Interview: The Walking Dead’s Sonequa Martin-Green Talks Diversity On TV And The Secret Life Of Sasha
You may remember 29-year-old actress Sonequa Martin-Green as Alicia’s assistant on The Good Wife, or perhaps as Once Upon a Time’s anti-magic villain Tamara. But it’s her role as badass Sasha on AMC’s comic book-inspired series The Walking Dead that has finally made her a famous face. I caught up with Martin-Green between the show’s devastating winter 2014 finale and the birth of her son, for which she was full of anticipation. “There are so many unanswered questions about him at this point,” she says of her first child with her husband, actor Kenric Green. “I just want to see him. What is he going to be like?”
We also talked about her other family—the rag tag bunch of survivors that will haveWalking Dead fans lurching toward their TVs when the second half of Season Five premieres in February. “I’m particularly close to all the ladies,” she says of her TWDfam. “We all spend a lot of time together in these remote locations and hang out when we’re not working. We love to eat!” Apparently, sisterhood is alive and well, even during a zombie apocalypse.
Filming The Walking Dead looks so physically challenging. What was it like going through your pregnancy while shooting Season Five?
It was extremely challenging both physically and emotionally, but I was able to do it. It was a blessing that I was able to do everything I would normally do if I wasn’t pregnant.
You’ve been acting steadily since graduating from the University of Alabama in 2007. Were you concerned having a baby would slow things down?
Our son was not planned. But once it was our reality, my husband and I decided to be hopeful and positive about it and look expectantly to a great future. It didn’t take us long to get totally comfortable, totally at peace, and hopeful. No fear, no doubt. We didn’t entertain those fears about what was going to happen or what would be possible. We didn’t entertain the idea of it having any negative impact.
You have a beautifully uncommon first name. Did anyone in Hollywood ever pressure you to change it?
I was on track to change my name. In college, I was dead set on it. I was going to change it to Sonè or something [laughs]. But my mentor at the time, Seth Panitch, who teaches at UA, said, “No! Don’t do that. You should keep it. That’s you.” I said OK and I never thought about it again.
Your normally very stoic Walking Dead character, Sasha, fell in love recently. How has it been for you getting to display more emotional range?
I love, love, love it. The writing is so good on the show—rich and full of complexities. I appreciate it. Every script is a breath of fresh air but also a challenge. I learned about Sasha from reading the script. She’s not in the comic so I get to know her more and more as I go along and it’s a blast. I’ve had a great time.
Since she wasn’t in the comics, like most of the show’s characters, did you get to create some of her backstory?
Oh yes, definitely. I created most of her backstory. [Showrunner] Scott Gimple and the other writers and I decided on her being a firefighter. But most everything else—her childhood, adolescence—that stuff has been filled in and fleshed out by me. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about Sasha’s relationship with her father. She was raised by a war veteran who had no tolerance for weakness and she was very much a daddy’s girl. She was always striving for his approval and wanting to make him proud. That’s something that she still carries with her, as we all do.
With the success of shows like Scandal, How to Get Away with Murder, and of course, The Walking Dead, it feels like we’ve made progress with diversity on TV in the last few years. Do you feel that way? Like you’re part of something major that’s happening?
I do feel that way—absolutely. I think the show handles diversity in a great way, because it’s not harped on. No one is hit over the head with it. It just is what it is. These are different people, they’ve come together, they’ve decided to be a family, and they happen to look like all of us. I really appreciate and respect that. I do think I’m part of progress in that way. And what an amazing thing—to be a part of progress.
Sabrina Ford is a Los Angeles-based news and culture writer. You can follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/SabrinaFord.
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