Just because season six of The Walking Dead has drawn to a close doesn't mean it's stopped dominating the airwaves over these past months; season two of its record-breaking spin-off series Fear the Walking Dead has just returned from its mid-season break.
Initially set in Los Angeles, Fear the Walking Dead arrived last August introducing us to family Madison (Kim Dickens), Travis (Cliff Curtis), Nick (Frank Dillane) and Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey) at the onset of a zombie apocalypse. Its premiere became the most-watched cable television episode of all time.
We caught up with Dickens to talk about the second season's ocean setting, parallels with its Andrew Lincoln-starring counterpart and her experiences working on some of this generation's most beloved TV shows (Lost, Friday Night Lights, House of Cards).
Does season two continue to show the character's blurred lines between heroism and villainy?
Definitely. The characters will be more and more challenged. Because of the honest storytelling, we’re going to see characters evolve and devolve in different ways as we imagine people would in an end-of-the-world scenario. So we explore all of that: our struggle to hold onto morality and humanity; the struggle to define coherence as well as learning how to adjust your moral compass
Do you have a lot more action to do this time around?
No, Madison's kind of the same as when we met her in the pilot episode - very adaptable and able to make tough decisions quickly. I definitely have my action pieces here as well even though I thought in season one I had quite a bit to do for a high school counsellor. She's continually challenged but she finds her way.
This season has very much seemed to be very much The Walking Dead at sea. How did the boat setting alter the show's dynamic?
It was very exciting. The actors and I kind of walked around on the boat and thought 'wow, we were driving around with cameras before.' We never realised we’d be on a boat in the second season. That’s part of the fun of it; not knowing where you’re gonna go with every new series. We're now branching out from there but it has its challenges. The season isn’t necessarily going to stay away from the land.
Has the larger episode count (15 compared to season one's six) made the writers less afraid to switch up the locations like they are with The Walking Dead?
I think they’re unafraid. I don’t really have an idea beyond the outline of what my character’s going to see for the season. I’m just amazed at it - this exodus from Los Angeles has made a very exciting journey for us. It really picks up speed and catches fire right from the start.
In The Walking Dead, the group meet formed violent clans - for example, The Wolves and The Saviours. Considering your show's set in the early stages of the apocalypse, do we see these groups manifesting?
I don’t know if it's echoing what’s happening on The Walking Dead - we definitely evolve in our different ways with our struggle to hang on to morality as well as choosing whether to, not just survive, but live again.
If you could choose one character from The Walking Dead to induct into Madison's story, who would you choose?
Cliff [Curtis, Madison's husband Travis] and I both love Rick Grimes [Andrew Lincoln]. That's probably a bit of a predictable decision.
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You starred in a few episodes of Lost. Do you think your character Cassidy ever met up with Sawyer [Josh Holloway] beyond those final episodes?
I think so - why not? She’s got a big heart and would want him to find his child so I reckon maybe so.
What were your experiences filming such a revered show as Friday Night Lights?
Oh my gosh, it was an incredible experience. The scripts were so beautiful - I'd read them and suddenly my heart would be in my throat. We'd go off script and improv and that’s why the whole thing feels like it's fly on the wall, documentary style - it captured a way of filming that served the effect it had.
The scripts and emotion were so strong and the actors were so great - such a lovely group of people. We shot in Austin, Texas, which is an amazing city full of music, artists and great food. It was a great experience. We filmed it very quickly - we often got to get off work early.
House of Cards is another show you currently star in. What's it like working opposite the President and First Lady, Frank and Claire Underwood?
It was very intimidating at first - it was my favourite show at the time. I had done Gone Girl [Dickens starred as Detective Rhonda Boney] and the casting director, who did House of Cards, gave me a call and said "Hey, what about this role?" and I was like "Yeah, I want to be on my favourite show!” Then once I agreed and was gonna do it, I thought 'Oh my God, I have to be around Frank and Claire Underwood? I can’t do that!' They’re such professionals - just as powerful to look at in the parking lot as they are on camera. I had a blast; it's a very well run show. Robin [Wright] ended up directing me in a few episodes - she’s a wonderful director.
Will you be appearing in season five?
I hope so! I’d love to be a part of it.
Your Deadwood creator David Milch recently revealed that HBO has greenlit a film adaptation. Have you been approached about that?
I’ve not been approached about it. A lot of the actors have stayed in touch and, personally, if they wanted our characters, we’d all do our best to make it happen. It was such a seminal experience for all of us, a life changing moment - the opportunity to be in those stories and play those characters which were dream roles. The experience itself - working with David and the way we worked on the ranch without a script - was a once in a lifetime experience and I think all of us would be eager to go back and tell the story with him. I have a few top hats at home, so I'm ready to go.
Going back to Fear the Walking Dead, it must be exciting to know you're part of one of the most popular TV properties currently on air?
It’s an honour, really. I couldn't believe it, to begin with. Having this fanbase that The Walking Dead has earned that was just ready to hopefully look our way and weigh in on us - that was just an honour. We had such a great audience for the first season which was exciting and I'm just so proud to be a part of it. I do hope we can go on - I think there are plenty of stories to tell from our point of view but unfortunately, we never know who gets to survive. Fingers crossed I get to stick around for a while, as well as the show.
We need to see you killing some more zombies.
It’s remarkably fun, surprisingly enough. I don’t know if I should say that.
Is it therapeutic?
In a way, it is. I feel like we’re all trying to kill zombies in our lives - that’s the truth of it. Wherever those zombies are.
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