AMC provided a peak inside the new zombie apocalypse series Fear the Walking Dead at the 2015 San Diego Comic Con, bringing the cast and executive producers down to the sold-out fan fest to show off the first full-length trailer and to answer questions about The Walking Dead spin-off. Fear the Walking Dead takes place in the time period immediately before and during the days when Sheriff Rick Grimes in The Walking Dead was in a coma. Fear the Walking Dead focuses on the start of the outbreak and how ordinary people reacted to the bizarre notion that zombies were not only real but also killing off the human population.
Teamed up for roundtable interviews, executive producer Greg Nicotero and actors Lorenzo James Henrie (‘Chris’) and Elizabeth Rodriguez (‘Liza’) discussed the freedom of being able to create a world that doesn’t exist in the comic books.
Greg Nicotero, Lorenzo James Henrie and Elizabeth Rodriguez Roundtable Interview:
What sets this apart from The Walking Dead is it’s the early days of the outbreak. What’s exciting about telling this part of the story?
Lorenzo James Henrie: “I think what’s most exciting is you get to really take a chance of in The Walking Dead, the coma happens and you wonder what happened while that was taking place, so you really get to discover with this family what’s going on. And the audience knows so it’s exciting to watch that journey with them. It’s like a Hitchcock movie.”
Greg Nicotero: “Listen, a lot of people talk about the show and they’re like, ‘It’s a slow burn.’ When you have anything like this where the audience knows more than the characters, watching them make the right decisions and the wrong decisions, it’s like, ‘What are you doing?! Why would you go near that guy? Why would you let that happen?'”
Elizabeth Rodriguez: “It’s exciting in a different way. Yeah, there’s going to be a lot of people yelling at their televisions.”
Greg Nicotero: “AMC should put microphones in the TVs so they can record them.”
Elizabeth Rodriguez: “‘Don’t! No! Bad idea.'”
Greg Nicotero: “We should totally do that.”
Is this stage of the epidemic a different animal for you, Greg?
Greg Nicotero: “Absolutely, and that was done by design. Even when we did the first round of makeup tests, I was being a little more bold with what the zombies should look like, and Robert [Kirkman] and Dave [Erickson] said, ‘No, man. Imagine this. It’s like Amy in season one. When Amy dies in Andrea’s arms and her eyes open up. You still sense a humanity in her face.’ It’s one of the most beautiful scenes we’ve shot in six years of her cradling her sister and the eyes open and you’re like, ‘Maybe this is the one time when they’re not going to turn.’ And it’s like a newborn baby…she just tries to weakly lift herself up and bite her.
We used that really as a really good guide for our freshly turned, but that was the intent right out of the gate. You’re not going to look and go, ‘Oh my God, there’s something wrong with that person. They don’t look right.’ It’s gotta be like, ‘Hmm…,’ you just see it in a crowd. Even in the trailer, you can see just like the shot of a homeless guy standing in a park walking a little slowly. There were a couple scenes that were written that ended up being put aside for probably a future draft or future episodes that were just fantastic. We just couldn’t find time to shoot them all. Just something as easy as somebody seeing a baby in the back of a car and being like, ‘Oh my God, someone left a baby.’ Stuff like that and how different that would be if you realized.”
Elizabeth Rodriguez: “That somebody knows and the people in the car don’t. The parents don’t. Which is one of the things that all of us struggle with in this world. At one level are they still our friend, our family, our parent? Who are these people? You have histories. It’s not clear that they’re not humans.”
Is there an intense paranoia in an urban situation?
Greg Nicotero: “Well, when we were prepping the pilot, Adam Davidson, the director, and I talked about Philip Kaufman’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers as a really great blueprint for just changing camera angles where the first part is shot with traditional angles and then things start getting a little more dramatic in terms of even how you’re shooting things, building that paranoia, and the idea that the people that are next to you aren’t who they were or who they appear to be. So we’ve played up that aspect of it quite a bit.”
Elizabeth Rodriguez: “But in the story, it’s first accepting that. Who accepts that? Who’s in denial? What does that take away from us in having to make decisions. And so because we don’t have the rules, it’s not black and white. So, along the way you see us have to compromise and change our values. I think we lose a part of who you are. You’re constantly reinventing yourself only because you have to, because of the choices you have to make to survive. So it’s really beautiful. We do a lot of that in this. I think the fans are going to connect with those questions.”
Things that make you a decent person in one world.
Elizabeth Rodriguez: “Well, you think so but you see us, you see the devastation. When you have values and you put against life or death and all of a sudden you have to make a choice, and then you’re not that person you were two seconds ago, are you? So I can’t imagine that a piece of who you think you are, who you were for this long, doesn’t die. Then, there’s another one. A character says to me at some point, ‘You have to make choices between bad choices and worse choices. What’s it gonna be?’ There’s no good choices. No choice you make, you’re going to be left with, ‘Well, that was good. I feel good about myself.'”
Is the completely blank page exciting?
Lorenzo James Henrie: “Yeah, yeah. I mean, it is different from the comic book element because it’s so focused and grounded in story that you really can dive into each one of the character’s arcs and just explore each one of those elements.”
Greg Nicotero: “The trick too is that our actors on Walking Dead are like, ‘Well, I know how I die in the comic book. Am I going to die in the same way on the show?’ And we try to keep that evolving and changing. Herschel didn’t die the way he died in the comic book. So, it is interesting when we’re shooting the comic book because characters that are cast know, ‘Oh, I know how I die. I know when I die,’ and then when we change it up. But having the blank page is the undiscovered country. It’s the uncharted worlds where we can go wherever. That’s very exciting.”
Elizabeth Rodriguez: “I have to say that as we were getting the scripts, we would get two scripts at a time. It would be 11pm on a Saturday and you’d be like, ‘Oh, I’ll read it tomorrow,’ and you couldn’t. You couldn’t sleep.”
Lorenzo James Henrie: “No, you’d read it that night.”
Elizabeth Rodriguez: “And we literally would call, I spent a lot of time late calling like, ‘Oh my God, I cannot believe what you have to do. I’m so jealous.’ And then he’d be like, ‘Oh please, you’re doing this and doing that.’ Like literally genuine excitement and jealousy of what other people had to play and live through.”
Greg Nicotero: “The good thing is we give great things for everybody to do.”
Lorenzo James Henrie: “Everyone gets a good chunk of meat.”
Greg Nicotero: “No pun intended.”
How is it filming in Los Angeles? Is it harder to keep the storylines balanced in LA?
Greg Nicotero: “Well, I don’t know. I don’t know about that because in Georgia, we’re on a location every day. People know where we are. People drive up. They watch us film every day. There’s guys with telephoto lenses that take pictures of everything we do. I’ll walk on set and by the time I get home, there’s pictures of me on set from that day covered with fake blood going, ‘Looks like somebody must’ve died today because Greg had blood on him.’ So there are people that just watch everything we do. There’s an anonymity to Fear right now which I think benefits the show.”
Elizabeth Rodriguez: “And also working in LA, there’s so many productions.”
Greg Nicotero: “People don’t care in LA. They’re like, ‘Oh, shooting another f***ing movie.'”
Elizabeth Rodriguez: “They’re, ‘This street is closed? My parking.'”
You’re also shooting in Vancouver.
Greg Nicotero: “We shot the pilot in LA and then we shot the other five episodes in Vancouver, and then we’re doing pickups right now. We’re shooting.”
Elizabeth Rodriguez: “We’re doing all the exteriors so that we’re still keeping all of what LA, the elements of LA that are in it, will still be LA.”
Greg Nicotero: “It’s challenging and once the show airs, then people know who these characters are and it’ll be a little…”
Lorenzo James Henrie: “It wasn’t too crazy down in Vancouver.”
Elizabeth Rodriguez: “We try to have a different name. We’re not like, ‘Fear the Walking Dead, make a left!’ Fans will find things, but it’s not at that level yet. Also, I was joking about I’m going to have to spend a lot more money taking Uber when I get back to New York after this airs. There’ll be no more subways for me. It’s going to have to be wigs and Ubers.”
Do you think about the level of fame that happened to The Walking Dead that’s potentially on your doorstep?
Elizabeth Rodriguez: “I don’t think about that. I think about the work. Everything else is outside of your control. You can’t ever prepare yourself for it, other than the Uber. That’s about as much, and I did that yesterday.”
Lorenzo James Henrie: “No, I think it’s part of the job. You’re expected to do all that stuff. But for me, I grew up with a brother that was in a pretty big series so I kind of was behind the scenes my whole life. I’ve seen it and I think it was good for me to see that before, if that happens. I don’t expect it to.”
Greg Nicotero: “It’s tricky. I’m with the guys every day. I’m with Andy [Lincoln] and Norman [Reedus]. We were in the pool, Andy and I were in the pool in the hotel and there were people videotaping us playing with my kids. I went over to the person. We don’t want our children up on the internet. We need some privacy. So I would just go and say, ‘Hey guys, do you mind not posting that?’ We were sitting in the hot tub and there’s a guy behind me in the hot tub like this. And I was like, ‘Dude, do you mind not?’ Then you feel like a jerk. I’m a fan too and I love fans and I love being part of it, but it does change your world. I love when people approach me. They come up and they love the show, they love my work. They’re very sweet and respectful, but it does change things. It just makes it challenging.”
Lorenzo James Henrie: “The best is at the airport when you’re waiting in line and someone is just recording you. You’re eating something…”
Elizabeth Rodriguez: “Lorenzo did a beautiful moment right before we finished Vancouver where there was a fan outside the hotel. He was like, ‘You guys! I had my first fan moment. I signed an autograph, I took a picture.’ It was so beautiful and look at him, right? So I was like, ‘Oh, that’s so good.’ But I’ve been like, ‘Let me tell you something, if you start changing and letting this get beyond who you are right now, I’m going to have to take you away and shock it out of you absolutely.’ Because that’s the thing you don’t want, for it to change and it become about an ego and you abuse that. But it was so exciting. He got to the hair and makeup. He was like, ‘Guess what just happened?’ You can never have that again, you know?”
More on Fear the Walking Dead:
- Ruben Blades, Mercedes Mason, and executive producers Gale Anne Hurd Interview
- Alycia Debnam-Carey, Frank Dillane, and writer/executive producer David Erickson Interview
- Cliff Curtis, Kim Dickens, and executive producer Dave Alpert Interview
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