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Walking Dead Week: Sonequa Martin-Green on Playing Sasha

Given to Despair

Oct 09, 2014 Sonequa Martin-Green Bookmark and Share

This week is Walking Dead Week on Under the Radar’s website. Season five of the wildly popular and critically acclaimed post-apocalyptic zombie drama starts this Sunday, October 12, at 9 p.m. (8 p.m. Central) on AMC. In anticipation of the show’s return, for this special theme week of coverage we have interviewed around 10 members of the show’s current cast and will be posting one to two Walking Dead interviews every day this week.

It must be hell trying to supply memorable moments to every member of such a large cast, but the writers of The Walking Dead have the benefit of being able to capture human beings at every stage of emotion that accompanies living through a zombie apocalypse. For season four, while the scattered survivors cycled through feelings of grief, anger, and denial, Sasha was the one who simply had given up. Separated from her brother, Tyreese, she joylessly trudged through the woods with Bob and Maggie, wanting nothing more than to find a place where she could settle down by herself and stop losing people.

Sonequa Martin-Green, the woman who portrays Sasha, is the opposite of her sullen character. She’s warm and engaging, laughing often. Eager to talk about Sasha’s continuing evolution as a character, she stops herself, apologizing that she can’t tell me anything I don’t already know. With those parameters set we agree to talk about her character’s journey to this point, discussing Martin-Green’s early experiences on the show, why she believes The Walking Dead is connecting so deeply with viewers, and why the possible romantic relationship between Sasha and Bob symbolizes more than just a simple subplot.

Matt Fink (Under the Radar): Since this is the third season of The Walking Dead that you’ve been on, would you say Sasha is a different character now than when you started playing her?

Sonequa Martin-Green: Ooh. Interesting. That’s a good question. I would say she has definitely changed a lot since season three. I wouldn’t say she’s totally different, but she has changed and she continues to harden and go further and further down the path of defending herself against connecting with people, in a sense.

When playing it, does it feel emotionally draining to have to portray all of those feelings you have to pull out for her?

Draining? No. Well, it definitely it is taxing. This is a very strenuous show in a lot of waysphysically, emotionally. It takes a lot out of you. But that’s what you wantyou want to be challenged in the way that we’re challenged on this show. But it does take a lot out of you.

Back when you auditioned for this show, did you have any idea who Sasha was going to be?

I knew very little. Because she’s not in the comic, they have absolute free reign, so every single time I’d get a new script, I’d go, “Okay!” I’d learn a little bit more about her every time, because the sky is the limit with her.

Were you a fan of the show before you auditioned?

I was a huge fan! Yeah.

At that point, did you have any idea how long you’d be on the show?

I didn’t. I had no idea how long it was going to be. I was just along for the ride and I was going to take it moment by moment, which is still the case.

Was there a fear that you’d be only on the show for a few episodes before Sasha met her demise?

Well, there definitely was that possibility. Everybody has an expiration date, if you will, and you never know when that is going to come. That was definitely a possibility, but I’m very grateful that wasn’t the case.

Since you’ve been both a fan of the show and an actor on the show, why do you think it connects so deeply? Obviously, the writing and acting are excellent, but a lot of shows have those two elements. There’s something deeper going on with The Walking Dead.

Well, thank you for that. I definitely agree. I think a few things cause that. First, it’s such a brilliantly written show that deals with the themes that it does. I think that’s one of the main reasons it touches people the way it does. We’re basically watching a social experiment. It’s a showcase of human behavior, and the zombie apocalypse is just a backdropit could be anything. It’s about us seeing how we respond, react and deal with each other. How do we change and adapt? I think people really see themselves and see representations of themselves, and they can learn from them and be influenced by them in positive ways. In a different sense, this is a brilliant group of artiststhe producers, the writers, the creative team and the cast and crew. All of these people are coming together at the height of their craft. And we’re in the elements. I think that bleeds over into the show. We, as actors, don’t know when our last show is going to be, and that’s true of the characters, as well. I think that adds to the mix. Because of what it touches on, it mirrors society. I think that’s why it hits so close to home.

I think people who watch the show long for the kinds of relationships you see on the show. They want to really matter to other people.

Absolutely. That makes it all the better to be involved and be telling this story. People might say, “I don’t like this genre, because it’s gory,” but it’s really not about that. It’s a character-driven story. It’s a people-driven story. It’s a human story. So to be a part of it and be able to tell it is a real blessing.

When you think about the future of your character, do you have preferences for where you’d like to see her go?

I’m not really sure. I definitely have desires and things I would like to see. I really trust [showrunner] Scott Gimplehe’s brilliantand I trust the writers. I really love what they bring, and I’m excited to see what they bring. I do have ideas from time to time, but a lot of them are already done or have come to pass. To me, it’s more about taking what comes and accepting it. That’s the way I prefer to do it.

Do you see a lot of yourself in Sasha?

Definitely. I believe she’s a part of me, so there’s obviously going to be that meshing that happens organically. Obviously, I’m not exactly as pragmatic as she is. [Laughs] She’s in here.

Would you say you’re a little more lighthearted than she is?

I would say. [Laughs] A little more trusting, I’d say, for sure.

Since you’ve been living with this character for three seasons, do you walk around thinking about how she’d react to certain things?

Yeah, that does happen! I do that sometimes. I have thoughts as her, and I think that’s cool when it happens. It kind of takes me aback when it does happen, but it’s cool.

So last season we saw a little bit of a possible beginning of a romance. The Walking Dead doesn’t have much of that. How did you feel about that subplot?

Well, I thought that it was very interesting, the way it was introduced. It was brought in under this question of survival vs. living, and the conversation that Bob and Sasha has is when Maggie is trying to find Glenn, and Sasha thinks it’s crazy as a plan. And he says, “We can’t just survive. We have to live.” I think that was a very interesting way to broach that romance, because he could see through her and see that she was afraid of possibly losing him forever, and that’s what was making her so harsh on the outside. I thought that was really interesting, because when someone can see you and see what’s going on underneath, even if it’s embarrassing, there’s a certain level of comfort that is established with that person. I thought it was cool how it came about.

It’s interesting, because in that environment romance is almost a sort of luxury.

Yeah, you’d think so. Or you’d think it was what was most important at all. I think Maggie and Glenn would say that it’s what keeps them going.

Have you had any strange [fan] interactions? Perhaps involving weird gifts?

[Laughs] Well, they’re definitely interesting people. They’re very cool and can be very quirky. Sometimes they have you sign the strangest things, like makeshift weapons. I love seeing them dress up as characters.

Have you seen anyone dressed up as Sasha?

I haven’t! I don’t know what’s going to happen the day that I do. [Laughs]

Since the show can be so intense in the brutality that is portrayed, do you ever fear that the show will be so intense that people will be turned off?

Well, the intensitythat’s the world they live in. We have to be honest. That’s The Walking Dead. It’s raw, it’s gritty, it’s real, it’s true, it’s honest. It’s an intensely brutal, violent world that they live in. We have to see it. Sometimes I think to myself, “Man, this is a lot of blood.” But it continues to be central to the story they’re telling.




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September 27th 2020

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