Spoilers for anyone not up-to-date with The Walking Dead season 6.
As it so happens, unbeknownst to me until the interview took place, Sonequa Martin-Green (The Walking Dead’s Sasha) is married to one of Alexandria’s inhabitants in real life, Kenric Green, who plays the oft-wounded Scott. For this round table interview we had the pleasure of sitting down with both of them to gain an insight into their love of the show and the challenges it presents.
As season six draws to a close I’m actually more concerned for Sasha’s wellbeing than ever before, as if The Walking Dead has taught us one thing, it’s that being happy is a dangerous place to be. What makes the future for her and Abraham even more unlikely to be roses and sunsets, is the unceremonious and cold way that Abraham ditched Rosita, which can’t be a good portent for any part of the love triangle.
The interview found the pair on fine form, brimming with enthusiasm and laughs, which at least helps to offset any concerns about their on screen counterparts, so without further ado…
How was it for you reading the scripts for the second half of season six?
Sonequa Martin-Green: My mind was blown. I found myself reading them as an audience member – I try to maintain that as much as I can, because we were both huge fans of the show before we were on it. I’m at the edge of my seat reading my script and I get to the end and go shoot, I’ve got to wait two weeks for the next one to come out!
Kenric Green: It’s like our own version of watching the show. Then what’s cool, at least for me, by the time it actually airs you kind of forget things. You remember the big stuff, but reading it and seeing it on the screen is two totally different things. Also with Greg [Nicotero] who’s the director of 6.09 the order of how we read things happening on the script is not how it happened once it aired, so it is like being an audience member in that respect.
Sonequa, you joined the show when The Walking Dead was just becoming a phenomenon. Kenric, by the time you joined it was already there. What’s that like?
SMG: Oh man, I came in mid-season three and it was already successful, it wasn’t the goliath it is now, because it’s just continued to increase in popularity, which is a huge blessing. It was great for me coming in, because the cast and crew are extremely welcoming, it’s a very familial environment, so they welcome you with open arms and the say “Ok, you’re a part of this now, let’s go!’ and you hit the ground running and it was a bit intimidating, just because of the nature of the show, how hard it is to do physically and emotionally, but everybody was very inclusive, so those feelings of intimidation were squelched by the time I got there amidst everyone and got going.
KG: Like you said, by the time I got on there this was a fully constructed train at high speed. It’s like I tell people when you go on the show it’s only half acting. The woods are real, the sun and the heat are real, the ticks are real, the dirt is real. The only thing that’s not real is the zombies, but as well as they do with the makeup and the special effects, when they’re right in your face, you don’t really have to act scared. It’s frightening. It’s startling. Coming on as the spouse, I didn’t join the cast with her, but I got to meet everyone and get introduced to the world with her, so by the time I joined it already felt like home.
Having spoken to many of your colleagues over the years, they always struggle if they’ve worked closely with someone who’s then killed off. Sasha’s lost her brother and Bob and that put her in a bad place. Has that loss also difficult for you on and off the show?
SMG: We always say that’s the worst part of the job. It’s the absolute worst part of the job. We get close quickly and we say all the time we’re a family, but we mean that. It’s not just a joke, it’s not just something we say in interviews because it sounds good, it’s the truth and so even when new people come onto the show, they go ‘Oh this is really like this? You guys really love each other and really love this job and are really a family?’
And it is because it’s so hard and we all band together in the woods, in some town in Georgia. It’s hard because these people are your actual friends and when they leave the show, they do leave your life as well in a sense. We’re all actors, we’re all busy, we all travel, so it’s hard to link up schedules when you’re not forced to see each other at work. So when someone goes, you don’t know when you might actually see them again and it’s really sad. You know we cry and we hug and then we cry! [laughs]
Sasha’s had screen time with almost everyone, but what is your favourite pairing?
SMG: I really did love everything I did with Chad [L. Coleman, who played Tyreese]. I really loved our dynamic. We were immediately brother and sister when we first met, we say that a lot, but it’s true, it was very easy. We didn’t have to work on it, or figure it out, we were immediately teasing each other like brother and sister so I enjoyed working with him a lot. I’d [also] love to have a conversation or two with Scott! [gesturing to her husband]
I thought it was interesting back towards the mid-season that it was Sasha, Daryl and Abraham who were paired off together, when they were the three that really struggled to settle in Alexandria – is it difficult for you when your character is made to keep distance from the others in the show?
SMG: Yes, that’s a good question. It is actually and the first time I experienced splitting off was in season four when the prison fell and we all ran away and it was me and Lauren and Lawrence and it is hard, because we do love working with each other and there’s a sense of excitement when all of us are together and we feed off each other and there’s a lot of play in between takes as well. Of course we’re down to business between action and cut, but it’s fun, almost like a party when all of us are together, so when we split off it is disorienting.
And when it was me and Norman and Michael, we were split off for a long time and you hear stories from set and you’re like ‘Man, we were just stuck in this car leading the walkers away!’ But it’s also great, because when you have a cast as large as ours I appreciate the writers doing that, because at some point you have to when there’s so many of us and you want to delve into peoples’ stories more deeply, so there is a bit of separation that has to happen.
The relationship is still blossoming between Sasha and Abraham. What do you think their connection is?
SMG: I do love that they began telling this story with the two of them, because anything can happen. It can go a billion different ways and I’m excited for people to see where exactly it goes. But I think right now they have parallel experiences, they both suffer from PTSD, they have that link. They both are survivors – of course everyone’s a survivor in this world, but they are both – I like to call them soldiers. Of course he really is, and I believe she has a soldier’s mind set and so I think they have a lot more in common than they initially realised.
After what she’s been through, how easily would she be able to open her heart?
SMG: I, as Sasha, I’m ready to live again. I’m ready to engage and for the longest time from when you first see me, I’m very hard, very distant, very pragmatic. Losing Bob and then losing my brother, who was all that I had, he was my connection to my past and Bob was my connection to my future, losing it all and spiralling all the way down, as low as I have ever been in my life. Now I’ve come out of it, what I realised is that from the beginning of the zombie apocalypse, I had put up this defence, this wall to protect myself, because I didn’t think I could handle being connected to people. I am now finally ready to live and I say it to Abraham when he asks if I’m doing this mission because I want to die and I say no, as for the first time in a long time, I don’t want to die. I’m ready to live for real and engage and so when you do that, it does open you up.
Is that what we see in the future then, that she opens up more?
SMG: Absolutely, a lot of that is discussed in episode six when I’m talking to Abraham and I’m talking about self-awareness and you can be all in the action and what it really is doing is you’re hiding behind it and not taking responsibility for your actions, choices and your pain, and so I have now done that and seen the light and I’m ready to engage and really be a part of this community. So it makes me vulnerable for lots of things. It’s really an honour to play someone who goes all the way to wanting to die and then coming out of it, it’s a really inspiring story.
Who was your inspiration for Sasha and how strong she is? (at this point Ellen Ripley and Sarah Connor were mentioned and Martin-Green was embarrassed to confess she hadn’t seen Alien and only the first Terminator when she was a kid!)
SMG: I love women who fight. I’ve always been into action and combat and fighting, and not just physically. People, no matter the circumstances, they’re overcoming them. I grew up watching all the Jean-Claude Van Damme movies and the Bruce Lee movies where he overcomes big problems. I was a little kid watching the TV thinking ‘I wanna be just like that’.
Sex and race are all secondary kind of things for these character as ultimately they’re just survivors, as actors is it refreshing to be in a show like this?
KG: It’s wonderful. I look at the current cast and people who have come and gone and it’s a diverse cast, in gender and race. It’s really wonderful to be in something that’s not focused on that, or politics. It’s just a world about humanity and survival. We’re all just people, there’s no time for anything else.
SMG: It’s like the zombie apocalypse has become the great equalizer. It’s like finally people see that we all have equal value, surviving together. We could learn a thing or two.
Sonequa Martin-Green and Kenric Green, thank you very much!
The Walking Dead airs on Mondays at 9pm on FOX