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Christian Serratos of The Walking Dead

Blood Under the Fingernails

Feb 20, 2015 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

When The Walking Dead began holding auditions for the role of Rosita Espinosa in July of 2013, it’s unlikely that hardcore fans of the comic would have placed Christian Serratos on the shortlist of candidates. A selfdescribed “girlygirl” from Los Angeles, she made her name in lighthearted roles, first starring as a catty tween in three seasons of Nickelodeon’s Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide, then appearing as the bookish and softspoken Angela Weber in all four Twilight films. She looked the part of Rositajust compare her to the comic book versionbut it was hard to imagine Serratos covered in the dirt and sweat and zombie guts of rural Georgia.

A year later, it’s clear she was the right choice for the role. Fighting through the zombie apocalypse in a tank top and shortshorts, Serratos has imbued the character with the toughtalking yet kindhearted spirit readers of the comic expected. She has been the sensitive team player, staying optimistic after Eugene’s zombie cure lie was exposed. She also has been the frustrated truth teller, reprimanding Abraham for his petulance in dealing with that revelation. Through it all, Rosita has remained a mysterious character with a largely unexplored backstory, something that’s likely to change given her character’s long (and continuing) run in the comic. Here, Serratos describes her transformation from teen movie star to zombie slayer, explains her insights into Rosita’s motivations, and offers a warning to anyone who would challenge her bow shooting skills.

Matt Fink (Under the Radar): So from what I’ve read, when you originally auditioned for the show, you didn’t know much about it.

Christian Serratos: Yeah, not too much. I don’t watch very much television, and it was one of those shows that I had on my bucket list to watch, but I never got into it. I’d never sat down and taken the time to catch up on all the seasons. So when I got the call to read [for the part of Rosita], I decided that it was the perfect opportunity. I had heard so much about it from all my friends. It was their favorite show, so I sat down and watched the whole thing and fell madly in love with it. At that point, I was so excited that I was going to get a chance to work on it and was really happy that I’d gotten cast before I watched the show, because if I had watched the show first I would have been far too nervous when I went in to audition.

So how long did it take to get a sense of what kind of character Rosita was going to be?

You find your niche, and it takes a variable amount of time. But there’s something about Rosita that I felt I had a kinship with, so perhaps one of the reasons we all got cast is because we have a little bit of these characters in us already. So I feel like who she was came very naturally to me. If it hadn’t, I probably wouldn’t have gotten cast.

What qualities do you think you had that made you a fit for Rosita?

Well, I think Rosita is very independent and brave. I think she’s really strong and capable and unassuming. It wouldn’t look like a small girl like her would be able to handle herself, but I think she’s smart and she picks up what she knows from people around her. All these people learn what they can from people who have experiences in order to keep themselves alive, and I feel like that perhaps I have the same spunk that she has. But I guess I wouldn’t be able to answer that question, because you’d have to ask people close to me.

Do you think you are similar to who Rosita would have been before the apocalypse, because I know you’ve said that you, personally, are more or less a girly girl?

Yeah, I see Rosita as a tomboy, pre-apocalypse. I have my moments, but I don’t think we’re similar in that aspect. I think a lot of her characteristics have rubbed off on me, rather than the other way around. She’s changing me more than I’m putting into her.

Do you think the way you look at Rosita has changed over time?

Yeah, it’s always changing. I’m always learning new things about her and figuring out other things about who she might have been and where she came from. I’m always learning, and she’ll keep evolving, which is what should happen, because people evolve.

Rosita is one of the most mysterious characters on the show right now. Have the writers explained more of her backstory than what has been shown on screen? Or have you been allowed to develop her?

Well, they educated me on who she was. Most of it is just what naturally comes out of me, and if I’m wrong at any point, I have people who will correct me. For the most part, we just see what happens naturally, because that’s what looks best on screen.

Since Rosita is one of the longest running characters in the comic book, have you read what happens to her in that storyline?

I haven’t read the comic book, but I do keep up on where she is in the comic book world, whether it’s through fans that come up to me at conventions and tell me that they’re huge fans. I always ask them what’s going on with Rosita and Abraham and all the other characters. I’ve been meaning to read the comics.

Last season, we saw Rosita reacting to finding out that Eugene was a liar about having a cure. I was wondering about what kind of emotion you were hoping to portray in that moment, since her reaction was a lot different than the way Abraham responded.

Well, all these people are going through different journeys. They’re all traveling together, but different things happen to each of them, and they all feel a different way in this world. That’s just how people are-they’re not all going to be feeling the same way. I hate to bring it down to this level, but you’re going through everything on your own. You have people backing you up, but psychologically you only have yourself. That was an interesting scene to film, because all of us were getting really emotional. We were all wondering what was going to happen, because we really don’t know much. We’re just as in-the-know as the fans are. We barely know what’s going to happen next episode when we’re filming. [Eugene’s cure] was something we were all waiting for, but to hear that it was all a lie…for us, it was emotional, too. I was getting so into it that when I read it I cried.

Wow. And it’s interesting that Rosita seems like she’s trying to really keep a brave face through it all. Abraham just falls apart, and Rosita just moves on.

Yeah, that’s what we’ve got to do-to keep a brave face. I think Rosita is a strong, intelligent woman on her own, but Abraham taught her that there needs to be a sense of leadership. When she realizes he’s faltering, she’s going to step up, because that’s what he would ultimately want.

There’s an interesting scene a few episodes earlier where Rosita and Abraham are arguing over whether to move on to D.C. or stay and search for more supplies. And though Rosita disagrees with him, she immediately sides with Abraham when the rest of the group opposes him.

Yes. That’s portraying that she’s loyal to him, but she’ll also speak her mind. She says what she thinks is best, and if he doesn’t agree-he’s a stubborn man-and she’s not going to fight him more than she already has. That’s the kind of person she is. She’ll talk to you once, and then she’ll let you learn on your own. When he fought back, it wasn’t her retreating. It was more her saying, “Let’s do it your way, and we’ll see who is right.”

At this point, would she see her first loyalty being to Abraham or to the group, in general?

I don’t know yet. I think, first and foremost, her loyalty is to Abraham, but who knows what might happen? That might change.

I’ve also read that through playing her you’ve been learning how shoot a bow.

Yeah. Well, being on set and working with all of the weapons and educating yourself on how to be safe with it all, you grow more and more anxious to learn. So I’ve found myself wanting to try more guns, and when I felt comfortable with guns, I wanted to try knives. And when I felt comfortable with them, I wanted to do more and more. So when I found how much fun I had shooting a bow, it became my niche. So when I wasn’t working, I went straight to the range to shoot, and it became something that was therapeutic to me.

I hear you’ve gotten pretty good at it.

Yeah, I’ve heard that, too! I’ve been shooting for almost a year, and I feel comfortable and confident doing it. I hear from a lot of people that I’m a lot better than I give myself credit for, which is really cool.

Since there’s already one iconic character on the show who uses a bow, do you think there could be a second one with Rosita?

No! I definitely don’t. There have been a lot of bows on the show, but if I were in an apocalypse I would want to have a bat. A bow is just kind of unrealistic. Reloading it is not very efficient, but Daryl makes it work somehow. He’s better with it than I am.

Have you ever had a bow competition with Norman Reedus?

No, but I think he’s scared. I think he avoids me. [Laughs] Maybe he’ll challenge me if he reads this!

Did it take long to get into the flow of shooting the show and being a cast member?

There’s always a transition of coming into a new show, but what makes it easier for me and all the people on the show is how incredibly tight the cast is. They make an effort to make everyone feel welcome, and we’re all legitimate best friends. When you see someone new come in you’re like, “Oh, cool! More friends to play with!” It’s just a bigger family now, and I think that’s what makes it an easier transition.

And that’s what makes it difficult when someone leaves the show, too, I imagine.

Very, very difficult. There are always tears. It feels like a true death when it happens.

On the other hand, if you are killed off the show that means that the writers have poured a lot of narrative development into your character. But I can imagine how difficult it is to go through that process.

Yeah, of course. But there’s a sense of calm, because not just the cast but the entire crew and production staff, everyone on the show is so kind. And you know that it’s going to suck when you get the call that it’s your last scene, but we all have faith in the people that we’re working with that they’re never going to let a character go before they should. If you’re filming your last scene, it means that you’ve done an amazing job and you’ve done that character justice, and that character needs to move on now. It’s like, “You did your job well. Thank you.” There’s no animosity. It’s not like you’re leaving because you didn’t do something-you did everything. You filled that role.

When you think about Rosita now, what do you see as her motivation?

Survival is always everyone’s main motivation. That’s our motivation, with or without an apocalypse. But I feel like people like Rosita and Abraham need a mission, and they will find another one. They will seek one out and will make one.

Overall, where would you like to take the character?

I’d just like to do her justice and make sure the fans get what they want out of the character. I think I have a sense of what they want, and I don’t know, technically speaking, what scenes I’d like to see her do from the comic books. If I can do the character justice, I’ll be satisfied.


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February 20th 2015

Great interview!! Thanks a bunch!