Andrew Lincoln’s departure on The Walking Dead leaves a six-year time jump and the introduction of several new characters in its wake. One of those mysterious and intriguing new survivors is Connie, played by Lauren Ridloff.
Lauren generously shares details about her experience thus far on The Walking Dead as well as unique insights as a member of the deaf community. Fans have been very excited to see sign language incorporated into the fabric of survival represented on the show.
Lauren’s character is part of a close-knit group of survivors rescued by a precocious Judith Grimes in season 9 episode 5. There has been much debate among Alexandria about the idea of bringing Connie, her sister Kelly, and fellow group members Yumiko, Magna, and Luke into the fold. There are obvious trust issues related to a mysterious prior incident.
The group proves to be skillful in battle and Connie reveals some other special skills in addition to her slingshot prowess. Connie can feel the vibration of nearby walkers before her hearing counterparts notice them coming. Later, the character senses something or someone in the woods, but disregards it when no one “sees” anything. As the group pulls away, viewers see the chilling point of view of someone watching the group.
Find out what Broadway actress Lauren Ridloff has to say about Connie’s role in her apocalyptic family, the bond she created with fellow cast and crew, and how social media is opening doors to more diverse communication.
What kind of fan interactions have you experienced thus far with The Walking Dead fans?
Lauren: Funny, I just took my Jeep to the mechanic for an oil change and the employees just lit up when I came in. We took a picture together and I felt like both our mornings got much better just like that. I am now very motivated to bring my jeep in for future oil changes!
The Walking Dead fans are incredible–they’re our cheerleaders. We work long, erratic hours and in crazy weather, so meeting fans is very rewarding and redeeming. It shows me how much of an impact our show has on people.
It sounds like some other cast members were interested in learning some sign language. Is there anything new you have learned on set from cast members?
Lauren: Angel’s teaching me how to do the Milly Rock and other hip dance moves. Christian Serratos taught me how to perfect my breakfast orders from craft services. Alanna Masterson told me where to get great coffee, and Avi Nash shared some theater training tips on how to prepare for a big emotional moment.
The crew members are amazing also. I’ve learned how to distinguish poisonous snakes from non-poisonous ones! The cast wrangler showed me this awesome app to identify constellations in the sky. I’ve also learned from the hair people how to keep my curls poppin’ despite the crazy humidity in Atlanta.
There is a visible familial type bond among Connie, Kelly, Yumiko, Luke, and Magna. Aside from Kelly actually being Connie’s sister, what do you attribute this to?
Lauren: We each bring a quality to the group that helps us stay anchored to our true selves, and we really balance each other out.
Magna is the hothead but she’s also the fire within the group, the one who keeps us fighting and moving forward.
Yumiko is the water to Magna’s fire–she is cool and grounded. She keeps us together.
Luke is the one who reminds us to retain our sense of humor and love for the arts, ideas that may seem superfluous in a world of survival but is essential in keeping us human, apart from animals.
Kelly is the heart of the group–she represents our future.
And Connie is the eyes of the group. She is vigilant and keeps the group one step ahead.
How would you describe Connie’s biggest strengths?
Lauren: Her levelheadedness and belief in family are her biggest strengths. She utilizes her other kick-ass skills (sharp aim, tracking, hyper-awareness, persistence and curiosity) to foster a sense of safety for the family. Connie is willing to take risks to protect the family.
How can Connie’s journalism background help her in the zombie apocalypse?
Lauren: Before the apocalypse Connie was in investigative journalism, so that says something about her abilities. She picks up on subtleties that others may not notice: body language, a quick glance, details that fill in the gaps left by what is unsaid.
I imagine Connie is inquisitive, constantly formulating questions and answers–she is naturally suspicious and has a photographic memory. As a journalist who got some baddies locked up before the apocalypse, she is meticulous and analytical, gathering information before leaping into action.
Those skills are used again and again during the apocalypse–she is on high alert at all times, an active yet silent observer who surveys her surroundings and the people around her.
Is there anything you prefer about television acting versus stage roles and vice versa?
Lauren: What I love about theater is the intimacy I get to develop with the director and the amount of control I have over my work each night on stage. And all the adrenaline I get from performing in front of a live audience–whoo!
Acting for television means I get to cultivate multiple relationships with the directors–interacting with different directors gives me insight into my character. I also love how this show has an enormous audience. I reach far more people through television and see the impact after my work is done. Oh, and craft services? Come on.
Had you been to Georgia before? What did you think of it? Any favorite spots?
Recently on Halloween Day a friend took me hiking in northern Georgia, about an hour and half drive away from the city and the cool breeze and falling leaves in the Appalachian Mountains made me forgive Atlanta for all the hot summer days.
What opportunities are there to make the acting profession more accessible for the those who are deaf or hard of hearing?
Lauren: I feel that right now people are more interested in hearing stories from people who carry different worldviews and experiences and this curiosity stems from social media. So, I think that social media really is a boon–it serves as a platform for increasing visibility and accessibility.
Texting, subtitles and captions have opened the way for people to understand sign language. Look at Narcos! So much of the dialogue is spoken in Spanish, and the English subtitles help with comprehension. The same goes for sign language–there are more ways to be understood on the screen.
The interpreting profession also has helped open up opportunities for the D/HH (deaf/hard of hearing) by enabling two way communication in a very specific, technical and fast-paced working environment like television and film.
Finally, fans love behind the scenes stories. Is there a funny or unique moment you would like to share from behind the scenes of The Walking Dead?
Lauren: Eleanor Matsuura (who plays Yumiko) was held up in the UK, so the rest of the group had an extra week to just prepare for shooting. We had different training sessions–weapons training, horseback riding training, American Sign Language training.
But one of my favorites memories was the tattoo party! Nadia had to choose tattoos for her character and decide on placement, and she was having the hardest time so we had a little shindig in her room–Dan Fogler, Angel Theory and I came to help her pick out tattoos and decide where on her body to put those tattoos.
We wound up talking, joking, dancing and lip syncing but in the end Magna got her tattoos. I just love that we all had a say in Magna’s badass tattoos.
How awesome to learn that Magna’s tattoos were a collaborative effort! Many thanks to Lauren Ridloff for providing such great insights into her character Connie and her own personal experiences working on The Walking Dead.
We wish both Lauren and “Connie” a long and prosperous future on the show. Of course, it’s a dicey, dangerous world on The Walking Dead. Let’s hope Connie’s unique skill set serves her well in battling threats like the Whisperers!
The Walking Dead season 9 mid-season finale airs November 25th at 9/8c on AMC.