It would be related to The Walking Dead, but with completely different characters… and that was really the extent of what viewers knew going into the first season of AMC’s TWD companion series Fear the Walking Dead. The show’s six-episode first season proved to be as compelling as the original series in its own way, with a focus on the events leading up to the apocalypse and its terrifying, confusing, polarizing early days.
FTWD, which will debut a full, 15-episode second season in 2016, is now available on Blu-ray and DVD, and to celebrate the release, star Kim Dickens talked to Yahoo TV about her decision to jump into a genre series, her favorite scene from Season 1, and how she was pleasantly surprised by Comic-Con fans and their appreciation for her past work on shows like Friday Night Lights, Deadwood, and Sons of Anarchy.
No one knew what to expect from Fear the Walking Dead in terms of its tone or how closely, if at all, it would be connected to The Walking Dead. Was that intimidating, or freeing, when tackling a property that is so popular?
It was a daunting task to take on the new companion series to The Walking Dead, and all of its incredible fan base that they had earned, and incredible stories that they were telling. We were sort of encouraged by AMC just to feel free to do our own thing, to not feel any sort of an expectation to have those certain [ratings] numbers, an expectation to look, be the same. We sort of had that license to generate our own very unique story. I feel like it resonated. I hope it does. I hope it continues to.
Did you have any reservations about doing a genre series?
No, I didn’t have a reservation about it. When I was given the opportunity to audition for it right after Treme, I was doing a recurring role on House of Cards. I was looking for the next place I would be. Like I said, I just had wrapped up Treme, and I was approached with the idea, the opportunity to audition. I thought, “Yeah, no, I don’t think I will. They’re probably not going to pick me. I’ll go for something else, something I’m more right for.” I don’t know, I just didn’t think I’d fit into that genre. But as soon as I read it I wanted to go in for it. Especially when I talked to [showrunner] Dave Erickson and [director/co-executive producer] Adam Davidson. It seemed like just the most exciting next step for me, personally. In general, it’s an exciting role to get to step into and play.
After reading the pilot, did the rest of the season surprise you at all? Because things unfolded slowly, and evolved in an interesting way, throughout the whole season.
Yeah, it did surprise me. You know we took the first read to realize “Oh, this is incredible storytelling.” It doesn’t matter what the genre. The stories are so real. The relationships and the characters just really resonated with me. I like the exciting part of that. I generally don’t watch any horror, because I get nightmares. It’s not to say I don’t have a great appreciation for it. I’ve seen the great movies. I’ve seen Halloween, Jaws, and The Exorcist, Friday the 13th… I just can’t really watch that genre a lot, because it affects me. But I found [FTWD] exciting to read on the page and it was fascinating. It was even more exciting to get to play that stuff, you know?
What have you enjoyed most so far about playing Maddie?
I like her. I like her resilience. Her resilient spirit. I like that she’s flawed. I like that she is really quick at making tough decisions, because I’m not. I think I like those life or death moments that she can handle pretty well. That’s pretty fun to play.
Maddie and Travis are both very caring, both willing to put themselves out there for other people. But they have this kind of fundamental difference in philosophy. Maybe, I think we’re starting to see, less different as things really speed up and start to happen at the end of the season, but it still seems that there might continue to be the butting of heads between the two of them in their approach to things.
I thought it was such honest storytelling. I like that it put that sort of obstacle in there for those characters. It felt very honest. I liked that these characters… in fact, it invited some criticism at times, I think. But I like that these characters didn’t have to download everything they’d just done to the other person. I like to think they have their secrets. They were going to sort of deal with those things later. Especially in the case of Maddie… she made some tough decisions. She didn’t have a chance to say anything to Travis about it, or to anyone. She should have to reconcile it on her own. That’s really complicated and challenging to play. We’d done the scenes and Cliff and I would have to process it. We shot out of sequence. I’ve just been through this and I know this, and this, and this. We realized we knew so many different things. [The characters] had such different experiences, yet we kept coming together. I think that shows the fire and the passion between them, and their compassionate, huge hearts. Sort of like knowing that the other person’s going through something else, and yet coming back together even though there was a struggle and differences of opinions. Sometimes that’s complimentary to the opposite. Travis was holding out for the hope of humanity at times. Maddie was left stressing. Somehow those two forces together may work.
We got little hints about Maddie’s background in Season 1, but there’s still a lot we don’t know about her family, her marriage, her past. What do you most still want to know about her? What are you most looking forward to the audience finding out about her in Season 2?
Well, it’s compelling to me, too, her background. I just know a little bit from Dave Erickson, where she comes from and what’s informed her. I think she sort of abandoned, left some of her past behind, some that she didn’t want to have hanging around her. I’d be interested to explore that. I also think mystery… you don’t have to tell everything. I like that about our show. I think that’s the way it is in real life, too. I don’t think everybody just blabs everything that’s going on or what has informed their every choice or every moment. I think that’s what really makes people fascinating. Especially these characters.
It also shows a respect for the audience, that’s there’s trust we’ll pick up on the things we need to pick up on, make those little connections.
Yeah, I think so. I mean, that’s the kind of storytelling I like. I’ve been involved with other shows that sort of do that, don’t spoon feed stuff. Hopefully it won’t be too obtuse. I think we were able to tell what we needed to tell and hold back at the same time. I think that does respect the audience. It keeps them engaged and curious. I prefer that, and I prefer to watch things like that, too.
What was your favorite Maddie scene, or what was the most fun to film from Season 1?
Well, let’s see, what was my highlight? I really did like when I had to take out Artie. I mean I should be ashamed to say that [laughs], but, I don’t know why, that was so fun. It was really a great sequence. I just loved that whole going back into the high school sequence. What motivated my going there was to get the drugs for my son, which is sort of questionable behavior. Then running into Tobias, our in-house prophet. The journey and going with him while he gets the food, just kind of standing there with him and not judging him… and I just loved all that, until that ultimate moment where we saw Artie. That first realization, where Maddie made a quick decision when she didn’t really know what was wrong with him. She had to say goodbye to him, and herself for that matter. I just like that whole sequence of story. And I liked filming it. It was fun to have action scenes for the first time in a long while, to really choreograph it and work together as a team. All the focus and adrenaline that took. I liked how it looked in the end. It was sort of messy and fun.
And there was a great chemistry between Maddie and Tobias, you and Lincoln A. Castellanos. I think a lot of viewers were waiting to see the two of you reunite later in the season.
Yeah, I know. Where is he? Maybe we’ll find out in Season 2. He was great. A great young actor. He brought a lot to Tobias. That role was sort of fascinating, that people really gravitated to it.
Have you started filming Season 2?
No, we start very soon. Like, in a matter of a week or so.
What are you most anxious to delve into?
Just, well, I know absolutely nothing about what I’m going to get into. I know one or two things. They’re just basically inconsequential, so it is like jumping off a cliff. I have no idea what’s in store for us.
Did you do anything to prepare differently for Season 2, after experiencing all the action in Season 1, how physical and emotional it was?
No, you know, I just sort of tried to maintain and stay healthy. Stay fit and everything, because I didn’t have to learn new weaponry skills or anything. I didn’t have to do that for the show, even first season. If I do in the future, I don’t know about it yet. For the most part, I just tried to stay healthy, agile and fit so that I could do stuff like that. I was only required to do it as a normal person… our characters are school teachers. We didn’t have to have special skills coming at the apocalypse. With that said, when you’re jumping over fences, fighting and running around a lot, you’ve got to be ready for that. I prefer to do as much of it as I can myself. That’s what’s fun about it. That’s the funnest part. I hope I have to learn a new [skill], but not yet.
Maybe Maddie will get her own signature weapon in Season 2.
Yeah, maybe knife-throwing or something like that? Yeah.
Deadwood, Sons of Anarchy, Friday Night Lights… you have been in several series before that have huge, devoted fan bases. How do The Walking Dead and FTWD fans compare? Have you attended any of the fan conventions yet?
This is by far… The Walking Dead’s audience is just remarkable. It’s just a very passionate fan base, and they’ve been really supportive of us. [San Diego] was the first Comic-Con I’ve ever been to, and they we’re super excited and cheering us on. That’s before they even knew us. In terms of the cheering, we’ll see what it’s like next season when we go back. It’s interesting, too, because I find even though this is a new genre for me, there’s a crossover of fans. This fan base tended to like Deadwood and Friday Night Lights and things like that. I love that, the crossover.
Fear the Walking Dead: The Complete First Season is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Anchor Bay Home Entertainment.