Television nowadays often has the propensity to sky-rocket an actor or actress’s career in a way that was almost exclusive to the big-screen several years ago. There are many people in the acting world who have had long and successful careers before being shot into the limelight for their portrayal of a certain television character. One great example of this is the case of the outstanding Melissa McBride, or The Walking Dead’s Carol Peletier, as most of us know her.
Before we delve into her successful career on- and off-screen its worth taking a look at her personal life. Melissa McBride was born on the 23rd May 1965 in Lexington, Kentucky as one of four children. Her family left Lexington when she was about six months old and moved around a lot, eventually settling in North Carolina when she was about six years-old. Her father owned his own business and her mother had studied at the Pasadena Playhouse.
In the 1984, Melissa moved to Atlanta, Georgia, where she still resides today. She lives with her two loving cats, Vangeline and Sierra, and her basset hound Lincoln Log – who likes to wear hats and pose for pictures! Lincoln originally belonged to Melissa’s best friend who passed away early in 2010. Before she passed away, she asked Melissa to look after Lincoln and she has until this day. She describes Lincoln as “That gift you never knew you needed”.
Although her career has centerd on acting, she originally wanted to be a fashion designer. Despite this McBride did drama in high school and when she moved to Atlanta and came out of the school she attended for fashion design, she signed up for an acting workshop and that’s when her interest in acting started taking over.
Acting isn’t McBride’s only artistic output, however. Like co-worker Norman Reedus (Daryl), McBride is an avid photographer and takes beautiful portrait pictures. She loves to photograph her pets and she’s taken some striking pictures of her fellow TWD actors. McBride has also said before how she loves to play with video cameras and has always been a geek for them. During a particularly bad snow-storm in Atlanta she used her video camera to make a fake news cast where she dubbed over newscasters on T.V. and then cut to herself as a victim of the snowstorms showing how unprepared she was with only one grape in her fridge!
McBride is also a renowned coffee-buff, although she says she’s not a coffee-snob. For McBride, it’s the whole coffee-making ritual that she enjoys, from grinding the beans to the sharp aroma.
In 1991, McBride’s extensive career in Film & TV started small, where she appeared in a few TV commercials – as well as being a spokeswoman for motor company Ford. She made her TV debut in 1993, staring in an episode of Matlock, later guest starring in several other TV dramas including American Gothic, Walker, Texas Ranger and in Dawson’s Creek where she played Nina, a film buff sporting a head of lovely long curls (well worth a look at) who kissed James Van Der Beek on the lips! Throughout the 90s her acting career grew as she landed several roles in a host of made-for-television moves including Her Deadly Rival (1995), Close to Danger (1997), Any Place But Home (1997) and Pirates of Silicon Valley (1999).
In 2000 McBride decided to try something different from acting and started working as a casting director for the company Stilwell Casting in Atlanta up until 2010. During her time there she booked actors mostly for short films and commercials in Georgia. McBride really enjoyed her work as a casting director describing the experience as “a whole different kind of fulfilment than acting.”
In 2007, casting agency Finncannon & Associates asked her to audition for the film-adaptation of Stephen King’s novella The Mist. McBride initially resisted the idea but her at-the-time boss and Stephen King fan, Annette Stilwell, convinced her to give it a try. Unbeknownst to her at the time, this was the role that would springboard McBride to super-stardom as this is where she first worked with Frank Darabont, who directed The Mist and later became TWD’s first show-runner. McBride also starred along a couple of other future Ricketeers in The Mist, these being Laurie Holden (Andrea) and Jeffrey DeMunn (Dale), and it was here that she first sported Carol’s trademark close-cropped hair. McBride was in contention for a bigger role in the film but ultimately didn’t want to take too much time away from her career as a casting director. Because of this Darabont cast her in a smaller, but more impactful, role as ‘woman with the kids at home’. It was because of this role that Frank Darabont offered her the role of Carol Peletier in The Walking Dead.
When The Walking Dead first graced our screens back in 2010, hardly anyone paid the meek, abused housewife Carol Peletier much mind. All the focus was heaped on Rick, Shane and Lori. Oh, and the titular walking dead of course. It’s safe to say that nobody imagined in five season’s time this quiet and shy lady would be covered in walker guts leading an army of the undead in an explosive solo assault on a compound full of heavily armed cannibals with the fate of the group hanging in the balance. Yes, Carol has come a long, long way since Season 1.
Out of the few remaining characters from the first series it isn’t hard to see why show-runner Scott Gimple thinks that Carol has evolved the most. “Who’s changed the most over the course of the show? Everyone would say Carol. It’s remarkable that all of this tragedy has unlocked her inner strength.” Gimple was once quoted as saying in an interview.
The transformation of Carol has been one of the show’s most compelling storylines. It was a slow burner to start with, seeing Carol go through several stages of grief after losing her husband Ed in Season 1 and then her daughter Sophia in Season 2. But from Season 3 onwards we’ve seen Carol morph into a survivor willing to do anything it takes to keep her people safe. We’ve seen her defending the prison from the Governor and his army; we’ve even seen her kill members of the group – including a young child – to keep the group as a whole safe. And now as Season 5 rolls into Season 6 we see Carol playing the role of the group’s ‘Den Mother’ in order to remain Rick’s hidden-ace in Alexandria should it all go pear-shaped. Carol is a character who’s saved the lives of group members time and time again – once Steven Yuen’s (Glenn) parents asked him to send on their thanks to McBride for saving his/Glenn’s life!
However, Carol’s transformation was almost cut short – her comic-book counterpart committed a grisly suicide by walker very early on – and the TV version of Carol nearly met a similar fate. The at-the-time show-runner Glen Mazzara called McBride to let her know she was going to die in the third or fourth episode of Season 3. Speaking about it in an interview McBride said “I was okay with it, but I was sad. Then I got to talk to the writers.” On a conference call with Mazarra and the writers she laid out her interpretation of Carol, and the potential for development she saw in her character. McBride describes this as being “The first time I really got talk about [Carol] from my point of view”. This talk made all the difference because it was from here that Carol started to find her inner-warrior to become the bad-ass she is today.
Melissa McBride has always had an avid interest in psychology and has said before that she likes to people watch as well as sitting about “roaming around in [her] brain“. This is quite fitting as The Walking Dead is a show that revolves heavily around psychology and the different mentalities of people forced into a very unforgiving environment. As we’ve seen over the years, McBride’s Carol is one character that has seen heavy psychological and mental evolution. Remember in Season 2 when the group were at Hershel’s farm debating Randall’s fate and Carol’s input to the group meeting was “Please decide – either of you, both of you – but just leave me out of it.” Now compare this to Season 4 of the show where Carol (very coldly) took the matter of protecting the group into her own hands by killing Karen and David. Looking back at previous seasons from our current standpoint it’s easy to see how much McBride’s Carol has changed.
McBride has commented on Carol’s evolution before saying “When I read the scripts, I get emotional at what she’s evolved to, or what she has to find within herself, the courage within herself to do what she has to do.” McBride also takes great pride in the colleagues she works with, especially in the scenes between herself and Norman Reedus (Daryl Dixon). She described the moment in Season 5 where Carol and Daryl meet each other for the first time since Carol was banished in Season 4, saying “I was very happy to see that happen in the first episode… and loved playing the scene”. She spoke about the two characters’ embrace and how “it felt so good to Carol to have someone embrace her from the group”.
McBride has also said before how she loves to watch the other actors on the show during their scenes. She once told AMC “When you’re acting in a scene, you’re focused on doing the scene. You can’t break character and go, ‘Oh my God, I love what you’re doing!’ But these are such great actors and I love to go see them perform.”
McBride has also admitted that the fame which shambles after The Walking Dead‘s success is all new territory to her. “A lot like my character Carol, I feel like we’re sort of navigating a new world together” she once said, “She has the apocalypse I have this.” McBride has admitted her least favorite part of being famous is seeing fans fight and argue with each other, “it’s heart-breaking to me and so unnecessary” McBride said.
So there you have it, some cool facts about Melissa McBride and her walker-slaying counterpart Carol Peletier. Hope you all enjoyed this one and make sure to read our other facts about The Walking Dead.