Christina Elmore on playing a lesbian Lieutenant on “The Last Ship”

On the first episode of the TNT action drama series The Last Ship, Lt. Alisha Granderson was speaking with her captain when she mentioned having a girlfriend back home. Alisha, played by Christina Elmore, has been emerging in recent episodes and with Season 2 already in the works, it’s likely we’ll get even more of her.

TNT's "The Last Ship" Screening In Washington D.C.

A theater actress who just finished up a role as Juliet in an L.A. production of Romeo & Juliet, Christina said she didn’t know much about the role of Alisha before she was cast in the pilot.

“I knew that she was a woman in her mid-twenties, that she was a Lt. in the navy and her job was often as the officer of the desk, to take the orders that the captain gives and give them to the helmsmen that steer the ship, and that she was smart and serious and a lesbian,” Christina said. “And those were the facts I had about her. And so going in it was a process for me, sort of learning about her with everyone else. Every time we get a new script, it’s like, ‘Oh here’s a little more of a taste of who she is.’ But because she hasn’t had much things happen to her — she doesn’t talk much about her personal life — I’m able to sort of invent it a little bit on my own and in my head. So that’s been exciting. And the writers are really open to suggestions and ideas and have been sort of — we’ve been doing it together, seeing what she’s like as we go.”

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A recent episode had Alisha singing around a beach campfire with her navymen, something that surprised Christina when she received the script.

“I got the script delivered to my house and it said ‘Alisha sings a soulful rendition of “A Change is Gonna Come,” and I was like ‘What?’” Christina said with a laugh. “I didn’t know how they knew if I could sing or wanted to sing. But it turns out one of our show creators had heard me singing to myself during lunch when we were doing the pilot a year before and was like, ‘”I’m going to remember that. We’ll use it.’”

Christina said she knew the Sam Cooke song beforehand but thought she’d get a little more practice before she was singing in front of her cast and crew.

“I thought we’d work on that bit or we’d go over it with some music director. No! Just did it, first day back on set after the pilot,” she said. “We were on the beach out in Malibu with a hundred people at midnight and I just had to sing. It was an experience, to say the least.”

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Alisha’s storyline thus far has been very much about the issues she and the rest of her navymen face: A virus plaguing those who go to a certain part of the ocean and what can be done to stop it. Conversations Alisha has with her peers are about the seriousness of the job and the risks they are taking to find a vaccine.

“It’s so great that the story for me and for Alisha is not about her love life,” Christina said. “I think it’s also refreshing that on the show, the point of the character is not her sexuality. Because with men they often get to be who they are and own who they are, own their sexuality without it having to be the main thing that they ever talk about or do, so be able to have that little tiny scene with Marissa Neitling‘s character, to talk about what’s actually happening on the ship and we’re both lieutenants who have things to do and have to figure out what’s happening to the world around us and it has very little to do with my live life.”

Christina greatly appreciated how her being a lesbian and having a female partner at home was dealt with in such an un-sensationalized way.

“It’s pretty amazing that even in that first episode, Alisha tells the captain the thing about France: ‘I was supposed to go with my girlfriend,” Christina said. “She’s able to openly talk about her girlfriend, openly say these things and it’s just as if any straight person were talking about their partner. So it’s great that that is not a big deal. What the big deal is she’s separated from the person she loves. It’s not a big deal that woman happens to be a woman.”

Interior, for TNT shoot, #22966_003-Episode 102 "Dead Reckoning."

Because the show is more about living on a ship, Christina had to do a lot more research into that kind of life than anything else. Her brother was in the Navy for four years, so she asked him for some insight.

“He’s still in San Diego, he’s not in the Navy anymore but a lot of his friends are, so he knows about the ship life,” Christina said. “He’d come back saying it was like being in prison in the middle of the ocean for 10 months because they weren’t getting off very much. They’d have to go on secret missions sometimes and didn’t know where he was in the world, and then you’re birthing suite – the rooms are so tiny. You’re cramped, it’s claustrophobic, you have a job to do. You’re getting up at five in the morning. You’re not going to sleep until late. To get that firsthand look was great. Once we went to shoot in San Diego and on the ship to meet a lot of navy men and women and see what their jobs where, what their lives looked like when they were on the ship, what it looked like when they were not on the ship, it was super helpful.”

While the show is hailed as a big action/adventure series, Christina said she thinks fans appreciate the characters more than the huge Michael Bay-ness of it all.

“I think a lot of the press about the show has been ‘Oh Michael Bay – action packed adventure show.’And I think that is totally true,” she said. “There’s a lot of action and exciting sequences but what’s really, I think, so great about The Last Ship is there’s all this action but we’re getting to know these characters and people that encounter this crazy new world and how they do it. We’ve been able to get a little deeper into some of these characters and their lies, and I think we’ll be able to get deeper and deeper and people will start to understand that if there were a major pandemic and the world all went to hell, these were the people you’d want to have your back. I think the action is important but the people are even more important.”

For the remaining few episodes of Season 1, Christina teases more from Alisha, but won’t give too much away.

“Some things start to happen around her character that will get a little interesting, and then we’ll see what happens in Season 2,” Christina said. “I’m really excited we get to come back and explore everyone a little bit more — and Alisha a little more too.”

The Last Ship airs Sunday nights on TNT. Follow Christina on Twitter @tinalorenn

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