Eleanor Matsuura, who plays Yumiko in The Walking Dead, just spoke to AMC about revealing her character’s backstory and more. Warning: spoilers ahead…
Q: What was it like going into Season 10? Is it different for you personally in your second year on the show?
A: It’s pretty incredible. Going into Season 10 of any show is such an achievement. I think everyone’s been really excited. I feel honored to be a part of it. For me, personally, it’s been like art imitating life. Last season when our group joined the show, it very much felt like in life when you show up and hope that people like you. That’s exactly what our characters were going through.
Returning this season, there was more familiarity and we were comfortable with where we’re at in the fabric of things. Yumiko and her group are more settled now. They feel like a part of the community. There’s something beautiful about starting the story from there. We’re a part of the family rather than trying to earn our keep.
Q: How does Yumiko balance her loyalty to her smaller group within the larger community she’s now a part of?
A: It’s interesting because last season, it was all about our group being accepted into Hilltop. Now that we have been [accepted], I feel a responsibility and alliance with them that is very real. We’re evolving, like any family. We’re changing and literally moving off in different directions all the time, but we’re always going to be connected. Our worlds have expanded and evolved, and that’s okay. That’s very natural. I don’t know if we’ll always be the “little group” like when we first started. I think that’s okay.
Q: You’ve talked before about how Magna is more of the leader in the comics. What differences do you think you bring to Yumiko from the comic character?
A: I think on the show, we show everybody’s leadership qualities. Magna and Yumiko both have strong leadership qualities, but we’re very different in personality. Magna is more hot-headed and rushes ahead. Yumiko is much more of a strategist and takes a second to look at the bigger picture. This season, there’s much more of an espionage feeling. The battle is much more mental and emotional. The pragmatists and the planners and thinkers among us take on a new role. We know that Alpha has a nuclear weapon with her herd, and fighting isn’t going to cut it anymore – however good we are at fighting. We need something smarter. I think that’s where we see Yumiko. She knows we have to use our brains and not just muscle alone.
Q: In Episode 5, we get a little backstory about the origins of Magna and Yumiko’s relationship. Was that something you were aware of already?
A: When I first joined The Walking Dead, I had a conversation with [Showrunner] Angela [Kang] about who Yumiko was and where she came from. That’s what everybody wants to know – who were you before?… This year, we reintroduced the fact that Yumiko used to be a lawyer and I thought that was so cool. It came full circle for me. I think it’s such an interesting dynamic to know that this is how Yumiko and Magna found each other and that there’s always been a bit of a power struggle there. It’s a lovely detail and I’m so glad we get to explore.
Q: How does it land on Yumiko when Magna reveals that she did in fact commit that crime that Yumiko represented her as a lawyer for?
A: It’s devastating for Yumiko. Past demons always come back to be faced. For Yumiko, there’s always been a certain belief that Magna was telling the truth about that particular thing. Her whole foundation of this relationship has been rocked. It’s really sad. I also think when someone lies to you, it’s hard not to wonder what is truth and what isn’t. You start to mistrust everything… Maybe they’re growing up and they can’t be tied to their past forever. Ultimately, the truth coming out is a good thing, even though it’s devastating in the moment. Also, Magna has been very difficult and angry all season. On some level, I think it’s also a relief to have an argument because at least it’s something. There’s some releasing in finally having a confrontation.
Q: Yumiko was one of the survivors who saw those pikes up close in Season 9 – and she was also there when Jesus got killed. How do you think that affected her and her views on the conflict with the Whisperers?
A: My character has been so close to those tragedies and it’s a reminder of how real this is and how easily it could have been one of her loved ones to be taken away in a blink of an eye. Being present for both of those moments has affected her in a huge way. Being a part of Hilltop now means she’s fighting for them and wants to contribute. She feels a very real alliance with them. The way that she copes with these tragedies is through her leadership responsibilities. She’s thrown herself even more into the community and she’s willing to do what it takes to protect those she loves.