STARBURST: Congratulations on the series. How proud of it are you and was there pressure on you all given the popularity of The Walking Dead?
Mercedes Mason: Inadvertently, there was some pressure as it was such a predominant question; would we live up to the hype? Then we went to San Diego Comic-Con and everyone was so supportive that we all looked at each other and thought ‘we’re going to be okay’. As soon as we got going and everyone realised we weren’t planning to replace the original show, we were welcomed into the family.
Your character Ophelia is introduced slowly into the story. What can you tell us about her without spoilers?
In the first episode, you meet The Clarks and you see normality before the onset of the apocalypse. Towards the end of the second episode you meet my family, The Salazars, and this is while there are riots going on all around them. It’s interesting because the fans know so much more than the characters. When you meet Ophelia she’s very sheltered and protected by her parents. As everything begins to go haywire she starts to change quite dramatically; wearing different clothes and speaking out against her parents. She’s thrown right into the deep end and she must find her own way, not quite like a coming-of-age story but she starts to figure out who she is in this new world.
She seems to be one of the characters with the most development over the series. How much have you brought to the character?
That’s the beauty of our writers as they’re very good at incorporating our personalities into our characters. As the daughter of immigrant parents myself I understood a lot of what she was going through but obviously I’ve never experienced anything like she does. They made it feel very real to us whether its fear or not but I’m sure that will be amped up as the series go on.
There’s a real diversity to the cast, and clash of both opinion and belief, and more than you see on most shows.
You’ve seen lately in Hollywood that it is a hot topic issue. Diversity has been on the backburner a little but now ethnic men and women are getting lead roles. Where this is filmed there is real diversity and it’s not made a meal of; it’s just who we are. We see strangers forced together and ethnicity just doesn’t come into it.
Family seems to be another the dominant theme.
I think its natural human instinct to want to protect your own. When the families intersect in Episode Two, it’s difficult as they’re strangers. Later they have to venture out together so does that mean they’ve become one new family? Its human nature not to trust anyone in a crisis and that brings the family together.
There are also some very dark scenes. Is it tough on set when those are being filmed?
For me as an actor, you get to play both the highs and the lows and I like to do that. It’s interesting to explore the darker side of human nature and it’s important to be true to that and psychologically that’s interesting to me.
I believe you’ve either just started or are about to start Season Two. Do you flick through the script to make sure your character survives?
We get the script just before we start to film and we kind of read them backwards to make sure we’re still alive!
To go back to one of your early films, what do you remember from Quarantine 2?
It was an amazing experience! Talking about diversity, I went in to audition for Jenny and they didn’t care whether you were white or black or anything; they just wanted the right person for the role and luckily that was me. That gave me a lot of confidence and I learned so much on that movie. Perhaps the running around set me up for dealing with zombies!
AMC can be seen free of charge for all BT TV subscribers (channel 381 in HD and 332 in SD). Sky viewers can access AMC on channel 192 as subscribers of the BT Sport Pack. Season One is available to own on DVD/Blu-ray from December 7th.