The Walking Dead showrunner Angela Kang explains why two prominent gay characters, Jesus (Tom Payne) and Tara (Alanna Masterson), were killed off during its ninth season.
“It’s like the discussion we have about any character. For season nine, in our writers’ room itself, the LGBTQ perspective has been represented very strongly throughout the years, and this year was no exception,” Kang told THR.
“Our cast of series regulars, as well as many major recurring characters, the majority of the people are from historically underrepresented groups. They’re often from two or three of those groups at one time. Any one death on this show will always hit somebody who will feel, ‘There’s not enough of me represented on screen.’ At the same time, when so many of us come from these underrepresented groups too, we don’t want to engage in tokenism.
“We want every single person to have the same full story that anyone would have. Taking death off the table for any group for any reason limits the types of stories we can tell for them, as well as our casting abilities. We have a really unique perspective as a room because of our own status as outsiders, for the most part.”
The penultimate episode of The Walking Dead’s ninth season was met with swift and sometimes furious criticism when it was revealed Tara, a lesbian character, was among the ten victims captured and then decapitated by Whisperers leader Alpha (Samantha Morton).
Tara’s death came just seven episodes after the series killed off Jesus, one of two major gay male characters, the other being Aaron (Ross Marquand). Both deaths, as Kang previously explained, were born of story reasons.
When revealing why Tara, Enid (Katelyn Nacon), Henry (Matt Lintz) and other characters were selected for brutal deaths on pikes, Kang told Deadline:
“In the 8 years I’ve been writing for The Walking Dead, character deaths on the show have rarely matched their fates in the comic,” she said.
“There are many reasons for that: the divergences in story on the show may lead to different outcomes for characters, we want to keep things fresh and surprising for our fans who are readers of the books, and there are sometimes other special circumstances which we rarely discuss publicly.”
Story-wise, “Alpha’s goal was to terrorize the communities and force them to comply with her rules,” Kang added. “So there’s a mix of strategic murders, with Tara, random with Enid, and vengeance-driven with Henry.”
The Walking Dead still has numerous survivors belonging to the LGBTQ community, including Aaron and couple Yumiko (Eleanor Matsuura) and Magna (Nadia Hilker).
Star Lauren Ridloff, who like fan-favorite character Connie is deaf, told Variety in March the show is “setting the bar high” in matters of diverse representation.
The Walking Dead Season 10 is due out later this year on AMC.
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