‘Tales of The Walking Dead’: Danny Ramirez Breaks Down The Haunting “La Doña”

‘Tales of The Walking Dead’: Danny Ramirez Breaks Down The Haunting “La Doña”

Danny Ramirez has had a wild year. From starring as Fanboy in Top Gun: Maverick, to Netflix’s Look Both Ways with Lili Reinhart, to the news that he’ll be joining the cast of the upcoming Marvel flick Captain America: New World Order, the 30 year old actor has never been more in demand. And in between all of those projects, he managed to sneak in a stint on a stand-out episode of AMC’s Tales of the Walking Dead, titled “La Doña”.

“It started out with two people in the house,” Ramirez told Decider on why he chose the role. “I think exploring that and being able to play that is really what got me to want to do it. I had also just shot Claire Denis’ Stars at Noon maybe a month before that. And so I was just genuinely hungry to throw down, and being Latino there’s a different responsibility that I feel like I have in regards to the different genres and the different areas that I’m about to play in.”

In the episode, Ramirez stars as Eric, a post-apocalypse survivor starving and freezing with his girlfriend Idalia, played by Cowboy Bebop‘s Daniella Pineda. On the brink of death, they head towards a house lived in by La Doña Alma (Julie Carmen), a woman they claim to know, but clearly do not. She has running water, plentiful food and basically everything Eric and Idalia would need to survive the harsh winter. Spoilers past this point, but through a series of events, Eric essentially kills La Doña. But as the couple occupies her house, it seems like perhaps she may have died, but her spirit stuck around.

It’s a surprising twist to throw a ghost story in the zombie filled universe of The Walking Dead (it’s up to the viewer to figure out whether the ghosts are real, or Eric and Idalia are just losing their minds), but that’s the whole point of Tales: to shake up everything you know about TWD. To find out more about making the episode, why the representation in front of and behind the camera was so important to Ramirez, and which of his acting buddies he’d take into the zombie apocalypse, read on.

Decider: You’ve had such a busy year with Top Gun, Look Both Ways, you’ve got Captain America 4 coming up… Why Walking Dead in the middle here?

Danny Ramirez: It started out with two people in the house. I think exploring that and being able to play that is really what got me to want to do it. I had also just shot Claire Denis’ Stars at Noon maybe a month before that. And so I was just genuinely hungry to throw down, and being Latino there’s a different responsibility that I feel like I have in regards to the different genres and the different areas that I’m about to play in. I hold it, that responsibility, pretty high up… No matter what it is, if I’m able to exercise the acting muscle and work on it and experiment with it – it’s something that I should absolutely do. And then, just, it’s really exciting to have an episode with all Latinx people from La Doña, to Idalia, Eric, Lindsey [Villarreal] the writer. And so, it just felt like a massive opportunity for representation, and also just, to throw down a two character gauntlet of an episode.

As you’re saying, other than the bird, it is pretty much a two hander between you and Daniella Pineda. What was it like developing this increasingly fraught relationship with her over the course of the episode?

It was interesting. We basically shot in eleven days. Daniella and I met on set day of shooting. And so, knowing that was the circumstance, it’s kind of playing into, especially as we start warming up to each other, really what the reality was. It’s like, well, there’s distance here because we don’t know each other. And then, being able to play with distance very early on, cause that is a real texture that’s within us, leaning into that as we get to know each other helped jump into the pool. And once we were there and we were like, “Oh okay, day two,” we then started bringing the different layers, trying to find the place we were at as our relationship started unraveling.

I thought it was a really fascinating and toxic relationship to be apart of, even the words that Lindsey used in her writing as to how whether or not whose side was true — the real, grounded like hyper-rational Eric side, the objective reality side that he thinks is happening is the proper one. He still wasn’t holding his partner by any semblance of imagination in a way that he should’ve. … It was fascinating to be like, “Okay, they get the thing that they wanted the most in such a long time which is the safety of home,” and that safety actually being what allows for the relationship to really come out.

Photo: Curtis Bonds Baker/AMC

I’d love to hear you talk about working with Julie Carmen, even though she’s briefly a part of that episode.

Working with Julie Carmen was just… The biggest takeaway I have is how her career is unreal. She gave the real real on what it’s like in this industry when she came up into it, to what it is now. And the different battles that she had to go through in regards to continuing her association to the work was just different, and it was really inspiring to see what a massive success this was. She was like, “This is probably one of the first times I’ve been on a set where everyone is Latino or Latinx,” and so, being such a massive percentage in a massive universe was like we got handed the keys to a really nice car. It was just fun to see her light up and be like, “This is a massive step.” To me that was one of the most perspective shifting things, that Julie was basically able to hand us how important it was.

Particularly in the final act it keeps switching back and forth between Eric having visions, and Idalia having visions, with each insisting that the other is going crazy. Do you have a definitive take on what you think is happening, or does it ultimately not matter, and it’s up to whatever the viewer takes away from it?

No, I don’t. I played the ending with both things being true in different takes. American Psycho, there’s that scene and it’s Christian Bale having dinner, and the three ways I think that were played was opposite of Christian was Willem Dafoe. So Willem’s character in it, he essentially is in one take he’s suspicious, in one he’s actually genuinely on his side, and those are interwoven in how the conversation goes down. That gives it a different tension of like, “Wait what?” And so, I wanted to play with that… Eric’s ending is… It gets to that same place as the audience is like, “What?” Because I think that’s the idea of relationships, [they do] warp both realities into this thing that’s like, “What is happening?”

Here’s my theory just to throw it at you: gas leak. I think there was a gas leak in the house and they’re both going a little crazy because of the gas. You think that’s possible?

Oh interesting, that’s cool. I didn’t even think about that, yeah. Well then, La Doña, she’s been knowing about this gas leak or …?

I mean, it doesn’t work, my theory. But the entire time I was trying to figure it out because you’re bringing ghosts into a zombie world, so as a fan of the franchise, it’s interesting to think about it.

There are ghosts in this world right now, in our world, right? We have the concept of ghosts, and many people seem to seen them or not. What to me is fascinating was, after years of survival and on the road and the psychological toll that takes, when you finally have a little piece of some peace, how does that trauma and the PTSD you just experienced, how does that manifest the first time that you’re in a place of tranquility? Because if you’re continuing on the road and still fighting for your life, there’s less place for what you’ve done to settle in. When you finally take a break and pause, all the ghosts do come up. All the people you’ve killed or the things you’ve seen come up to the surface. Whereas, you’re still on the road and walking, the action of moving forward, it does help suppress your actions.

Last one for you, because I have to let you go in a second. If you could pick one post-apocalypse buddy to survive zombies with, would you choose Tom Cruise, Anthony Mackie, or Lili Reinhart?

Wow. I think… No, that’s interesting. Post-apocalyptic?

Yeah, like you’re in the world of the Walking Dead and you can choose one person to travel with and kill zombies with.

So in the world of the Walking Dead, there’s many people still kind of in this hustle right?

Yeah, I’m not saying necessarily that, you choose Tom Cruise, and Anthony Mackie and Lili Reinhart are dead. It’s just you chose one to say, “This is the person I’m going to go out and kill zombies with.”

Well, if we’re going to kill zombies I think I’d choose Tom Cruise, when you frame it that way. I would pick Tom because he does it. He does it live. He shoots everything practically. And so, I think he’s experienced having the high octane, things he’s done, so he’s able to remain calm in that, in order to execute at such a high level. So I think if it’s us against 150 zombies, he would hit a state of flow that I would love to see. So, even if he’s the one killing all the zombies, he would put all the tools that he’s picked up through his profession, through his career, and it would be unreal the way that he’s able to kill some zombies.

That’s the plot of Top Gun 3, is you guys just going out and killing zombies.

[Laughs] Yeah, we crash land into a place where the zombie apocalypse started.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Tales of the Walking Dead is now streaming on AMC+.

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