Sonequa Martin-Green weighs in on her last Walking Dead days on set, reuniting with Michael Cudlitz, and whether Sasha ever considered working for Negan.
SPOILER ALERT: Read on only if you have already watched the season 7 finale of The Walking Dead, “The First Day of the Rest of Your Life.”
The season 7 finale of The Walking Dead was a new beginning for our heroes who finally joined the battle against Negan and the Saviors. But it was the end of the line for one of the said heroes, as Sasha sacrificed herself — taking Eugene’s poison pill so she could emerge as a zombie and hopefully take out Negan.
The plan didn’t work, but it showed Sasha’s true warrior side, giving up her life in the hope that it would aid her friends in combat. We spoke to Sonequa Martin-Green (who has moved on to space, the final frontier, to star in CBS All Access’ Star Trek Discovery) to chat about Sasha’s last stand, and the actress weighed on her last days on set, reuniting with Michael Cudlitz, and whether Sasha ever considered working for Negan. (Also make sure to read our season finale Q&As with showrunner Scott M. Gimple and director Greg Nicotero.)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So when and how did showrunner Scott Gimple deliver the news of Sasha’s demise?
SONEQUA MARTIN-GREEN: He was so gracious through the whole process. I found out a little bit ahead of time. So, it wasn’t a shock or surprise. He let me in on it. He let me know that it had been in the works for a really long time, that it was the way the story was going to go, and it had been a longstanding vision of his. And so then he gave me insight into how it was gonna happen.
The coffin, and walker, and suicide pill of it all didn’t come until a little bit later. But what he did tell me ahead of time was that it was going to be sacrificial in a sense and that it was gonna be very heroic in a sense. So I knew it was gonna be great, and when I actually saw it, the day I read the script, I cried, because it was just so powerful. I was so grateful for it.
It’s a little bit different than how it happens in the comic, with that character of Holly, who sort of had some similarities to Sasha here. How much did you enjoy the fact that Sasha went out actively, instead of passively, and the fact that she did so with a purpose — the purpose being to try to take out the enemy?
I thought that was the perfect ending. I thought it was like that period at the end of a wonderful poem. I mentioned this on Talking Dead, but it was as if all my roles had led me to that moment. And I felt that in a way, my journey as Sasha, in the zombie apocalypse, was finding true strength, not pretending to have strength, but actually being strong, and realizing that self-preservation is usually something that you do out of fear. And being able to sacrifice for the greater good is something that you do out of strength. And so I felt like, having changed as much as I had, having opened up the way that I had, I felt like that was the perfect way to end it because it was that sort of suspension that ended in the biggest action of all.
I’ve been a zombie before on the show, and for me the contact lenses were the worst. What was what your zombie experience like?
I had a lot of fun with it, because once it was there you’d sit down in the chair and you go, “Oh man, here we go.” [Laughs] With the special effects, the guys were so awesome, and we just had a really good time in that trailer. Kevin Wasner, who did the look, is supremely talented. And he was so kind. He and the whole team made the experience an exciting and memorable one. It was very lighthearted. You know, we had fun with each other.
The contacts were not as bad as I thought they were gonna be, actually. What was funniest about them was that you couldn’t see anything, and some people had to lead you around, and I always had sympathy for those awesome folks that play the walkers. But now I have empathy because I went through it, and it’s tough to be visually impaired and to have all the [prosthetic] layers on you. I didn’t have the layers, but they usually do, in the heat and whatnot. So those guys, they work really, really hard. I had a lot of fun with it. We did all sorts of funny videos, and selfies, and, you know, really just playing it up.
Do you think there was ever a moment where Sasha, like Eugene, was tempted to turn to the dark side?
When you’re in a cell like that, especially someone like Sasha, you know, I do the math. Even though it’s been a long time, and you’ve heard me say that I do the math and I don’t gamble. I certainly learned to gamble at this point, but I do still do the math. And so, I do think it changed when the suggestion came for me to stick around and being a part of it. For a split second, I did consider it, but as a long gain. You know, maybe I could be a part of it now, always with the intention of turning — always with the intention of finding a point of weakness that I could exploit. I think I did. I did consider that, and I said, “Well that’s an option for me, to pretend that I’m on board,” and use that to my advantage at a later time. You know, at a time that presents itself to me.”
Yeah, playing double agent there.
What was it like filming those coffin scenes in the dark with your iPod on and just having to act with your face?
Those moments are so charged because of everything. It wasn’t just the story itself. It was also what the moment meant to me personally, as Sonequa. And so it was very similar to what happened in episode 1 of Season 7. That was a very traumatic experience for us, because it’s not just the story that’s so haunting and brutal, but it’s also knowing that you’re losing two people that you really love — losing them from the show, and now you’re not going see them as often. And it’s saying goodbye to the legacies that they left behind.
All of it sort of comes together, and it really affects you, and it turns it into this living, breathing, thing. It’s intangible, and so I would love to be influenced by all of that. And so I would rather be influenced of all of that, in those moments, and I love those quiet moments — those moments where you’re just alive in the story, in what’s happening around you. And so it was a great opportunity to do that, and just to be lost in my thoughts. And to be lost in the moment. It was really incredible.
How nice was it to get to work with Michael Cudlitz again in those flashbacks we saw?
Oh, it was awesome! We were so thrilled when found out we would be able to work together again in that capacity because we didn’t think that would ever happen again. And so it was getting a gift that we just weren’t expecting — being able to share that moment between Abraham and Sasha, and being able to see them that way, being able to see why they are drawn to each other. To see what the sort of heartbeat of their relationship is. It was really beautiful and we saw the beauty of it, and we really took joy. We both thought it was so brilliantly written. And we wanted to give it justice. And I just love working with Michael. I think he’s brilliant. I think he’s just so powerful, but so available, and so present and so deep.
What was it like on set for your last few days, knowing that this was the end?
Oh my goodness. I don’t have words to describe how special it was. It was just… it was family coming together. We always love each other, any day. But then when people leave, it’s such an enchanted time because we come and we laugh and we share and we give everything we have to each other in those last moments. And that’s exactly what it was, just being able to take in everyone that way. I could cry talking about it right now because any word that I use to try to describe it might diminish it a little bit. It sort of lives in the ether where it can’t be described. Those last days of the time that I spent with everyone and being able to look back at all of my time on the show — just divine.
What are you going miss most?
I’m gonna miss everyone! I’m gonna miss the story. But more than the story, I’ll miss everyone — the entire cast, the entire crew, the entire creative team. We really are a family and I’ll miss being there on the ground with them. Because what we have is real, and it’s eternal. And that’s definitely what I’ll miss the most.