Thora Birch, who plays Gamma on AMC’s The Walking Dead, talks about Gamma’s rise in ranks and what it means for Gamma to become “unmasked.”
Q: What drew you into playing Gamma?
A: Gamma is someone who has a lot going on internally. From the onset, I had the feeling that Gamma is trapped in three different worlds. Her previous “true” self (before the apocalypse), who her and her sister had to be to survive until their emergence in The Walking Dead… universe, and who Gamma feels she should be behaving as at any given point when we encounter her. Also, Alpha’s hold is near total when we first meet and learn about who Gamma is.
Q: How did you enjoy the process of getting into character – the mask, the walk, the whispering – what was all that like?
A: It was very exciting to get my mold made for the Whisperer mask Gamma wears. At that point, I was still very much a fish out of water who hadn’t yet fully familiarized myself with the tone of the show, or who the Whisperers are and how they fit into a society reeling from the loss of Rick Grimes. So when I got to the set on my first day, and my instructions were to simply “whisper walk” my way down a path and around a corner… I was a little at a loss. I wound up studying and asking questions of a lot of the extras on how to move. Of course, watching the show also helped.
Q: What were your thoughts on Gamma’s big decision to choose Alpha over her sister?
A: Gamma’s decision was mainly split-second, but also in line with Gamma’s belief that Alpha is General/President/God [or] what have you. So basically, when push comes to shove and Gamma is pressed against it, she chooses her leader over her sibling. It’s horrifically dark, but in the world of The Walking Dead, it fits. It also highlights where humans on the show are often the largest threat to their fellow humans. Even when zombies are 20 feet away.
Q: Would you say that moment proved she is completely devoted to Alpha or does she still struggle with where her loyalties lie?
A: When we first meet Gamma, she’s fully committed to Alpha as a leader. I personally feel she idolizes Alpha and believes she identifies with her. Although, “Gamma” still fully remembers her old name, and home, and life. She realizes the trauma of having to try to survive for all those years while looking after her sister. And, she certainly has a fair deal of remorse to contend with. The way it all collides is the fun of it.
Q: Gamma and Aaron have been meeting in the woods. What does she make of him?
A: Gamma seems to be indifferent towards Aaron, while still regarding him as fondly as she could, given the circumstances of them being on enemy terms. He is able to scratch at the emotional, boundary-focused surface Gamma wears when she’s in Whisperer mode. But, she’d never admit that.
Q: Is it a vulnerable thing for her to remove her mask in front of him?
A: Most of the steps Gamma has allowed herself to take towards engaging with Aaron have made her vulnerable. Removing the mask is among them, but I’ve viewed Gamma’s mask removal in front of a non-Whisperer as an act of full rebellion from her own group; from Alpha.
Q: How do you think it lands on Gamma when she sees for herself that Lydia is alive?
A: It doesn’t go over well. There’s shock, denial, and of course rage — rage at being betrayed, and self loathing for choices made because of false pretenses.
Q: What about when she discovers that her nephew is alive?
A: It doesn’t seem clear that Gamma is surprised that her nephew is alive. I think it’s more of a relief. Once she finds out her nephew is safe and being taken care of, something clicks for her. Without her sister, he’s all she has.
Read an interview with Juan Javier Cardenas, who plays Dante, about his role as an agent for the Whisperers.
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