Aliyah Royale started in the background and made her way to the top of AMC’s newest Walking Dead spinoff, The Walking Dead: World Beyond. She shares what it’s like to be ‘bitten’ by the entertainment bug.
She’s the angel the entertainment industry has been waiting for. Finding her way into the entertainment industry has always been a priority. Her academic journey has always consisted of honors, honor roll, and AP-courses. Her freshman year of high school, she was already taking college-level courses at the local community college next door. Her goal of wanting to acquire her Associate’s Degree before graduating high school kept her on her path of wanting to enroll and study at Oxford University for English literature.
But then something happened to her. Circumstances changed. It became just Aliyah and her mother, and that’s when she made the decision to move from Michigan to Los Angeles. That decision changed her life forever.
Meet 20-year-old actress, Aliyah Royale. She’s the new star of AMC’s spin-off series, The Walking Dead: World Beyond, portraying “Iris Bennett.”
TWD: World Beyond is a gritty drama set 10 years following the apocalypse and is a coming-of-age experience for youth who grew up in the decade following the outbreak. It will expand upon the already established apocalyptic society and introduce a new group of young characters led by Royale’s character “Iris Bennett” and her sister “Hope” (Alexis Mansour), who are the first generation raised in the apocalypse and have never known a world beyond.
Bitten By the Entertainment Bug
At a very early age, Royale made the decision to take the “bite” she received from the entertainment industry and run with it, while keeping her humility, faith, and mother with her at every stage of her progressive career.
CelebMix: Aliyah, it is an absolute pleasure. Thank you for talking with us. Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into acting?
Aliyah Royale: Thank you for having me, I’m really excited! I started like every other actor. I did stage plays at the Local View Center. I was in church plays, school plays, and anytime I could get a script in my hands, even if it was Three Little Pigs, I did it. At some point, I think I was 11 years old when I went to my mom and I was like ‘Hey, I think I might be good at this, like next-level, maybe-we-could-make-money-off-of-it good at this,’ so I asked her if we could move to California.
I really believe she was touched by an angel that night because she said ‘yes’ and just like that, we were on the road and that wasn’t easy. I mean, the first two years of my professional career, I was a background artist. I was doing extra work and for two years, never having spoken a single line and barely being seen anywhere in the camera. So now to be top billing on a series like The Walking Dead: World Beyond, it’s a blessing and I’m really happy to be here. And I’m thankful to my mom for making the move with me.
Started From the Bottom, Now She’s Here! Welcome to the Beyond
“I think there’s a level of humility that I have, because for two, maybe three years, this was my life, just being rolled past the camera in the hospital, you know? It taught me to appreciate being on camera.”– Aliyah Royale
Royale spent most of her career in the background, which to her advantage, taught her to appreciate the very different (and often gruesome) requirements that other industry positions require. Little did she know that every ounce of humility would lead her to a breakout, leading role on AMC’s soon-to-be biggest series since the premiere of The Walking Dead.
CM: It’s awesome how you worked your way up through background roles, never complaining. Not many individuals in the industry your age have that experience and humility. How do you take that experience of being in the background for so long and transitioning into a major role? How has that experience shaped your perspective on the entertainment industry and helped you along your journey?
AR: It’s surreal. I’ve always thought of myself as having talent and a strong work ethic. You know? I can do this, just put me in front of the camera, give me the lines, and I’ll do it. I’ll make it incredible.
But when I was a background artist and doing all the background extra work, although I was yearning to be bumped up to a featured extra and get that look and that one line, I also was just happy to be there. I think there’s a level of humility that I have, because for two, maybe three years, this was my life, just being rolled past the camera in the hospital, you know?
It taught me to appreciate being on camera, to appreciate being that actor, and in being able to say those lines and have that dialogue. But I also got to learn what the director does, what the gaffer does, what they’re doing with the sound mixing, what it’s like to be a PA. I learned so many different roles on set because of starting as a background artist. That’s why I have such an appreciation for the entertainment industry and production as a whole.
CM: That is refreshing to hear, because it appears you have the appreciation that unfortunately, many in the industry have forgotten, and specifically, forgetting where they came from.
AR: Oh my gosh, thank you. Look, the industry, it eats at your dreams a little bit, and I think people forget how they felt when they first got bit by the entertainment bug. Right now, I still have that feeling and I pray I never lose it.
CM: We hope so too. How has that reality played into your personal life? How do you balance your professional career with your personal life?
AR: I don’t know that there is a balance. I’ve always been about the work and my work ethic has been the strongest thing for me. I remember, I’d leave school early, and if I had an audition, I was like ‘peace out. I have to go get a job.’ That was always the first thing on my mind, which was weird. My academic life has always been honors and honor roll. When I transitioned to high school, I was enrolled in all AP-courses.
My freshman year, I started taking college-level courses at the community college next door. I was trying to acquire my Associate’s Degree before I even graduated high school. I wanted to study at Oxford University for English Literature.
And then something happened in my life. Circumstances changed, where it became just me and my mother, and I made the decision: I could either take this test and test out of high school or do what I’ve always wanted to do. I don’t know what my life would have been, had I just continued, I would’ve focused on school and just forget about my life and the dreams I aspired for.
CM: Can you elaborate more about the reasoning behind your decision to leave school behind and enter the industry?
AR: Of course. I tested out and could take another test. Or, I can get paid like an adult, right? I’m in the mix and I’m starting my career, and to me, that’s a way I could take care of me and my mom. But if I don’t do this, if I continue with school, what will my life look like? And what will my mother’s life look like? And it was an easy choice to be like, school is great, but my heart is here. This is what I’m good at. Don’t get me wrong, I’m good at school too, obviously, but it made more sense for me to go to work and take care of me and my mother, to handle my business.
And I would make the same decision over and over again.
CM: Tell us about where you grew up.
AR: My mother was born in Richmond, Virginia but I was born in Maryland. I lived in Baltimore for a bit, so Maryland-style crab cakes are very close to my heart! I moved around a lot as a military brat. I was in San Jose, and Kentucky, then Michigan. I was all over the map. Then I turned 11 years old, and I moved from Michigan to Los Angeles and began working on who I am today.
Bringing a New, Younger Generation into a ‘World: Beyond’
Whether Royale realizes it or not, her starring role in World: Beyond is instrumental in bringing a new, younger generation into a world that goes beyond the mere Walking Dead franchise–opening the gates for fans, new and returning, to experience a post-apocalyptic world of survival.
With how 2020 has continued to play out with COVID-19 and our current political climate, it’s only fair that there is some damn good television on with some damn good, fresh talent like Royale who brings her charisma, humility, and family into every line she speaks.
But what drew Royale to the horror-genre and Walking Dead franchise? Unbeknownst to many, Royale confessed to us that she is actually terrified of Walkers, if they ever came to exist. “No joke–the living dead, the undead, the dead-ish, whatever it is, I don’t like it,” she revealed.
But then the role for the upcoming series presented itself to her. “I got this audition and it was titled, ‘Walking Dead Project,’ and I was like, ‘Okay, cool, whatever, I’m not going to get this. There’s no way I’m going to get this.’ And I got it.”
CM: What did you do when you learned that you were cast for the role?
AR: I had to call my manager and say, ‘Hey, we need to talk! I’m terrified!’ And she was like, ‘You will say NOTHING! You will execute this role and you’re going to be great!’ It definitely took some getting used to. Our special effects team is so freaking good! You’d think based on what you’ve seen from The Walking Dead and Fear the Walking Dead, that you’ve seen everything with how the Walkers are presented.
Like how could the Walkers get any cooler? What other ideas could you possibly come up with? Well, we have them on our show. There’s one you’ve seen that has wasps coming out of its mouth. There are the two Walkers conjoined, which we call MDs on the show. I love it. I love it here.
What Was Lost, Is Now Found
CM: What are you looking forward to the most, either from Sunday’s premiere episode or from the series as a whole? [NO SPOILERS!]
AR: In terms of the show, episode 4 is my favorite. I mention episode 4 all the time. Remember, I didn’t finish school the way most people around me did. I left to work and to take care of me and my mom. There were many experiences I missed, even when I did go to ninth grade–you know, homecoming and the proms, I never had that experience.
My character of ‘Iris’ and I, we’re very alike and in episode four, we both get back something that we lost, and those opportunities we never had. It’s my favorite episode. There’s one scene in particular, where it’s just, it’s, it’s reality. Then it turns into this fantasy sequence in Iris’s head. I cried. I cried during that episode. I’m excited for everyone to see it and watch it.
CM: We definitely look forward to seeing Episode 4 and catching up with you again following that episode. Can you share with readers and fans more about your excitement on having your Mom by your side here?
AR: Outside of the show, I’m most excited to just show my mom that the decisions we made were not in vain. It’s important to me to share these moments with my mom and be like, ‘Mom, look, look, look! It’s airing on TV! I swear, this is you. You, you made the right choice moving out here with me. We’re good. We’re great. We’re successful. I’m working really hard, Mom.’
You know, she gave up alot to go on this path for her kid. And anytime I have a show airing or an episode coming up, I love being able to show her…this. This is what we did.
CM: Don’t you ever lose that. Don’t ever lose that, because alot of people have.
“…she’s my best friend,” Royale emphasized.
CM: Good. How has COVID-19, if anything, impacted you personally and your day-to-day routine?
AR: Whew! I had to get used to self-taping. That’s pretty much the way it’s impacted my life the most. I like going into the room to audition; I’m performing and I like seeing people’s reactions when I do something that’s not in the script or that’s new. I like developing that relationship with people. Even in our interview, I like developing relationships with an individual. That’s important to me. It’s not just networking, but you know, we’re impacting each other’s lives all the time, and not being able to do that, sucks. Other than that, I’m getting good at making my own home movies and continuing to support my local businesses.
CM: Tell us what you like most about your local businesses?
AR: I love eating out, so when that moment where stuff first shut down, and you could only get things delivered, that was the worst thing for me! My life is work. I don’t really sleep if we are being honest. It’s work and then eating good food with good people. And not being able to take my mom out to dinner or go out to eat with my girlfriends, it was hard. Being able to have patio seating now, means so much to me. Also supporting my local mom-and-pop’s Italian shop and not just franchise restaurants. Local businesses need our help right now in keeping them sustained and open.
CM: Are there any local spots you want to send some love to?
AR: I just had H.O.M. Italian Eatery off Ventura Boulevard. They have my favorite pasta dish–it’s like an alfredo, cream-based sauce, with little pieces of meat in it. It’s incredible and delicious. You can’t have it without the little parmigiana on it. I love carbs!!
To The Fans
And as our conversation with The Walking Dead actress came to an end, she wants fans and those supporting her to know one thing: She’s here for the long-term.
“I am here for a long time. I’ve worked really hard to create longevity for myself; it’s not just about getting famous or getting rich. On-camera, I want to be able to play as many different people as I can, because these famous characters give me things I never had. Again, I didn’t have the same upbringing that other people have. It was always going to work and not really living for myself. I do that every time I get to play a new character,” she revealed.
“Off-screen, I have a business mindset I’m tapping into. I’ve been researching wealth, property, you know, real-estate, personal business stocks. I’m wanting to invest. I want to be part of the next generation of, you know, getting on that Forbes list. I want to do a Ted-Talk, and it’s not just about being an actor and I’m here for screen time. No, I’m here for a long time, and there’s a lot of things I want to accomplish. Being on The Walking Dead: World Beyond is just another step in my journey and I’m really okay.”
Sunday’s Premiere of The Walking Dead: World Beyond
You can watch Aliyah bring ‘Iris Bennett’ to life on The Walking Dead: World Beyond this Sunday, October 4th at 10:00 pm ET/9c on AMC following the season finale of The Walking Dead.
No walkers were hurt during this interview.
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