Talking trash with Tamiel: Interview with Sabrina Gennarino of The Walking Dead

Recently, Sabrina Gennarino of The Walking Dead sat down with UW to talk about The Scavengers, Rick, and what really motivates the Heapsters.

The Scavengers have been a part of The Walking Dead for a couple of seasons now but the group remains a mystery in many ways. The Scavengers, or The Heapsters, or The Trash People, whatever you want to call them are still outliers in The Walking Dead world.

The other communities have all chosen a side in All Out War. But those choices were based on loyalty and a sense of preparing for the future. The Scavengers don’t seem to be motivated by the big picture or what might happen in the future. They seem to be more pragmatic than the other groups. Their fighters are for sale for anyone who is going to give them the best deal.

Right now they fight for Negan, but only when the deal is good enough. They don’t fight out of a sense of loyalty or a desire to reshape the world. They don’t seem to care one way or another what the outcome of the war is.

Recently I got the chance to talk with actress Sabrina Gennarino, who plays Scavenger Tamiel, the second in command to leader Jadis, to find out more about what motivates The Scavengers and what their story is.

Tamiel and Father Gabriel – The Walking Dead, AMC
Why Do The Scavengers Talk Like That?

There’s no official backstory explaining why The Scavengers speak in the unique way that they do. But Sabrina has an excellent theory that might explain it. She talked about how after a major trauma or catastrophe people kind of lose the ability to speak in complete sentences. They communicate in as few words as possible and have trouble expressing ideas.

So after the outbreak, which certainly was a traumatic event, Jadis probably found the heap first, and then Tamiel came along, and then Brion. All of them were traumatized so spoke to each other in that stilted way. And it just stuck. As more and more people joined they all started talking like that because when people hang out in groups they naturally start to mimic each other’s speech patterns.

Over time they continued to communicate like that and then added the whistles and other signals that they use because those innocuous forms of communication help them stay hidden and don’t call attention to them when they’re out being sneaky. While that’s not the “official” explanation of their unique communication it’s a pretty good theory.

Why Jadis Turned Down A New Deal

In the last episode of The Walking Dead, “The King, The Widow, and Rick” Rick approached The Scavengers with a new proposition. Jadis turned him down. When I asked Sabrina why Jadis wouldn’t want to make a new deal she said that it just wasn’t a good deal. The deal that Jadis has in place with Negan is for people, and people are a great resource. Rick wasn’t offering anything that was more valuable than that so it wasn’t a good enough deal for Jadis to switch sides.

Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes, Thomas Francis Murphy as Brion, Sabrina Gennarino as Tamiel, Pollyanna McIntosh as Jadis – The Walking Dead _ Season 7, Episode 10 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC
The Scavengers Aren’t Afraid Of Rick

Rick had the Polaroids to prove that the alliance forces were beating The Saviors, but Jadis was unimpressed. Sabrina said that The Heapsters aren’t afraid of Rick or the alliance. Even though Rick now has The Kingdom and The Hilltop on his side they still don’t have the numbers to be a threat to The Scavengers.

And the garbage heap is pretty defensible. They’ve put a lot of effort into turning the trash into a fortress. It wouldn’t be easy for Rick or the alliance to attack The Scavengers. And after the fight with The Saviors is over, they probably won’t have a lot of fighters left, which puts The Scavengers in an even stronger bargaining position.

One Man’s Trash Is Another Man’s Maze

Recently when I was looking at photos of the trash heap it looked to me like there were doors and possible dwellings carved into the piles of trash. And some solar panels too. So when I asked Sabrina if the trash people have turned their trash into tunnels, living spaces, and other quarters she pointed out that they have to some kind of shelter so it’s pretty likely that’s what they are.

And any group who wanted to attack the heap would have a very hard time figuring out where those dwellings are so it would be very easy for the stealthy Heapsters to hide among the trash and travel within the tunnels and exit routes that are built into the heap.

The Scavengers Know More Than We Think

The strongest skill that The Scavengers have is their ability to move about that world undetected. Sabrina reminded me that Tamiel followed Rick and Aaron to the boat supplies even though it was very far from the heap. The Scavenger scouts have a wide reach and they have observed all the groups before. They know more about the size, strength, and skill of each community than they let on. So while they are sitting back and observing the war now they are not going to be swayed by either Rick’s threats or Negan’s bombast. They know what the other groups try to hide.

Jadis and The Scavengers – The Walking Dead, AMC
Will The Scavengers Join The Alliance After The War?

As we were talking I pointed out that if Rick’s alliance wins All Out War they are going to set up intercommunity trades and possibly markets or other types of exchanges. I asked if she thought The Scavengers would want to be part of that even though they don’t support Rick right now.

Sabrina said that they probably would be willing to trade with whichever side wins the war if the deal is good enough. But she pointed out that Jadis told Rick last season when she and Rick struck the original deal that some of their canned food is starting to go bad, and it’s not like they have crops growing in the trash.

They’re eventually going to need to get fresh food, especially vegetables, from somewhere. So depending on the deal they probably will be willing to trade with the other groups in the future even if they don’t want to join the alliance or be part of the community.

Does The Helicopter Belong To The Scavengers?

The helicopter has shown up a few times now, and in one aerial shot of the trash heap, it looks like there might be a small helipad on the edge of the heap. But when I asked Sabrina if the helicopter is connected to The Scavengers is some way all she could say was that she doesn’t know what the deal with the helicopter is. So fans will have to keep watching to see what the deal is with that helicopter.

Is Rick Going To Remain A Prisoner?

I asked her why Jadis took Rick prisoner instead of just killing him after turning down the deal. She laughed and said that Jadis is a “cat with a toy”. She couldn’t say any more about what is coming up for Rick and Jadis but promised that whatever is coming is “awesome”.

Sabrina has done a few cons now, including Walker Stalker Atlanta, and I asked her what she enjoyed most about the con experience. Her answer was unequivocally the chance to meet and talk with fans. When I asked if she’d like to do more cons she said if she was invited she’d do them all just for the chance to talk to the fans. As a fan of the show herself she loves to talk with fans about the show and get to know them. So if you’d like to meet her TWDFamily tell the con organizers that you want her invited!

Current And Future Projects

Filming for The Walking Dead season 8 is done but Sabrina has a lot of other projects that she’s working on right now. She has her own vegan natural skin care line, Crap Free Skin Care. She is currently being directed by Jadis herself Pollyanna McIntosh, in a film. And she’s working on her own film Craftique which is a mockumentary film about the quirky, intense, and surprisingly lucrative world of craft fairs. But she would be happy to fit more cons into her busy schedule so don’t stop lobbying to get her invited to your local cons!