Interview With Pollyanna Mcintosh | Co-Creation At Its Best
Exposed from a young age to diverse cultures and languages, Pollyanna McIntosh developed a sense of openness and a continuous interest in understanding human nature. Through her life experiences and acting roles such as Jadis/Anne on AMC’s series The Walking Dead and her debut as a director of the upcoming feature film Darlin’, Pollyanna feels joyously fulfilled by the idea of collaboration.
When we feel joy in seeing the best in others, we have the possibility to uplift them into bringing out their fullest potential. For that, any rendezvous with those around us becomes co-creation at its best.
- Please introduce yourself briefly. Who, in your own words, is Pollyanna McIntosh?
I’m a woman interested in equality, others’ perspectives on life and human nature in general. I’m an actor currently playing Jadis/Anne on The Walking Dead and as a writer/director I have my first feature film Darlin’ coming out next year. I’m a Scottish American, and I like to enjoy life.
You were raised in three different countries – Scotland, Portugal, and Colombia before moving to London at the age of 16, and a few years later to Los Angeles. How has this combination of cultures molded you as a person and added to your acting skills?
Growing up around the world was one of the best things my parents did for me. The later moves were choices I made and who knows if that would have felt so right for me had I not had their example. It opened me and my sisters’ eyes and minds to other cultures, not only showing us what benefits we had in our own but what different perspectives and values could be found elsewhere. It’s a great way for an actor/writer/director to grow up too because it’s a very peripatetic job requiring both independence and an ability to connect and feel comfortable around new people all the time. It’s also a great way to study human nature.
- The entertainment industry seems to be moving toward a more globalized audience which opens possibilities to new projects – internationally. Why do you think it’s happening and how do you envision the future of the TV/film industry?
I just saw a fascinating new film Burning starring one of my Walking Dead family Steven Yeun. It’s an Oscar-worthy film from Korean filmmaker Lee Chang-dong and it’s a fascinating example of globalization as well as of a personal experience in South Korea. I think it’s funny that you pose the question where “the entertainment industry” is used to describe the American entertainment industry because of course, the entertainment industry has always existed outside of America too, but it is the American mentality to see itself as “the norm” and the rest of the world as “other.” It’s exciting for me to open up American audiences to a broader perspective in film and TV. It’s happening slowly and
I think they’re ready for it. We can learn a lot from what the younger generation seeks out on Youtube, etc. They are hungry for connection and their minds are more open than ever.
- There are more female filmmakers and leading female roles representing strong characters and heroines. How do you think this shift is affecting those talents who want to be involved in the entertainment industry?
I can only hope it continues and grows further in this direction so we can continue to impact a girls’ expectation for herself and balance the narratives put out into the world. We have a long way to go still, but there is no end in talent and diligence from women and girls interested in storytelling and passionate about the arts.
- Jadis, now called Anne, the character you portray on AMC’s series The Walking Dead, which premiered its 9th season, has elements that are traditionally considered to be male and female. In that sense, how do you think it impacts the audiences’ mindset of stereotypes?
I think The Walking Dead has been busting stereotypes for years and I’m glad to be a part of that. The experience of watching the audience’s online to reaction to my character, both the positive and the negative, has been rewarding in confirming the need to keep up the conversation about gender stereotypes and how unhelpful they are when dealing with humans.
- What do you think Jadis/Anne represents and how does her character connect with the audience?
I hear from a lot of people that they love how “badass” she is and I’m hearing a lot of folks say, since the middle of Season 8, that they connect with her all the more now they’ve seen her vulnerability. People like to feel empathy for characters, it’s one of the best sides of us. To me, she represents a duality which is the human condition.
- Either consciously or unconsciously, we, all humans evolve in the direction we choose to focus on. How has Jadis/Anne developed and what’s her next progression in the series?
She has taught herself to be strong and has grown her eccentric streak alongside that strength. The apocalypse affected Jadis with great loss, like so many, but it also allowed her to change her perspective on certain things that means she has a new freedom in a certain way. Her next progression will be pretty interesting I believe, but I wouldn’t want to ruin the surprises.
- The Walking Dead cast is fantastic, and we have heard the chemistry on set is terrific. If so, what makes it so great?
It really comes down to an overall cast and crew commitment to this show and its audience. We are also lucky that the casting team has incredible taste and a nose for good people. The other major factor is Andrew Lincoln who is a great leader with integrity. He sets the bar for the rest of us.
Writing & Directing
- You co-wrote, directed and acted in Darlin’, a direct sequel to 2011’s film The Woman. How was the process and how did you feel being involved in this multi-disciplinary experience?
I flourish when I have too much to do and a lot of people’s work to be responsible for.
I cannot even describe how satisfying I find directing. Having written the script, I had a clear vision for the film from early on to build and build on. However, it is challenging to manage your time as both a director and an actor. It’s a tight schedule, you don’t always have time to watch playback. In my case, I had to spend an hour and a half in makeup before I appeared on screen. Sometimes, I’d get up early and do my makeup myself to allow for crew turnaround. It was all a joy and I can’t wait to do it again. I’m proud of Darlin’ and everyone who made it happen. I think the greatest thrill for me with directing is the collaboration. You have it as an actor, but it’s off the charts as a director.
- The comedy Perfect, a short film you also wrote, directed and starred in will soon become a feature film. What’s the message behind its plot and what you will be involved in?
Perfect is a dark comedy about a comedienne who is gregarious and outgoing, but is depressed and conflicted inside. It’s about connection and family and suicide and comedy. It’s been a thrill to make with a very small crew and I’m looking forward to sharing it with people as a feature or a six-part series. I’m in development now.
- You have also written opinion pieces in the magazines Loaded, Flux, Honeysuckle and your long-standing column for Crave. How would you describe the feeling when words flow from an inspired action?
Most writers will tell you the same thing: You will do anything to put off writing and yet when it’s flowing it’s a wonderful feeling. For me, it’s when the piece takes over and you just feel very connected and in tune with that indescribable plain we all experience to some degree: of belonging.
- Are you involved in any charity organization or humanitarian cause you would like to mention?
I’m on the board of a wonderful charity called The Joshua Nolan Foundation. It was created in memory of Joshua who took his own life and is there to bring together mental health counselors and folks who need them. It also opens up the conversation about mental health in institutions such as schools. To me, it’s very important that we begin to treat mental health issues and those with them with deference and respect. Most of us are affected by mental health issues through people we know if not ourselves and yet it’s still a taboo subject which only aggravates the problem of finding help. www.joshuanolanfoundation.org
I’m selling exclusive Jadis/Anne T-shirts to raise money for them and other merchandise from my site: www.pollyannamcintosh.net.
- All your roles have been varied in characters. How does embodying so many personalities influence your path of self-discovery?
It’s a bonus of the job that you learn so much about yourself through embodying other people. You have to be empathetic and open to be a good actor and I can only hope to keep growing.
- The spirit of The Hedonist Magazine is “The Essence of a Joyful Living.” How does Joy during the creative process affect your own experience and in consequence the final manifestation of your actions?
What a wonderful spirit! They say happiness is found in growth and so I think overcoming challenges both external and internal which lead to growth or finding in the creative process those moments where you think, “this is going to connect or surprise or bring laughter to an audience,” are the most joyful for me personally. I take great joy in the work and talent of others’ too, so there is a hell of a lot of joy in working with a team as a director or actor. Things always turn out best when people feel respected and I think my joy in others’ work has probably helped the overall outcome with Darlin’ as much as my own which kept me working.
- When you hear: “You can be, do and have anything you want,” words by Abraham Hicks. What is your take on such a statement?
I’m not too familiar with his work, but I have friends who love him. We live in a great time for finding your own gurus or spirituality or faith family which is cool. I think the above statement probably needs some context for most, but I think the possibilities of the human experience are vast. Being open to your idea of “what you want” having multiple interpretations is as important as the quest to satisfy them.