The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live finale: Terry O’Quinn and Lesley-Ann Brandt on Beale and Thorne’s motivations

The CRM-loyal duo also discuss whether they’d be up for coming back to TWD.

Terry O'Quinn as Major General Beale - The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live _ Season 1 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC
Terry O'Quinn as Major General Beale - The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live _ Season 1 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC /

After six weeks and countless tears, that’s a wrap on The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live. The finale was an epic hour that saw Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and Michonne (Danai Gurira) take their final stand against CRM – including Major General Beale (Terry O’Quinn) and Pearl Thorne (Lesley-Ann Brandt) as the two final bosses of the show.

Spoilers past this point, but in the hour, while Michonne searched for the evidence Jadis (Pollyanna McIntosh) had on her and Rick, Rick himself was receiving the Echelon Briefing from Beale. That briefing? Basically, Beale plans on killing nearly every other living being left on Planet Earth in order to maximize the resources available to Philadelphia, and his army. And as Michonne discovers, that includes killing everyone in Portland first, and kidnapping their children.

It doesn’t work out that way, of course. Rick betrays Beale and kills him. And then the married duo use his zombified corpse to activate a chain of hand grenades that destroy CRM’s gas canisters, and kill most of the army. In the middle of the fray, Pearl tackles with Michonne, only to be subdued herself. And in her final moments, she realizes that Michonne is right: love doesn’t die, even in the zombie apocalypse.

To find out a whole lot more about O’Quinn and Brandt’s take on their characters, the Echelon Briefing, and whether they think they would be back for more TWD, read on. But first, a massive, worldwide exclusive about Beale.

Bam Smack Pow: I did want to start with the most important question, that I'm sure everybody's going to be buzzing with after the episode: Does Beale have a first name?

Terry O'Quinn: Buster.

Buster Beale. Perfect. A big exclusive for me.

O'Quinn: No, he was named Major General Beale when he was born.

More seriously, I do think the clear theme of the finale and the clear theme of the show is what Michonne says towards the end, "Love doesn't die." I have some theories, but I'd love to hear from both of you how you think that ties to Beale and Thorne, individually.

Lesley-Ann Brandt: I think they were two women in similar situations, except Thorne was Rick, trying to get back. Right? There's a part of her that had to die on the boat where Okafor found her in order for her to survive in this world. That's what makes these characters different. Her trying to build this family within the CRM, this friendship, clinging on to an ideology, a plan for humanity's survival, it gave her a purpose. Whereas her purpose was just getting back.

It's like looking in real life. There are people who can survive real trauma and experiences, and go on to thrive and be super-functioning, successful human beings, and then other people never recover from that trauma, whatever that is, in life. She said goodbye to love on the boat.

Rick and Michonne never did, even if his got buried really deep down, and he was maybe on the cusp of just going full CRM until Danai shows up, until she finds him. She's able to just pull that man out from the uniform and remind him who he is.

But she had to die. Thorne represents something. I said this to Scott when I first took on the role, that I think she just represents that ideology, the way she thinks, that version of humanity has to die in order for them to live.

Lesley-Ann Brandt as Thorne - The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live _ Season 1, Episode 1 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC /

Yeah. Terry, what about you? Do you think Beale ties into the whole "love doesn't die" theme?

O'Quinn: No. Love died. He says, "I had no choice. We were fighting on two fronts, and we couldn't sustain two fronts, so I could choose Pittsburgh or Philadelphia, and I gave up. I walked away from my friends, from my home, from my city." That's probably the closest experience to love that he ever had after getting beaten up by his father, apparently. You didn't hear a lot of his history, but enough to know that he had a tough childhood, and I suspect he's been at war his whole life.

Love is a great idea, and it's great to think you can go home and everything will be hunky-dory, but there are still a billion delts in the world and they will eventually overwhelm us. Somebody told him, "She's had some studies done," and said, "We've got 14 years maybe. Maybe less. And then we'll all be dead. So here's my plan. It's a very tough one. It's not romantic, but it's logical."

That's where he is. Can't afford to. Just like you said, we can't afford to be free. There's too much at stake, and we can't afford to worry about love. Too much is at stake. Maybe later.

Brandt: That's so sad.

O'Quinn: It is. Yeah.

Well, could I throw something conversely at you, because one of the lines I was most struck by in the episode is when he realizes Rick is about to betray him. The way that you deliver the line, "No," which is a very simple line. It could be defiant, it could be angry, but there's such a sense of betrayal in the way that you deliver it. There's not necessarily romantic feelings for Rick, but do you think he's starting to feel something for Rick, perhaps fatherly or companionship or something like that, so maybe that ties in that way?

O'Quinn: Maybe. Perhaps, something a little fatherly. I mean, he does say, "I can see in the next decade you may be the one to lead the CRM." So he has high hopes, and he thinks he's found someone truly special. And he has, just not in the way that he had hoped. It is a betrayal. I could say also, Thorne, they feel they've been betrayed by Rick differently. I don't mean to equate the two, but Beale definitely feels he's been lied to and misled. And so, yeah, "I think I better kill him."

For both of you, the Echelon Briefing... I know this is kind of a crazy question to ask, but clearly, from your characters' perspective, this is something that they're passionate about, they're almost cult-like about. They believe in it fully. Do you believe in it? I know as an audience, the CRM is the bad guys. We're not supposed to like it. But is there anything to their plan?

Brandt: [Laughing] Do we believe we should bomb children? Come on, Alex.

O'Quinn: Well, we did kidnap a lot of them, right? That was the plan. I wasn't really aware of that plan of the video that Michonne was watching. That was pretty horrible.

But, do I believe in it? No. I would certainly never make those choices myself. On the other hand, can I understand how those choices might be made by somebody? I do. There's a certain kind of twisted logic to it all. I can make sure that this small group or 200,000 people survive and begin humanity. Because he believes, he's been convinced that humanity will not survive. It might last 14 years, maybe less, but that's what he truly believes. So, these are the choices he makes to try to make sure of that survival.

Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes, Lesley-Ann Brandt as Thorne - The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live _ Season 1, Episode 1 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC /

Brandt: Really the choice for my character is hearing what they're doing and then deciding to ... I mean, she says, "You didn't see what I saw." Do you know what I mean? And the way that is delivered is, there's huge stakes here. However, what else does Thorne have to ... She's come in, she can't leave. I think this is her new life. This is her family. She's lost Okafor. Rick Grimes is now the closest confidant. Right? Beale is more of an authoritarian figure.

But, do I as Lesley-Ann, am I rooting for the CRM? No. I actually said this to Scott, I said, "I've never actively rooted against a character I've ever played before, but I find myself doing that." I just feel like, "Come on, make a better decision."

That's why she can't survive. Because that kind of thinking, you're going to do the opposite of what you're trying to do. Human beings, we are the smartest. We will put an airplane in the air. We will send a man to space. But we will actively destroy our own habitat, knowingly. We'll make our body sick by eating certain things or whatever. As a species, I'm just like, I go, "I don't see lions overeating," or just, you know what I mean? They eat. They're done. They go have a nap. That's it.

O'Quinn: I dispute the argument that we're the smartest, but be that as it may, I do believe-

Brandt: No. I said, "We're one of the smartest." We can do these amazing things, and then we're also the dumbest at the same time.

O'Quinn: What I think is true, and I think it's probably true of Thorne and probably of all these soldiers, we have people, once you walk down a certain path far enough, it's very hard to turn back and forth.

Brandt: Yeah.

O'Quinn: We have evidence of this today. I mean, there's a lot of people drinking the Kool-Aid today. These people have for a long time. Beale is not a fool. He's simply kind of a psychopath. His argument is not illogical. It's just immoral.

Terry, over the years I've done a lot of interviews with people who have been turned into zombies on the show, and everybody has a slightly different experience. What was it like for you being made into a walker?

O'Quinn: It was just one afternoon of getting makeup on and doing the thing. I didn't know that it happened to me. Scott Gimple kind of sprung it on me after I was there. He said, "Oh, by the way, would you?" I was like, "Okay, well I'm an actor. I tell the story, and if that's in the story, yes." It was fine. It was just put on some makeup. I said, "Hey, I was only killed an hour ago. That's a lot of makeup." They said, "Oh, it's all right. There's a lot worse. You aren't going to get the whole, full treatment." And I said, "Okay." That was it.

Lesley-Ann Brandt: Imagine being one of the calcified people.

There’s clearly a pretty definitive ending for both of your characters, but if there was some sort of prequel, there's all these one-shots, Tales of the Walking Dead, is that something you'd want to come back for? Maybe, Terry, you could narrate The Young Buster Beale Chronicles or something like that.

O'Quinn: Buster Beale goes to Paris.

Brandt: Yeah. Thorne survives-

O'Quinn: Never say never.

Brandt: Yeah. I'm going to pitch this. Okay? You don't see her die. She's stabbed, but you don't see the zombies descend on her. She rolls under the crate, one of those containers, or crawls to her safety, ends up in Paris. How do we get Daryl? I'm like, "Your friend Michonne did this." How do we get Thorne to Paris?

It could work. Daryl floated over on the back of a boat, so you can get there pretty easily.

O'Quinn: I've been in projects before where I was killed, and then they decided to make a movie, The Stepfather II, and then so, hey, it turns out I wasn't killed after all.

Brandt: Yeah. I never say never. I think this is a fantastical world. This is the gift of The Walking Dead universe is you're 12 years in, you're going strong, you're doing huge numbers, the fan base is as rabid as ever. You know?

O'Quinn: It's just a gift of Hollywood.

Brandt: There you go.

O'Quinn: It's a gift of make believe.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

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