A common Zombie Apocalypse escape plan is to head for water. After all, even if you can’t find a boat, you at least have one direction from which you won’t be attacked by a zombie. Or so people think. Fans of AMC’s The Walking Dead may recall that, before the whole Woodbury debacle, Michonne and Andrea were planning to do just that.
With the tagline, “No Safe Harbor,” the much anticipated second season of TWD’s companion show, Fear The Walking Dead, promises to lay that notion to waste. According to the show’s co-creator and show runner, Dave Erickson, “We’ve got zombies wading in the surf. We’ve got zombies stuck in the sand. We’ve got underwater zombies. We’ve got swimming zombies. Well, zombies don’t really swim, they float.”
Though the series is currently being shot in Baja California, cast members Cliff Curtis (Travis Manawa), Kim Dickens (Madison Clark), Frank Dillane (Nick Clark), Alycia Debnam-Carey (Alicia Clark), Lorenzo James Henrie (Chris Manawa), Ruben Blades (Daniel Salazar), Mercedes Mason (Ofelia Salazar), and Colman Domingo (Victor Strand) and executive producers Erickson and Gale Anne Hurd held court with fans at PaleyFest 2016 this past Saturday to both reflect on the whirlwind first season and talk a little bit about what to expect from the coming season.
To accomplish the virtual “zombie water ballet,” as well as a season in which a significant amount of action would happen at sea, the production moved south of the border to Baja Studios in Rosarito, Mexico – the facility James Cameron built to shoot his epic, Titanic.
Of the move, Erickson said, “We knew late last season that we’d end up on the coastline with Strand’s boat. Once we decided to go that way, we needed somewhere we could actually build a boat, put it in the water and exploit that environment. The sections of the boat are in a big [2 acre] tank. They have tanks where we can do all of our water work, and [sound]stages. It’s just a little further away.”
Set just slightly before the events in The Walking Dead, Fear focuses on two Los Angeles families fighting to survive in a world spinning out of control in the wake of a pandemic. The first episode broke not only AMC’s internal record for most the most successful premiere episode, but is the current record holder in all of cable television. Fans embraced the show quickly, and AMC ordered two more full seasons before the first episode even aired. As Curtis put it, “Things are great here in the Zombie Apocalypse.”
Season One spoilers follow …
Though life is good for the cast and crew, life for the characters is much harder. The first season saw the outbreak of the zombie plague and all that comes with it. The city of Los Angeles (and presumably much of the country, if not the world) disintegrated into anarchy and was placed under martial law, and the main characters narrowly escaped both a zombie horde and a clandestine military operation to bomb their neighborhood off the map. Though the Manawa/Clark and Salazar families did survive and make their way to at least a temporary sanctuary in the form of Victor Strand’s home, it was not without casualties. Daniel Salazar’s wife died to injuries she sustained in a riot, and even worse, at the request of his ex-wife, Travis Manawa had to kill the mother of his child, a nurse bitten by one of the infected.
As the group’s moral compass, Travis finds himself at a breaking point at the beginning of season two. “Travis is still struggling with his identity as a good guy,” said Curtis. “He doesn’t want to give up his identity as being a dad and setting an example for his son, which is pretty difficult considering he killed his mom, but I think he is coming to terms with the fact that he’s going to have to kill. Something is broken in Travis, and I don’t think even he understands what it is. Everything that makes you a good guy in the normal world makes you vulnerable in the new one. It’s much cooler to be like Strand or Salazar. Ruthless.”
Still, in the world of The Walking Dead, loss is inevitable, and despite losing his onscreen mother, Henrie said, “[Liza’s death] opens up Chris’ character to completely new story arcs. Not only with his relationship to his father, but also his relationship to this world. He’s a young kid trying to figure out the laws, the nature, of this world that he lives in.” So while everything surrounding Liza’s death is tough to process, some good will come out of it.
Where Travis and Chris have to, and apparently will, adjust to a world of violence and cruelty, Blades’ Daniel Salazar, a former war criminal who fled to the U.S. to escape his horrifying past, does not. Daniel’s practicality in the face of a world gone insane has, on occasion, put him at odds with Travis. According to Blades, the pair will begin to see things more eye-to-eye in season two: “I think what’s happening in the second season is that people are becoming more aware of the need to rely on one another. There still may be differences in terms of the decision how to react to a certain scenario, but Travis understands. He had to kill his own [ex-]wife. They both lost their wives, and that created a bond.”
And then there’s the group’s unlikely savior, Victor Strand – a man with preternatural gift for reading people and more importantly, a well-protected home and a luxury yacht. Having appeared only in two episodes of FTWD’s inaugural run as Nick Clark’s cell mate in a makeshift military prison, little has been revealed about why he saved Nick, let alone the others, and how he intends to exploit it. For Dillane, it’s simple. “I mean, he’s in a f**king jail cell and Strand’s got a key on him, so it’s not rocket science,” he said.
Colman Domingo’s take on his character and the situation is more diplomatic, if not optimistic. “I don’t think he’s going to exploit [the situation]. It’s just that he finds it a necessity,” he explained. “There needs to be someone with foresight and some strength of character. If another leader emerges, they’d just better be smarter than he is. Don’t challenge him unless you’ve got a better idea. But that makes a great leader.”
Despite saving her son as well as the group at large, Kim Dickens’ Madison Clark still isn’t sure about Strand. “She doesn’t quite trust him right away. He saved her son, but that doesn’t mean anything. She doesn’t know what he motives are, if he has any ulterior motives,” she said. “But he has given us safe passage — we think — and so she has to give him the benefit of the doubt from time to time while keeping a very specific eye on him, trying to figure him out.”
Meanwhile, Madison’s honors-student daughter, Alicia, is trying to adjust to a situation where her ne’er do well brother is the “star pupil,” and she has to develop new skill sets to simply survive.
“She feels quite isolated. I think she has for a long time with the fractured dynamic of the family. This new group of people, they’re trying to find alliances,” said Debnam-Carey of the character. “I think she’s really grappling with keeping hold of her core values. Helping people out and saving people, it comes from a good place, but that’s not necessarily the world she lives in now. People are really looking out for their own. I think that’s an inherent quality of hers, but she might have to depend on people.”
Fear The Walking Dead premieres April 10th on AMC.