Fear the walking dead
“I wanna have a full-on Shakespearean death”
SEASON 2.5 US BROADCAST: AMC from 21 August UK BROADCAST: AMC on BT TV from 22 August
Nightmares aren’t always conquered
with the flick of a light switch, and sometimes sunshine doesn’t drive the shadows away. Want proof? Look no further than Fear The Walking Dead’s second season. Created by robert Kirkman and Dave erickson, the Walking Dead spin-off’s first year examined the early days of the zombie virus, in a Los Angeles bursting apart at the seams. its newly formed family of survivors barely escaped with their lives, taking to the high seas in a luxury yacht captained by the mysterious Victor Strand. But as zombie fans well know, hope, no matter what form it takes, has a way of abandoning you in an apocalypse. And so the first half of Fear The Walking Dead’s second season saw the Clarks, the Manawas and the Salazars facing even greater danger. now on the run in Baja, Mexico, the group has been splintered by troubles inside and out, in a land made somehow all the more macabre by its balmy breezes and beaches.
When SFX arrives in the real Baja, we find it’s just as stunning as its on-screen counterpart, though we receive a far friendlier reception than Fear The Walking Dead’s protagonists – especially when we arrive at Baja Studios, where the show is shot. Famous within the filmmaking world for its massive water tanks, it’s played host to some of the biggest ocean-bound epics in film history, including
Titanic and Master And Commander. With Fear landlocked in the second half of this season, Strand’s boat, the Abigail, is, unfortunately, in the midst of being disassembled. But we can still spot its remains bobbing in a large tank on the studio’s perimeter.
Showrunner Dave erickson, back in LA with his writers, joins us via Skype when we enter the facility’s production offices. Wasting no time, we ask him what we can expect in the season’s back half.
“Fracture is the operative word,” he replies, and explains how Fear The Walking Dead will take a long, unforgiving look at its characters on their own before reuniting them.
“Fundamentally, when we started, the show was a drama. it was the story of a blended family. One of the interesting things about travis and Madison, especially travis, is that he’s tried desperately to bring this family together. He’s really tried to force, in some instances, a square peg into a round hole. With the pressure of that, the pressure of the apocalypse, the pressure on all of our characters coming off of the boat and the disappointment they find when they finally arrive at the compound, there’s a fracture in the family. that’s one of the challenges
they’re going to face. As desperately as they’ve tried to maintain some semblance of family, they fail at that abysmally before they can start to put that back together.”
in addition to the immediate dangers facing its heroes, erickson tells us Fear will continue to be fuelled by the very things that distinguish it from The Walking Dead.
“Because we started earlier, we had an opportunity to build the character dynamics and the family dynamics before the apocalypse was full blown. if you watch the trajectory of this season, all of the issues, all of the problems, all the conflicts between our characters, really stem from what we established in the pilot.”
erickson cites Madison’s son nick as an example. “He’s not shooting heroin anymore, but his attraction to the dead, his sort of need to pursue that darkness, is consistent with somebody who’s looking for his fix. He’s looking at it in an effort to explore what his place is in this world. Why did he survive when so many have died? there’s almost a spiritual quality to this pursuit. For Madison, she sees repeated behaviour. As the mother of an addict, for her this is not about spiritual exploration. this is somebody who’s getting a physiological response to something. He’s getting a rush off of it. that’s an element of their relationship that started in the pilot and before; it’s something we can continue to play out and dig into. that mother-son dynamic is important.”
Similarly, the relationship between travis and Chris will be tested once more now they are separated from Madison and her children.
“All of the dysfunction, the anger, the resentment that Chris has, he would have had that regardless. He would have had that if the apocalypse had never happened. it would have been a very tense, very challenging, very difficult relationship. But the fact that travis had to shoot Chris’s mom has only exacerbated that problem. So that story continues to play out.”
But the family’s dynamic, adds erickson, is just one way that Fear is forging its own path.
“the other obvious element is, if you track our timeline, we haven’t reached rick grimes’ waking up. right now, rick is still in a coma in georgia. We also don’t have the benefit as yet of the CDC episodes in the original show. We don’t have one person saying, ‘this is a global event. this is our extinction.’ that creates a
i want so much blood that people vomit… is that too much to ask?
dynamic, at least for this season and going into season three, where we have a group of people who have to believe there’s still something out there. it’s something that Chris and travis discuss specifically when we get to an early episode in this back half. Which is, ‘We have to hold on long enough. Because someone, somewhere must be fixing this.’ Where we don’t deviate from the comic or the original show is, we’ll never be about finding a cure. there’s no cause. that’s sort of the guideline for The Walking Dead, coming off the comic.
“those are two elements that give us a little bit of room to explore,” says the showrunner. “elements we don’t see as often or elements that we see slightly differently on the original show. Finally, the reality is that as we do get deeper into the show – and this is not specific to The Walking Dead and Fear, it’s really specific to any apocalyptic drama – if we are going to get to a place to stay that we can call sanctuary, we need to protect that place once we get there. there are certain tropes that are unavoidable. i don’t think that’s a bad thing necessarily. i think that it’s just part of the genre.”
nick may be the first to find such a place this season, as he becomes part of a colonia (a Mexican colony or neighbourhood) inhabited by some of the country’s own survivors.
“i’ve been at the colonia for a while,” actor Frank Dillane tells SFX as we watch him shoot a scene in the season’s eleventh episode, one in which nick takes on a leadership role, and prepares to negotiate on behalf of the ramshackle town with some deadly bandits. “We’re trading water and drugs; and it’s come to pass that a lot of people are leaving the colonia. Which is dangerous for a few reasons. it’s bad for morale. And also the less people we have the less we have if the gangsters decide to attack. So i’m brokering a deal with one of the scouts, to perhaps do something different than what has been said we should do.”
Star Mercedes Mason tells us Ofelia is also establishing her independence, in the wake of her father’s death in the midseason finale.
“She’s completely rocked. She’s at the lowest she can be,” says Mason. “that’s going to change her emotionally a lot, and it will make her understand that when you have nothing to lose, when there’s no one else you have to answer to, then you absolutely can go off on your own and live your own life. that’s huge for her. in the second half, episode three and on, you start discovering things about her past. that she’s going to go looking for someone, and she’s going to be desperate to find him or her.”
Despite Ofelia’s deepening journey, Mason’s own fear is that her character will, in the time-honoured tradition of The Walking Dead, be killed off.
“i worry every day. You never know. With these shows there’s bloodlusting. thank you,
Game Of Thrones! ned Stark’s head has now ruined it for everyone else. everybody wants some blood. So we just keep ingratiating ourselves to fans.”
But if she has to go, she says, she wants to go big.
“i wanna have a full-on Shakespearean death. i want to be stabbed by a dozen people. i want to swallow a hand grenade so my head pops off. i want so much blood that people vomit… is that too much to ask? i want children to cower!
“i have dreams,” she says with a wink.
Trying for the Iron Man pose, but not quite nailing it.
Well that’s no way to keep an eye on things.
Sure, lots of people may be dead, but you’ve got to appreciate the lack of traffic.