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Performers Of The Month - October Winner: Outstanding Actress - Alycia Debnam-Carey



A good television producer dreams of putting together a cast that consists of performers who, in addition to being talented actors and actresses, possess those intangible qualities of charisma, humility, and are supportive of fellow cast and crew. They know that special performer could step up at any given moment and take the reins, becoming a leader on screen and off. As part of an ensemble, it's inevitable that at some point they will be pushed front and center expected to shine as the lead of a particular storyline or episode. It's in those moments that writers can realize what a gem of a performer they have on their hands, performers that naturally rise to the challenge. It's these performers who end up with the richest storylines because they are proven to be able to deliver whatever is thrown their way. They usually go from one face in an ensemble to someone that the audience begs to see more often. They take everything they are given and no matter how small they amplify it. These are the performers that casting directors fight each other to cast in projects. While AMC's Fear the Walking Dead is lucky enough to have many of these sort of performers, one, in particular, stands out, Alycia Debnam-Carey, who first came into the spotlight portraying Lexa on CW's The 100. She quickly earned her reputation as the sort of performer that elevates every single scene she is in. It is for these reasons and all the ones to follow that it's no surprise that she won the title of October's Most Outstanding Actress.

She has been with Fear The Walking Dead since the very beginning and she has taken her character of Alicia Clark on an incredible journey, from dutiful daughter to full-on warrior survivor in the middle of the zombie apocalypse. Along the way, there have been a lot of big grand defining moments that have shaped who Alicia has become, but perhaps no more so than those that happened in This Land Is Your Land (3x13). This was the most impactful episode for Alicia in that it really forced her to embrace the fact that she's rapidly becoming a leader in her own right. That means that there was a lot of pressure on her portrayer to sell the impact of what was happening. There were several subplots, but the weight of this episode was firmly on Alycia Debnam-Carey's shoulders and she did proud by the script and the show. She took Alicia on a journey of survival that would forever change the character, after this episode she will never be the same. One can't go through what she did and not be irreversibly changed.

Alicia didn't start out a leader, but she has become one and with that came great responsibility. Once they were forced into the pantry the race was on for survival. Her choices would decide who made it out and who didn't. Sadly, leaders aren't infallible and sometimes no matter how hard they try they can't save everyone. Alicia did everything she could, though none of it would be enough to save everyone she led into the pantry. What she did give them, at the very least, was a few precious final moments together. There was a heavy weight on Alicia throughout this whole ordeal and it was captured in stunning realism by Debnam-Carey. Back during her days on The 100, her incredibly expressive eyes played a big part in defining Lexa's complexities. Her eyes are a powerful tool that she uses effectively. She has precise control over what she wants to portray with nothing more than a shift in her eyes, which is what happens just prior to Alicia's big speech in front of the group.

When they first entered the pantry, she was making very calculated moves, trying to process what to do to look after everyone. She was extremely focused, then she's told about the air system not functioning and in an instant, a very notable look of concern, bordering on fear flashed in her eyes. That's pretty incredible because while her eyes showed what Alicia was actually feeling, on the exterior the character still looked in control. It's that same combination of stoic and terrified that she took into the speech scene and it gave the whole moment an extra added element of intensity. The stakes were so high in this moment as Alicia calmly yet firmly expressed their dire situation. She flat out told them that to give any of them an even marginal chance to survive, others had to sacrifice themselves. There were some well-placed inflections of underlying emotion that came out in Debnam-Carey's performance that really sold how serious things were. This performance set the tone for the whole episode as it laid out what was at stake.

She's got exceptional timing when it comes to line delivery and gives just about any line more depth than the writers probably intended. That is quite impressive, but it's what she does in the quiet moments sans lines that is truly incredible. Far too many performers don't know what to do when they don't have lines. They literally stand there trying to not look like fools. Only the exceptionally gifted performers know how to command a scene without words. Debnam-Carey is among that elite group which she has shown time and time again playing multiple characters. In terms of this episode, she had several of those sorts of moments and every one of them is worth noting because they each showed just how much can be done without the need to speak a single word. It's always fascinating to watch a performer show the soul of their character without ever uttering a word.

During the gathering of the infected, the group was terrified, rightfully so since the topic was how they were going to be killed. Alicia spoke a few soft words but mostly stood there observing. Even when she was just standing there, the great weight placed on Alicia's shoulders was palpable. As she heard the others talking she maintained the presence of a leader while her eyes screamed complete and utter sickness regarding what she knew she had to do. She was trying to maintain her control over the group because her leadership was really all holding the whole group in check. Had she fallen apart the whole dynamic of the group may have crumbled as well. Yet through Debnam-Carey's performance, the audience could see Alicia's resolve starting to fracture.

That's important because that was soon to be followed up by Alicia having a bit of a breakdown after she had to take the life of the first of the infected. Debnam-Carey could have played the moment to show Alicia full-on bawling and breaking down, but that just wouldn't have fit with how the character has evolved. The breakdown was poignant because of how hard Alicia tried to remain in control. She could only hold herself together for so long before the proverbial emotional dam broke. It's not easy for a performer to fully let go and allow their character to have a full breakdown, but it's even harder for a performer to have to control the breakdown. The hyperventilating Alicia was doing while grasping onto the shelf to steady herself was stunningly done. Alicia was shaking and tiny sobs snuck out, but she was fighting so hard to try and stay in control. She was crumbling while fighting to hold herself together. It was in the way that Alicia dropped to her knees sobbing only to pull it back to quiet trembling that showed just how hard she was struggling to be the strong leader she knew everyone needed. Debnam-Carey was amazing in the way she showed that balance between control and letting go.

She made every little moment count. Like when Alicia had to kill Blake (Michael William Freeman), they shared a tender quiet moment together before she had to end him. As she stuck the needle in his arm she reassured him that it was going to be okay. Debnam-Carey kept her voice so soft that it was hard to immediately know how the character felt about the situation. It was clear, that by this point, Alicia had become almost numb to the deed at hand. She still didn't want to do it and she hadn't lost her humanity, but she knew that it was ultimately the best fate for Blake given the alternative. It was quite a poignant moment for Alicia and after it was over a tiny bit of weight seemed to have lifted off of her. She was still burdened, but she was able to sit back for the only thing left for her to do was to confront the fact that there was nothing else she could do.

It wasn't all deeply emotional controlled acting. As the carbon dioxide set in, and her fate was out of her own hands, she relaxed into accepting whatever would come. She got to have a lovely chat with Christine (Linda Gehringer) in whom she seemed to find a kindred spirit. It is in this conversation that Debnam-Carey actually got to do some nice relaxed acting where she could just get lost in the dialogue and take the audience along with her. As Alicia spoke about her failed talent show experience at summer camp as a kid, the way the lines were written painted a vivid picture, but the way Debnam-Carey delivered those lines took the audience right to that moment. Through her soft-spoken story and wistful eyes, one could imagine themselves standing in the audience of the talent show watching young Alicia struggle on stage. It wasn't a big epic moment or grand exuberant precision acting, but one of simple soft reflection and was beautifully executed. As the scene played out and the carbon dioxide took over and clouded her mind there was this look of peace that came over her. It doesn't take much effort to slip a character into unconsciousness, but it does take an effort to make the audience actually feel the peace the character was experiencing in what could have been her final moments.

Of course, it wasn't the end for Alicia, and when she came to, a fight for survival began. She stumbled and crawled her way to survival. Then when the zombies came to life and attacked she managed to dig deep and find what little strength she had left to fight. It was in this fight for survival that Debnam-Carey shone perhaps the brightest. The entire focus was on her as Alicia struggled through delirium and struggled to fight off the zombies attacking her. She fully committed and stunningly showcased Alicia's inner strength while showing her physical weakness caused by the carbon dioxide. Every little stagger and stumble along with Debnam-Carey making her eyes go unfocused helped to sell the moment. It was a moment of weakness but through her powerful acting, it turned into a moment of immense strength for the character. It was a perfectly executed scene that couldn't have been done any better.

As the episode closed out Alicia was left to confront all that she had been through. Yet, again so much was said in the silence as Debnam-Carey's ability to make her eyes go hollow helped sell what was going on in Alicia's head before she even declared that she was indeed changed by what had happened. In that silence, she reconciled what she did and by the time she was debating with her mom and brother about what comes next her mind was already made up. She needed a different path. The conviction in Alicia's declaration was the perfect way to bookmark the incredible journey she had just endured and survived. Debnam-Carey's delivery made sure that there was no doubt that Alicia was a changed woman. It was a powerful transformative note for Alicia to end the episode on and worked because Debnam-Carey fully committed to the full journey. By the time this scene came around she made sure the audience understood why this was the best option for the character.

Alicia went on a full journey throughout the hour and Debnam-Carey sold every single aspect of what was happening. She went full in, and that commitment delivered an episode that won't soon be forgotten. She committed every aspect of herself to bringing the full weight of Alicia's circumstances to life. Just about every emotion was dealt with and she left nothing on the table. This performance was certainly deserving of recognition and she was more than deserving of this title of October's Most Outstanding Actress. She is a consistent powerhouse actress who never fails to deliver perfect performances. As such, she did such good work in this episode and throughout October that not every moment could be highlighted in this article. Please feel free to use the comments to discuss all the other scenes and grand moments not covered here.

This is her third POTM win over the course of two years spanning two different characters. She's the first and only POTM winner to land on the winner list for two separate characters. That says a lot about just how talented an actress she is. Since Fear The Walking Dead is over for the season she won't be eligible for any more rounds in 2017 unless she guest stars on something. But rest assured there will still be one last opportunity to potentially have her recognized as she will join all her fellow 2017 winners in a Performer of the Year run off to see who will carry that title for 2017. Be sure to keep an eye out for that come January. Until then enjoy discussing her impeccable work in the comments here.

PLEASE READ: Please keep comments on topic and just discussing the performances of the winner.

Special thanks to Donna Cromeans, freelance editor/proofreader (@DJRiter on Twitter) for editing this article.








 
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