AMC’s companion to The Walking Dead launches later this month. Fear the Walking Dead introduces all new characters dealing with the beginning of the zombie outbreak. Set in Los Angeles, Fear centers on Travis Manawa (Cliff Curtis) and Madison Clark (Kim Dickens), two parents who have enough problems with their blended family getting along before the infected start eating people.
Alycia Debnam-Carey plays Madison’s daughter Alicia, and Frank Dillane plays her son Nick. Nick is a drug addict trying to get clean, or at least Madison is trying to get him clean. Alicia is a good student saddled with caring for Nick. We got to join a small roundtable with the young stars of the Fear the Walking Dead, which premieres August 23rd on AMC.
Alycia, how are you able to do both Fear the Walking Dead and The 100?
Alycia Debnam-Carey: We worked out a schedule. AMC were actually really great about it. It kind of all fell into place very nicely.
Since you know The Walking Dead kills a lot of characters off frequently, are you relieved every time you get a script and you’re still in it?
ADC: Are we worried about being killed off? It seems like television likes killing off lead characters at the moment.
FD: As long as I get a good death, like proper Marlon Brando.
ADC: Totally. If you get a good death, it’s all right. I’m not too worried at this stage. Maybe in seasons to come.
Do your characters represent the two sides of this family, where Alicia is the good girl and Nick is the black sheep?
FD: Probably, aesthetically, storytelling wise, that might have been an idea. I suppose we do.
ADC: Siblings normally often compensate for one another, too. If one sibling does something, the other will fill the opposite role. I found, at least for my brother and I in real life, that seems to be a thing. So yeah, I guess it definitely makes this dramatic storytelling. It’s always fun.
Do you feel like you’re just making a family drama, or are you far enough in that you’re dealing with blood and guts?
ADC: No, I found that it is heavily character-driven. Even more so than the original Walking Dead first season. You’re immersed in that world pretty automatically. For us, one of the joys is that we do get to explore these characters, and you get to be attached to them before everything falls apart. Which I think is really lucky for us.
It gets gory pretty fast, though. Is that hard to stomach when you’re live on set?
ADC: It’s pretty theatrical on set because it’s so broken up. It’s very technical. But at the same time, it’s really cool. The job they do on set is amazing. Greg Nicotero, he did all the special effects on the show. He’s just amazing. But it is, yeah. It’s kind of fun on set.
How did each of you connect to your character? What do you see in your character where you’re like, I know that, I feel that, I can play that?
ADC: For me, what I actually originally connected with the character, the scenes I had to shoot, some of the real scenes actually in the show, they were very edgy, and it really brought out this kind of LA street quality. A real urban-ness. Maybe it coincided with the time, I’d been living in LA, I finally had found the grittiness but the charm of that city the first time. And that connected me with Alicia in quite a distinct way. I guess I liked her edginess. There’s a power within her that’s quite strong that I hope you get to see evolve.
Did either of you have to learn how to do anything like convincingly wield a shovel or back out rapidly down a dry riverbed?
FD: That’s exactly what I had to learn. I don’t drive, so that was it. I had to learn how to back up down a dry riverbed. I looked all right then because I did just have to reverse.
Were you terrified?
FD: There were a few hairy moments.
ADC: Alicia’s kept in the dark for quite a while. She does have to learn one thing. I can’t say yet. It’s fun.
With Nick’s drug addiction, do you ever play with the symptoms so that we might think he’s actually becoming a walker?
FD: It’s interesting, that question. A girl said that to me, she saw the pilot and she said, “Was your limp a homage to like a zombie?” I hadn’t thought of that. I just got hit by a car and thought that’d probably fuck your leg up.
Do you respond to these sort of doomsday stories?
FD: The world is ending, make no mistake. It’s coming to an end. This can’t go on for much longer. Capitalism has to fall. It has to. We’re coming to the peak, I think soon, before we have to come back to like humanity. Humanity needs to look and it hasn’t been looking for so long. In cinema, look what’s at the moment, Mad Max, Tomorrowland, every fucking thing in cinema was apocalypse.
ADC: It’s all very relevant to our world.
FD: Our generation. All that needs to happen is Mother Nature needs to start knocking down buildings.
ADC: It’s like, finally Mother Nature will take back what belongs to her.
Shooting in Los Angeles, does it feel like a new foreign world to you anyway, regardless of the walkers?
FD: Yeah, I do. I do, for sure. It’s just very far away from home, isn’t it, I suppose.
ADC: This show actually kind of joined me with LA a lot more. I felt personally much more connected with it than I ever have before. I think [the show] finds this amazing, gritty charm that I found in LA. Finally. I hated LA when I first got here. Hated it. Now, I think I’ve welcomed it finally when I found this bizarre charm to it. It’s this huge city, but it’s got these kind of cracks that are just bursting with so much life and story. I don’t know. It’s very romantic and artistic in many ways. The palm trees, the sunsets. But at the same time where the sunset’s made out of smog by cars.
FD: The trees are imported.
ADC: The palm trees are not from here, they’re not native, but that dichotomy that’s so attractive in a way. I think the show does a great job at finding that. It’s very cinematic, I feel. Adam Davidson, who did the pilot and second episode. He captured that so well. He found all those amazing locations that you’ll see as an Angeleno. It’s crazy when they block off huge intersections or roads or parts of downtown. Then it is completely empty. That is a weird feeling. We did a Sunday straight after Comic-Con. We all arrived at 5 am, and we did all these scenes. It was just empty. That’s bizarre to see, LA, downtown, and to feel like you’re the only person there.
What would you guys most like people to know about Fear the Walking Dead?
ADC: I want them to make their own minds up about it. I think it’ll come under some criticism because it is very different. But I think it stands alone, and it’s not trying to be The Walking Dead, and that’s what’s great about it.
How much does it feel like your own show even though it’s coming with this name?
ADC: I’ve watched a lot of the original, too. For me, I don’t even think about it, consciously at all.
Fear the Walking Dead premieres on August 23rd. You can read our spoiler-free review right here.
Don’t forget to listen the first episode of our weekly Walking Dead podcast, Den of Geek Presents No Room in Hell: