Five seasons ago on The Walking Dead, a small-town policeman named Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) awoke from a coma to find nothing in the world was quite the same as he had left it. But none of us saw what was happening as Rick lay in that hospital bed… that is, until now.
Set in Los Angeles, Fear the Walking Dead shows the viewers the earliest moments of the zombie apocalypse, through the eyes of a diverse group who are not seasoned survivors.
We have a High School guidance counselor, Madison Clark (Kim Dickens), who has two teenage children, Nick and Alicia (Frank Dillane, Alycia Debnam-Carey) plus Madison’s finance, English teacher, Travis Manawa (Cliff Curtis).
There is also Ofelia (Mercedes Mason), who was born and raised in the US of immigrant parents, Daniel and Griselda Salazar (Ruben Blades, Patricia Reyes Spindola).
Co-creator, Writer, Executive Producer and Showrunner Dave Erickson and the cast came to the TV Critics tour to talk about their prequel, which premieres on August 23rd on AMC.
I know you’re looking for something different than the original series, but so far the zombies are few and far between.
Dave Erickson: We purposely built the show a little bit more slowly than the original. We do have, we call them infected. We don’t call them walkers. We’re coming up with as much cool West Coast verbiage as we can.
There will be a build. We will get to a place over the course of the season where we will see elements of the original show thread in throughout our story. But it is by design.
We tried to slow burn the story, make it as much about the anxiety, tension and paranoia that goes with this outbreak as much as it is about the actual confrontation with zombies.
Are we going to see or find out what the inception of the apocalypse was?
Dave Erickson: Short answer, no.
I like the family drama aspect that you have going, but eventually it has to be a show that’s primarily about fighting zombies. How do you keep this show with a unique flavor from the original when you’re in Season 2 or 3?
Dave Erickson: I think I made the mistake of saying this early on and tying this to the coma of Rick Grimes. By the time we end Season 1, there’s still a window of time and window of exploration that we have some real estate left.
We structured the season in a way that they’re still somewhat insulated from the greater truth of what’s going on.
I think by the end of Season 1, we definitely know the world has changed. We definitely know that it is the end of the world as we know it. But we aren’t necessarily at the same place we were when Rick woke up in Georgia.
One of the benefits we have, because it is something of a slower burn, we do get to steep ourselves in this incredibly dysfunctional, blended family dynamic.
Mercedes, can you talk a little about the family dynamic in the series?
Mercedes Mason: The theme of the show is about family and is about survival, and when the world goes to hell what does family mean?
Is it something you’re born into? Is it something you pick? What is morality? And for me, Ofelia goes through all of that very quickly, even in the first season. She really has to discover herself.
Her bond to her own family is questioned, and I can’t say too much more about that, but you’ll understand as she starts learning more about her family and her father in particular. She really has to grow up in a sense and find out what it means to be a part of a world that’s falling apart.
Kim, being the guidance councilor and having to handle the teenagers through this harrowing experience, do you think that takes a special personality attribute?
Kim Dickens: It’s not in my nature personally. But I think the character was sort of easy to walk in. Those are the first scenes we started shooting too, so it helped ground us in that.
I was a waitress once, so if you can wrangle that, you can wrangle teenagers. If you wrangle teenagers, it kind of helps you with the zombies, I would think.
What kind of fan reaction have you had so far?
Mercedes Mason: They were so supportive. Some of the early questions we received were, do we feel the pressure to be a certain way because the original show was so popular?
Of course, that question is making us a little bit nervous now. But they were amazingly supportive.