AMC held a press conference at the 2019 San Diego Comic-Con to promote the current (fifth) season of Fear the Walking Dead just after it had been publicly revealed the series would return for a sixth season. The zombie apocalypse action series is currently airing on AMC on Sundays at 9pm ET/PT and finds the central ragtag group of heroes attempting to locate and assist other survivors.
Cast members Ruben Blades, Alycia Debnam-Carey, Lennie James, Danay Garcia, Maggie Grace, Jenna Elfman, Karen David, and Alexa Nisenson joined executive producers Andrew Chambliss and Ian Goldberg to discuss season five. The Walking Dead’s Austin Amelio, who crossed over from the parent series to the spin-off this season, also took part in the Fear the Walking Dead SDCC press conference.
Here are the key take-aways from the 2019 SDCC press conference.
On setting up season six:
Ian Goldberg: “Season five we [have] two parts with eight episodes chunks, but we really see five as one big epic story. But as you’ll see when you continue to watch, the back half of it all builds toward an ending which very much sets up what the design for season six is going to be. We’ve been planning it for a while. I’m sorry I can’t be more specific, but we have a plan. We have a plan.”
On how the show’s impacted them off the set:
Karen David: “You know, every time now when I’m walking in the woods or anywhere that’s scenic and beautiful, I used to think coming from Galavant you’d break out in song. And now all I can think of is, ‘Wow, it’d be really cool if some walkers came out of there!’ You name it – Botanical Gardens – all I think is I just go dark immediately.”
Austin Amelio: “I do think about it. I have had dreams…nightmares. It’s part of my thought process.”
Lennie James: “It’s a very weird thing that happens when I’m filming the show where I start having really lucid dreams. A couple of times my wife has had to leave the bed and go someplace else because I’m literally fighting zombies. So, it’s a little bit scary but it’s the mindset you have to be in, the place you have to go to do our show.
It kind of manifests itself in strange places and for me I get really lucid dreams. I wake up in the middle of the night going, ‘No, you can’t go there!’ and things like that. It’s weird.”
On not being the typical action hero:
Lennie James: “I was a badass long before this show. (Laughing) I think it’s the nature of the genre; it’s the nature of what Kirkman created in this that he already laid out with a variety of people, the very premise of it is the different people who can survive. I think the best example of that that I could come up with to a greater extent is like Alycia’s character who was a child when it all kind of started and who she’s manifested into. But, also, Melissa McBride’s character and what’s happened to her and her kind of transformation. They’re very kind of different people.
I mean being a badass, as it were, there’s a few of us who don’t cut the regular shape. But that’s one of the things I like about the genre is that it’s all encompassing. Right from its very inception it was diverse before people were using that phrase to describe what was happening, and it not just being monolithic. So, if I am a badass it’s because this genre made me one. (Laughing) Well, didn’t make me one because I was one before. But it helped me continue to be.”
On reading the script and learning what happens to Alicia in season five episode seven (‘Still Standing’):
Alycia Debnam-Carey: “I knew and had vague ideas about the storylines. Reading it, it was more just about focusing on this is more about reaching out and trying to connect with people after closing myself off for so long.
I think she’s just defined herself as a fighter. Not just physically a warrior but that she’s someone who when she’s in fight or flight mode, she just fights. And, so, in that moment it’s a realization but then it clicks back in, like, ‘Okay, keep going…keep going. Get the kids out to safety now and then I’ll deal with myself later.’
It felt to me as an actor that this is the final mode for Alicia that will change her. She’ll either spiral further down into darkness or she’ll decide to change and evolve into choosing happiness or wanting something more out of her life. It’s really defining the past and the future for her. That’s really what I got from seeing that episode.”
On Morgan and Alicia’s relationship:
Ian Goldberg: “The Morgan/Alicia relationship is one of the most exciting things for us to explore. It’s two characters who do share a lot of things in common. They both lost people close to them. It’s led both of them down paths of violence and keeping themselves at a distance and not getting close to people. It’s something they really connect on very early in the season.
They learn from each other and there’s tremendous growth that will happen for them over the course of the season because of each other and the shared history. There’s also a division of labor between the two of them. Morgan follows more of the humanist path and Alicia sets herself up as a protector. We’re going to see later on that there’s going to be a bit more of a crossover in what these roles mean for each of them – two very strong leaders.”
Alycia Debnam-Carey: “I’ll just add to that. You know, we really enjoy working with one another and I think we have the same approach and acting sensibility. Even when we’re supposed to be getting into it, there’s an ease to it.”
Lennie James: “Also, I think there’s a sense that them kind of going to war as to who’s the leader is kind of conventional. I feel like I’ve seen that. There’s something different going on here which is that they’re both kind of reluctant leaders.
Morgan feels himself to be a really good #2 and Alicia, to a certain extent, doesn’t realize just how powerful and how strong and how smart she may well be. The two of them together help each other get to that place which will benefit the group. If they succeed, they succeed together. If they fail, they fail together. I haven’t seen that story told nearly enough. I’m much more interested in telling that one than the one where we fight, because I’ve seen it.”
Alycia Debnam-Carey: “That’s really great!”
Lennie James: (Laughing) “Thank you. Can I go home now because that’s kind of it for me?”
On who they would bring back if they could bring back one character:
Lennie James: “Shiva, because I like tigers.”
Alycia Debnam-Carey: “I think it would be great to bring back Tobias from the pilot episode. He was the kid who knew it was all coming from the get-go.”
Lennie James: “And the first time you see him, he goes, ‘I told you this would happen! I told you!’”
Alycia Debnam-Carey: “Exactly!”
On going to a darker space with the series:
Karen David: “When I was first cast, this was a whole new universe for me. I’m used to breaking out in song or riding a magic carpet ride. Ian warned me. He said, ‘It’s none of that,’ but that’s what made me really excited.
Especially when you’re first starting out in a new show, it can be wonderfully challenging and overwhelming because you’re trying to bond with the cast and hoping everyone will like you. You want the viewers to embrace the new character and hope that they like her. I had all that going on in my head and then you’re trying to memorize your lines and make sure your American accent sounds as authentic as possible. Being in a darker but hopeful universe, I think I latched onto the hopefulness. And then I’d go back to the hotel room and watch cheesy Hallmark films just to keep me laughing and smiling again. And then come back and be hopeful the next day.”
Alycia Debnam-Carey: “I watch a lot of trash TV. (Laughing) I think there’s also a real importance of separation from who you are and your life and then the separation of work. That’s very important to me.”
On making the transition from The Walking Dead to Fear the Walking Dead:
Austin Amelio: “It’s awesome. It’s actually a funny story. When I heard that Fear was going to Austin, Texas, probably a couple of months before I was finished with the season of The Walking Dead, I was talking to Mr. Gimple – Scott – and I was like, ‘Hey Scott, wouldn’t it be funny if Dwight went down to Texas?’ because that’s my hometown. And then a couple months later I got the call.
He didn’t really ask me. He was like, ‘You should probably come down if you want a job.’ I was like, ‘For sure, I’ll come down.’
It’s been awesome. I love it. I get to film in my hometown. I get to be with all these wonderful people. We have a blast and we’re making incredible art. I couldn’t think of anything better. It’s awesome.”
On other characters potentially crossing over:
Ian Goldberg: “I think what is so exciting about having Morgan and Dwight crossover to Fear is that this is a universe that is constantly expanding and finding points of intersection in surprising ways. I think anything can happen, which is exciting. I would be shocked if this was the last crossover from one section of the universe to the other.”
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Season five episode nine airs on August 11th. The series will be back to kick off the remaining episodes of season five in October.
(Additional reporting by Kevin Finnerty.)