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Walking Dead and Preacher actors get real about diversity on television

Said being on AMC is a start, but there's much more to do

During AMC's press conferences for two of its biggest shows, The Walking Dead and Preacher, the question about diversity on each show was brought up time and time again.

The Walking Dead has one of the most diverse casts on television. Over the course of the past six seasons, there have been many actors of color that have starred on the series. For Danai Gurira (Michonne), the actor said being able to be a prominent character on the show and a prominent woman of color has been very empowering. Her role, she added, isn't one that you see on television often, and being able to play a character as complex and deep as Michonne has been an educational experience.

"I love that someone came up with her and someone decided to put her on screen," Gurira said, pointing to creator Robert Kirkman and showrunner Scott Gimple. "She's on screen every week and that's a fantastic rare thing. I mean, dreadlocks? A sword? I wish I came up with her!"

Preacher star Ruth Negga had similar thoughts about her character, Tulip. Negga said what she found so fascinating about Tulip was how contradictory she was to play, especially as an actor of color.

"I think what attracted her to me is what repels other people," Negga said. "Her unapologetic tendencies."

Negga said it was a "relief to play someone like her" but admitted it was just as important to have a character like Tulip on television. Negga said that for too long, the industry has been complacent about the lack of people of color, and especially women of color, on television.

"That conversation needs to keep happening because there's still so much more we can do," Negga said.

"She's on screen every week and that's a fantastic rare thing"

For Preacher executive producers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, having a black woman in a starring role was important, but they wanted to highlight the strength of the character the actor played. When they brought Ruth Negga on to play Tulip in the show, they made her a little more badass and introduced her to audiences through one of the most violent, chaotic scenes in the pilot to prove she could handle herself.

"We thought that having an all-white cast was incredibly lame," Goldberg said. "And we wanted to really play into the idea of Jesse and Ruth's relationship still being a thing people had an issue with in the South."

"It also made it slightly more of our time and incredibly 2016," Rogen added. "It let us explore some of the tensions in our country and highlight Ruth's acting abilities at the same time."

"That conversation needs to keep happening"

Rogen and Goldberg admitted they were preparing for backlash when they announced the casting, but said they had received nothing but support from fans who were excited about the character being played by Negga. At the end of the day, Goldberg said, the character comes to life based on the talents of the actor, and Negga "blew it out of the park" when she auditioned.

Still, both casts admitted there was more work to be done and that more women of color needed to be given the chances they had to take on roles they otherwise would never have been offered.

"I am very fortunate to have this role," Gurira said. "And I'm thankful everyday. We need more writers to create roles like this for people of color."

For Rogen, casting Negga has been one of the best decisions he's made while working on the show and said he's started to see Tulip in a whole new light since they began working on it.

"I am a huge fan of the comic, obviously," Rogen said. "But now, that's how I see Tulip in my head. When I think of Tulip, I only think of Ruth."

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