The second of our The Walking Dead cast roundtables includes Alanna Masterson (Tara), Seth Gilliam (Father Gabriel Stokes) and Ross Marquand (Aaron). We talk about their “promotions” Gabriel’s faith, dealing with online critics and double agents.
So, Eugene seems to have gone to the dark side. What can you tell us about that?
RM: “I think Eugene is a survivalist, you know? He will always look for the most logical solution and sometimes that will mean joining the other side. Josh has pointed this out many times that I don’t think Eugene’s a bad guy, I think he’s just a bit of a coward. More often than not he chooses the path of least resistance, the path that will help him survive. That’s why he makes up this whole story about being a scientist and knowing the cure… Um, not the band.
“It’s interesting that, at first glance, it looked like Gabriel was a double agent with his disappearance.”
AM: “I AM a double agent.”
SG: “We’re all Negan.”
RM: “You’re our Negan.”
AM: “I’m Negan.”
You’ve all been promoted this year to some extent. Aaron and Tara were both in the background a fair bit last year and everyone was, well… hating Gabriel. How does it feel to be promoted?
AM (laughing): “How does it feel to be hated?”
SG: “Sorry I can’t reach this… knife.”
(LAUGHTER, Alanna mimes removing a knife from Seth’s back)
SG: “Thanks (chuckles) – feel free to put it back later. You want the audience to have an extreme reaction, you know? So if it’s hatred it’s hatred if it’s love it’s love. It’s the moment you’re on screen and they go to get snacks you know you’ve lost them. So you know it’s confusing to me because I, of course, have insider information and playing the character I know how desperately he wants to be of service and fit in. So having people question if he’s crossed Rick again, then that’s interesting. Oh, ye of little faith.
“But the audience has their response and it’s not something you can particularly shape whether you want to or not. You do what you do and they have their experience of it and if they’re having a visceral response to you then it’s working, it’s landed. I think we’d all like to have some insanely loyal fan following let’s say like Norman Reedus has when you could do wrong and you could s**t on the Queen and they’d forgive you.”
RM: “DID HE DO THAT?!”
AM: “WHEN DID HE DO THAT?!”
SG: “I’ll show you the pictures.”
AM: “Oh this is UNCACCEPTABLE, we are IN LONDON!”
SG: “That’s what I would say!”
We also saw, as a consequence of Gabriel being kidnapped, how desperate he is to prove himself. How do you think Rick will use him in the future?
SG: “Let me go ahead and give you the storylines for the next 10 episodes (laughter). I think what I can say at this point in the story is that Rick knows he can rely on Gabriel for just about anything. He may not be as capable but Gabriel is just as willing as everybody else. So if that means becoming the new sniper for the group, then Gabriel will be out there shooting grapefruits and getting better at that. If he needs to work on his blade play he’ll borrow the katana from Michonne.”
AM: “She would NEVER let you have that…”
SG: “Hey in the comics don’t Gabriel and Michonne have a little something? It’s a black thing you wouldn’t understand…”
AM: “Or would I?”
AM: “OR. WOULD. I?”
(LOTS MORE LAUGHTER)
AM: “I think I WOULD understand…”
(EVEN MORE LAUGHTER)
SG: “I think Rick realises that Gabriel is a survivor just as much as everybody else and that he can be relied upon. You maybe don’t want him to put him on post to defend Alexandria given how quickly he got jumped and dragged away but he’s willing to go up there. So I think Rick has faith that Gabriel is one of his very own at this point.”
Speaking of faith, how has Gabriel managed to keep his?
SG: “I think Gabriel hit a very low point. He tried suicide by walker and suicide by Sasha but the survival instinct kicked in in each case. And at the moment with Sasha standing over him about to shoot him and Maggie comes in and stops her I think that was a key moment for Gabriel. That there was still a higher calling for him. That God had put Maggie in there to stop this moment. She had forgiveness in her heart and I think it was a sign for Gabriel that there was still a higher power looking out for them and that he has a plan for them. And so now it’s about adapting and surviving. I think that was a key moment.
“I’m not sure how it landed for the audience but as an actor and in the playing of it, that seemed like a bit of a revelation. Someone is still looking out for him even though he’s as low as he can possibly be. His survival instinct won’t allow him to do it, but here’s someone else who could do it and he’s more than deserving in his mind of being killed but the fact that someone else intervened, who didn’t have a vested interest in doing it for him, she had nothing to gain from saving him, was a reaffirmation of his faith. And that made it easier for him to go out and blast an unarmed man in the face. (LAUGHS) And hold a knife to a woman’s throat.”
Do you still read what’s said about you online?
RM: “I used to when I first got on the show. I think my biggest issue when I first got on the show was the vitriol against my character and my boyfriend’s character and that was upsetting to me mostly because I knew there were impressionable young men and women reading those comments. While I never want to censor people’s beliefs or comments I felt it was important to delete the more hateful ones because I don’t think that has any place in social media. If you wanna have a discussion that’s one thing, but most of those comments have died down.”
Was it because you’re playing LGBT characters?
AM: “It’s definitely in the beginning, what Ross is saying, hurtful for a little bit but then you’re like… They just want an answer from you. I remember one time someone was making fun of me or something and I responded like, ‘Dude, what you’re saying is really mean and I don’t appreciate it,’ and he replied, ‘OH YOU RESPONDED! HEY!’”
AM: “I was like, ‘Oh, right you’re trying to say the worst thing possible so I’ll respond to you,’ and that was way in the beginning, maybe the first episode. I think I wrote, ‘Go **k yourself!’ and they were like, ‘Oh my god, you said hey!’ So now you can’t really care what people say. Trolls exists and there are shitty people in the world and it is what it is and you can’t let it get to you. It’s hard as an actor because people think they can pick on you and because you’re a public figure they can say what what they want. I mean you’d never get in an elevator and be like, ‘Hey, fatty!’
“But on Twitter they say that all the time! …So I think if someone wants to say something to my face then we can have a discussion but it’s never that. It’s just people with a computer who think they’re brave.”
How did you deal with the responsibility of Tara’s big episode, and the discovery of Oceanside?
AM: “Yeah! I was really excited when I got that script. I relate to Tara a lot. I mean I play her but I think she’s a very relatable character to a lot of young girls. Sorry to these two [indicates Ross and Seth] because I’ve already told this story but I had just had my daughter and it was to me a really cool experience to be able to go back to work on such an intense episode and I’ll get to show my kid. That’s super awesome. The show pushes you, that’s what makes it cool. I really like that episode. Some people didn’t but…”
It was one of the best episodes of the season
AM: “Oh cool! Thank you! I had so much fun shooting it and it was the hottest episode we had shot which was of course just my luck. [laughter] And my kid got to visit me at work every day. It was very cool. I mean I miss the bottle episodes but I REALLY love it when we’re all together. And it’s funny when we’re all together we’re, ‘Oh man we’re in every scene just standing there,’ but you MISS each other. We’ve created a bond and the camaraderie is so wonderful but I was delighted to introduce those women to the show and how we work.”
Talking of boyfriends and just standing there, Eric and Aaron had a conversation for the first time in about two seasons! On camera!
AM: “I know, you’re asking him that, but I was watching that scene and I texted you [points to Ross] and said, ‘That was SUCH a good scene. It was such a REAL scene.’”
SG: “I Tweeted about it.”
AM: “I Tweeted about it too I retweeted it I said it was the best scene of that episode really. Just AWESOME. Such a cool scene.”
Are we going to be seeing more of Eric? Or was this a supporting character being brought up in preparation for killing off in the season finale?
AM: “That I can’t speak to but I can say that in years past there were other scenes shot that were cut for time. It happens to bigger and tertiary characters alike. I’m glad that scene resonated with you and a lot of other people because it was about a couple discussing their options. Like, ‘If we fight these guys and go in guns blazing or in this case not guns blazing, what’s gonna happen? It’s gonna be a suicide mission?’ And that’s what Eric was really concerned about. And its really important to set the tone for the next few episodes that we have that scene to show the inner conflict of a lot of the people, especially the Alexandrians. Eric is the voice for them and it was important to hear that.”