'Fear the Walking Dead' spoilers revealed by Alycia Debnam-Carey, Kevin Zegers and Jenna Elfman
The trio took part in a Q&A session and revealed what fans can expect from the second half of season 4 in 'Fear the Walking Dead'.
AMC's 'Fear the Walking Dead' underwent a drastic shakeup in its current fourth season. An action-packed first half of the season involved two timelines, a time jump, and the introduction of 'The Walking Dead' character Morgan (Lennie James) into the mix. But more consequentially, it saw the deaths of mom and son Madison (Kim Dickens) and Nick (Frank Dillane), who had been central to the show since the pilot first aired on AMC in 2015.
However, Alycia Debham-Carey's Alicia Clark managed to escape relatively unscathed. In a recent Q&A, she talked about the destruction and loss leading up to the season 4 mid-season finale and where her character proceeds from here on out.
How did you enjoy telling the story through flashbacks and playing with time?
Playing with time has definitely been one of the most fun elements this season… you get to develop the character in two different ways and keep bouncing back between the present and past. At the same time, it is also very difficult. You have to keep up with how to make the character different… It looked really different this season and it’s given us a different kind of depth. To play out the story in terms of Madison and Nick’s… has been a really effective tool. It makes it even more heartbreaking how everything turns out.
How different is the Alicia we’re seeing now from the one we first met in Season 1?
She’s a completely different person. I think she’s had one of the most extreme developments out of all the characters. If you look back at who she was in Season 1, she was just a teenage girl and trying to get out of town. You see her now and she’s a shell… that person. Deep down, I think she’s still got all of those qualities, but she’s lost a lot of that humanity and that morality and those ethics. She’s pretty brutal and pretty destroyed by everything that’s happened to her. It’s been really cool for me to get her to that place – and it doesn’t end here. She’s developing more as we go along.
The first half of this season has been leading up to the Mid-Season Finale. What was it like finally getting to it? What were some of the practical details, as well as the emotional work, that went into such a huge episode?
It was the most massive episode to shoot. We all knew that this is what we’ve been mounting to with Madison’s death and the end of Nick in the flashbacks. It meant that this was really the end of one story and the beginning of another chapter. It was the final push for us to make it special and honor those characters and also say goodbye to them at the same time. It was really difficult. I think we all felt the same pressure leading up to it. In a way, there was a sense of relief once we finished, but it was all those months of emotions and heartbreak in one episode. I think it might be my favorite episode we ever shot. It’s so beautiful and such a nice homage to those characters. There were so many different elements, too. We had practical effects in terms of gunfire and weapon training and stunt sequences. At the same time, there were these incredibly emotional scenes like the one around the campfire where everyone’s remembering Madison’s legacy and the scene where Morgan is trying to talk Alicia out of killing Naomi. It’s just so much. I hope we did it justice.
What are your thoughts on Madison’s recurring motto of “no one’s gone until they’re gone?” and how it permeates throughout the season, right until the very end?
Madison’s motto continues to play through Alicia’s development. It also resonates with her when she’s at that standoff with Morgan. He says to her, “I know you’re still in there. I see your mother in there.” That’s a reminder to her of what her mother really stood for. I don’t think Alicia can hold onto that belief since her mother’s death. I think she’s decided it’s not true and that people do need to pay for their actions, but she does get to a point where someone recognizes in her that there is still good and that she can be saved even though everything is falling apart around her.
Madison made it her mission to preserve her children’s humanity. Is that even possible?
I guess it depends on what you define as humanity. There is a way to preserve morals and ethics, but I think your priorities just change over time. What we know as morals and ethics now may not pertain to what morals and ethics are in the apocalypse. It’s the same as with any period of time in history. It’s different in terms of the context and circumstances. I think elements of love and hope and forgiveness still exist and are true — that’s why any of our characters still exist — but it’s definitely challenging in this environment.
At this point, Alicia has lost all of her family – at least biologically. Can she find a sense of belonging in Luciana and Strand? What about Charlie and June – or Naomi/Laura?
[Laughs] Yeah, I never know what to call her!… While she may have been pulled back from complete destruction and revenge, Alicia’s definitely not feeling connected to anyone. I don’t think she wants to be around anyone… a part of her realizes the destructive effect she’s had on other people and she doesn’t know how to deal with that. She’s at a point where she doesn’t really like herself, which I think is the saddest thing of all… Being in this new group of people that she’s tried to harm and being surrounded by people that have directly affected her life, such as Charlie – she’s wanting out. It’s the next level of loss and grief.
Kevin Magers, who played the part of Melvin, the antagonistic leader of the Vultures, also took part in the session. He answered queries on the Vultures' moral code and it's so hard to hate his character.
It’s kind of hard to hate Mel. What’s the trick to developing a charming villain?
I’m a flawed human being, and I like the nooks and crannies of people. For me to pull something off, I have to imagine. I don’t know how I would behave if everything turned upside down. I’d like to imagine I would be a dignified human being, but I don’t know… Just because someone’s behaving badly doesn’t mean they can’t be charming, interesting, smart, crafty and all those things… There’s nothing interesting to me about playing a guy who comes in beating his chest and is so clearly the villain.
The Vultures don’t really use violence as a threat. Do they see themselves as good guys simply delivering the bad news to their victims?
Is a guy who buys a business that is going out of business, for less than it’s probably worth, a really sh*tty guy? It’s gray, to me. It’s not totally the best thing in the world, but that’s how people… figure out a way to survive. I don’t think they morally feel horrible about it. It would be horrible if they just killed everybody and came in and took all their stuff. The reason why I think people have a hard time hating Mel is because he is genuinely giving them an option. He and Madison start to develop a rapport and I think he’s genuine. You don’t have to die…. He’s totally willing to allow them another option and for that reason, he’s able to justify it. It’s a simple, transactional kind of thing.
Episode 7 was such a huge episode. What was your biggest takeaway?
Yeah, 7 was a really big episode! It’s the episode where you get to know more about Mel and he’s a little more in your face. The thing I took away from 7, more than anything, was that his love for Charlie makes him ultimately redeeming. While he’s manipulating this girl, he ultimately loves her. Whatever his situation was in the past, that’s what’s driving him – to take care of this little girl and whatever his fantasy is of having a family and somehow getting through this. It was a crazy episode. There was a ton of stuff. It was full on. And then obviously at the end, I get a spike through the head! [Laughs]
Was Madison‘s stadium society ultimately a victim of her own stubbornness or did she hold her ground right until the end?
I think she’s committed. This is the only way that she sees forward. Mel obviously doesn’t agree and he knows what’s going to happen… This is the only life she sees worth living, which is a life of creating a place of peace. She’s done with what we’re doing, which is running around and just getting by… Ultimately, that’s what cost her.
How did you enjoy telling the story through flashbacks and playing with time as an element?
As an actor, it’s a little complicated… Most of my stuff is flashbacks, so I think it was easier for us. I got to stay in the past until we ultimately see each other again when Alicia puts an end to Mel… As a storytelling device, I think it’s incredible. Alycia [Debnam-Carey] and Colman [Domingo] are carrying all this stuff that’s happened after Nick has died… When you’re shooting it, it’s so chaotic and you don’t really know what it’s going to look like. I’ve been so impressed by what I’ve seen.
Any thoughts on Madison’s recurring motto of “no one’s gone until they’re gone?"
I don’t think we’re the worst of us or the best of us. As human beings, we’re all capable of doing good and bad. I think the good people do more good things than bad things and bad people give into the bad stuff more. I like the premise that nobody is black or white. We all live in that gray area. Who knows what behavior can be judged by others as good or bad. We’re all just plugging along.
Besides Debnam-Carey and Zegers, Jenna Elfman also revealed a few potential spoilers. The actress plays Naomi on 'Fear the Walking Dead,' the mysterious nurse who Madison encounters in season 4 and talked about her character’s journey and John Dorie’s impeccable timing.
What drew you to this role and to the apocalyptic world?
I had been desiring to have the opportunity to dig deeper into the human condition and human stories that have more layers. It was something I was really ready for, and this came my way and it was perfect.
Can you talk about your experience shooting Episode 5 with Garret Dillahunt? What was it like peeling back some more layers of your character?
What I think is so special about that one is it’s an apocalyptic love story – and it’s a love story with broken pieces. What I especially love the most about that episode – there are so many things – is that every time Naomi comes in contact with John Dorie, she’s a better version of herself. In whatever form that takes, she’s better. I really love that love story. Garret makes me feel beyond safe. I had this moment where I was trying to figure out what it is about Garret that I like so much besides my admiration for his ability as an actor. It was just the two of us in that episode, so we’re spending 15 hours together on set. I was sitting with him on set and said to him, “I trust you. I fully trust you. And I like how that makes me feel.” Think about all the people you meet in the world, let alone in an apocalyptic environment – trust isn’t the number one leading quality in human relationships… [but] in the storytelling and in real life, I fully trust Garret and I trust John Dorie…
Naomi always seems to be coming and going. What’s the hardest thing for her when it comes to assimilating into the group?
In Episode 6, she gets to tell her story. Off her chest, out of heart, out of her mind, out of her guilt and her conscious that is completely squelching her. It’s like she’s under a semi-truck trying to function in this world and it’s killing her. Having to go back into that environment where she not only lost a child but she’s responsible for the fall of the entire place because she was trying to help – that scrambles all of the things we’re made of as human beings. In loving environments, people don’t recover well from losing their child, let alone in an apocalyptic environment where you also are the reason it happened. It’s just overwhelming and it takes someone like John Dorie to plant that seed of recovery. It was cathartic to actually communicate what happened [both] for me as the actor playing it and for Naomi…
Also, every time Naomi starts to hit rock bottom, John Dorie shows up. Somehow, she’ll be right at the edge of her moral code or physical survival and there he is.
What’s it like for her to see the group continually save her?
It’s not lost upon her at all. Being in a group is just too much, but you can’t survive on your own, so there has to be a new way. Madison really lays that out… Helping people is the way to go. When push comes to shove, [Naomi] gets skittish. This world is a lot for her, but she needs community to find out who she’s going to be now.
Can you share some behind-the-scenes details about what went into filming Episode 6? What was it like shimmying across that rope over a horde?
I got to do all of my own stunts, which I love to do because of my dance background. [Stunt coordinators] James Armstrong and Jack Tamplin were key in me being able to do that and have fun doing it, but I did come away with some record-breaking sized bruises! [Laughs] I had one the size of a grapefruit. It was a metal wire that I was shimmying across and I couldn’t believe I was doing it. I was so tired because Episode 6 is such an emotional episode. The guilt of looking at all those people who have now turned. She recognizes them all and they’re all in that state because of her. She’s about to sacrifice herself… and then Madison and Strand show up and give her that chance to move forward. Shimmying across that rope was kind of symbolic of what the journey is to recover. It’s like “It’s going to be a struggle, but there are people on the other side for you.”
At the end of the episode, Naomi’s reunited with John but she’s also siding with the Vultures. How does she navigate what’s going on in this present moment?
I had one breath to play so much: Uh-oh, it’s them. Uh-oh, I know what it looks like to them. Uh-oh, I did run, but I have a really good explanation. Uh-oh, [Alicia’s] got a giant gun aimed at my face. Uh-oh, John takes the bullet. Uh-oh! [Laughs] It’s just so much. The moment I see John is the same moment he gets shot. From that point on, all she cares about is John. It’s also an interesting moment of “Who is Naomi?” Actions speak louder than words.