Interview – Dahlia Legault of The Walking Dead

dahlia 3AMC’s The Walking Dead has become one of biggest in television’s history. Bringing characters to life on a weekly basis while in season, each Sunday evening guarantees to bring something fresh to audiences tuning in. Amidst Season Five, back on March 15, 2015, in the episode Spend, fans were introduced to a new character by the name of Francine. A part of the Alexandria community, Francine’s introduction is a dramatic one which compelled followers to want to know more about her. Portrayed by talented actress Dahlia Legault, Francine is still somewhat of a mystery in The Walking Dead, but hopes are more of her character will soon surface. Legault, an actress which has been involved in Horror film projects in the past, such as 2005’s Actress Apocalypse, knows what it takes to create a tension on the screen. Recently we sat down with the charming Legault for a closer look at her love for performing, her time on The Walking Dead, and plans for the future. – You have been involved in entertainment for a decade now, first tell me what first inspired you to get involved in this industry?

Dahlia Legault – Well I have always wanted to be a performer of some sort since I was very young. I started in theater, so I did a bunch of theater for about 10 years and I was doing multiple film projects at the same time. To me it is really about just creating something that has come out of the imaginary really as an art form because I started in theater. I transferred along into actual show business because I thought it would reach more people, as well as the fact that it can inspire other people to grow in the same sense I’d say. – It is understandable completely, and as you had mentioned, you have been involved in theater and some film projects. You have been in a few Horror related film projects including your debut featured film was Actress Apocalypse.

Dahlia Legault – Yes, (laughs) that was quite a while ago. I was involved in a B-Horror film industry for a little while. I would say Actress Apocalypse was an interesting project cause it was done in a mockumentary style . It was non-scripted so it was improvised on the spot. We were given an idea for each scene and we kind of let it go and saw wherever the scene would take us. I think you really have to be on the underground film interest to find Actress Apocalypse (laugh), but yes.

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Crash Cinema Media
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Peepin Tom Productions – It is interesting because, looking at your resume of film and television credits, it seems like you have been in the Horror genre. What I was curious about was do you like Horror films, or is it kind of something that you have just fallen into?

Dahlia Legault – It was something I just fell into, honestly. I do quite enjoy it. There is a lot of artistic construction and collaboration that happens whenever you are working with the Horror film industry. Yes, it is something I fell into, still, something that I highly respect and enjoy, as well as hope to continue into. Because I had a long theater career, it is multiple different roles, starting at a housewife all the way to I can play a psychotic person, I can play a child; I have this massive range of characters that I can play.

Do I want to stick within the Horror genre? Not necessarily. I would like to try a little bit of everything, honestly. I have a huge respect for the Horror film industry. It is just kind of funny that now that I am on The Walking Dead, that things are pushing towards that direction, which I am perfectly comfortable with. – Right, of course, and as you said, you do not want to limit yourself as an actress. You want to be able to take on a variety of different roles, but if the door comes knocking for Horror, sure, why not (laughs).

Dahlia Legault – Oh yes, like I said, especially with Actress Apocalypse with Richard Anasky. I met Richard Anasky doing a Tim Ritter film prior to that. When we were doing the Tim Ritter film, we had a huge party where I met a whole bunch of the writers and collaborators for Fangoria magazine. The community is just huge; they are very personal, everyone is really on a one to one basis, and it is not a small community by any means. Actress Apocalypse reached all the way to Germany, it is a fan favorite in other countries, in European countries. Horror films do have their own following. – Yes, you are absolutely right. Many we have spoken with, and from our experience in working with the Horror industry, it seems like they are some of the most dedicated fans in the world as well.

Dahlia Legault – Definitely, absolutely, and it is great to me that Actress Apocalypse continues to pop up. It is definitely a classic favorite of mine (laughs). – That is cool. Now you had mentioned about The Walking Dead, which is the biggest show on television. You do in fact have a reoccurring role on the show as Francine. How did this role come about for you?

Dahlia Legault – Funny enough, I live in the Southeast. I was living in North Carolina, in Asheville. I moved to Tampa, Florida randomly. I ended up getting a room with another actor, his name is Ricky Wayne. He was also in The Walking Dead, Season 5, he played Officer O’Donnell, coincidentally. I moved to Tampa, through Ricky Wayne I started to meet other people, some teachers, some agents, some photographers. It was through my agent in Orlando, it was very textbook. I auditioned, I went on tape for it, nowadays an audition is done at home in a studio. You do not really have to go anywhere. I taped the audition at home and Jennifer Lynch watched my audition in Los Angeles and booked me on the role. I think a lot of it was really that I was just in the right place at the right time, I had the right focus.

It was interesting to me because when I first got on there, I did not know that I was going to be reoccurring; they tell you very little. You sign this non-disclosure agreement and you do not know what is going on until you know what is going on. I went on set and I did my scene and I noticed at the end of my episode, I noticed, wow, I am not dead (laughs). So I was like ok, so this means that I must be coming back. I tried to inquire around the set, asked the directors, “If I am not dead, am I going to be coming back?” They cannot tell you anything, nobody can tell you anything. I just kind of just waited around a few weeks. I got a call back, and the next season I got called back.

Of course I cannot say what is happening now. It was a lot of my peers and stuff like that are constantly teasing me because they are like, “Oh, look at you, the minute you start auditioning for the television industry, you book the biggest show in the world,.” I think, “You know what, yes, half of it is the hard work that I put in my entire life. The other half of it, I just think I had really good cards at the time.” (laughs)

Dahlia Legault as Francine and Michael Cudlitz as Abraham - The Walking Dead _ Season 5, Episode 14 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC
Dahlia Legault as Francine and Michael Cudlitz as Abraham – The Walking Dead _ Season 5, Episode 14 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC – Right, it is probably a great deal of the hard work, like you said. You also have to be in the right place at the right time. It is excellent that you have this reoccurring role. Many also enjoy the fact that everyone is kind of kept in the dark about what is going on. They have really done a good job of keeping things hush hush and not many things coming out about the series as it moves forward.

Dahlia Legault – Oh yes, definitely, they do not tell us anything. I heard that even common characters, when they are about to get killed off, they do not even tell those actors until the day before the scene happens. In certain interviews, they said that, “I am working one day and they take you inside a room and they are like, Ok, tomorrow, you are goning to be dead.” They do not tell you anything. I would say it is a blessing in some way, and at the same time, it has got to be heartbreaking for certain people. Yes, they are defiantly the most secretive thing in the world that I would say with totally good purpose. – Yes, one would agree with you 100%. Season 6 is on the way now. It has been quite an interesting season thus far, lots of twists and turns, and a lot of stories still left to unfold. How are you enjoying the current season so far?

Dahlia Legault – It is very interesting. I started watching the show for research purposes. I started watching it to see, like Ok, this is one of the shows that I auditioned with in the Southeast, let me start to see what kind of style I am looking for. Then, of course, I got hooked on the show like everybody else did. I like the fact that every season is very different from the last, and so far, this season just started on this high anxiety, this free anxiety level which I think is great. Especially now that we have more 90 minute episodes coming out, it’s coming on to more of a feature film kind of a style right now, which I think is doing well for it. It is not like it even needs a bigger fan base by any means, it is just getting bigger and better as it goes along. I am enjoying it quite much. – Yes, It certainly does. The show definitely has that ability to hook people in, regardless of they are fans of Horror or not, because it is really more of a survival or human interest.

Dahlia Legault – It is about people. I tell everybody that constantly. When I am trying to get people into the show, they say, “I’m not into Zombies.” It is not about Zombies, and then once people that I have talked into it start watching, they say the same thing. They are like, “No, it’s about relationships.” You could put the same setting, the same relationships, in a war zone and it would have the same construct and the same effect.

Greg Nicotero - The Walking Dead _ Season 6, Episode 8 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC
Greg Nicotero – The Walking Dead _ Season 6, Episode 8 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC – Agreed 100%. There are many characters in the series now, reoccurring, and main characters, but in season 6, we really have not seen many faces I would say. We have seen some of the faces of the characters, but there are a lot that have not had much face time in the series for season 6 thus far.

Dahlia Legault – Yes, again, I do not know what it is that they are doing, and I do not know what will come up. I have noticed that the story is focusing around very specific people as opposed as a whole group. Like I said, I do not know what happened with that. I think it is interesting and I would say I think there is a lot of power to that, but then again, I think it is just a situation that they are stuck in. I do not know if it is going to follow the Comic Book at all, or if it is going to follow the graphic novel at all. I think things remain on this kind of high-anxiety level. I think it is going to be an entire season of survival, but again, I am not sure. – Yes, it definitely is shaping up to be that, and your character, let us hope your character gets some more face time. You are obviously an Alexandrian, that is who we associate you with, as far as the viewers. Judging by what we have seen of your character, you seen to be a little less naive than the rest of the bunch. Is that sort of something you feel you portray with the character, that you are not the typical Alexandrian who does not really know what is going on?

Dahlia Legault – Definitely, you do not know anything about Francine, just yet. You do not know anything about her backstory; where she came from. To me, she definitely has the strength and the character of somebody who may have been a fire prior to the apocalypse having to happen. Either she was in the military, or might have been a police officer as well, I think she was defiantly on her own for quite a time, which is why I think how she was seen, like Enid, walking on her own. I think it is the same thing.

I think Francine arrived on her own and she has seen a lot on her own, therefore, amongst the group, yes, she is an Alexandrian, but I do not think she was there in the safe-hub forever like everybody else was. To me it is funny that she is the one female out in the construction yard with all the other men. How did she opt to do that? Was it her own choice? like, “Oh, never mind, I’m not gonna stay in Alexandria, I’m gonna go work outside the net and do the hard work.” She definitely has a different opinion of everybody else, and she is defiantly less naive than everybody else in there. What she plans to do, to tell you honestly, I am not quite sure yet. I guess we will see as things progress. – Yes, and that is what is really cool about the show as well. You have these characters that you are sometimes compelled into because there has not been much said about them. There is something that you almost could develop as a viewer yourself when you are wondering who they are. You could just tell by someone’s body language, of the things they say, such as your character, what type of person they may be.

Dahlia Legault – Yes, definitely. I do not know, we will see what grand funeral brings in the next year. I am not allowed to say, I think she is going to be a nice strong edition to the rest of the crew, or at least I hope she will be. – Well let us hope so. We have spoken to a few actors and actresses from The Walking Dead. Everyone else has the same opinion; that they have had such positive experiences working on the series. How has your experience been thus far?

Dahlia Legault – I would say that positive is not even the word. I would say it is the best work that I have done. It is the best work that I have experienced. I will also say, that it is probably the hardest work that I have ever done; the most difficult. You get on the set and there is really very little that is glamorous about it because you get there at 6 in the morning and you are running. You are running for 12 hours, you are just running, you are climbing, you are running again, you are falling down on the ground. It is just a complete optical course for a straight 12 hours in either the dead-heat of Summer or when the temperature drops to 19 degrees. It is just constant hard work. You have to be at your 100% concentration, and at the end of your emotional rope every single scene.

I would say yes, it was positive, but it was also the most difficult work I have ever done. I know that because I was like, “Wow, this is never gonna get any easier.” Not that it is going to get harder. It is something that you have to keep up your maximum ability at all points and times while you are working on the show. I think that is a benefit about it, it stretches your ability so much, you do things that you did not think you were capable of. That is what I would say the extreme has been like.

Dahlia Legault as Francine and Michael Cudlitz as Abraham - The Walking Dead _ Season 5, Episode 14 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC
Dahlia Legault as Francine and Michael Cudlitz as Abraham – The Walking Dead _ Season 5, Episode 14 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC – It is great that you were able to push yourself like that, and it is a positive thing as well that you have this experience on moving forward. You actually have a film that you were just in that just released in October, One Last Sunset Redux.

Dahlia Legault – Yes, I did that film about two years ago and it is funny that it just came out now after my The Walking Dead premiere. It is coincidental because it was another Post-Apocalyptic Zombie film. It just so happens that after doing that film, that I got booked onto The Walking Dead. That was a local director, again on the B range. His original filming of it won some smaller awards. He was with Peeping Tom Productions,but the One Last Sunset film was a redo, a redux. It was just additional footage that he ended up putting in there, and I ended up being in someone’s memory, like a memory scapegoat for somebody for a main character that was in the film. Small world, small edition, still again great casting crew to work with.

It was a very good experience for me, and it kind of got me going at first on the whole Zombie Apocalypse, and what would you do in a situation and how would you protect yourself and such. I think that actually helped me a lot with my initial booking onto The Walking Dead. It was just a hardcore character, somebody that knows the rules about the fence, and what to do in a panic situation. I think it aided me quite a bit. – Yes, it did, and it is quite interesting, like you said, it actually had come out to the mainstream after The Walking Dead. I guess it works out well now. What future projects do you have in hand coming up? Do you have any future projects?

Dahlia Legault – I keep constantly auditioning in the Southeast. I did book another TV show that will be featuring next Spring I think. It is already on network television. Again, I cannot talk about it, I cannot explain the detail. Funny enough, it is also about a virus outbreak of some sort that happens within society, no Zombies. It is still about a disease that comes out and infects the world. The character I play works for a higher government. She is in the process to find out where the disease came from.

My episode will air in the Summer sometime because it did not start yet. There is that, and in between work, what I do locally is I direct a lot of theater and I do a lot of PR for the local theater companies around here. I am probably going to be getting the cast together and doing a little show probably early Spring. That is what I plan to do, so I just keep myself moving that way.

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Dahlia Legault in “One Last Sunset Redux” – That is really cool. You said another television series, that makes one think, it just seems like television right now is the place to be. It is so strong, there are so many amazing series where it almost seems like television is overshadowing full-length features now in a lot of ways.

Dahlia Legault – Definitely, absolutely. Back in the day, when I was going to school for theater, my teacher was always making fun of how theater is life, film is art, and television is furniture. That was a huge joke, television was the lowest you could go. Right now, television is the place to be, and really, that is why when I moved back to Tampa, the reason why I did not move to a bigger city, is because a lot of the television is being filmed in the Southeast. A lot of it is being made in Georgia and Louisiana.

This is now, in my opinion, the place to start moving because actors who are in Los Angeles are booking work that is happening in Georgia anyhow. They are having to fly over to the Southeast to work. I would say that my dream at this point in time is, yes, if I could score an absolute reoccurring regular role on any kind of a TV show, that would be outstanding because that is an absolute lifetime of work. The money that television is making now as well, yes, everyone is hooked on one show or another. It is like what do you mean you do not watch House of Cards? What do you mean you have never seen The Walking Dead? Then everyone is like, “You gotta get started on it, oh my god, I was up till 5 in the morning last night watching yada yada yada.” It has never been that way before, and now it is.

I think that is great for show business and I think that is great for everybody. It will give some people different things to connect with all the time, and these shows are actually hitting points about society and points about mentality and philosophy every day. It gives people something to talk about and a way to connect. – Right, exactly. Obviously, what it benefits from is the longevity of the series opposed to a film. In a film, you have an hour and a half, maybe 2 hours tops, maybe a little bit more, to develop a character. In a show such as The Walking Dead or House of Cards, or whatever you may say, you have an entire season or maybe multiple seasons to develop these characters. It definitely gives you more room to grow.

Dahlia Legault – Yes, definitely. Again, I said the work is more funded, more lengthy, you have more time. You have a whole bunch of time to work with what you got. I think that is the blessing about it. I think that is what makes it great in my opinion.

Giles Davies and Dahlia Legault in Jobsite's Macbeth. Photo by Crawford Long.
Giles Davies and Dahlia Legault in Jobsite’s Macbeth. Photo by Crawford Long. – Agreed, 100%. We had one last question. covers music and movies, specifically Horror. Do you have some favorite Horror films?

Dahlia Legault – I do, actually my sister and I were talking about that. I am a big Takashi Miike fan. I like the film Audition (2001), that has always been one of my favorites. It is the first film to give me a nightmare in like 15 years. I would say Candyman (1992), is one of my favorites. It is kind of funny that the Horror movies that really got me are the ones about reality than they are about monsters. I would have to say Candyman is one of my favorites. – That is a good one. One can understand what you are saying, sometimes the Horror movies that are based more around things that could happen, or a psychopath, is a little different than say a monster. It is a little more frightening cause it could be real.

Dahlia Legault – It could be real, yes. Monsters and stuff like that, I knew it was imaginary. I was watching Freddie Kruger when I was 8 years old and I just thought it was cool. I did not actually think there was some monster that comes in my room and kills me kind of thing. Then you watch something like The Last House on the Left, which is absolutely disturbing. – Are you speaking of the original from 1972 or the 2009 remake? For a remake, it was decent, but we all still love the original.

Dahlia Legault – For a remake, I loved the remake. Of course you cannot bash on the original. The remake had a lot of artistic aspects to it that I really enjoyed. That is why, even though you were watching something absolutely awful, somehow there was an approach to it that made it interesting, as opposed to just horrific. – It was probably one of the best remakes that we have seen in the past decade, because usually they fall flat, but that was actually done very well.

Dahlia Legault – Yes, it was great; I very much enjoyed it that remake from 2009.

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Vitagraph Films
Vitagraph Films – Now, you had mentioned the Japanese director which you are fond of. Out of curiosity, have you seen his short film that he did for part of the Masters of Horror series called Imprint? It is actually pretty disturbing. I do not know if you are familiar with it.

Dahlia Legault – No, I will have to look for that. Imprint, it is a short film or full-length? – Yes it is considered a short film, around 60 minutes. There was a series on Showtime back in the early 2000s that was directed by Mick Garris who did movies like Batteries Not Included (1987), Hocus Pocus (1993), that stuff. He had a Horror series, each week there was a different Horror film director who was featured. They would direct a film, Miike directed one of the seasons and it was called Imprint. It is, like most of his movies, a supernatural, but disturbing as hell.

Dahlia Legault – I will have to look for it. That is Miike’s goal; to leave you with an imprint of Horror for the rest of the week. One last thing, the thing that I really enjoy this past year was the first season of True Detective. Oh man, you have got to watch it. That is another take on what human beings are to one another. There were images, none that you see, but images that they talk about that will haunt you for weeks. Definitely check out the first season of True Detective. It stars Woody Harrelson and  Matthew McConaughey.

Keep up with Dahlia Legault: Twitter

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