Sea­son t wo of Fear The Walk­ing Dead is ex­plor­ing watery new ter­ri­tor y, a s Richard Ed­wards hears f rom star Clif f Cur­tis

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The pre­quel se­ries re- starts.

You didn’t think zom­bies just

had a thing for the hu­mid Deep South, did you? Spin- off se­ries

Fear The Walk­ing Dead con­firmed what we’d sus­pected all along – that the zom­bie epi­demic wasn’t just con­fined to the At­lanta area, and that the dead com­ing back from, well, death was very much a na­tion­wide con­cern.

Fo­cus­ing on en­tirely new char­ac­ters, the six episodes of Fear The Walk­ing Dead’s Los An­ge­les- set first sea­son ven­tured into ter­ri­tory that the par­ent show skipped en­tirely.

The Walk­ing Dead con­ve­niently missed out the first weeks of the zom­bie out­break, with lead­ing man sher­iff Rick Grimes in a coma, awak­en­ing to find a bleak, 28 Days Later- ish world where civil­i­sa­tion had all- but- col­lapsed. This com­pan­ion piece, mean­while, gave us front row seats for the fall of so­ci­ety. What started as a mi­nor epi­demic of

ex­treme flu, the odd school/ busi­ness be­ing closed, and el­derly neigh­bours get­ting a bit bitey, soon de­scended into full- on disas­ter- movie ter­ri­tory. You know the sort of thing: mar­tial law, the army tak­ing their tanks to the streets, or­di­nary peo­ple forced to take crash cour­ses in be­ing Bear Grylls to sur­vive… To the point that, by the end of sea­son one, the out­break is at more- or- less the point where Rick Grimes woke up in the orig­i­nal se­ries. It’s that world we re­turn to in the 15- episode ( seven episodes will air in this ini­tial run, the re­main­ing eight later in 2016) sea­son two.

“It’s ac­tu­ally a com­pletely dif­fer­ent show [ this year],” says Cliff Cur­tis, who plays school teacher turned apoc­a­lypse sur­vivor Travis Manawa. “The first sea­son was the slow burn but that’s over and done with now. The scale of the new sea­son is re­ally im­pres­sive. I’m amazed how they’re re­ally throw­ing it down. I think the au­di­ence is go­ing to be very pleas­antly sur­prised by the new take on the show. I was sur­prised by the di­rec­tion of some of the things the writ­ers have been com­ing up with for the new sea­son. We’re build­ing on what we started – I feel that the first sea­son was the open­ing act.”

When we last saw Fear The Walk­ing Dead’s sur­vivors, they were holed up in a seafront man­sion owned by the mys­te­ri­ous Strand ( sea­son one stand­out Col­man Domingo). Travis ( a paci­fist by na­ture) had just shot dead his bit­ten ex- wife in front of his new fi­ancée, and po­ten­tial sal­va­tion floats in the Pa­cific, in the form of Strand’s boat “Abi­gail”. Though, as any­one who’s watched the par­ent show knows, even the most seem­ingly safe places can rapidly be­come death­traps in Walk­ing

Dead cre­ator Robert Kirk­man’s uni­verse. “I think what we’ll come to re­alise, very quickly as we move into the first cou­ple of episodes, is that they were not the only peo­ple with this bright idea,” ex­plains showrun­ner Dave Erick­son. “They’re not the only ones that have de­cided to be­come refugees from Los An­ge­les and make a break for the wa­ter. What do they do when they’re con­fronted with the in­fected and what will they do when con­fronted with other sur­vivors? How do they ap­proach them and where does the greater dan­ger lie?”

In ad­di­tion to boats con­tain­ing pas­sen­gers both liv­ing and ( un) dead, we also know that “Flight 462”, the plane that’s fea­tured in an epony­mous on­line minis­eries, is some­how go­ing to come into play – it’s even been con­firmed that one of the pas­sen­gers will join the Fear The Walk­ing Dead cast.

“I think we’ll quickly re­alise that the ocean is no safer than land and that there’s a very

dif­fer­ent level of ad­ver­sity and threat,” con­tin­ues Erick­son. “It forces the char­ac­ters to set their sights on a desti­na­tion. But where will that be? North to Van­cou­ver or south to Cabo? That’s the in­trigu­ing ques­tion for the first few episodes of the new sea­son: what har­bour can the char­ac­ters find and when they get there, will it be safe or not?”

“I re­ally en­joy the wa­ter,” adds Cur­tis. “It has been chal­leng­ing, but it’s so worth it. I just think it brings so much new stuff to this world. It’s so dis­tinct and creates a to­tally new feel­ing for the show and the char­ac­ters. I mean, the ocean it­self is ter­ri­fy­ing.”

NEW fron­tiers

“The char­ac­ters don’t re­ally know where they’re go­ing and what they’re do­ing,” Cur­tis ex­plains. “They’re dif­fer­ent peo­ple now. They’ve changed sig­nif­i­cantly. We’re no longer as con­fused by what’s go­ing on, and we’re all gear­ing up and get­ting into sur­vival mode on a much more height­ened level.” And that’s been a key fac­tor in Fear The

Walk­ing Dead so far. While Rick, Daryl, Carol, Glen and the rest of the sur­vivors in the orig­i­nal se­ries are by now a highly trained unit ca­pa­ble of bring­ing down pretty much any foe in sec­onds, the main play­ers here are still new to the killing game – even though a few have bro­ken their zom­bie- slaugh­ter­ing duck.

“I was re­ally quite shocked and sur­prised by some of the changes they’ve made to Travis!” ad­mits Cur­tis. “Travis has dif­fer­ent pri­or­i­ties now and he’s step­ping up to the plate a lot more. He’s mak­ing much tougher de­ci­sions. He’s much more fo­cused than in the first sea­son when he was hold­ing onto his ide­al­ism and striv­ing to be a good man all the time. He’s had to re­think that. Now he has no prob­lem with guns or with mak­ing sac­ri­fices and just do­ing what needs to be done. But that’s just my char­ac­ter – there are big changes with the oth­ers too.”

That’s not sur­pris­ing con­sid­er­ing they’re all get­ting used to rad­i­cally changed cir­cum­stances this year, whether it’s Travis’s drug- ad­dict step­son Nick ( Frank Dil­lane) ditch­ing heroin, his son Chris ( Lorenzo Hen­rie) who’s just seen his dad shoot his mum, or their com­pan­ions, the re­cently be­reaved Salazar fam­ily – father Daniel ( Rubén Blades) has some ex­plain­ing to do to daugh­ter Ofe­lia ( Mercedes Ma­son) about his tor­ture- filled past in El Salvador.

“I think the fam­ily as­pect of the show is work­ing well,” says Cur­tis. “It feels very grounded by that. Fam­i­lies of­ten don’t get along, but they love each other at the same time, and I think the show is grow­ing into that. I think that as­pect is re­ally start­ing to bind and work in­creas­ingly well.”

They can’t es­cape the fact, how­ever, that life ex­pectan­cies for char­ac­ters in The Walk­ing

Dead world are typ­i­cally Game Of Thrones low un­less you’re one of the cho­sen few. “Of course, I’d like to see Travis sur­vive,” Cur­tis ad­mits. “But we get scripts shortly be­fore we start shoot­ing. A mat­ter of days, ac­tu­ally. So we don’t get a lot of time to process what’s hap­pen­ing, and yes, that can be quite chal­leng­ing. I of­ten wish the writ­ers would tell us more, but they don’t. I’m of­ten say­ing, ‘ I didn’t see that com­ing’. But it al­ways makes sense. It’s not just ran­dom – it all stacks up. There have been a lot of sur­prises. The cre­ators are hav­ing a ball with this show, com­ing up with the most dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tions for us as char­ac­ters. Our char­ac­ters are fac­ing is­sues morally, eth­i­cally, in terms of our hu­man­ity, in terms of what it means to be a fam­ily. It’s re­ally full on.”

Fear The Walk­ing Dead sea­son two pre­mieres on 11 April on AMC, ex­clu­sive to BT.

the cre­ators are hav­ing a ball with the show

They’re go­ing need a big­ger ( and bet­ter) boat. Fear her: she’s the walk­ing dead, you know. Travis is joined by Daniel Salazar, a man who knows his way round a ra­zor blade.

Nick ( Frank Dil­lane) goes cold turkey this sea­son. Lawrence Of Ara­bia 2 any­one? Hang on, is that a fly­ing saucer?! Nick’s pre­sum­ably not in a swim­ming pool in Tener­ife. Travis’s girl­friend Madi­son ( Kim Dick­ens) is all at sea too.

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