Alanna Masterson, who plays Tara on AMC’s The Walking Dead, talks about how Glenn, Abraham and Denise’s deaths affect Tara and filming the bridge scene without a stunt double.
Q: It’s interesting to see how Tara has cemented herself within the group considering we first met her during the Governor’s attack on the prison. How have you enjoyed getting to know her over the years?
A: I think Tara always had good intentions. She was just caught on the wrong side and was tricked into thinking that this group of people were bad people. She realized she was wrong and she’s done everything she could to turn it around. I think she’s become a pretty important part of how this group works, and I think she always had it in her to be a part of this group.
Q: Do you think a member of the Saviors could ever become part of the group the way Tara has?
A: I think the Saviors have done worse things than Tara ever did. Tara never hurt people intentionally. She thought she had to take over a prison to keep her family safe – that was really the only reason she did it – but the Saviors are doing horrible, horrible things and it’s like modern-day slavery. Tara would never be a part of that, so I don’t necessarily think one of the Saviors could become part of Rick’s group unless there was a real change and a real amends.
Q: Your character always manages to keep a sense of humor in the darkest of times. Is that something you admire about her? Is there someone on set who serves the same role?
A: I think what’s great about Tara is she’s not just making jokes and not understanding the gravity of the situation. She just knows that in this world, it’s sink or swim. I think she has to bring a bit of humor and realistic expectations to her character because otherwise, you’d just be miserable in a place where you’re surrounded by zombies… I think I’m very much that way and I think Steven [Yeun] is very much that way. It can get pretty dark and heavy and we’re all out there together, so I definitely make an effort to make people smile and remember that there are really good things in the world, too.
Q: Episode 6 features a lot of fight scenes. Can you talk a little bit about the choreography behind pulling this episode together?
A: When I got the script, I was definitely in shock to see how many fight sequences and stunts were in it – and I had just had a baby. For most people, when they go into filming something that requires a lot of stunts, they have months and months of training and fight choreography, but I had like four days. [Laughs] I put my best foot forward and gave it 150% and I think it really shows how hard I worked and how hard the stunts people worked… I felt really proud of myself because we didn’t end up using a stunt double for anything. I think if we’d used a stunt double, you wouldn’t have felt the same impact because you wouldn’t have seen my face. It was cool to show the fans how bad-ass Tara is. With four days’ notice, just having a baby and also nursing a kid every three hours, it was challenging to say the least. [Laughs] But women can do anything!
Q: We’ve seen some gnarly types of walkers on the show, including those buried sand walkers Tara uncovers in the avalanche. Are you still surprised by the types of walkers we come across?
A: When I get to work, I’m constantly shocked at how they reinvent the walker in so many ways. Greg Nicotero and his special effects team cares as much about the walkers as us actors do about our characters, and they really give them a life of their own. The sand walkers were pretty impressive to me because the actors had to be buried under sand and it was 110 degrees. There was no cover, no trees and it was pretty miserable out there, but every time they yelled, “action,” those guys came out of the sand. It was awesome. I think this episode really brought me and the crew together. The only reason this episode got done was because of how hard everyone worked under the conditions we were in.
Q: Cyndie and Tara share a tender moment when Cyndie says, “Nobody’s evil. They just decide to forget who they are.” What did you make of that line?
A: I think that line in particular rings very true to Tara because Tara is definitely a character who has tried to remind people that they are human and that they’re not evil people… I think she sees a lot of herself in Cyndie and a younger version of herself in Cyndie. Tara remembers who she is and she knows that she’s a good person, which is why I think she makes a promise to not go back there.
Q: In the end, Tara decides to keep the all-women community a secret, though she could have used it as a lead. Why do you think she chose to do that?
A: I think it just shows that Tara wants to do the right thing. She feels responsible for this community of women and children even though they tried to kill her. She knows they were just doing it to protect themselves and I don’t think she feels any anger towards them… Even though Denise, Glenn and Abraham are gone, this is still her family and this is still her home. I don’t think she ever wanted to stay at Oceanside because those are not her people.
Q: You and the audience have both known Denise was killed for months, but Tara was in the dark until now…
A: You can just tell right when Eugene looks at her that she knows everything has gone wrong. I think that’s a really sweet moment because it’s not a long, dragged out thing. Tara is crushed. She lost her best friend and her girlfriend. I think it’s pretty rough for her and it’s heartbreaking, but this is the world they live in and she’s got to keep going.
Q: Of course, Denise’s death is devastating to Tara, but how do you think both of Abraham and Glenn’s deaths impact her?
A: It’s horrible. Glenn was her family, and she helped Abraham and they had some great scenes together. Of all the people of Alexandria, “GREATM” [Glenn, Rosita, Eugene, Abraham, Tara, Maggie] is probably the closest she has to family and she’s lost two members, so I think it’s definitely going to affect how she feels for the rest of the season.
Read an interview with Tom Payne, who plays Jesus.
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9/8c on AMC.
To get more exclusive interviews with the cast, sign up for the weekly Dead Alert newsletter.