episode for me. I was really proud of that episode because it was just the two of us. We only had each other to lean on. I think I really worked hard to make sure that we did the best we could in the limited time we get. It was another episode where we had to see her evolve, change, and overcome her anger for Charlie, and her sadness and regret with Nick and her family, and just become someone else. Those two are big evolutionary points for Alicia, so I think those are the two I'm the proudest of.
22. You surprised everyone when you returned for The 100 series finale. How did Lexa's big return come about?
It was one of those things where over the last couple of years, there were moments or opportunities where we could have tried [to bring her back]. I know people were really wanting to bring Lexa back, and there was just so much pain and hurt that people were going through [after her death]. I never wanted it to feel like it was a slap in the face to bring her back and take her away again.
So when Jason [Rothenberg] called me, he was like, "I think I have this opportunity I'd really like to do with you. It's the final episode. What we want to do with it is just make it an ode to the fans and also to make a statement that Clarke and Lexa really loved each other and cared about one another. Their love will extend for lifetimes." I think that's when I was like, "Okay, this is the only point that it makes sense."
23. Did you think about the fans a lot when you filmed the series finale?
I wanted to do it specifically for the fans and to have a little closure to finally feel like there was a positive spin that had happened. I know it was Lexa as the Judge and it wasn't necessarily Lexa as herself, but I still thought the sentiment was important. It was an ode to how much these characters loved one another and to have some healing for the fans. It all came with a lot of love and good intentions.
"I wanted to do it specifically for the fans and to have a little closure to finally feel like there was a positive spin that had happened."
24. What was it like becoming Lexa again?
It was surreal, but also it fit like a glove. It was strange how easily I just slipped back into it. I think because it was a character that we'd spent so much time creating and it had so much physical attributes to that character — the costume, the makeup, the hair — when you slip into something like that, it's a very visceral experience. It's very like, "Oh, I'm here in this character." It's really nice.
25. Was Lexa's costume pretty much the exact same when you returned?
They kept Lexa's costume perfect, and I felt really happy with myself. I was like, "Oh, it still fits. It's all good."
26. Did you get to keep anything from the set of The 100?
I kept my chair back. When you're on set, you get to keep the back of the actor chair you have on set. So I kept that. Well, actually they gifted it to me in a frame, which was really lovely. As for a lot of the other stuff, I don't think I have a lot of the other stuff because for those exact reasons where you have to suddenly go back, like three years later. They would've been like, "Ooh, we actually need that back from you."
27. And finally, have you ever caught somebody watching one of your TV shows or movies on a flight?
YES! I have! And, I'm not gonna lie, it was kind of cool. I saw people watching Fear the Walking Dead. I remember Into the Storm was on planes for a while. Yeah, FTWD and Into the Storm were both on flights and I remember being like, "Oh my god, this is so cool!" I remember also sitting next to someone while they were watching it. I was just thinking, "I am right next to you." And they had no idea.