Interview by Michael J. Lee, Executive Editor for
June 10, 2021, introduction updated December 2021

A two-season limited series in the sprawling universe of The Walking Dead, World Beyond views the zombie apocalypse from the perspective of young survivors who have grown up in the undead shadow of global crisis and ever-present danger. Determined to reunite with their scientist father, sisters Iris (Aliyah Royale) and Hope (Alexa Mansour) are joined by friends Elton (Nicolas Cantu) and Silas (Hal Cumpston) as they leave the shelter of their community and embark on a treacherous cross-country journey.

While the first half of the show focuses on the core group's learning curve in dealing with the dead and the perils of the road, the second half zooms out for the bigger picture, detailing the machinations of the Civic Republic Military, a shadowy organization intent on rebuilding from the ashes of society by any means necessary. The CRM serves as the primary antagonist of World Beyond, while establishing continuity throughout the franchise with surreptitious appearances on both The Walking Dead and Fear the Walking Dead. Their narrative also addresses the science of the zombie plague in a way not seen since the first season finale of the prime series, further distinguishing the spin-off from its predecessors.

We met Nicolas Cantu in 2016 as a young voice actor promoting his lead role on Disney XD's LEGO Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures, in which he played one of three eponymous siblings making their way in a galaxy existing between the events of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. He has lent his off-screen talents to a number of other performances, including the title character in Cartoon Network's The Amazing World of Gumball, and has since branched out into live-action projects.

In this exclusive interview conducted between seasons one and two of The Walking Dead: World Beyond, Nicolas talks about becoming a part of a storied franchise's dystopian universe, and reflects on past experiences with voice acting.

Season one of World Beyond is available on Blu-ray and DVD from RLJE Films.

The series finale airs on AMC December 5, with early access available on AMC+. To what extent were you familiar with the universe of The Walking Dead, and the zombie apocalypse genre in general, before landing the role of Elton on World Beyond?

NICOLAS: I was, I would say, very well-versed in the zombie universe. I had watched the first two seasons of The Walking Dead when they first came out, I would play a bunch of zombie video games, I would watch "fact videos" about The Walking Dead and little secrets that you can find in the show. I was a big fan.

Given that familiarity, did you have to do a lot of "unlearning" when it came to dealing with walkers, since Elton and his friends aren't nearly as seasoned as other survivors we're accustomed to watching as an audience?

Yeah, I definitely had to unlearn a lot about the process of killing them, because when we go about the show, Elton and all the other characters aren't that well-versed, as you said. So there's one scene where the character Iris is fighting a zombie, and she can't quite seem to hit the head correctly. And as the character, I'm like, [haplessly] "Oh man, this is really not going our way!" But then the zombie fan in me, I'm like, "Just hit the head, it's the brain--it's right there, come on, come on!"

I would imagine that as a fan, you're anxious to uncover the mysteries set up on The Walking Dead, particularly the whole situation with the black helicopters and the whereabouts of Rick Grimes. Are you privy to detailed spoilers well in advance, or are you basically kept in the dark until it comes time to film something?

They do keep us in the dark about most of the things in the show, especially with the CRM. So we just kind of find out as the scripts come out, or as we film it. But I also, believe it or not, don't ask that many questions. I feel like I just want to be along for the ride with the fans on knowing secrets. There's probably a bunch of stuff I could ask [series creators Matthew Negrete or Scott M. Gimple], but I bet they would still be keeping the curtain closed and shutting me down. [laughs]

Without giving away too much, what can we all expect from the upcoming second season?

I feel like fans are really going to be excited to see this almost new world that we've crafted. Season one was very quest-based in its structure. And it kind of keeps that same feeling in season two, but it's very different--things just kind of ramp up very quickly. It's such a fun ride, and the scale is pushed even bigger than it was before.

How do you think World Beyond's focus on younger survivors distinguishes it from the other shows in the universe of The Walking Dead?

I think one of the strongest aspects of our show is that new perspective. The main Walking Dead and Fear the Walking Dead have a different lens from ours. And ours, as a narrative storytelling device, shows itself in a lot of different ways. The environments are, I guess, more exaggerated--the walkers are more of a threat. And you get to kind of see this teenage perspective to the apocalypse, which is something we haven't really seen that much of before in the other shows in the universe. So it's a very interesting new lens to see the world through.

In a hypothetical crossover, how do you suppose young characters from the other shows would fit in with Elton, Iris, Hope, and Silas?

Dude! With our group...We definitely think that we have it all together, but man, Rick's daughter [Judith] would run things--you know, she would definitely keep us all in line with that big katana she has. She would definitely be the new leader and we would all just look to her for guidance. [laughs]

Elton wears a corduroy suit that is resistant to zombie bites, which seems both resourceful and cumbersome. Is that outfit as uncomfortably hot as it looks?

Probably hotter! We've been filming in Richmond, and season one, we were filming right in the middle of summer, which was just awesome [for] a three piece suit made of corduroy. And it was a battle, I'm going to be honest. But it looks cool in the show, and it's bite-proof, and it does all things it needs to. It just put me into a state of, like, arrest a couple times. [laughs] Richmond does get humid on top of its heat. I mean, they really choose the most humid, hot places to film the show, which works because our characters are supposed to be sweaty and hardened from battle. So good job on production for making it real! [laughs]

Elton has a lot of gear that is important to him. Are you pretty method with carrying all of that stuff while filming? If we were to open his pack, would we find his actual possessions in there, or just something like a rock to give it weight?

[laughs] A rock would be funny! Sometimes I think they put blankets in there to simulate that it's full for some other characters. But Elton's backpack is like a suitcase, so they don't really have to fill it with anything to make it look like it's full of stuff. But on the outside, you see it's dangling with pots and pans. He does have his manuscript. He also has a camera. He carries his pocket fisherman. We actually did have a segment, I think, for the press of season one, where all the characters kind of went through what was in their bag. And Elton pulled out a bunch of items like that. So yeah, he's very well-equipped.

Between the equipment and costume, it's like you're hiking on a mini boot camp...

Oh yeah! We got these big boots, got the weather. The sets are very large. It's very fun, though. I cannot lie. As hard as it gets, it's still an adventure and super fun.

The show's fifth episode ("Madman Across the Water") reveals a lot of Elton's backstory through flashbacks. How was your own performance informed by watching those scenes interpreted by other actors, and seeing someone else play a younger version of Elton?

I'd never really been a part of a project before where two people play the same character at different times, and so having that new experience was incredible. And the way that Roger [Dale Floyd] did little Elton and all the trauma that he faced...He did such a great job--he really killed it, and he added a lot of depth to the character. And with this trauma that he faced, I was able to kind of use his performance to fuel mine when I'm under the boat facing that fear. It was an incredible experience.

We first met you for the animated series LEGO Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures. Are you interested in continuing with voice acting, even though you've recently been working on live-action projects?

Yeah, I would love to stay in the voiceover world. That's kind of where I grew up, you know? Going from like ages 7 to 14, I was going to voiceover booths in the mornings and skipping school for them. So it's very much like a second home. And those projects are always so much fun. I mean, getting to voice act for The Freemaker Adventures, that was so great. Everybody there was awesome. Working on The Amazing World of Gumball for Cartoon Network was such a blast. And just all these other voiceover projects that I've done have definitely been highlights in my career, and I want to keep doing them. It's a world that I very much enjoy, and everybody involved in that space is so nice, and they're great people. So I would definitely love to continue working in that medium.

Disney has obviously been hugely successful at perpetuating and expanding franchises. What are your thoughts on the possibility of revisiting the Freemakers? And are you still able to do the voice of your character Rowan?

If they bring Rowan back, I would assume that they would probably age him up, because if not, I do not think I would be able to do it again. [laughs] I was like 11 or 12 when we were filming that. And even directly after, like at 13, I could notice my voice changing a little bit. But if they were to bring Rowan back, I would absolutely love to play him again. A little older, of course. Or they could just make him sound older with no explanation! I think that would be funny also. [laughs]

Do you feel the story of the Freemakers was pretty much wrapped up in the show's two seasons, or were there storylines you would have liked to explore further?

I feel like it wrapped up pretty nicely. All the characters had great arcs, and you really get to see Rowan's journey as a Jedi. But maybe you could have seen more of that, you know? Rowan was only really beginning his study of the Force, and using the Force to build things and create ships like the Arrowhead. I think seeing him become more, I guess, enamored with that side of his powers would be awesome. But I think it wrapped up pretty nicely, and we did see the Freemakers in another LEGO Star Wars shorts series. They did a bunch of shorts and they even covered [stories] before the Freemakers--we got to see the Freemakers' parents. I thought that was really, really cool. It definitely showed that LEGO and Lucasfilm had a lot of love for these characters. So if they want to keep spreading the love and showing more stories with them, I would love to see it.

Nicolas, it's been great catching up with you today and talking about Star Wars and The Walking Dead. Thanks for your time!

Yes, this has been awesome! What a surprise to hear [from] you again. Thank you so much.

Related Material

Interview: Madison Iseman on Nocturne, Clouds

Thor: Love and Thunder
Jurassic World Dominion
The Menu
Bullet Train
Clerks III
Doctor Strange 2
The Matrix Resurrections
Spider-Man: No Way Home
Ghostbusters: Afterlife
The French Dispatch
Prisoners of the Ghostland
Clifford the Big Red Dog
Jungle Cruise
Gunpowder Milkshake
The Water Man
The Vast of Night
She's Missing
Angel Has Fallen
Nobel's Last Will


Contact Us

Anna Kendrick
Alexandra Daddario
Antje Traue
Lindsay Sloane
Angela Sarafyan
Saoirse Ronan
Teresa Palmer
Hailee Steinfeld
Odette Yustman
Grace Park
Ashley Bell
Kristen Stewart
Bridgit Mendler
Danielle Panabaker
Helena Mattsson
Carla Gugino
Jessica Biel
AnnaSophia Robb
Jennifer Love Hewitt
Emmy Rossum
Mary Elizabeth Winstead
Angelina Jolie
Keira Knightley
Alison Lohman
Hilary Swank
Evan Rachel Wood
Nicole Kidman
Piper Perabo
Heather Graham
Shawnee Smith
Kristen Bell
Blake Lively
Elizabeth Banks
Camilla Belle
Rachel McAdams
Jewel Staite
Katie Stuart
Michelle Trachtenberg
Sarah Michelle Gellar
Jessica Alba
Famke Janssen
Elisabeth Shue
Cameron Diaz
Shannon Elizabeth
Salma Hayek
Emily Perkins

Interview: Holland Roden on 'No Escape'

Preview: The New Mutants


© 1997-2021