Halfway through season three and Fear The Walking Dead may be more interested, complex, and fascinating than its source material. We caught up with the cast and crew of Fear The Walking Dead at San Diego Comic Con 2017 to talk about the themes of season three, their relationships on and off screen, character motivations, and what to look forward to in the second half of season three when the show returns in September.
Dave Erickson explained how season three is, thematically, about resources. The appropriation of resources and land and, specifically, about reallocation of those resources. That was the backdrop and the intention going into season three.
He spoke about how Robert Kirkman, creator of The Walking Dead, did a lot of the legwork before Erickson came on board, but he noted how incredibly generous Kirkman is creatively. He called it brave that Kirkman understood that there was more story to tell beyond that of The Walking Dead because it was a risk to expand the universe he created.
Erickson couldn’t stress enough that the two shows were different, operating under the same rules, but distinctive from one another. One of the great things about season three in particular is that Erickson feels like the show has finally evolved into a place where it does feel like it is its own show. He noted that, “I like to think that some of the comparisons have fallen away a little bit.”
Mercedes Mason also said that Kirkman encouraged them to do their own thing. She echoes Erickson’s feelings that this was the season where they finally found their groove and it’s the season she’s most proud of. She also thought that getting a fourth season was mindblowing.
What really stood out in the press conference was the camaraderie and how close the cast and crew is. Mercedes Mason was the first to point out that Fear The Walking Dead has many locals on their crew, who help to make the cast feel included in the area. Alycia Debnam-Carey also spoke of how the cast is very, very tight and gets along well.
From season one, she found that it was nice to be able to develop those relationships – especially in some of the more isolated locations that they’ve been shooting in this year! They haven’t had any other choice but to entertain one another and bond.
Kim Dickens said that she was eager to get back to filming scenes with Colman Domingo, noting that they read the scripts and are bummed every time they find out that Madison and Strand still haven’t been reunited.
After arriving on set for episode two of season three, Michael Greyeyes really felt that anything could happen this season. He thought it injected a realism into the episodes that keeps every storyline and every script electric. It’s something unique and different about the show.
He had nothing but good things to say about the season and the storyline that Dave and the writers have created. Greyeyes finds it exciting because of the tensions between what audiences expect and what the writers play into through stereotypes. As an actor and a scholar, he found the depiction of a world where all of the golden rules were broken fascinating.
When looking at season three, he saw the violence and brutality, but also how baser instincts could emerge in an apocalyptic situation. He finds his character’s, Qaletaqa Walker, community to be vibrant and unafraid. In his mind, the world of Fear The Walking Dead is the re-emergence of feudalism. He thinks that characters are going to have to galvanize around real leaders, depending on their needs, and that the show is going to continue to push boundaries.
In addressing the primarily Spanish episode this season, Erickson explained that audiences hadn’t seen Daniel in a long time. They wanted to afford the character and actor Ruben Blades the opportunity to have an episode that delved deeper into his psyche. They wanted audiences to understand how he made it out there and how he survived.
In the practical sense, Fear The Walking Dead is telling a story set in Mexico with Spanish-speaking characters. It made no sense for the episode not to be in Spanish and to add in English-speaking characters just to balance things out also didn’t make sense. Erickson also noted that some people embraced that episode and some people didn’t.
Sam Underwood, who plays lawyer Jake Otto, compared his character to his brother, Troy, played by Daniel Sharman. He found that Troy represented a need for intense survival and aggression in protecting yourself in the apocalypse, while Jake is the opposite. Jake is still holding out hope for rebuilding a crumbling democracy. He thinks Jake feels like a constitution is the only way to maintain a sense of morals and ethics.
It’s an idea that comes up a lot between Troy and Jake in the second half of the season and Underwood cautions audiences not to assume that Jake necessarily wants to be the one leading the charge.
For his part, Sharman found that the most challenging part of playing Troy was always trying to do something real and believable in every scene. In his mind, Fear The Walking Dead is a very specific investigation into human beings, with no character being black and white.
Mason noted that Ofelia has changed a lot since she split from Madison and her family and teases how her reunion with Daniel is going to go because of it. She wonders how they’re going to fare or even recognize each other when they meet again. Domingo also jumped in to say how much he’d loved watching Ofelia’s transformation and how she came back. He thinks that what’s happening to tall of the characters is beautiful.
For his own work, Domingo said, “I loved the fact that [Strand] was this mysterious man, a self-made man and then in season two, he needed structure. He didn’t know how to take his skills and re-build them.” Every so often, Domingo found himself confused with what Strand was doing and how he was doing it, but he insisted that he’s a survivor who just needs to figure it out. Domingo teased that he thought Strand was on the upswing again finally.
Debnam-Carey spoke briefly about doing sibling scenes with Frank Dillane and how they’re a unique relationship to explore. She rightfully claimed they were messy and told the audience that the “murder cover-up” is dividing the family in the second half of the season. She was also excited that Alicia gets to stretch out and stake her own path in the upcoming episodes.
Dickens noted that, “Madison is becoming more of a merciless character… She’s really beholden to her morality and her compassion and her heart. By season three she realizes the currency is more brutality when required. Her main goal throughout has been to survive and protect her family and now it’s at a higher cost.”
She also revealed that Madison is challenged by her children this season and she finally realizes that she owes them the story of what made her who she is. By sharing that with her kids, she became more human. It saves her from having to relive and recreate the same violence that she had as a kid. Madison realizes that this is the fate that has befallen them. They’re now a family of warriors.
But if Travis had survived? “They’d probably still be having marital problems.” jokes Dickens before saying it was a devastating blow for the cast and for Madison alike. They were struggling as it was. For Madison, she tried to keep that loss in and keep that alive throughout the season.
After a series of heavy questions and deep character exploration, the cast was asked a more fun question. If there were ever a crossover between The Walking Dead and Fear The Walking Dead, who would their characters partner up with?
Mason immediately wondered who her father, Daniel, would trust before admitting that Ofelia would probably gravitate to the biggest and strongest – meaning Rick, for the time being. Colman Domingo jumped in to point out that Daniel would’ve already taken out Negan. Greyeyes said Daryl with no hesitation and Dickens thinks that Madison and Daryl Dixon are probably related, so she chose him as well. Daniel Sharman thought that Troy and Merle would probably get along great and Dayton Callie thought he’d probably follow Negan.
Mercedes Mason summed up the show perfectly when she said that Fear The Walking Dead is exploring what family is in the middle of the apocalypse… and it’s doing a damn fine job of it too.