9:00pm PT by Lesley Goldberg
'Walking Dead' Actress on the Group's Newest Fatality: "This Is a Changing Point"
[Warning: This story contains spoilers from episode 509, "What Happened and What's Going On," of AMC's The Walking Dead and the comic series it's based on.]
Talk about a one-two gut punch.
The season five midseason premiere saw Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and company attempt to reunite Noah (Tyler James Williams) with his family, making good on one of Beth's (Emily Kinney) last wishes. With the hope of finding a new and secure place to call home in the housing community where Noah's mother and twin younger brothers lived, the group made the trip to Virginia only to find that it had already been overrun by the undead. After seeing for himself that his mother was dead in the living room of their home, Noah covers her with a blanket — leaving Tyreese (Chad L. Coleman) to discover one of Noah's twin younger brothers dead in a bed. Stunned, he fails to notice the other brother-turned-walker and winds up getting bitten and eventually succumbing.
"It was devastating; very shocking and very out of the blue," co-star Sonequa Martin-Green (Sasha) tells The Hollywood Reporter of learning that her onscreen brother was being killed off. "It was the last thing I expected to hear. Tyreese is such a strong fixture in the show. My heart just dropped. It's always heartbreaking to see people leave and say goodbye. It was especially hard because of how close Chad and I are — and what it does to the story. He and I came in together and we've gone through this journey together."
Tyreese's loss comes at a pivotal time for Sasha, who is still reeling from boyfriend Bob's (Lawrence Gilliard Jr.) death after he was bitten and eventually had his foot eaten by cannibals.
"The one thing that kept her grounded is gone," Martin-Green says. "She dealt with that a bit at the end of season four when she thought Tyreese was gone [after the group was separated] and spiraled downward. She thought he might be gone, but now that he is there's no telling what she's going to do."
Tyreese's death comes as The Walking Dead entered its fifth season with its largest cast ever — and a seeming excess of leaders within Rick's camp. The series, based on Robert Kirkman's long-running comic series (in which Tyreese is a fan favorite and became Rick's right-hand man), has already bid farewell to Kinney's Beth, Coleman's Tyreese, Gillard's Bob and Andrew J. West's head of the cannibals, Gareth.
"This is a changing point," Martin-Green says of Sasha. "Nothing is ever going to be the same again. It will be something we've never seen before. She's always had to deal with all the loss, danger and violence — but she's always had her brother. We'll see what happens when the last bit of her security and her identity is gone. It's like the last fabric that was holding her together."
Sasha and Tyreese were introduced together when the duo and their small group arrived at the prison in season three's midseason finale. In the comics, Tyreese has a daughter whose boyfriend is also part of their group. The AMC series remixed that story by adding Sasha, his fierce and guarded sister. The siblings were very different. Tyreese was a good guy who wanted to resolve any conflict peacefully; this season, he struggled with his ability to kill after losing Lizzie and Mika. Sasha, on the other hand, arrived as a hardened woman who, over time and thanks to both Tyreese and boyfriend Bob, opened up and began to feel almost happy and, perhaps more important, able to trust other people.
"She's quite a loner and chooses to be that way," Martin-Green says. "She's a team player on the outside but a loner on the inside. And we'll see what kind of person [Tyreese's death] turns her into. We could assume that it's going to make her less trustful than she was before. She had gotten to a point where she was ready to live life more like Bob — to really live — and then was knocked unconscious [by Dawn's goon] after doing that. Now that this has happened, we can only imagine the damage it has caused. It will be sad to see how it manifests."
"I think she definitely thinks the world is against her," she adds. "She's felt that way for a while. If she could tally up all things that have happened to her, she definitely feels that the world is against her. Being that much of a protective and defensive person is how she combats the world. I think she'll find herself in a way that she never anticipated. A lot of her behavior is defensive and it's hiding in a way. I do think this will cause her to really look at herself and face herself in a way that she never has before."
With seven more episodes remaining in Walking Dead's fifth season, Sasha's journey will be one of the major story lines set to be explored as both she and Maggie (Lauren Cohan) have now both lost siblings.
"It would help if she could lean on someone," Martin-Green says. "But that doesn't seem like something Sasha would do. This is going to be a new arena for her; she's going to open up in a way we've never seen before and is in a place we've never seen before. She could turn into someone we don't recognize."
"The back half is even more thrilling and compelling than the front half or anything we've seen on the show thus far," she says of what to expect from the remainder of the season. "At this point, we've come to a crossroads. We've come to the understanding that we can't keep moving forward; we have to do something different. We can't keep hopping from place to place. … We've got to find some sort of lasting security. The last half of the season is about facing what life is now and who you are now after all the loss. The losses keep coming — and it seems the only thing constant in this life is loss. [The season explores] who are you and who are you collectively in the face of this loss."
How do you think Sasha will fare after Tyreese's death? Share your thoughts in the comments section below, and head back to THR's The Live Feed later for our exit interview with Chad L. Coleman (Tyreese). The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC.