We just wrapped up our roundtable interviews with the cast and crew of “Fear the Walking Dead,” and here’s everything you need to know about the show leading up to its August 23rd premiere.
We chatted with producers David Erickson, Gale Anne Hurd, Greg Nicotero, and Dave Alpert and cast members Kim Dickens, Cliff Curtis, Alycia Debnam-Carey, Frank Dillane, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Lorenzo James Henrie, Ruben Blades, and Mercedes Mason.
We kicked things off by asking how they are dealing with the massive expectations for the show given the success of “The Walking Dead.” Kim said her experience was that she didn’t think about it – she was caught up in the moment. But now she’s just hoping the audience will embrace it.
Alpert added that with “The Walking Dead” people knew so much about the source whereas with “Fear TWD” people know about the world but not the characters.
Cliff added that here we have people who are more concerned about their families and relationships rather than dealing with an already in place apocalypse. As for the tone of the show, they are treating it as a very real situation – there is media and social media reporting on events, resulting in so much info that no one agrees on what is actually happening and what is not. They are trying to assess the situation and figure out how to deal with it.
Alpert said it plays up how people get info these days. And even how some don’t get the info that other people do – they are just living their lives. Cliff mentioned how it sets up expectations and then pulls the rug out from people.
Is there a mission statement for the show? Kim said her character’s objective is protecting her family; Cliff added that he’s just holding his family together. So… for sure family is the overriding theme.
We asked them how it was to watch the first episode, and Kim said it was traumatizing! Cliff is just very proud of everyone’s work and being a part of the team.
The diversity of ethnic backgrounds is a big part of the show, tying in with the East Los Angeles location. As Kim said, it’s “urban, diverse, grounded, sun-bleached, worn, and graffitied.” (Yep, sounds like the LA we all know and love!)
Alpert said the new setting is very exciting but adds a sense of isolation when compared to the rural South of “The Walking Dead.” As society breaks down, when people don’t know their neighbors, who do you let in? As Cliff said, it’s the collapse of the human ego and super-structure.
Check out an except from the panel for a bit more about that:
Next up was Nicotero, who was asked how he’s making the zombies visually interesting since we’re only at the outbreak stage. He said we can expect things like an implement stuck in a walker, like maybe he was stabbed right after turning but still got away. Once again, they are never called “zombies” because that word doesn’t exist in the world created by Robert Kirkman. Instead they use “infected.”
The challenge for them was making sure there are “compelling moments.” He shot the pilot while on hiatus from “TWD,” and in makeup tests he was getting a little too extreme so they dialed it back but then re-shot the ending to kick it back up a bit. We can expect very different production designs between “Fear” and “TWD,” but they do obviously share a little of the same DNA.
Here’s another except from the panel that delves into the fine art of zombie crafting:
A key factor of “Fear the Walking Dead” is that the audience knows much more than the characters do. One movie they referenced more than any other is Invasion of the Body Snatchers with camera angles that are extreme and unsettling… more of a 1970’s feel.
Elizabeth said the characters accept and digest things at different rates. For her it’s all about trying to protect her children. Since she’s in nursing, she becomes more informed than others around her. Lorenzo added that he is an innocent dealing with an unknown element… he just knows someone is sick, but then as he learns more, it scares the shit out of him! A big question is: “Is the government for us or against us?”
Erickson joined us next and said the first season covers about 4-5 weeks. Actually catching up to the point in “TWD” when Rick wakes up is probably next season. We’ll explore how getting the characters to the point of violence takes a toll. They face moral and ethical dilemmas similar to “TWD,” but “Fear” lives on its own… it complements and respects “TWD.”
They hope to gain the audience’s sympathy, and keep their frustration at bay, through the discovery process. Different characters will be seeing different things – some will run, some will try to help the infected, and then of course they’ll have to kill them.
Alycia reiterated how it is so very much based in the real world. Her character has everything to lose – she’s very ambitious with a clear path to fill the hole of her broken family. She falls the hardest and fastest. On the other hand, Frank’s character, a drug addict, has nothing to lose, and he’s actually the first person who understands what’s going on.
What Gale told us next was music to our ears: “Believe me, there gore! This is not a sanitized show.” She said it’s more of a hybrid of horror and thriller. The audience indeed knows more than the characters, including the rules. Even so, prepare to be surprised since there’s no road map of a comic book; we have no idea where the characters will go. There’s no Alpha male like Rick or Shane from “TWD.” What we have here is a group of regular blue-collar folks, including older teenagers and young adults who are ready to fly and begin their lives.
Alpert touched upon the “Alpha” concept and delved into the characters a bit more in this final excerpt from the panel:
Mercedes reiterated the mixture of cultures coming together in a makeshift family – an amalgam of people thrown together and shaken up. Gale said that each character is on a different continuum, and things that you’d think are strengths often turn out to be weaknesses. For instance, the good samaritan would be the first to be bitten. They have to deal with a new reality now – and those in deepest denial will have the hardest time. Ruben reminded us to think about: “What would you do?,” as Gale chimed in with, “What happens when people are desperate as the world crumbles around them?”
She added that it’s wonderful for the writers to be able to write with no expectations or guidelines. It’s not a message show, but there is “subtle commentary.”
Mercedes described the show as a “living, working creature we’re feeding,” while Ruben said it’s “all about the characters [and] relationships in the midst of collapse.” It’s a slow build, like when you’re walking in the darkness and feeling your way.
“Fear the Walking Dead” takes us back to the beginning of the zombie apocalypse – a time when the world was changing rapidly for reasons unknown, before anyone understood exactly what was happening, when life as everyone knew it was upended and altered in ways no one could have ever imagined.