A Woman With A Mission
♦ The second half of season four of Fear The Walking Dead is well underway and here’s Tonya Pinkins, who plays Martha, talking to amc.com about her character’s mission and more. Warning: spoilers ahead…
Q: What drew you to the world of Fear?
A: I’m a horror person. That’s my favorite genre and I love zombies! They’re the perfect metaphor for social problems. Social problems aren’t people. I feel like that’s what zombies can stand in for. Also, I happen to be a “dead head” as I like to say. I don’t think there’s a zombie show I haven’t seen. If I haven’t heard of it, I go watch it as soon as I hear about it. Sometimes zombies can be really funny, so I love the humor that can come out of it… For me – and I think Fear does this a lot – it’s an antidote to the anti-hero story. In The Walking Dead and Fear the Walking Dead, you have people trying to be good in a bad situation. I’m really compelled by that as a viewer. It’s excited to watch the drama of some vicious, deceitful person, but I like to see people try to be good and make the best of a bad situation.
Q: What appealed to you about playing the antagonist this season?
A: She was probably the most complex person I’ve ever gotten the opportunity to play on the screen. That was a great privilege. I’ve been doing TV for over 30 years… I usually come in as a supporting person and say all my lines really fast because the reaction shots are going to go to the heroes. This was a time for me where her importance to the show required that I get set up with the same time and energy and focus that you would give to a hero of a show.
Q: Before Episode 414, were you aware of Martha’s backstory? Did it further help inform the character?
A: I wasn’t aware of it until I saw the script… I shot that episode with [Director] Lou Diamond Phillips and it was the best kind of workout. It was fun to get to work that hard. In her way of dealing with her grief, I think she’s had to rationalize this way [of life] and I’m sure there was something that happened for her when she killed her second zombie, which was her husband.
Q: What are your thoughts on Martha using pet walkers to kill others who need help, instead of being the one to kill them?
A: The aspect of that that was interesting to me – which you don’t usually see in zombie shows – is you get to know the people before they become zombies and then you actually spend time with them as zombies. Usually, you see zombies for a minute and then they’re dead. Here, you live with them as zombies. Martha relates to them as people. They’re her friends. They’re carrying out a mission together. She’s created a very personal relationship with them
Q: Being such a huge horror fan, what was it like handling so many walkers on set?
A: This is like my heaven. [Laughs] I would go into the lunchroom and there’s a dozen zombies. When I met and sat down with my agent for the first time, I told them, “Anything zombie, I want it!”
Q: Why do you suppose Martha is particularly drawn to Morgan and making sure he’s not “weak”? Does she see any of herself in him?
A: I think she definitely connects to him as a black man. I think that connection is very real and she can see his pain. She wants to help him as much as he wants to help her.
Q: We don’t know too much about Martha when she’s first introduced. How have you enjoyed peeling back those layers as the season goes on?
A: I was surprised at the press saying she’s a villain. That surprised me because, for me, I thought she was someone who had a mission and point of view that was very specific. In her mind, she’s doing a good deed. She’s doing good. Even in the voice-over, she just sounds like a really friendly person. [Laughs] She’ll catch you by surprise.