Warning: This interview for the “Service” episode of The Walking Dead contains spoilers.
Carol’s off sabbatical-ing near the Kingdom, and Maggie and Sasha are off healing at the Hilltop, but a new Alexandrian is emerging to fill their heroine shoes back home: Rosita Espinoza. She not only stood up to Negan and Dwight with unflinching eye contact and sassy backtalk during their unwelcome pop-in in “Service,” but she shrewdly deduced they’d be swiping all of Rick’s group’s guns and made a clever, brave play to start rebuilding their artillery, one dead Savior’s gun at a time.
Rosita portrayer Christian Serratos talked to Yahoo TV about Rosita’s big picture plan and her new leadership mindset, her relationship with Spencer, and her potential relationship with Eugene. She also tells us that, though she misses friend and co-star Michael Cudlitz, she wasn’t surprised when she found out Abraham would be Negan’s first victim in Season 7.
“Service” is a really great episode for Rosita. We see that she has plans, and she’s maintaining her cool in the face of this reunion with Negan and the Saviors, which is pretty amazing, considering what she lost, and how Negan and Dwight are taunting her. She is inwardly seething at them, though, right?
Absolutely. I think she knows at this point that she needs to be methodical and smart and not let Rick down. She’s trying to be as covert as possible.
Do you feel like she’s taking on a leadership role?
I think a little bit. I don’t know if it’s just with her right now; I think she has a plan and has become the leader of her plan. It’ll be interesting to see where it goes from here. She’s definitely headstrong and is somebody not afraid of a mission, as we’ve seen before. I’m excited to see what the potential is here.
She’s, again, able to put her grief and pain aside and formulate a plan — cleverly and quickly take advantage of the fact that those dead Saviors in the woods had weapons. She’s willing to help her group rebuild, one gun at a time. We don’t know a lot about her background, but what do you think it is in her that shaped her into this strong, patient person who can do that?
I think a lot of it is just, you know, we forget that these people were individuals who lived in the world before it was a mess, before the apocalypse, and I’m sure that’s a lot of who she was pre-apocalypse. Of course, I think it’s amplified when everything went to s— and she had no choice but to buck up and survive. I think it just captured who she was. I think she’s learned a lot from people that we haven’t seen before, pre-Abraham’s army. I think she’s learned a lot from Abraham. Now, being in this new family that she has, I think she’s learned a lot from the people around her, from people like Maggie and Sasha and Glenn and Rick. I think she’s learned a lot from everybody. Now, we’re just seeing it come to fruition, especially having lost somebody so dear to her, having been separated from Abraham and then having lost him. Now we’re going to see who she is as an individual come out more than ever.
Do you think people have underestimated her at times because she is quiet, she observes a lot and doesn’t always say a lot?
I don’t think she’s underestimated. I think people see her quiet scheming. I think they see her seething very quietly. That’s sort of one of my favorite things about her, [that] she only says something when necessary. I’m actually trying to adapt. I want to start doing that in my own life. People talk far too much.
She seems angry with Eugene at the beginning of the episode. Is there something specific that she’s angry about, or do you think she feels it’s her responsibility now, with Abraham gone, to make sure Eugene doesn’t regress back into that person who was afraid of everything?
Well, I don’t think she’s necessarily angry with him. I think she’s angry in general. I think that she’s upset — there’s lots to be angry about. We’re seeing it now, and whether that manifests itself in a positive way and propels her forward or if it destroys her, we’ll find out this season.
Her relationship with Eugene is very interesting, because he’s somebody she’s always been in charge of. When Abraham was here, when it was Abraham’s army, Eugene was still her charge. I think she has this sort of love/hate, almost sibling-type of relationship with Eugene. I think a lot of the time, you know, as a human being, she feels like sometimes she doesn’t need somebody in the way. She has a mission, she knows what she’s going to do when she leaves those gates, she knows that she’s going to have to go look for that gun, and she just doesn’t want to have to worry about the responsibility of keeping him alive when she has a mission to accomplish.
Is there also an element then of her being frustrated that maybe he isn’t stepping up without her telling him to?
Yeah, I think so. She knows that’s possible, because Eugene has saved us multiple times, in a very specific way to Eugene, but he has. So she knows he has it in him. I don’t think she underestimates him at all.
In the comics, Rosita and Eugene become a couple. What are your thoughts on the possibility of that happening? Are you in favor of it? Or do you think it would be too weird at this point given that, as you said, we’ve seen them have this kind of brother/sister relationship for several seasons now?
I don’t know. I mean, the writers on this show are amazing. And the comic book is amazing. If that is the way that the show went, then we would embrace it, and it would be awesome. However, if they decided to veer from the comic books, which we do so often, I think it would be for a good reason. Either way the wind blows, I’m fully committed to just doing it well and making the fans as pleased as we can.
Rosita’s romance with Spencer seems to have continued, at least up to the start of “Service.” How real is that for her?
I guess we’ll find out if it becomes something very real to her. Right now, it’s just something kind of in the way. There’s more important things at hand, and I think a relationship is definitely on the back burner for her. That’s something that could always change, because this show has its ups and downs, and has its dark and light. Right now, I think it’s not the priority. It may become [a priority] later.
Does it bring her comfort, especially after losing Abraham permanently?
Of course. I think if it didn’t, then we would never see Spencer and Rosita together at all. I think that it stems from necessity. It’s as simple as that. When she wants him, she wants him. I think it could become something. That’s what we’ll find out the rest of the season.
You said during a panel at the Walker Stalker convention in Atlanta that you found out Abraham would be Negan’s first victim on the same day you were filming the Abraham/Rosita breakup in Season 6. That’s a lot of drama onscreen and off. What was that day like for you?
I wasn’t actually very surprised, because I knew that it was something… You know, me, Michael [Cudlitz], and Josh [McDermitt] are very close. When we came in together, we knew nobody. We had each other’s backs. For a long time, until we started to loosen up and get to know everyone, it was just us three. We had a lot of conversations about where we thought the show was going to go, how long we thought we would be on. It was something that we all knew happened in the comic books. We all know that our demise is coming. I don’t think that it’s especially sad or shocking when it does. Maybe this is just me, but when I find out people on the show are going that I’m very close to, it makes me sad, but it also makes me very excited in this weird way. Excited for my friend that they’re going out into the universe, and they’re going to go share their talents with another show or movie or go out there and write and direct. All these people are so talented. I get really excited for them that they get opportunities to go do other amazing things.
Also, nobody ever leaves this show not having accomplished everything that they were meant to accomplish. These writers and [showrunner] Scott Gimple do such an amazing job of making sure that these characters are utilized and, to me, when somebody goes, and when I inevitably go, it will be because my duty as Rosita is [complete] and now it is my time to go out into the universe. I think that’s something that can be really exciting if you think about it that way.
What has filming Season 7 been like for you and Josh, without Michael?
You know what I immediately think of? There was an episode in Season 5 [“Crossed”] when I looked at the script, and it was just me, and I was so nervous, because I don’t have my security blanket there. I don’t have Michael and Josh. It’s just Rosita in this episode, without the army. I’m so thankful that I had that scary moment very early on, because it taught me. I’m also a very, very shy person. I’m very quiet, and sometimes people interpret that as a different thing, but I get very, very nervous around people. I think that was a really healthy thing for me to have had an episode without them, before I was really friends with and knew anybody on the show, because it prepared me for now. Because Michael was such a strong presence on this show, not having him around would have been a total shock to the system. I mean, it’s hard, because he’s somebody that we turn to for guidance and advice. He was definitely like a fatherly presence. It’s sad not having him there, but I’m grateful that he has shared a lot of his wisdom with me and prepared me for now.
“Service” isn’t going to make anybody feel any better about what Rick’s group is going through. What are you excited for fans to see for the rest of the season, or for the next few episodes?
Well, without giving anything away, I think that [“Service”] said a lot about where we’re going to see Rosita go. I think that she has a mission right now, and it might be vengeance. I think it’s going to be really interesting for the fans to get their first glimpse of Rosita coming into her own and being on her own and being who she is more as an individual — seeing what she’s capable of and seeing where these deaths have led her. I’m also just excited, as a fan, to see Negan have more play time, because as terrible as he is, he’s so f—ing charming and awesome to watch.
Are you proud, in particular, to be playing this kickass character who has evolved to become more and more kickass along the way?
Oh, absolutely. That’s something that you want as a woman, and being very young, you want to have that badass role. That’s something that I’ve wanted for a really long time. To have been able to play such an awesome character, to see how much she’s grown, to see how much more powerful she’s gotten onscreen, is awesome for loads of reasons … to be an example, and also just because it’s f—ing fun.
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC.