The wait is over… your time to Fear the Walking Dead has officially begun. The Walking Dead prequel series has aired its supersize pilot on AMC, and Yahoo TV spoke with director Adam Davidson to break down key sequences from the first episode.
Bringing It All Back Home… to a Hospital
Although it takes place in a different time (right before the zombie apocalypse) and place (Los Angeles instead of Georgia) than its mothership, there are echoes of The Walking Dead in Fear the Walking Dead. Case in point: the escape of drug-addled Nick (Frank Dillane) from the hospital, where he goes after he’s picked up by the police. As Walking Dead fans will remember, the Frank Darabont-directed pilot episode got off to a killer start with Sheriff Rick waking up from his coma in a hospital bed and making his way outside into a ruined world. “We were aware that a good chunk of our first episode takes place in a hospital,” Davidson confirms. “But we wanted to be different from The Walking Dead. Not in a reactionary way, but to have our series stand on its own merits.”
Shooting on location in L.A., the director was on the lookout for a hospital that had seen a lot of years and a lot of mileage. He eventually settled on the about-to-be-demolished Temple Community Hospital. Due to the amount of shooting time required, the crew also built a replica of Nick’s hospital room on a soundstage. “You’ll notice that the color palette is kind of eerie, with muted, soiled colors. It’s a little bit garish — things are off. I also designed it so that when you enter the room, you have to walk by the old man on the bed, because he’s an important character. You always feel his presence even when the scene isn’t involving him.”
It’s while that old man is flatlining that Nick chooses to make his escape, seizing advantage of the doctors’ distraction — not to mention his roommate’s clothes — and beating a path out the door. “The idea of the scene was to shoot it from Nick’s experience. The camera plays off of him, and we shot some of it in slow motion because it’s the moments where you’re feeling the most panicked and in a rush that you can never move fast enough.”
Invasion of the Zombie Snatchers
A lifelong fan of Philip Kaufman’s 1978 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Davidson used that spectacularly creepy alien invasion movie as the basis for the tone of Fear the Walking Dead. And the climactic sequence where Nick discovers that his pal (and pusher) Calvin has become a zombie bears a resemblance to the famous final scene of Body Snatchers when Donald Sutherland reveals himself to be a pod person. “That movie dealt with a similar idea of people discovering what’s human and what’s not human,” Davidson said.“Our first instinct is not to whack somebody upside the head, but to ask, ‘What’s wrong? How can I help?’”
That’s why Nick’s mother, Madison (Kim Dickens), and his soon-to-be-stepfather, Travis (Cliff Curtis), try to aid Calvin as he lumbers toward them instead of going directly on the offensive. It’s Nick who makes the smart decision to run the creature Calvin has become over with the family truck, cracking the windshield in the process. (The broken glass is Davidson’s direct reference to a scene in Body Snatchers, by the way.) “I love the crack in the windshield, because he’s seeing this bifurcated world. That’s how I wanted to tell the story. The world you’re seeing is not the world as it is.”
Fear the Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC.