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How The Walking Dead: World Beyond's Star Connects To Negan - Exclusive

This past Sunday, The Walking Dead expanded its universe with World Beyond — an all-new spin-off introducing a whole slew of fresh faces who are living their lives in the same zombie-infested world of AMC's flagship series and Fear the Walking Dead. Among them is Iris Bennett, a young, overachieving high school student who lives within the confines of the Campus Community of Omaha with her adoptive sister Hope (Alexa Mansour).

Iris is played by Aliyah Royale (The Red Line). It may come as a shock, but while she did come from a household of bona fied Walking Dead lovers and she recognizes how popular the show is, she was always too afraid to watch it when it first came out, so she had to be brave and do some homework after she signed on for the role. "I looked at comics. I rewatched episodes of the show," the actress tells Looper about how she prepared for her new gig. "That's how I discovered my forever affinity for the man that is Negan and his sidekick Lucille. I think that's what inspired me to name my weapon, Shiloh. Negan's relationship with Lucille is like, 'This is a person. This isn't a weapon. What are you talking about? This isn't a bat.' This is a legit character in the show. I love that. But once I signed on, I was ready and willing. And the fear that you see on the show, every single scene where I'm afraid, it's one hundred percent authentic."

Unlike some of the more primitive communities like the Kingdom or Hilltop, the Campus is pristine and sophisticated. Until you look outside of its walls and see its dilapidated surroundings, things look next to normal at Nebraska State University. Iris and her fellow students even continue their studies, showing up to class with clean clothes and styled hair and makeup. It appears a majority of the young population has grown up after "the night the sky fell," which is what they call the beginning of the zombie apocalypse. That's just part of what makes them a whole new kind of cast for the Walking Dead universe.

Elizabeth joins The Walking Dead's rogues' gallery of villains

While they are aware of the undead threat that lurks outside of their bubble, the young characters of World Beyond have never had to fight for survival or face off against an "Empty" (a new term they've coined for the Walkers). They've lived blissfully sheltered lives for the past decade, but things change when Iris receives a distressing message from her father, who's currently stationed at a research outpost operated by the mysterious Civil Republic Military. (To fans, that's the same three-ringed helicopter group that abducted Rick Grimes during season 9 of The Walking Dead.) Determined to rescue her father, Iris rounds up some companions and embarks on a dangerous 1,100-mile on-foot trek from Nebraska to New York.

Much like Negan's beloved barbed wire-wrapped bat named Lucile, it seems Iris is equipped with a signature weapon of choice. Royale herself seems to have developed quite an affection for Iris' trusty weapon, considering she's named it — and to be clear, it's not the official name of the weapon on the show. Still, Royale is clearly channeling Negan while on set. "I love my horned pole. We call them S-poles on the series. But it's this long metal rod that has a blade at the end," explains Royale. "But instead of your typical blade, mine has the horn of a triceratops. And she's super cool. Her name is Shiloh. I love her. And every time I have her in my hands and I'm about to do a combat scene or a fight sequence, it's hella bad ass."

Speaking of Negan, what would World Beyond be without a formidable antagonist? The Walking Dead franchise has certainly had its fair share of downright cruel and sociopathic bad guys, from the sadistic Governor to the deranged Alpha and the Whisperers. In World Beyond, we meet Elizabeth Kublek (Julia Ormond), the charismatic lieutenant colonel of the CRM who is clearly harboring many secrets. So, where does she rank among the rogues' gallery of Walking Dead villains? 

"Elizabeth is head honcho. I'd say it's all about finesse with her," says Royale when asked about how Elizabeth stands out from the rest. "Negan doesn't have a problem being very messy in front of everyone. But Elizabeth, she's calm, she's calculated, and she doesn't mind playing the long game. She will come to you like an ally, like a friend, like a kindred spirit. And then you won't see what comes next, and I like that about her. Her finesse is really incredible. I think she's at the top just because of execution. She's got an entire army behind her, you know what I mean? That's next-level organization."