Fear The Walking Dead season 2: Frank Dillane interview

With Fear The Walking Dead season 2 out on DVD and Blu-ray, we chatted to actor Frank Dillane about playing Nick Clark...

It’s safe to say that Frank Dillane, as Nick Clark, has had one great season in terms of character evolution and, more specifically, has been the first of Fear The Walking Dead’s cast to have his own solo episode, in number eight of the second season. It was a brave move by the showrunners, to entrust the entire runtime to only one person this early into Fear’s relatively early days, yet it worked, as while most of the characters are still finding their way through the new world, Nick understood and adapted to the outbreak straight away, so after making the right decision to tear away from the self-confessed toxic group, his solo adventure opened up a whole host of new characters and even a love interest.

It appears that he’s the only character, so far, to really flourish in the aftermath, channeling his fearlessness into a quasi-spiritual quest that has resulted in him taking a leadership role, though as things were left at the end of Season 2, that might not have been the best idea…

We caught up with a very jetlagged Frank Dillane, to discuss Nick’s journey so far.

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It must be nice now we’ve had two seasons to have a much more fully formed character and be settled into that world, as well as being free from, what I imagine, was quite a bit of expectation when the show started?

Yeah, I think that’s a fair comment, I think it’s much more fun to be settled into the world of the show. I thought initially when we were coming to the terms with the outbreak and the characters had to come to terms with the apocalypse and how do you kill a zombie and what’s the best way to react can? All that stuff can be quite fiddly. I think it’s nice now we’re fully submerged in the rules of the apocalypse. 

Yeah, I think you were quite lucky as well, as the start of a zombie outbreak is often a stumbling block when setting out the rules, but Nick right from the start adapted immediately – one minute he was begging his dealer and the next minute, he was running him over!

Yeah, yeah [laughs] he’s a good character! I mean all the stuff was wow, first episode of season one, that all started really quickly, all the zombie stuff for Nick. It’s like I was running and everyone else had to catch up.

And it must have been quite a challenging start, aligning yourself to his addiction and world view?

Yes, it was. I mean heroin addiction is a very difficult thing to play and cold turkey and that stuff is difficult and rather hard and painful to play, so I’m glad he’s clean.

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I love the he detoxed by way of the apocalypse – it was great to see that in Season 2 he resisted temptation multiple times to relapse, especially at the end when he was helping Alejandro with his medication. My reading is that it seemed like it was America that didn’t agree with Nick, but Mexico has helped him?

Yeah, it’s true, I think that is a good observation. I think America is not a very helpful place for your soul, so I think the minute he go into Mexico it was a bit like a rehabilitation center and that all stuff with Gloria and the grief. So yeah I think America wasn’t very good for him – well not America – LA wasn’t very good for him! I think all junkies have hot spots that they can’t return to, or friends that they shouldn’t really see and all that sort of stuff.

Talking of Season 2, one thing I must ask you first is about episode 8 – Nick’s solo adventure – was it quite daunting/or even exciting being the first and only character to have an episode solely based on your character?

Yes, it was daunting, but it was very exciting. It’s difficult when you’re on your own because you don’t have anyone to act with, really, or anyone else to sit at lunch with – well that’s not true, you can sit with anyone, but you know what I mean!

So did they completely cut you off from the rest of the cast?

Yeah, because we were all off filming in different places and stuff and the cast have their own shit to do, so I was cut off for a bit.

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It must have been fun to play at zombie, with the limp and eating habits, yet still be alive on the show, as most cast are killed off when that moment comes?

Yeah that was good, that was good, I think I put a little bit too much blood on, because then when I come to the commune, or the compound with Luciana and all that, they all seemed to have quite a fashionable – like a Rambo smear on the cheeks and the forehead – whereas I put my face in the bucket! So I think I possibly put a bit too much blood on, but I like all that stuff, pretending to be a zombie and doing all that, I thought that was fun. 

It’s funny to hear you say that, because I was talking to your colleague Colman Domingo this week about the iconography of the characters and how transient it is at the moment, but I think it’s safe to say that if there’s a Nick action figure it’ll have to be blood soaked…

Mmm true. Yeah, the blood is very uncomfortable though so I don’t want get too… I don’t want to start selling the blood (look) and then have to wear it all through season three because it is very hot and sticky.

Going back to your solo episode – I’m always curious as to what substitutes you were given by props for Nick’s alarming diet of cactus and urine?

Well the urine was just shitty water I suppose, yellow water and the cactus was some sort of gelatin thing that tasted like banana I think!

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Nick is almost playful with the undead, as if the fear isn’t really there – is that in part due to the fact he now has a partial delusion that he’s untouchable by the dead?

Yes, yes, yes. Well, I think he is, I think Nick is untouchable, I don’t think he will die. I don’t think it’s a delusion, it’s reality.

Where were talking about the iconography of the characters, it must have been quite liberating in Season 2 to be free of the old man clothes that Nick wore for a long time?

It’s a shame that. They were so desperate to get me out of those clothes. I couldn’t believe it. I think they fucked up actually, if I’m being honest. I think they’ve made a big mistake because I wanted to keep those clothes. I spent ages finding those clothes and thinking up all that stuff and then when it comes to Season 2 they want to ditch the whole thing and cut my hair, which is a shame because I was on to something there with that old man’s outfit and I could have a) cut the trousers a bit, change the coat… but of course, costume tend to have other ideas and I think sometimes a lack of imagination when it comes to costume.

I actually thought a lot of the… I don’t know, I think we would stay in clothes we had! I don’t change my clothes that much, and it’s fucking… it looks like a bloody fashion show sometimes! People are in like different coats every day, a new pair of shoes here and there. I think we would have one pair of trousers that we had before the apocalypse, a t-shirt and one pair of shoes. Fuck all this carrying stuff around with you all the time. But… anyway, you appear to have hit a nerve there! Costume’s very important for me, I find it seems to me the only thing an actor has, is his costume and they were so desperate to get me out of that costume that it pissed me off, to be honest.

That’s fair enough, was your attachment to that something that went deeper into the character then?

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Well, costume is… it informs the way you walk, it informs you the way you think, you know what you wear, it has a life, a soul to it. To think that it’s just a piece of clothing – I mean it is for normal human beings – but for an actor, it’s kind of everything I think… not everything, but it’s a lot to me [pauses] because I’m so bloody shallow! [laughs]

[Laughing] No, but everyone has their own way of working and it’s not like Nick has anything else but his clothes, it’s not like he’s tooled up and has a big machete or anything.

No exactly, exactly, it’s a shame, but yeah.

I didn’t quite realise until we hit the end of Season 2, but Fear The Walking Dead has been a little less graphic than The Walking Dead, so when Nick killed the zombie via thumbs to the eye sockets, it seemed like quite a shocking moment of violence – how was that to film? I mean I know it’s just props and things…

Well, yeah as you put it, it’s just very proppy. The guy came in with a metal sheet over his eyes and then they built across – there’s this face over the metal sheet and then you’re pushing, and you know I was pushing hard against, like, what should be a man’s eyeballs and because it’s just a thin metal sheet, it’s pretty weird to be honest because you feel like you could burst the sheet and get into his real eyeballs. 

And does that add to the intensity of the performance at all?

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I’m not going to lie to you, there’s very little intensity involved in those sorts of things. It’s sort of, “Right, yeah, here, okay, camera here, good, my thumbs look good like this, sorry can you bend your arms a bit more like this, can do you do a bit more thing with your face please? Yeah, okay, oh a little bit less actually, maybe look away” you know, not really so intense because there’s so many takes and angles and shit.

At the start of the season there was a very true, real feel to the depiction of a modern day family unit, being troubled and fragmented, but Madison for me seems more addicted to her son than Nick’s ever been to anything – is there a future in their relationship do you think, or is he done with her for the moment?

I think there’s always a future with a mother and son’s relationship. I think you can never be done with your mother really, unless you kill her, but even then I’d just wonder… I think there’s a future for them somewhere. That’s a really good observation actually, I’d never thought of that, that she does seem to be much more addicted to Nick, than Nick is to anything else and she has, that’s very true, she does have the traits of an addict when she’s around him, she gets quite frantic and all those things. So, I guess Nick gets his addiction from somewhere I think she needs to chill out a bit maybe before Nick does return and not to treat him so much like a child and perhaps allow him to grow.

Exactly and she’s demonstrated the mania like you say, in moments like switching on the hotel lights, which was her real screw up moment where I despaired.

Right, exactly it’s like that kind of blind addiction that will do that to you.

And with that our time was up, Frank Dillane, thank you very much.

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