“The Walking Dead” star Alanna Masterson does not want to be the next lesbian TV death

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Last season on AMC’s The Walking Dead, viewers were introduced to Tara Chambler, who took care of her sister and niece after their town was ravaged by zombies. Played by the enigmatic Alanna Masterson, we learned Tara was training to be a cop before the walkers took over America, and that she had been with women when there were any, you know, still alive to be with.

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Although she was originally introduced as part of a plot that included the evil Governor, she met a girl (Alisha) and thought life was going to get better— until the Governor rallied Tara’s camp to stage a shoot out on the other side of the fence from Rick and company. Tara quickly realized she was dealing with an evil man who ended up getting her family and girlfriend murdered. Glenn took pity on her, though, and she became part of the surviving members who left the prison and hit the road to reconvene at Terminus, which is not the ideal situation everyone thought it might be.

When Season 5 premieres this Sunday, Tara will be face-to-face with some of the people she tried to kill not so long ago while under the influence of the Governor. We talked with Alanna Masterson about playing the show’s first gay zombie survivor and what (if anything) she can tell us about this season.

AfterEllen.com: I read somewhere that Tara wasn’t named “Tara” to begin with, is that true?
Alanna Masterson: Well when you audition, they give you fake sides with a fake name. I think my name was, like, Heather or something. And also they change the dialogue around so that I never knew I was coming in with the governor. And I watch the show, so in the script, I was having a conversation with a man in his thirties, and then telling him about how when the apocalypse started, I went to my ex-girlfriend’s house to try to find her and she was already gone. And I got kicked out of the Police Academy. So that was the sides. Then I learn when I get to work, I look at the call sheet and my call time at 6 a.m. and the only other person coming in with me was David who played the governor! I thought My mom is gonna be so proud of me!

AE: So you knew from the beginning she was going to be a gay character, can you tell me what your initial thoughts were about that?
AM: I get this question a lot. How I feel about AMC and the show is that they cast real people and they tell real stories. So I knew that when I was auditioning thought this network was a good fit. I’ve been acting my whole life, when you audition for CW or ABC family, they’re going for a different type of story. So when I was able to be on AMC, and be the first lesbian character on an AMC show,  I thought it was exciting. Because that’s a real story and I thought I would love to tell that story.

AE: As a lesbian and someone watching The Walking Dead since the beginning i was hoping they would address it in some way. It was surprising too because your coming out on the show was so matter of fact, like they wrote it in this normal way and that was awesome. What did you think about that?
AM: I had a conversation with our showrunnerone of my best friends is a lesbian and she doesn’t always walk around saying “Hey, I’m a lesbian!” just like my straight guy friends don’t walk around going, “Hey! I like girls!” So with Tara, it’s who she is. she was born the way she was born. She loves who she loves and that’s all there is to it. I understand when people want more information than that, but the truth is she likes girls. It shouldn’t be a big deal. That’s all there is. There doesn’t need to be this fairytale fantasy story about it.

AE: And she’s living in a world where her sexuality is probably the last thing on her mind, as she’s trying to stay alive.
AM: Of course! My character had a girlfriend for a short amount of time. And it’s like…she is going to love again whether it be whoever it is. She will find someone.

AE: Does that mean she’ll find someone this season?
AM: [laughter] I have no idea!

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AE: Tara is coming in as an outsider, and I was reading an interview that said Rick and Tara were going to be at odds against each other still…
AM: Um, Hmm..I can’t really talk about that. I think he recognizes her in the train car. But from my personal opinion we live in a world where people do really bad things. Look at Carol last season … she killed a kid! Like, not because she’s an evil person but because that’s what you need to do to survive. So I don’t think that Rick is by any means going to be like “You did something bad, you’re not allowed to be here.” Because in Tara’s defense all she wants to do is take care of her niece’s sister. She was the one who went out and did the runs and got supplies, no one else did. She took care of her family for a year. So whatever happens between Rick and Tara in my personal opinion, people do shit in this world that they don’t mean to do and I think people accept that so they can move forward.

AE: I don’t know if you can say this but is there a particular character that Tara spends a lot of time with this season?
AM: I wouldn’t say a particular character, no…

AE: Is it fair to say that she becomes a part of the main group, then?
AM: Definitely. That’s her new family. She’s got Glenn, too, and Maggie and now her family is their family. They’re a group.

AE: So I probably can’t ask you if you’ll be in every episode because it’s not a regular show like that.
AM: No, I can’t say. I don’t know. I guess if I worked on a regular sitcom I could say, “Oh yeah I’m in all 22 episodes!” but with a show like this where they’re dealing with people possibly dying in everything…My show, you can’t say anything!

AE: Well what’s been happening lately is that lesbian characters have been being killed off on all these shows, so we’re hoping that Tara can stay alive!
AM: What? Really?! No! I will make it now for the rest of my life.

AE: Here’s hoping!
AM: Don’t you worry 47 seasons later when I’m old and gray I”ll still be Tara.

AE: There were some rumors that Daryl could be a gay character on the show…
AM: You know I haven’t heard anything about that yet! So I have to say no comment. I really have never heard that so I don’t know. I legitimately have no idea.

AE: Anything else you want people to know about this season?
AM: Plenty of things I want people to know! But that I can talk about? You just have to watch the season. Honestly, it’s a good season.

AE: And if anything crazy happens with Tara maybe we can check back in mid-season.
AM: Absolutely! Call whenever you want.

The Walking Dead premieres this Sunday at 9/8c on AMC. Follow Alanna on Twitter @lightbrigade.

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