Alexa Mansour / Design by Tiana Crispino

Alexa Mansour on Finding Peace Through Music

Alexa Mansour knows a thing or two about surviving an apocalypse. No, I'm not talking about the pandemic—the actress and singer plays Hope Bennett on The Walking Dead: World Beyond, AMC's latest series in the franchise's zombie-ridden survivalist landscape. A survivor of the zombie outbreak, Mansour's Hope is a high school student who spends her spare time learning how to fight and distill alcohol. 

For Mansour, the hobbies she's picked up in the aftermath of global catastrophe are a bit more chill than those favored by her character. Still, living through such a heightened time has prompted her to reevaluate her worldview. "This past year and a half forced me to deal with things I put on the backburner," she says. "When everything was paused, I was like, Okay, dang it, I have to work on this and make myself better. Because if you're not okay, then I don't think anything around you is ever going to fall into place."

It does indeed seem like many things have fallen into place for Mansour in the last year. A lifelong music lover, she's started releasing material of her own—her EPTurbulence came out last December—and she's begun to venture back out into the wider world (recent highlights include a long-awaited trip to England). Ahead, Mansour chats about skincare, making music, and the shows she's currently watching.

It's got to be weird working on a show about an apocalypse while we're all going through this borderline-apocalyptic experience in real life. The pandemic hadn't started when you started filming the first season, right?

Yeah. I remember hearing little things about the virus and being like, Oh, it's not going to be that big of a deal, the news is just making everything seem a lot worse than it is. And then when they said, "LA is going into lockdown, and you have to be home after 5 pm," I was like, This is weird. This feels even more stressful than the actual show did. I think I would rather have a zombie apocalypse than deal with a virus.

At least zombies are an external thing.

Yeah. The threat of the virus made you afraid of other people. You didn't know who had it; you didn't know if they were asymptomatic. At least with the zombies, you're very clearly a zombie. Like, we see it on you. Also, zombies can't run, so if you see one of those walkers, you could just run away, and then you're out of there.

Alexa Mansour / Design by Tiana Crispino

Alexa Mansour / Design by Tiana Crispino

How do you feel like your lifestyle has changed over the last year?

I'm not going out as much as I used to, or at all. It's made me a little bit paranoid because my dad is a lot older, and my grandparents. I never want to feel responsible for something happening to anybody else, so I've just been more of a homebody. I got a dog, as you do when the world shuts down. I think a part of it made me appreciate the things I took for granted, like living with my mom. For a while, I was like, Oh god, I have to get my own place. And then when the lockdown hit, I was like, Oh no, I'm actually happy I have my mom and my sister with me.

Do you feel like your priorities have changed?

Yeah, I think so. I guess it made me work a lot harder because I realized any of this could be taken away from me. In the beginning, things got taken away from us so fast that I was like, Okay if I have the chance to do something, I'm going to do it because I don't know when I'm not going to be able to do it

I started making music again because I had a chance to go into a studio, and I've been watching movies many people told me would be good for my career—all that kind of stuff. Recently, I went to England for a month, which is not something that I would have done before, because I would be like, Oh, I can go whenever I want. But this little sliver of time opened up, and I was like, Okay, I'm going to go because things could change again. I think a bunch of us took a lot of things for granted before this happened.

Do you have a routine you're attached to?

I wake up, and I wash my face. I always use Neutrogena's Hydro Boost Cleanser—I don't know if it's making a difference, but I do it, and I feel like I've accomplished something after washing my face. When I get zits, I use the Mario Badescu Drying Lotion ($17). My makeup artist on the set put me on to that, and it's been my saving grace when it comes to big pimples.

I use Drunk Elephant's Slaai Makeup-Melting Butter Cleanser ($34) when taking off my makeup, especially after having a bunch of dirt on my face from work. Laneige's lip stuff is amazing. I swear by it; I'm always putting it on. I think I have, like, three half-empty ones just lying around.

Alexa Mansour / Design by Tiana Crispino

Alexa Mansour / Design by Tiana Crispino

What else have you been doing to take care of yourself?

Little things—like going on walks alone and getting out. I would stay home in bed, watch TV, and not go outside when there was nothing to do. Being okay with being alone was a huge thing for me. I suffer from extreme anxiety, so sometimes leaving the house is the hardest thing to do. Forcing myself to walk outside—even if it was just like a couple of blocks—helped me a lot. I realized if something's going to happen to you, it's going to happen, and you're going to have to deal with it. But you might as well say you tried to go and conquer something today rather than stay home and feel sorry for yourself.

I started reading this book by Cazzie David [called No One Asked For This]. She's super open with her anxiety, and I like reading stuff like that because I'm like, Okay, well, I'm not the only one that thinks I'm crazy.

You mentioned you've been watching a lot of things lately. What are you enjoying right now?

A friend of mine kept getting on my case for not having seen The Sopranos, so I've been watching that. I also hadn't seen Goodfellas, so I recently watched that. As soon as I saw that movie, I was like, I think I know what my dad does for a living. I texted him like, "Is this what's going on?" And he was like, "I'm flattered you think that of me, but I'm 80 years old, and I don't leave my bed." [Laughs] 

I've watched The Mummy a million times and pined over Brendan Fraser. My aunt met him one time outside of this ice-skating rink and got him to sign a little business card for me, and I came home and framed the card. I eventually lost the card, but Brendan Fraser, if you ever hear this or see this, I love you.

You put out your EP Turbulence last year, and I know you grew up playing piano and making music. What was it like to tap back into that?

I wrote that EP a little bit after a breakup. I'd say it was like a year and a half later, but that was my first love and first relationship. I think that EP was the first time I could express how I was feeling after everything. Aside from the breakup, I was struggling with personal things, family things, and being able to write it all out was like, Okay, now it's out in the open, I've gotten it out of my brain, and I can heal. I've been writing a lot of music lately, and I'm hoping to release more. The EP was part of the healing process for me.

Alexa Mansour / Design by Tiana Crispino

Alexa Mansour / Design by Tiana Crispino

That makes sense. The last year has made it obvious how important it is to have an outlet for the things our bodies and minds are working through.

Yeah, I agree with that. I was lucky I kept up with music and played the piano because I don't know what I would have done besides that. Towards the beginning, I would hang out with my best friend who lives up the street from me, and the next day I'd be hungover, and then the next day, I'd be hungover. After about a month, I was like, No, I can't do this anymore. I'm pretty sure my body is made of vodka. I called my manager, and I was like, "Can you put me in contact with a producer? I'm writing all this music, and I think I need to get it out there, and hopefully, it'll help other people when they listen to it." It was my little saving grace.

Besides working on music, what have you been listening to lately?

I'm obsessed with my friend's music. His name is Sam Fender, and his music is insane. His first record, Hypersonic Missiles, was very honest. Banks is another person I love. I'm obsessed with Phoebe Bridgers. 6lack is good. I pretty much listen to everything except screamo because I can't sing along to it, and that bugs me. [laughs]

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