Sabrina Gennarino interview: Thoughts on The Walking Dead, Tamiel, and fans

Tamiel (Sabrina Gennarino) and Father Gabriel Stokes (Seth Gilliam) in episode 10
Tamiel (Sabrina Gennarino) and Father Gabriel Stokes (Seth Gilliam) in episode 10 /

Sabrina Gennarino was thrilled to land the role of Tamiel on AMC’s zombie drama The Walking Dead and fans are thrilled to have her as part of #TWDFamily.

Fans of The Walking Dead are sometimes reluctant to embrace new characters. But they immediately took to Tamiel, one of the generals in The Scavengers. They also embraced the actress who plays her, Sabrina Gennarino.

Gennarino is a TV and film veteran who acts, produces, writes and generally does it all when it comes to TV and filmmaking. Her long list of credits include independent features, TV show and mainstream films like Jack Reacher: Never Go Back. But the role of Tamiel is one that is especially close to her heart because she is a huge fan of The Walking Dead.

She said that she did start watching the first season of The Walking Dead but when Rick shot the walker carrying the teddy bear it was really emotional for her because she had just given birth to her daughter.

Tamiel (Sabrina Gennarino) and Father Gabriel Stokes (Seth Gilliam) in episode 10
Tamiel (Sabrina Gennarino) and Father Gabriel Stokes (Seth Gilliam) in episode 10 /

So, after that she stopped watching it for a while. But she did eventually get back into the show and binge watched it to catch up. The quality of both the storytelling and the production of the show blew her away. So she was thrilled when she got the chance to audition to be on the show.

Her character Tamiel is one of the generals in The Scavenger army led by Jadis. Tamiel is a fierce fighter and is clever and creative too. She was the one who watched Rick and Aaron get the supplies off the boat. And she was the one who followed them back to Alexandria and took Father Gabriel. I was lucky enough to get the chance to chat with her recently about Tamiel, The Scavengers and The Walking Dead. Here are some of the highlights from our delightful chat:

Who Are The Scavengers?

They actually like to refer to themselves as The Heapsters, because in The Walking Dead world all the groups are scavengers really. Everyone scavenges to survive. So they call themselves The Heapsters for the junk heap that they have turned into a community.

While she couldn’t reveal anything about Tamiel’s backstory or the story of The Heapsters Sabrina did say that she views the group as a dichotomy. They are creative people who have turned this massive pile of junk into a home that is actually very secure.

Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes, The Walking Dead — AMC
Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes, The Walking Dead — AMC /

The Heapsters make art, like the cat sculpture, and express themselves creatively. They have a completely equal and diverse community. But they do have a very rigid hierarchy. Jadis is the leaders. Tamiel and Brion are the generals. The others scavenge and creates according to the group’s motto, “We take, we don’t bother.”

Yet they do know how to fight and can fight quite well. Now they are going to join the survivors in fighting Negan but only to get a portion of what The Saviors have. The Heapsters don’t actually need to fight to survive.

The heap is very secure and doesn’t have a walker problem. The group has so far stayed off The Saviors radar but it’s likely they already know about The Saviors. They probably knew about the other communities already too. They are very stealthy and know how to blend into the environment so they have been probably been out scouting and seen more than any other group.

The Diversity of The Walking Dead

We talked at length about the diversity of the show. Sabrina agrees with me that the diversity of the cast and characters is one of the show’s greatest strengths. The Walking Dead is actually the most diverse show in genre TV.

It has the most diverse cast and the most diverse crew of writers, producers and directors of any genre TV show. The creativity and unique view points that come from such a diverse group of actors, writers, and producers are what make the show so special.

The Strong Women of The Walking Dead

According to Sabrina that uniqueness is palpable on the set. Everyone from the Executive Producers to the crew members were welcoming and kind, which is not always the case on film and TV sets. She said that it was easy to become immersed in The Walking Dead world because filming in isolation in Georgia on such intricate and huge sets made that world very real.

Pollyanna McIntosh as Jadis – The Walking Dead _ Season 7, Episode 10 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC
Pollyanna McIntosh as Jadis – The Walking Dead _ Season 7, Episode 10 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC /

One of the reasons that she was drawn to the show was the equality in the female roles. The women of The Walking Dead are incredibly strong, but still feminine. They don’t hide their emotions. They take strength from them.

In the season 7 premiere after Glenn was murdered brutally in front of her and she was sick and worried about the baby Maggie was the first to get on her feet. She was the first to  proclaim that they needed to fight Negan. When Rick was still reeling from his encounter with Negan Maggie, Sasha and Rosita were the ones who were standing strong.

Jadis is incredibly strong leader. Tamiel is also a very strong female character. She said that she’s very grateful to get the chance to work on a show that has so many strong roles for women. And of course it has a great source to draw from because Robert Kirkman’s Walking Dead comics have a very diverse group of well-developed characters.

Working With The Cast

Sabrina said that at first it was intimidating to join such a tight-knit group of actors. But she also said that the other cast members were overwhelmingly kind to her and included her as one of the group right away.

She shared a story about Andy Lincoln when they were shooting the scene where Tamiel shoves Rick. Andy Lincoln stays in character as Rick the entire time during filming so he was talking as himself but with Rick’s Southern accent.

She said that she at first just gave him a little shove. She wasn’t sure how hard she should actually shove him. Because it was Andy Lincoln she didn’t want to shove him hard. But he told her in Rick’s signature drawl to really give him a shove. Andy’s kindness and openness as an actor made it a lot easier for her to feel comfortable.

And she said that was pretty typical of the cast. There is definitely a bond between all of the cast. They go out of their way to include new actors in that and make them feel like they have always been in the show.

She also shared a story about working with Danai Gurira. After a take Danai told her when Tamiel was appraising Michonne with her steely eyed gaze that even Michonne would not have messed with Tamiel.

Love From TWDFamily

When I asked Sabrina if she had ever gotten the reaction from fans that she has gotten from The Walking Dead fans she said no. It’s a new experience for her to be so loved by fans right from the start. She’s very grateful that the fans and TWDFamily have embraced Tamiel, Jadis and The Heapsters the way that they have.

We agreed that The Walking Dead fans are a very special group of fans. The fandom is just as diverse as the show. Like the show it’s a lot of people from all different walks of life and all different backgrounds coming together. And it’s an amazing experience to have all of that love directed at you according to her.

More from Undead Walking

She also was blown away by some of the fan art . Some of the art is based on Tamiel and Jadis and some is general TWD fan art. But she said that she was very impressed by the talent and creativity that these fan artists display.

She said that as a fan of the show it’s a fantastic experience to be involved in creating the show. And while she couldn’t reveal anything about what is coming she said that the fans will really love what’s coming next.

Cons and Appearances

What’s next for Sabrina is cons! She will be making her first con appearance at HorrorHound. HorrorHournd is in Cincinnati next weekend, March 15-17th.  Some of the other actors from The Walking Dead will be there as well including Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Tom Payne, Chandler Riggs, and Jadis herself: Pollyanna McIntyre.

Next: Sabrina Gennarino answers fan questions

So, #TWDFamily if you are able to make it to Cincinnati go meet Sabrina. You’ll love her. And she would love to talk about The Walking Dead with you. If you can’t make it to Cincinnati you can email or tweet your favorite local cons and tell them you want Tamiel at their cons.