When it comes to The Walking Dead, a bloody horror show about zombies, there’s been a surprising amount of discussion about who is sleeping with who. In the case of Daryl Dixon, a fan favorite with a penchant for killing zombies with his crossbow played by Norman Reedus, it’s boiled down to whether or not he is gay. Robert Kirkman, the show’s creator, made headlines when he suggested that Dixon might come out in the new season, which premieres Oct. 12. While the news came as a welcome surprise to many fans of AMC's most popular series, it was more surprising when it was revealed that Tara Chambler (Alanna Masterson) was actually a lesbian in a relationship with fellow survivor Alisha.
First introduced in season 4 as part of the Governor’s backstory, Tara was one of the few characters to survive his wrath and break free of his team of villainous bandits before eventually joining up with Rick Grimes’s people. Unfortunately, her girlfriend Alisha did not make it out alive but, as Masterson explains in a conversation with Out, it may not be the last time Tara falls in love.
Bumped up to series regular in season 5, Masterson is ready to tell more of Tara Chambler’s story and give fans the chance to know the series' first gay character.
Out: When your character was first introduced on the series, it wasn’t clear that she was a lesbian. Did you have any idea that she was or was going to be as the show went on?
Alanna Masterson: Everyone probably doesn’t know this, but with TV, a lot of stuff doesn’t end up making the final cut. Originally, there was a lot of dialogue that had to go — I don’t know, editor’s choice or whatever it is, but she was always established and is always, and will be a lesbian. There’s a lot of stuff cut as to why — she was a cop in the police academy, and she gets kicked out because she sleeps with her commanding officer’s wife. That was all in the script, but for whatever reason, it didn’t make the cut. But Tara definitely likes girls.
Do you think any of that backstory will make it onto the show?
Yes, definitely. I think that, with The Walking Dead, there are so many characters, so everyone doesn’t get a full storyline and a full story development right off the bat. So I think it will definitely come back around. And I think it’s important, too, because there are so many people who do watch the show — millions and millions of people. And I think that it’s a responsibility to sort of have that story play out, because it has been established, and you can’t just have it go away and not come back.
There’s been a lot of chatter about the upcoming season introducing a gay character. Do you think Tara, the show’s first lesbian character, has been overlooked?
I don’t know; I haven’t really thought about it that way. I don’t know how to answer that question. I think Tara’s just beginning to be known. She came in in the middle of last season and, again, like I said before: Each person takes time to develop. And that’s what I love about this show; you don’t need to hit everyone over the head with a hammer right off the bat and give everyone all the information. It’s nice to sort of slow-play it — and how you would in real life. The show wants to be very real — and everything is very subtle.
Did you have any specific conversations with the writers about the introduction of your character since the series has been criticized for its lack of LGBT characters?
I think my conversation with the show runners and creators in general is: If you have a story to tell, you should tell it. I think that it should be established that Tara has a girlfriend, or falls in love with someone but, again, there’s so much going on, and there’s only so much that our show runners and creators can do while trying to tell 14 people’s stories. I definitely feel like it will be told. With Tara, you’re getting to know her, and it’s going to be amazing when you see who she falls in love with, whoever it may be. I think, and again, it shouldn’t be thrown in your face, but how it is in real life; people love each other and you should have no, you know, qualms of who — if she loves a girl, if she loves five girls, if she loves a boy — I think no one should have any opinion on it, or judge it in any manner. And that’s how I feel in real life, and that’s how I feel with this show. So I think they’re going to do it in a very interesting way, whenever it does come up. Whether they do have more gay characters or not, I think each character they look at — just that person, how they want to create that story.
What’s one question that you always get asked about The Walking Dead?
Is it scary?
So, is it scary on set?
Some days. When we’re shooting a scene, it can be scary when you turn around an there’s 80 people running at you dressed as zombies. But when you go into the lunchroom, and you’re sharing pie with them, it’s pretty disarming.
It must be pretty funny to go into the cafeteria and have people covered in blood just sitting around the table eating pie and chatting.
Oh my god, it’s hysterical. I mean, even when we’re doing a fight scene and we’re covered in blood — during lunchtime you don’t get to change or clean up or anything. So your arms are covered in sticky blood and have scratches on your face. We’re all just sitting there talking about football or something. It’s funny too, if you take a nap and you look at it from the outside, because you see a bunch of actors just shooting the shit, but yet we then have to go into the Georgia jungle and really brave the elements and make this TV show.
Is it ever exhausting just being covered in blood and dirt just every day on set?
Oh my god, 100 percent. My shower will never forgive me. You know what you do? You get in the shower, and it’s brown everywhere. Blood, and black; my towels are all messed up. It’s not a glamour job, that’s for sure. But this is the best job I could get, and you learn a lot of discipline on it. You learn to fight through whatever it is. It’s the best show ever.
Is it hard watching characters get killed off on the show?
Definitely. It’s very hard. It’s family. It’s like blood, sweat, and tears. You work every day with that person for 15, 16 hours a day, and then they leave. And it’s like, you know when you join the show, you have to just have that attitude where: “Alright, cool, I might die every episode.” Then you just become close with everyone, and they’re your family. So when people leave, it’s heartbreaking. But it’s so great, too, because people leave and you know that they go on to do really big things.
What should fans look forward to when it comes to Tara in season 5?
In season 4 she had her family and then she lost everything, and she was really trying to make up for what she’d done, dealing with the grief of her sister and her niece. I think you’re going to see her become a part of the group, and become a valuable member of this little family. Because she’s awesome, she loves to help people out; she loves everyone.