‘Fear the Walking Dead’ Cliff Curtis, Kim Dickens, and Dave Alpert Interview

Fear the Walking Dead Cliff Curtis and Kim Dickens Interview
Cliff Curtis as Travis and Kim Dickens as Madison in ‘Fear the Walking Dead’ (Photo Credit: Justin Lubin / AMC)

AMC’s Fear the Walking Dead made its debut at the 2015 San Diego Comic Con, releasing the first full trailer and bringing cast and executive producers to the Con to provide new details on the series. The prequel/companion series to The Walking Dead, Fear the Walking Dead is more of a family drama as it focuses on the beginning of the spread of the infection. It also focuses on everyday people attempting to dealing with the outbreak, with Cliff Curtis and Kim Dickens playing a married couple at the center of the story.

In addition to participating in a panel in front of thousands of Comic Con attendees, the Fear the Walking Dead cast and executive producers took part in roundtable interviews to further delve into season one of the AMC series.

Cliff Curtis, Kim Dickens, and Executive Producer Dave Alpert Roundtable Interview:

Your characters don’t come into this as people who are trained to fight a zombie outbreak, do they? What’s the family dynamic?

Cliff Curtis:: “English literature teacher, counselor.”

Kim Dickens: “School counselor. Sort of a patchwork family. We’ve both been married before and have teenagers from those marriages and we’re putting together a family again. That’s a very contemporary, modern, recognizable, relatable family, I think. And with its daily challenges, hijinks, that’s where we sort of start. What seems like daily problems with joining a family together quickly becomes minuscule in the face of the [outbreak].”

How interesting is it to play the progression of someone who starts out thinking it’s the flu and it turns out to be zombies?

Cliff Curtis: “It’s quite dynamic. There’s nothing about what we do that’s set, straight. Everything’s set up with a dynamic, with a possibly where you have an expectation that can very quickly change. So we might be thinking or feeling one way about what it is in one episode and by the next episode, we might have dosey doe’d on it. Like, ‘Well, I don’t know.’ And you’re like, ‘Well, I do know.’ And I say, ‘Well, are you sure you know?’ It’s very dynamic and there’s no set way that we can do. We had anchors.”

Kim Dickens: “It’s a layman’s approach to it because we don’t have the information. I think that was the appeal for us, was that it was rooted in a reality that we felt would be familiar to us really.”

Cliff Curtis: “As opposed to action figures who are gonna go around kicking ass. It’s more like we gotta find the kids. First, take care of the kids, we have to find them. Then we just take it from there. What are the parameters of what’s going on? How do we set up the rules of this because we don’t even know what it is? And we don’t agree on what it is either. Relationships are hard enough.”

Dave Alpert: “We found that in general, one of the big identifying points for the fans are especially people come up to us and they’re like, ‘I love that episode of The Walking Dead. Here’s how I would’ve done that. Here’s how I would’ve handled that issue.’ So we feel like people really love thinking about these scenarios. So we said, ‘Okay, how do we create characters that give you as accessible a point of entry as possible?’ The goal for us was to create characters that are as real and as human and as authentic as possible, so that you can say, ‘Okay, I could be them. That’s a version of me.’ Or, ‘I know those people. Those are my neighbors. Those are my friends.’ When you watch what Cliff and Kim have done, you’ll see that, ‘Okay, I recognize those people as real people that exist in my world. So I know how I would do things different because I raise my kids different from them, but I also know how I would react in similar situations.’ That sense of identification is key I think to The Walking Dead universe.”

Fear the Walking Dead Kim Dickens and Cliff Curtis Photo
Kim Dickens and Cliff Curtis ‘Fear the Walking Dead’ (Photo Credit: Justin Lubin / AMC)

What was the reasoning behind making Kim’s character a guidance counselor?

Dave Alpert: “One of the things we thought was great about going for a guidance counselor is it’s a very cerebral and emotional thing. There’s nothing physical about it, right? She’s not a cop, she’s not a fireman. She doesn’t have any of those base level skills but she’s approaching it as a mom, right? So I would say it’s mom first then the counseling second, so she’s used to people who are in these troubled situations and that will become a real strength. But it’ll also be trying for her. She’s trying to keep her professional training in mind, that she’s dealing with things that are incredibly emotional.”

What are the exciting possibilities of working class LA?

Cliff Curtis: “Ethnic diversity, blended families. We have a beautiful little neighborhood, El Cerrito, which is the oldest neighborhood in L.A., but it’s got a texture and a hue and a certain light there that is really specific, that is distinct from any other way that I think L.A.’s been represented before. The architecture, we’ve got this high school that’s like a citadel looking out over the city. We’ve got our dependency on freeways and motorways and cell phones to connect each other. It’s how we live our lives now, through technology. So when all of that shuts down, it’s not the same as if we lived in New Zealand in the bush. It’s like when that stuff shuts down and you need to find family members or figure out a way to get out of Dodge, it’s life or death decisions.”

You’ve got mountains and water. You’re also trapped.

Cliff Curtis: “I think Gale [Anne Hurd] said the other day that our system runs on this, that if things stop, we only have enough food supply for three days. It’ll last us three days and we’d be out of food. That’s scary. I think Hawaii, it’s like 10 days, so we need infrastructure to run our lives, just to eat.”

Dave Alpert: “One of the great things about Los Angeles is also it’s a very isolated city. People go from their bubble in their house, they get in their car and go to their bubble at work, so it’s not the same as let’s say New York where you’re interacting on the streets and you’re interacting in subways and there’s much more of a sense of community. Seeing them to question as to when things go wrong, how well do you actually know your neighbors? What is your sense of community? You’re in this little place. You go half a mile somewhere else, from El Cerrito, you go downtown, it’s an entirely different world, different socioeconomic issues, different backgrounds, different ethnic makeups. That’s really both interesting, but also sort of rife with tension.”

It frees you from The Walking Dead.

Cliff Curtis: “Yeah, we’re free. We have freedom to create our own universe, our own world, our own show and our own audience. We get the privilege of having the support of Dave and Robert [Kirkman] and AMC and everybody and Gale, but we’re completely free to create our own possibilities. It’s great. That’s the upside. We’ve kind of the best of both worlds.”

Fans expect not to get too close to characters because they might die. Do you still get nervous with each episode?

Kim Dickens: “We kind of got, maybe it was a false feeling, but we sort of felt safe at least for the first season, six [episodes], but anything goes. Yeah, we don’t know anything until we read the scripts.”

Cliff Curtis: “No, I had thought, I completely thought that we had a setup where someone in the central family can be, anyone’s up for grabs as well. Because we’re very close.”

Kim Dickens: “I’ve had sentences that were like, ‘Oh, foreshadowing? I better call my agent.'”

Can you talk about your character’s background?

Kim Dickens: “Well, I think Maddie has come from a tough time. She became a single mother raising a teenager. She lost her husband and she’s been very adaptable. She had darker, challenging stuff in her childhood as well that’s made her sort of like, ‘Let’s pack the bags, let’s go,’ like adaptable and survivalist. I think that makes her strong, but at the same time I think when Travis comes into her life, she finally feels like he’s a rock for her and I can relax and lean on this man and he is there, and he has my back and he has my family’s back. He will be there for me. That’s a nice complement to her strength and gives her sort of a break. He tries to even tell her that.”

Cliff Curtis: “I think Travis is, and I’ve gotten to know him more through the season, I really love those elements of who he is. Apart from just him, he’s fallen in love with this character, Madison. It’s a wonderful feeling when you feel in love and that potentially you’ve found your soul mate and you’d do anything to make that relationship work. On the other hand, he’s got his ex-marriage, his ex-wife and a reminder he has an estranged relationship with his son. Now how that affects the show from my character’s point of view is that all of this conflict and us not agreeing is threatening the love of his life. And we’re seeing that as we move through the drama of it, that we don’t see things the same way. But we still love each other. That’s a great challenge in any relationship. On the other hand, the relationship with Liza, our relationship, early marriage, was an accident. It kind of should’ve never happened but it did and we realized that as adults and then we grew apart. But in this state of emergency, we’ve had 13 years of marriage. We’ve got a shorthand. We’re very effective together. We agree on things. We agree to not agree so we don’t waste energy discussing these things and we just kind of click into it. So there’s this other relationship that makes a lot more sense in this world than this relationship because it’s more effective in a way and this is much more challenging. That just gives us…”

Kim Dickens: “…obstacles.”

Cliff Curtis: “Lots to work on.”

What do you think keeps fans so fascinated by zombies?

Dave Alpert: “Honestly, I think that people really look at this as zombies represent that internal sense of anticipation, dread, things you haven’t done, that sort of mental to do list of things that are coming out there. The sense that every time that you do something, it only creates more things for you to do. It’s almost an existential dread because they’re not driven with any sort of motivation other than to eat you, right? So there’s not a complicated plot. I feel like that sense of things are always just this far away from falling apart is something I think that all of us can identify with. And I think as long as we present those stories in human terms, right, present the stories of these characters and not the zombies, present the zombies as a manifestation of our inner dread and threat, I think that’s sort of the secret sauce of why this works.”

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