- Warning: There are spoilers ahead for season 11, episode 15 of “The Walking Dead.“
- Paola Lázaro discussed Princess and Mercer’s relationship and the series ending with Insider.
- Lázaro said she’d love to continue playing Princess in the “TWD” universe.
“I think the biggest thing that I’m gonna take away from this show is the fact that my character speaks about mental health and going through trauma and PTSD and anxiety and
and ADHD,” Lázaro told Insider over
on Wednesday, the series’ final day of shooting, as she was wrapped up in a “Walking Dead” hoodie.
Lázaro joined AMC’s apocalyptic drama as Juanita “Princess” Sanchez on season 10, expanding greatly on the character from Robert Kirkman’s comic series of the same name.
“When I go to conventions, I have people come up to me and thank me for the character. I’m just so thankful that I get to play a character that speaks on that,” Lázaro continued.
Lázaro added: “I cry with them, with the fans sometimes, and we hold each other. Just seeing such strong people work through mental health issues and being able to be a voice on television for that is a dream come true. I think that’s my biggest takeaway from this — being able to talk about that freely and initiating the conversation on mental health through my character.”
On Sunday’s episode, “TWD” finally confirms that Mercer (Michael James Shaw) and Princess are officially dating after their evening at the Halloween gala. After a slightly tense conversation, by the episode’s end, the two appear to be more united in finding some solutions to corruption at the Commonwealth.
Lázaro discussed her favorite memory on the show with Insider, what she’d like to take home from the set, who she’d like to see return for the show’s series finale, and the real-life friendship she and Shaw have forged off-screen that’s resulted in them making music together.
Lázaro said it’s bittersweet for the series to be ending, but she has been able to connect with so many of the fans and previous cast members at conventions.
Insider: Today’s an emotional day if you’re part of “The Walking Dead” fandom. So it’s nice to speak with someone who’s connected to that world. They’re finishing up filming the finale today. How are you feeling, knowing that filming is going to be done?
Lázaro: I mean, it’s definitely bittersweet. I think we’re all tired physically, but we are just sad to say goodbye to each other — to the crew, the cast, everybody behind the scenes.
To not wear my coat anymore, my pink jacket, it makes me kind of sad. I fell so in love with this character. But, who knows, hopefully in the future we can all get together or work on something together. But, it’s definitely bittersweet. Definitely more bitter than sweet.
Yeah. Well, on the flip side, I saw you were at Fandemic the other weekend with a bunch of fans and current and prior “TWD” stars. Was that your first con since the pandemic?
That would be my fourth in-person con, because my character came out at the height of COVID, April 5, like two years ago. I can’t believe that.
I had done virtual conventions during the height of the pandemic, but, this was my fourth in person and it’s so awesome. I just have a blast and I’m my clownish self and everybody’s laughing and I’m laughing with them and I’m exhausted and having a great time getting to know everybody.
It was probably good for you to just see some of the other cast members from over the years.
Yeah. I got to meet Alanna [Masterson]. I got to meet Emily Kinney [and] Dave Morrisey.
It’s just awesome to see them in person. It’s so crazy as a fan of the show, I’m like, “I’m a fan of your work” and you’re geeking out meeting them and they’re just people, but really sweet and welcoming people.
Mercer and Princess’ relationship is still in the ‘getting to know each other’ phase.
On Sunday’s episode, Princess and Mercer get together. I was so excited for this because we last spoke when Michael James Shaw was first cast on the show. What is Princess and Mercer’s ‘ship name, their relationship name? Have you discussed this with Shaw?
Absolutely. We have discussed this. Our original thought was Princer, but it seems like people on the internet are like, “Oh Mercess.” But our favorite — Mike and I — our favorite is Princer.
It had more of a ring to it.
How would you describe their relationship? Are they officially a couple? Are they kind of keeping their relationship on the dow-low for now? We don’t see them out in public holding hands or anything. Although, they were at the ball together.
I think they’re still getting to know each other. So I think both of them are kind of scared to say, “Hey, I wanna be with you.” I think they’re nervous because it’s been a while since either of them probably has connected with someone on that level.
It’s so scary to get back into that and to be transparent about your feelings. But I think they’re getting closer to that definitely after this episode.
There’s this sweet, small moment between you guys where Princess hears Mercer say that he likes to hear her talk. And I felt that was a moment that likely made her really feel seen.
I tend to speak a lot and I’ve had people in the past tell me they don’t care to hear every little detail and that can be a bit hurtful. So I thought that was a nice line and an important thing for Princess to hear.
I think it’s very sweet because Princess is one of the few characters on this show that speaks a lot.
I think Negan, Ezekiel, and Princess usually go on and on in a very detailed way. It’s not just whatever. It’s very well-crafted by the writers. To have his acceptance in her expressing her mind and how she feels is the ultimate acceptance that she’s been seeking. Especially when you can find it in a romantic partner, that’s just such a joy when somebody gets you and you can just be yourself in front of them.
Lázaro and Shaw are making a song together in real life.
What has it been like working with Michael James Shaw? You told me a while back you spoke to him after he was cast and you guys seemed to hit it off, which really shows on screen on Sunday’s episode.
He’s a very dear friend of mine. I love him very much. We love each other very much and we even have a song that we’re working on together. We just have a lot of fun together.
We’re both very sensitive people, very loving people. I could not think of someone better to go on this journey with than Michael James Shaw.
Wait. Tell me about this song. Does he sing? Do you sing?
We both sing. We both sing in the song and we started it a while ago. We gotta finish it, but it’s a cute song.
Lázaro hopes to share a scene with Carol or Negan and wants to take a few items home from the show.
Is there anyone on the show who you haven’t had a scene with that you’d really like to see Princess interact with in these final eight episodes? I was going to say Carol originally, but I feel like I really want to see a Princess and Negan scene since they’re both huge talkers.
Those are my two favorite characters on the show. So I would definitely want to have some time with them as Princess. Absolutely. I think that would be so fun.
Is there anything that you’re hoping you can take home from set and hold onto? There was the $2 bill and I saw you had the pink jacket with you at Fandemic. Are they letting you keep anything?
I’m hoping to keep my jacket — hopefully, a couple of them please — and my goggles and the seat, the canvas chair that says “Walking Dead” Princess. I’m hoping to keep that, too, and anything else they want to give me. Maybe my gloves.
The minefield shoot and ‘Splinter’ are 2 of Lázaro’s favorite moments in the series.
Looking back at your time on “TWD,” is there a favorite moment, a favorite episode, or a favorite memory you have from working on the series. Maybe it’s something to come?
I have so many and there’s stuff to come that we haven’t seen yet that I really liked shooting.
But there are funny moments like the minefield moment where I screamed in the middle of the shoot and jumped into Khary [Payton] and Josh’s [McDermitt] arms because I was scared of the mind because it was so loud. There’s us laughing in the middle of a serious scene because you just can’t control it sometimes.
I think one of my best memories was shooting “Splinter,” [season] 10, [episode] 20. It was just nonstop and I really worked very hard and was responsible, caring, graceful. It didn’t matter how tired I was. It was just such a beautiful experience. I really learned a lot about myself and how I work under pressure and it’s good. I work good on it.
Lázaro wants Princess to make it to the end of the show and would love to keep playing this character.
Where would you like to see Princess by the end of the show? Do you hope your character makes it to the end or would you rather have a cool death scene?
I would definitely like to make it to the end. It would be awesome to see Princess in the future. I always say that Princess’ apocalyptic dream job would be to run apocalypse parties where she’s a DJ and like everybody just comes through to dance and party. So if we have a little image of her spinning some discs … that would be awesome.
She has a job in the record store right now, so that makes sense.
I was going to ask what you think about all of these spinoffs. We’re getting a Maggie/Negan spinoff and Daryl and Carol are getting one. Where’s the Princess/Mercer spinoff? Could we see Princess again in this universe after “The Walking Dead” ends, maybe on “Tales of the Walking Dead“?
Would you want to continue playing this character?
I would definitely want to continue this character. I love this character and it’s an absolute pleasure for me to play it and a joy. I would definitely join wherever Princess fits.
It feels like “Tales” is right there.
Lázaro would like to see Rick Grimes show up on ‘TWD’ finale.
I don’t know if I should ask you if you have a prediction for how “The Walking Dead” is going to end because maybe you know how it ends —
Well, I mean, it’d be awesome if Rick showed up right at the end. That’s all I can say.
It’d just be awesome.
So many of us were seeing that he was in Georgia at one point.
As we head into the series’ final eight episodes, Princess is definitely becoming a bit skeptical of the Commonwealth.
I know that there aren’t any more scenes with Princess in this chunk of episodes because I’ve watched the 11b finale. What can you tease for Princess and her allegiances when we see her again? She’s pretty cozy at the Commonwealth right now while some of her friends haven’t been up until this point. Is she starting to suspect that maybe the Commonwealth may not be as good as it seems?
I think she is because she’s so observant. We’ve seen that throughout her time on the show. She sees everything. She’s like a detective. So I think she’s starting to sense, “This is not what we thought it was and I don’t know if I’m OK with that.”
We don’t see the conversation she and Mercer have at the episode’s end, but I assume he trusts her enough to start filling her in —
— like give her the low down of what’s really going on behind-the-scenes in the Commonwealth. As audience members of the show, whenever we’ve seen a nice community, we’re like, “Mmm. I dunno.”
There’s always something brewing underneath the surface.
“The Walking Dead” airs its 11b finale on AMC on Sunday, April 10. It’s currently streaming on AMC+. This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.