Cliff Curtis in Fear the Walking Dead season 2.
How is Fear the Walking Dead distinct from The Walking Dead?
Speaking with lots of people – with the actors, the producers and some viewers – they all agree that the way we approached the story means you don’t need any prior knowledge of the comics or the other series. But we’ve structured it in such a way that if you are a fan of the original graphic novels and you watch The Walking Dead, you’ll immediately recognise the mythology and you’ll see how the stories are layered. But you’ll also appreciate the different approach that Fear takes; the different point of view it has.
For season one, we talked quite a lot about the idea that we were covering the timeframe in which Rick Grimes was in his coma at the very outset of The Walking Dead. Viewers were getting a window on what he missed. But if you actually look at the breakdown of season one of Fear, it wasn’t a case of ending on a final frame in the finale from which you could have cut to Georgia just as Rick was about to wake up. If you look at the timing, we’re actually still shy of that point by a couple of weeks. So, what’s interesting in how we structured the first season and as we head into the second season, our family has been relatively insulated. We’ve gone from their realisation that things are falling apart and that the world is changing in the first few episodes to the arrival of the National Guard and essentially being stuck in an internment camp. They were trusting that things were being repaired in the world outside. So, it wasn’t until the finale that they saw how things were falling apart in such a profound way.
Each family in season one experienced some tremendous loss. Will this unite them in season two and does it help them try to figure out how to survive?
Well, it’s interesting because one of the things that was important to Robert Kirkman when we started to develop the drama was the theme of violence and how each of the characters would approach it. And that doesn’t just mean the ‘deaths’ of the infected but how would each of the characters react when they had to put someone infected down?
By the end of season one, they’ve experienced a zombie horde and most of them (with the exception of Travis, Chris and Alycia) have had to fight one of the infected and put one down. So it becomes a question of the effects of that violence and about the morality of each person – how will they learn to process everything as we go into season two?
They’ve also witnessed what is tantamount to the fall of Los Angeles. The scenes in which they drive through a desolate, abandoned, dead LA mean that they’re leaving their home behind. They’ve lost their home, their friends, their neighbours and it’s catastrophic. I think that initially they’re all quite shell-shocked by it and then it becomes more about the connections they develop and, of course, their relationships with violence.
Now, in season two, they’ve landed on Strand’s boat, on the ‘Abigail’, and I think what we’ll come to realise, very quickly as we move into the first couple of episodes, is that they were not the only people with this bright idea. They’re not the only ones that have decided to become refugees from Los Angeles and make a break for the water. That’s going to create additional conflicts. It’s going to be twofold: what do they do when they’re confronted with the infected and what will they do when confronted with other survivors? How do they approach them and where does the greater danger lie?
Strand said at the end of the season one: “The only way to survive a mad world is to embrace the madness.” So how does this actually play out in season two?
I think a big theme for season two of Fear is that once we’ve established that the world is really gone, once we’ve established that there’s no turning back, what kind of person will each of the characters become? Will they be able to surrender to it? Will they be devoured and consumed by the apocalypse or will they change their base nature? Can they really continue to fight against it and try to hold onto their humanity?
That was something we began in season one, specifically with Travis, and I think we’ll see it continue in season two. One of the things that both Liza and Madison said about Travis was if he had to put either one of them down, it would break him. I think one of the interesting questions for this season is, did that act make him a broken man or will he be able to hold it together, not just for himself but for Chris, specifically, who’s just lost his mother?
The infected in Fear are in much less of a decayed state than the zombies in The Walking Dead. How does this affect the way in which the characters react to them?
Well, we’re a little bit further along in season two so they’ll have decayed a bit more and atrophied a little. And there are other factors and elements. We’re in salt water in the ocean and under a baking hot sun. So you’ll see a progression in their appearance but fundamentally they’ve recently become the infected and it’s very difficult to put one of them down. That takes its toll emotionally. We’re actually humanising the dead, and we want to continue to show the weight and pressure that puts on our characters when they have dispatch these ‘people’.
Some of our characters still want to recognise the infected as having some degree of humanity left and perhaps some intelligence or understanding. We had our first zombie horde at the end of last season and we’ll definitely have lots more infected in this season. But we still want to hold onto the idea that Robert established – we never want the dead to become just ‘cannon fodder’. I think that adds a real perspective to the storytelling that we can explore. So, even if they look more gross, we want to hold onto their human qualities.
Why is it important that the infected don’t become just “cannon fodder”?
Something that’s really interesting about the whole genre is that you can project any human anxiety, any phobia or any fear onto the undead. The thing about the zombie genre is that you’re then allowed to kill your fears. I do think there’s a certain catharsis to it: it allows you to take all the things you hate and all the things that keep you awake at night and then put them down in a very permanent fashion.
I also think we want to avoid a situation where we just have wall upon wall of the infected and they’re being mowed down and there’s no real impact on the characters. Fundamentally, there needs to be something going on emotionally. Whenever there’s any kind of interaction with the dead, we want to make sure it’s serving a purpose or developing a theme for the character involved and driving the narrative forward. The violence should do as much injury to the characters who are committing it as it does to the infected that they’re putting down.
What was it like to shoot in Mexico?
Well, shooting in Baja, we have a crew that is partly American alongside a lot of technicians and artists who came out from Mexico City and a lot of folks who are working locally in Baja. It was a giant endeavour and, as far as I can recall, there really hasn’t been anything like this done for television before. It was new ground for all of us, for the writers, for the directors, for all the producers and for the network. That’s a really rewarding feeling and I think we’re going to give the audience an experience that they haven’t had before.
Fear is a really diverse show and that’s really important to us. When we were shooting in Los Angeles, it was in East LA, exploring neighbourhoods that don’t appear on TV or in films too often. Working in Mexico has continued that theme. It’s been great to be able to work with Mexican directors, writers and craftspeople and Bernardo Trujillo, our production designer, is based in Mexico City and he has been remarkable with his energy and his unique, invaluable perspective.
I think that diversity is deeply embedded within the entire show. We have an incredibly diverse cast and crew and I think it gives us a very interesting edge and a different perspective. It makes for a really rich show.