Record numbers for ‘Walking Dead’ spin-off show
LOS ANGELES—More zombies are coming. “Fear the Walking Dead,” a spin-off and a prequel to the hit series “The Walking Dead,” recently premiered to record-breaking all-time cable ratings numbers. The new show, again created by Robert Kirkman (this time with Dave Erickson), is set in LA with a cast that features a family—Kim Dickens (mom Madison Clark), Cliff Curtis (stepdad Travis Manawa), Frank Dillane (son Nick Clark) and Alycia Debnam-Carey (daughter Alicia Clark).
We recently interviewed the four actors in pairs—Frank and Alycia, and Cliff and Kim.
Talk about manic energy; Frank, wild hair and all, and who’s becoming the breakout star in this new series, chewed, twirled, folded, bent and twisted a plastic coffee stirrer during our chat until it was an unrecognizable pulp. Many of you saw him for the first time as the teen Tom Riddle, aka Lord Voldemort, in “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.” He is the son of “Game of Thrones” actor Stephen Dillane. Alycia is a Sydney, Australia native who made a bold move to try to make it in Hollywood when she was only 18.
Kim’s memorable credits include Detective Rhonda Boney in “Gone Girl” (she was solid in that role), “House of Cards,” and “Treme.” Cliff, who is of New Zealand Maori descent, was in “Whale Rider,” “Blow,” “Training Day” and “Three Kings.”
Frank Dillane and Alycia Debnam-Carey
Were you a fan of “The Walking Dead” before you were cast in “Fear the Walking Dead?”
Alycia (A): I hadn’t seen it before I got the gig. But then, I thought it was a great excuse to binge-watch three weeks of amazing TV. So I did and then I just fell in love with it. I had to actually stop myself because I started getting like—not confused—but the worlds were colliding a little bit. It was kind of informing many of my (acting) choices.
But it’s one of my favorite shows now. We recently had dinner with the cast. I was secretly “fan-girling” inside, like, oh my God, it’s Norman Reedus!
Frank (F): I actually haven’t seen “The Walking Dead” at all. But I heard it’s really good (laughs). I like being on this show because there’s such a thing at the moment about the “end of the world” cinema. Everything seems to be apocalyptic and it seems to be some sort of function of our generation and a zeitgeist. Everyone is doing “end of the world” stuff. I like to be of the time.
A: In the 1950s, it used to be all about the excitement on prosperity and technology.
F: Yeah, there were all those robot films. Robots becoming humans. And now, what is in the cinema? It’s all about the world coming to an end, guys. The ship is sinking. And they are making a pretty penny from it.
Can you talk about your characters and where they are headed?
A: My character is called Alicia which is also my name, but it’s spelled differently. She is a high achiever, knows where she wants to go in her life and goes through school with frustrating ease. She had to become quite independent and self-sufficient because of the loss of her parent and then a brother who is no longer around—he has his own personal problems.
So she is like, I want to get out of LA and I am done with this city. I got a great boyfriend and I am going to (UC) Berkeley. It’s all going to finally be her life on her own terms. But that’s also what makes this situation so tragic for her … because she has so much to lose. And that fall is going to be very hard and fast.
But she is quite a realist, too. So finding herself thrust in that world when she does come to terms with it—it’s very interesting to see what places she will pull from to get her through all of that.
F: It’s difficult because I don’t know where my character is going yet, really.
A: They are very secretive with the scripts. They don’t like to let on a lot of information. This season has been very much about the fall of society and navigating through that. We haven’t developed any survival tactics which is on the original show. They (zombies) all come in quite quickly and it’s all about getting through it. We are still coming to terms with it. So it’s a lot about how we deal with it, and what we are to become is about to unfold.
Do you also feel confused sometimes in real life like your character?
F: Sure, yeah. The thing with drugs is, drugs aren’t the problem; reality is the problem. Nick struggles with reality. I certainly do sometimes. But if you are an actor, it’s your job to empathize with everyone. Empathy is the key if you are going to be any good.
You need to empathize with any human being if we are to explore the human psyche. Any of us can empathize or draw parallels with any character. Certainly, there’s the fact that I am playing Nick so obviously, I have his qualities and he now has my qualities.
They kill major characters in “The Walking Dead.” Do you fear that your character will be killed?
F: I am planning my death scene (laughs). Get it in the neck.
A: Do you want to get bitten?
F: I don’t know yet. No, I haven’t been too concerned about it.
A: Me neither.
F: When we go, we will go.
Do you want it be a mercy kill?
A: No, I want a really fun death. If you are going to go, you go with style. The hard thing is, it’s a great show and you do bond quickly. We have filmed only six episodes and everyone is already like family. I’m thinking, if I didn’t come back to this, I can’t. This is my new little family! But no, every show is doing it, too. No one is really safe anymore.
Your character sees some very scary s**t.
F: Yes (laughs).
What is the scariest thing you’ve experienced in real life?
F: Well, f***ing last night…the hotel that we are staying in is haunted. I didn’t sleep last night because honestly, there was someone in my room. There’s a woman who committed suicide on her wedding night and she roams the halls in her wedding dress. The (Hotel) Del Coronado (San Diego, California). And a little girl got hurt; she had measles.
A: You can hear her playing with her toys. I only found out about the story today because I wouldn’t let anyone tell me. I was like, “Don’t tell me.” I am not sleeping there tonight so it’s fine. Now I know the story (laughs).
Are you an optimist or a pessimist?
F: I have an impending sense of doom that, I don’t know, something bad will happen. And I am thinking about me, and the world, probably.
Frank, do people recognize you from “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince”? Did that role impact your career?
F: No. I was 16 so it didn’t have much more to do with anything in my career. It was just amazing … to be part of that f***ing era. But I don’t get recognized much. I looked quite different.
A: You did have a good experience in the elevator the other day.
F: Oh yes, I did, didn’t I? He didn’t recognize me.
A: No, he didn’t recognize you. We were in the elevator and there was a guy who had a tattoo of the deathly hallows. I saw it and I was like, “Oh, you love Harry Potter!” He was like, “Yeah.” Then my friend Whitney was like (points at Frank), “Oh he was Tom Riddle in ‘Harry Potter.’ ”
The guy didn’t even believe it and he was like, “No way!” Finally, he realized it and his face went like—totally, all the color drained from him. He was like, “No, seriously. Wait, are you…because if you are, I am going to be freaking out.” Suddenly, it was all too real. I was like “No, he’s not (laughs).”
Cliff Curtis and Kim Dickens
How hard did you have to fight to land these coveted roles?
Kim (K): I was offered to audition for the role. I was busy working out of town and didn’t know if I was going to make this audition. I am so busy and not sure I can fit in this project. I have not done the genre or selected to be in that genre so I didn’t know if I should go for it.
Then it just kept coming around. I don’t think they could ever find their person. They said, “Look at it and think about it again.” I read the script and I said, “I don’t know.” They said, “We’ll go meet and talk.” I met Dave Erickson (creator) and Adam Davidson (director) and it sounded like a fun project.
I reread the script and I thought, what an amazing character. I auditioned and then I auditioned again. We camera-tested and I got it. I felt like I won the lottery. I was excited and couldn’t believe how fortunate I was.
How did your family react when you got the role?
Cliff (C): Oh wow. I have family and friends who started screaming at me. They treated it more like a religion than an entertainment show. They insisted that I must do this show.
My manager was throwing all sorts of crazy numbers at me. I don’t watch numbers and he was like, “They (‘The Walking Dead’) have this many viewers, this and that.” My kids were very excited that finally, I have made it.
K: I don’t have kids but as far as like family, they are ferocious fans. They just can’t believe that I really have landed (the role).
C: Finally, you are doing something that people care about (laughs).
Did you watch “The Walking Dead” before you got the roles?
K: I had seen some of the first season. And this audition came up. I said, “Oh my gosh, I need to watch more before I go in for this.” We asked the producers, “What should I really focus on watching?” They said, “Nothing, don’t watch anymore, because your character shouldn’t know what the apocalypse looks like.”
I felt better there, jumping off from that place into this character because otherwise, it’s going to be in my head what I have to push away, what their show looks like. So I have “paused” it. But I know the characters and I know who they are. I know the story. We recently met them (“The Walking Dead” cast). They are so generous of spirit and encouraging. We fell in love with Sheriff (Rick) Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), definitely.
What kind of survival skills do you have? And do you live in LA?
K: I do live in Los Angeles. I also live part-time in New York.
C: I commute between New Zealand and Los Angeles.
K: I have some earthquake kits but I am pretty sure they are expired. So I don’t think I would last very long. Our characters are not very trained in guns, swords, knives and stuff. He (Cliff) is an English teacher and I am a high school counselor. I am trained in wrangling teenagers so we come at it from a very recognizable common-man place. How we grow and how quickly we make those tough decisions is something our characters are challenged by.
C: I play a lot of tough guy characters, either wearing the white hat or the black hat. I am the CIA or FBI or I am the head of some kind of cartel or something. I am usually a pretty tough bad-ass.
So I really love that I am playing a pretty normal, low-key, devoted middle-tier English Literature teacher. My weapons of choice in this show are not a sword or a gun, but the hearts and minds of our families and our youth. That’s what my character is committed to. He would perhaps rather die than lose that. He would perhaps put his life on the line to say, “Wait, what are we doing and why are we doing that?”
I think that is so poignant; there is a value for it in this genre. That is great because we have other characters that can be “alpha.” I love that Kim has got this beautifully strong character that can be the alpha in this situation and I support it. I think it’s very attractive and I love being the omega to her alpha.
Are you fans of the zombie genre?
K: I wasn’t really.
C: I am now (laughs).
K: I love it now! I do!
(E-mail the columnist at [email protected] Follow him at http://twitter.com/nepalesruben.)
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