Adapting and Surviving – Ross Marquand, Alanna Masterson and Seth Gilliam (The VH Interview)

As festivities were underway for this month’s Walker Stalker event, we were lucky enough to sit down with stars of The Walking Dead Ross Marquand (Aaron), Alanna Masterson (Tara) and Seth Gilliam (Gabriel) to talk about faith, internet trolls, and Norman Reedus defecating on the Queen…

This season, you guys have all been promoted, so to speak. When we talked last year, Aaron was still a little in the background, Tara likewise, whilst Gabriel… Well, everybody hated you…

Alanna: Kinda like in real life…

Seth: (reaching for his back) Sorry, I can’t quite reach this knife….

How has it been, being part of such a change-around in the cast this year?

Seth: You want the audience to have an extreme reaction, y’know? If it’s hatred, it’s hatred. If it’s love, it’s love. If it’s the moment you’re onscreen that they go to get snacks, then you’ve lost them. It’s a little confusing to me, because I, of course, have insider information, and know from playing the character how desperately he wants to be of service and to fit in. So, having people question “did he cross him again?”… Ye of little faith… But the audience has their response, and that’s not something you can shape whether you want to or not. You do what you do and they have their experience of it. Hopefully, it’s a visceral one. Then it’s working. We’d all like to have some insanely loyal fan following like Norman Reedus has, where he can do no wrong and he can take a shit on the Queen and everybody loves him all the same…

Ross: Did he do that???

Alanna: When did he do that???

Seth: (taking out his phone) Let me show you the pictures…

Alanna: This is not acceptable! We are IN LONDON!

Seth: That’s what I would say!

Alanna: (shaking her head) Disrespect… Disrespect…

Seth: At this point though, I think that Rick realises Gabriel’s a survivor as much as anyone else and he can rely on him for just about anything. Gabriel, he’s not as capable, but he’s just as willing as everybody else. So if that means becoming the new sniper, I think he’ll be out there shooting grapefruits and trying to get better at that. If he needs to work on his blade-play, he’ll borrow the katana from Michonne…

Alanna: She would never let you have it.

Seth: It’s a black thing. You wouldn’t understand. (laughs) At this point though, Rick has faith that Gabriel is one of his own.

Speaking of faith, how has Gabriel managed to keep his faith despite the world crumbling around him?

Seth: I think that Gabriel hit a very low point. He tried suicide by walker, he tried suicide by Sasha, but the survival instinct kicked in in each case. With Sasha standing over him about to shoot him and Maggie coming in, I think that was a key moment for Gabriel to realise that there was still a higher calling for him; that God had put Maggie in there to stop this. She had forgiveness in her heart, and it was a sign for him that there is still a higher power looking out for them, and that God has a plan for him. Maggie had no vested interest in him; she had nothing to gain by saving him, but did so, so that was a signal to him that he had more of a calling. That was an affirmation of his faith and made it easier for him to go out and blast an unarmed man whilst sermonising over him, or pull a knife on a woman and threaten to cut her throat open. Now it’s about adapting and surviving.

Let’s talk a little about the Tara episode…

Alanna: Well, I was really excited when I got that script. I love Tara because I think she’s a very relatable character to young girls. I had just had my daughter and it was a really cool experience to be able to go back to work on such an intense episode, and something that I’ll get to show my kid! The show pushes you, and that’s what makes it cool. I love the bottle episodes, but at the same time I really love it when we’re all together. It’s funny; when we’re all together, we’re like “aw man, we’re in every scene just standing there?”, but you miss each other. The bond and the camaraderie is so wonderful, but I was happy to introduce those women to how our show works.

Speaking of just standing there; Eric and Aaron had a conversation for the first time in two seasons!

Alanna: And it was such a good scene! I know you’re asking Ross this, but it was such a good scene! It was such a real scene between the two of you!

It was beautiful…

Seth: I tweeted about it. And I don’t tweet about other people’s work.

Ross: That’s Josh (McDermitt)’s job!

So will we be seeing more of Eric, or is this a “we’re bringing this character to the forefront and we’re gonna shoot them”? Like Denise…

Seth: Too soon man…

Alanna: RIP bro…

Ross: I can’t speak to that, but I will say that in years past there were other scenes that were shot that unfortunately got cut for time. That happens to the bigger characters as well. I’m glad that scene resonated with you, and with a lot of other people, because I think it was really about a couple just discussing their options, y’know? If we fight these guys, if we go in guns blazing, or non-guns blazing, what’s gonna happen? Will it be a suicide mission? I think that’s what Eric was really concerned about. Setting the tone for the next couple of episodes, it was really important that we had that scene just to show the inner conflict of a lot of people, especially in Alexandria, because the moment Rick and his people came in, a lot of their people, their leadership… they’re literally all dead! Eric is the voice for them, and that’s important to hear.

Playing strong LGBT characters in such a prominent show, has all the response been so positive?

Ross: My biggest issue when I first got on the show was some of the vitriol that was coming out about my character and my boyfriend’s character. That was upsetting to me mostly because I knew there were impressionable young men and women reading those comments, and while I never want to censor people’s beliefs or opinions on things, I think that for me 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 over the last couple of years.

Alanna: In the beginning, it was hurtful for a little bit, but they just want an answer from you. I remember I responded one time when someone was making fun of me. I think I wrote “Go fuck yourself” or something, and he was like “Oh, you responded! Hey!” And I just figured they were trying to say the worst thing possible to get some response. Trolls exist and there are shitty people in the world. It is what it is. You can’t let it get to you. It’s hard because you’re a public figure and people think they can say what they like about you. In real life, you’d never get in an elevator and be like “Hey, fatty!” You would never say that to someone to their face! So I think if someone were to say something to my face we could have a discussion about it, but it’s never that. It’s just people who think they’re brave and have a computer. And/or phone.

Finally, I have to ask; where is Heath??

Alanna: Shootin’ 24!

The Walking Dead, Mondays at 9pm only on FOX