AMC’s Fear the Walking Dead was well represented at the 2017 San Diego Comic Con. So many cast members made the trek to the sold-out Con that AMC hosted two cast press conferences, one of which included Kim Dickens, Colman Domingo, Mercedes Mason, and Michael Greyeyes along with executive producer Dave Erickson. With the second half of season three set to premiere on September 10, 2017, the cast provided a tease into what’s in store – without giving away any spoilers.
The first season you were in L.A., the second on the boat. What do you think about the setting for season three?
Dave Erickson: “It was sort of a build starting last season. We wanted to do a border season. Part of the reason to go to Mexico in season two was really about a lot of pieces that were being put into place. Over the course of season two it sets up for it. Thematically, one of the things season three is about is about resources and appropriation of resources and land. Specifically, re-appropriation, talking about the apocalypse has kind of wiped away existing borders which were put in place through violence and another theme of the season which is the building or rebuilding of civilization. In terms of the backdrop, that was the intention.”
Mercedes Mason: “It was also, just to add a little, there’s such a rich sense of culture because we’re actually immersed in Mexico so you get all the foods and the scents and the smells and all the locals. We have so many locals on our crew. I can’t remember the percentage exactly but it’s a large percentage. So, it’s so nice to indoctrinate us as actors into that because you feel like you’re really a part of it.”
Kim, how has your character evolved and where do we pick up with her?
Kim Dickens: “I think for Madison, she’s definitely become more of a merciless character. In the beginning, she was obviously probably a merciless high school counselor, but she was really beholden to her morality and her compassion and her heart. By season three, I think she realizes the currency is more brutality when required. Her main goal throughout has been to survive and protect her family. Now it’s at a higher cost and I think Madison has been quick to realize that.”
The Walking Dead can never find a permanent home. Is there hope that this group can make a home somewhere?
Colman Domingo: “I think that’s always the hope. I think that’s exactly the nature of all these characters. You’re constantly going to this new place and you’re like, ‘We’re going to build and rebuild here.’ As you see, it will fall apart. Great civilizations always come tumbling down in some way. I figure that’s just the nature of humanity and I think that’s what we’re exploring in the shows is we’re always hopeful and seeking this place we can build on. I think Madison said it so clearly. This season, she’s like, ‘We can thrive here. We can make something of this.’ Just like we tried to do with the hotel and we see how well that went. We tried to do that on the boat. We see how well that went. So, we’re constantly going to be searching because I think that’s just the nature of who we are as humans.”
Kim Dickens: “It’s the nature of the human spirit, is resilience. That’s why at times you see humor in the show as well because that’s a human instinct to survive.”
Mercedes Mason: “I think it’s more exciting, too, for fans. I remember in The Walking Dead, at some point when they’re stuck in a location for too long you go, ‘Come on! Come on! Let’s move on.’ I love getting to see all places.”
Michael Greyeyes: “Also, the narrative plays with the tension that’s created when people are homeless. We’re avatars for everyone’s anxieties. What do you do when you don’t have a home? It creates tension within the narrative. It creates tension in the storylines and I think it presses on nerves of the audience. I think that immerses all of us in that kind of tension.”
Victor Strand seemed most equipped for this but he’s fared worst. How has it affected his character and where he has to go now to survive?
Colman Domingo: “You know, when I first was engaging with Victor Strand in season one, I love the fact that he was this mysterious man of means, self-made man with things they wouldn’t tell me about him. Then season two was all about his deconstruction. I felt it was also a deconstruction of Western civilization in many ways, what he represented, the things that he was all about. So, I think he had to take stock and maybe after the world has taken stock in who they are and getting back to basics.
I think season three has been a journey for him to go off on his own and to figure that out and probably hopefully merge the two in some way, to take the skills that he knew he could build and rebuild on. He just didn’t know how. There were times, every so often, I was confused with what I was doing and I would call Dave up and how I’m playing this character as someone I thought was this. But I thought that’s the great journey for this man, to become a different human and in touch with his feelings in many ways and to see how he can rebuild – he was a little bit more of a conman – to survive because he is a survivalist in many ways. He just has to figure it out and that’s been an exciting journey. I think he’s on the way up.”
What comes next for Ofelia?
Mercedes Mason: “Ofelia, when we met her, was daddy’s little girl. She sort of was soft-spoken and she’s changed a lot. I think the moment she was orphaned and she realized she had nobody else in the world, it made her realize that she has to be strong to survive. The beauty of it is how much more like her father she’s becoming. And now that we know Daniel’s alive, I love the concept of them maybe getting close to each other and how they’re going to fare and how they’re going to recognize each other when they finally meet each other when Ofelia at this point has no idea he’s alive. So, I love that concept of her just getting stronger, becoming more like him and him having this constant urge to find her again and then hopefully recognizing her when he does.”
Michael, how did you prepare to do scenes like scalping or sending Ofelia to poison people?
Michael Greyeyes: “The storyline that Dave and the writers created is really exciting because it’s riddled with a tension between what audiences expect. They play into stereotypes, stereotypes of violence and brutality within our community but, I applaud the approach I think, the depiction of our culture. I’m very interested in that as an actor, as a scholar. So, this is a world in which all the old rules are broken. This is the end of the world. What emerges is our sort of most base instincts, like how we survive, what do we need to do in order to ensure our own safety? So, when I looked at the violence and just how brutal he is, I often play characters that shy away from that but in this role, I was able to embrace it because in the end what we’re seeing actually is the depiction of a community that’s vibrant, that’s unafraid, that’s unbroken. He’s a true leader. I describe this world as the re-emergence of humanism. Communities have to find real leaders, whether they’re brutal or clever or resource rich. We’re starting to see feudal camps so in that sense, the show’s given us a power that’s not seen often in television. Even the depiction of our communities we are not seen often. Fear has always been a show that’s pushed those boundaries and I’m delighted to see our stories told this year.”
How did it feel to finally see Nick and Alicia understand Madison and what she was doing was for the greater good?
Kim Dickens: “I think Madison was challenged by her children this season and I think she finally realized that she owed them her story and the story of what made her who she is. By sharing that with her kids, she became more human. Following that, Nick saves her from having to relive and recreate the same violence she did as a kid. I think as much as Madison would never want her son to do that, she realizes this is the fate that’s befallen them. They’re now a family of warriors but they’re still a family.”
What will Madison and Strand’s relationship be when they come back together?
Kim Dickens: “What did you see? We’re in the same room.”
Colman Domingo: “Did it look like we were getting along?”
Kim Dickens: “Colman and I, each script we’re like, ‘Ugh, we’re not back together yet,’ because we have such a good time working together. So, it’s a really creative and surprising way that they reunite in a really amazing location, one of my favorite places that we shot that you’ll see in the second half of the season. And we’re up to our old hijinks.”
Colman Domingo: “Also what I love about that, what I think is very cool too is with all of these characters that we’ve been torn apart, and now we’ve had some life lessons and it’s interesting to see the way we come back. I love watching when Ofelia comes back and how she’s changed. So, no one can appeal to her the way they used to anymore. She’s a very different woman so that’s what’s happening with all of our characters, and I think it’s really beautiful.”
Robert Kirkman hinted there could be a crossover with The Walking Dead. If it happens, who would your character make a duo with?
Mercedes Mason: “I think she would make a duo with her father for sure. So, who would Daniel trust at this point? I think she would sort of go with Carol probably. I have a feeling maybe if a walker wasn’t around, she’d find the biggest, strongest so it would be Rick to align herself with, whoever is the biggest, baddest dog in the room.”
Michael Greyeyes: “It would be Daryl.”
Colman Domingo: “I’m going to speak for Daniel Salazar. I think Daniel Salazar would take out Negan first of all. That’s a no-brainer for Daniel. He’s gotta go.”
Kim Dickens: “I think Madison might be related to Daryl Dickson or something.”
What inspired you to create the spinoff from The Walking Dead?
Dave Erickson: “It’s really Robert. Robert had actually done, it’s ultimately his universe. We just live in it. He had done a lot of legwork on the show before I even came on. So, it became more of a thing where Robert’s been incredibly generous creatively. It was characters that didn’t exist before we started to collaborate. I think he was just very lovely about what he took, to include some personal things especially involving divorce and blended families and all of that. There’s two sides to it. We used to talk about this a lot in season one.
I think one of the great things about Robert is his realization as he was moving forward that there was more story to tell, that he could actually rewind a little bit and see a little bit more of what was happening while Rick was in his coma. In some respects, it’s really quite brave if you think about it. He obviously has a successful comic, he has a successful show, things are going quite well. I think there was a certain danger and risk in adding to it, because God knows this show has been under a microscope from the very beginning. I think the fact that he was willing to embrace that and try to do something that is ultimately a different show… We have the same rules that go with the zombie apocalypse but I do think tonally it’s distinctive. I think one of the great things about this season in particular is I do think that it has evolved to a place where it feels like it is its own thing, if that makes sense. I do like to think that some of the comparisons have fallen away just a little bit. I think just fundamentally, at the start, Robert said, ‘There’s more that I could do. There’s more story to tell so let’s see where we can go.'”
How excited is the cast that Fear the Walking Dead‘s been renewed for season four?
Kim Dickens: “From the very beginning, AMC and Robert encouraged us to do our own thing and not feel beholden to The Walking Dead and their story, to look different, to tell different stories, different time period obviously. With that encouragement and that license, I feel like it is season three where we finally got our groove on. We finally have our sea legs and we are our own thing. Beyond that, I think season three probably for me, I’m the most proud of. I just feel like the stories and the characters and just everything is really strong and epic throughout the season. To get a fourth season has just blown my mind. It’s kind of rare to get a fourth season anymore, so we feel really grateful for that.”
Colman Domingo: “I recently put together a little collage of looking at the looks from season one ‘til now and the way we’ve evolved. Just looking at how in the beginning we were just ordinary human beings. And now when things are stripped down, we have to just scavenge and figure out what we need and who we are and become something else, which I think is just very interesting and I love that. I think we’ve all been becoming something else as we’ve been on this journey with this show as well. I think that we’re a very tight knit group of people and we love the stories that we’re telling. I love that our audiences are responding to what we’re doing singularly. We’re a part of the universe but we’re not trying to be compared to The Walking Dead. We want to be our own organism with our own California sun or Mexican sun.”
How do you think Madison would be different if Travis had survived?
Kim Dickens: “They’d probably be having marital problems. That was a devastating blow for the cast and for Madison, that loss. I don’t know. They were struggling as it was. I think that the love bond was strong but they were struggling and becoming different people as would be expected. I think that for me, for Madison, I try to keep that loss in through all the scenes. Even though it’s not addressed, I try to keep that alive, that incredible, inexplicable loss.”
Thank you for the Spanish episode. How did that come about?
Dave Erickson: “It started from a story perspective. We hadn’t seen Daniel for a long time. I think there was a lot of ambiguity in terms of his perceived demise. What we wanted to do was afford the character, afford Ruben (Blades) an opportunity returning to the show to have an episode that delved more deeply into his psyche, get an understanding of how he did it, how he survived. Practically, you’re telling a story set in Mexico with Spanish-speaking characters. So, it made no sense for it not to be in Spanish. I think to add an English-speaking character simply so there was a balance didn’t make any sense. That was the story.
I think it was interesting because there were some people who embraced it and there were some folks who were like, ‘If I wanted to read, I would read a book.’ There were. There were a few people. I go online. I try not to but that was just the story. Alan Page wrote that episode and did a beautiful, beautiful job and Ruben’s performance I thought was fantastic, so that was it.”
Will this core group stick together or are decisions made that guarantee the individual survival of each member?
Dave Erickson: “There are two answers to that question. The first answer is I don’t know. We’ll see. It’s really in someone else’s hands right now. […] I think that my intention this season, we spoke about it briefly before, it’s a very fractured narrative. We made a conscious effort by the end of season two to send everybody off on their own trajectories. This season, the intention was to slowly blend everybody back together which is always challenging. You’ve got three or four different storylines and you want them to intersect in an organic way. You want it to feel the least cheesy you can possibly be. I think what would be lovely would be to start to see these people come back together because when you get to play scenes with Kim and Colman, when you get to play scenes with Nick, with Frank and Colman or with Mercedes, there’s a nice camaraderie that’s developed. The odd thing is that because I’ve seen that over the course of the show but I’ve also seen it off camera so much, it’s such a joy just to say thank you to the group that’s here but everybody else, to watch how everyone’s melded and the family that you guys have formed. So, I do think my goal would be that we try to do that, we actually bring everybody back in some kind of a core group.”
Mercedes Mason: “Correct me if I’m wrong but while they’re pursuing community, we’re pursuing family. In a big family dynamic, you get to a point where if I have to sit in the same room with my brother one more second I’m going to strangle him. So, I think we’re all veering off trying to figure out who we are and ultimately family usually does end up coming back together once you discover what that is. That’s what we’re trying to find out. What is family when the apocalypse hits?”
Michael Greyeyes: “Also, as a fan of the show, this is my first season with Fear. I came in, watched Kim, Colman and Mercedes and Ruben, all these actors. I’m like, ‘This is a fantastic show,’ but when I arrived on the set and found out about episode two, as a fan and somebody outside the project, I realized anything can happen this season. I think what that does, it injects a kind of realism into the rest of the season that keeps every storyline, every script electric. I think that’s unique and different than the original show.”