cast of Fear The Walking Dead
Photo by RHS Photo. Courtesy of AMC Global.

People say there’s always something happening in San Diego during the week of Comic Con. Sure enough, I was fortunate enough to take part in round table interviews with the cast of Fear The Walking Dead back in July.

The cast was an hour late, which resulted in some rather rushed and detached interviews. There was also a sense that everyone involved in the show was keeping things under wraps.

It was a lot more controlled than press events usually are, which might mean that the audience is in for a whole bunch of surprises once the show premieres.

But before you tune in, here’s five things about Fear The Walking Dead you need to know.

1. Kim Dickens plays a kickass character

Kim Dickens
Photo by RHS Photo. Courtesy of AMC Global.
Kim Dickens is Madison Clark, a high school counsellor trying to live a normal life while raising her two teenage children. Madison has a dark past that she would rather keep a secret, but the outbreak of walkers soon puts pressure on her and her family.
Just think of her as the Rick Grimes equivalent of FTWD.
Dickens said that she was really drawn to the script when she read it, and jumped at the chance to play a complicated character who was flawed, strong, and vulnerable.
But she insisted that the show is more like a family drama that just happens to be set during the walker apocalypse, rather than a show focused solely on surviving:
“[In the original show] Grimes was informed by the characters what happened. In here you get to sort of see us having a normal life. Hopefully you get invested in this family that’s very relatable and recognisable. [You get to] see us in our daily lives and daily struggles and see that go from zero to a hundred as civilisation starts to crumble.”

 2. Cliff Curtis’s character is an optimist

Cliff Curtis and Gale Ann Hurd
Photo by RHS Photo. Courtesy of AMC Global.
Playing Travis Manawa in FTWD is Cliff Curtis’s biggest role to date.
He’s racked up an impressive resume playing characters of different ethnicities in movies like Three Kings (1999) and Whale Rider (2002), but judging by his character’s name, they seem to have kept to his New Zealander roots this time.
It’s telling that AMC has cast two strong character actors as the leads, which says a lot about their confidence in the strength of the story.
Cliff Curtis proved to be the most eloquent of the cast, talking at length about how his character believes in the inherent goodness in people. Unfortunately, this might prove to be an inconvenient trait while running away from walkers:
“He’s interested in people’s hearts and minds more than guns and swords, and he’s interested in community and family…he’s a phenomenal optimist despite everything that’s going on. I love that. I’m an optimist. I love playing a character who’s optimistic about the goodness in humanity. Those things, I don’t know how long they’re going to be valid in this changing world, but I hope they’ve got a place in the show.”

  3. We will get to see the very beginnings of the walker outbreak

"The zombie nerds are coming, Cliff." Photo by Justin Lubbin
Photo by Justin Lubbin
One of the best tidbits to come out of the interviews is that people’s first instinct at the start of the walker apocalypse is to try and help the afflicted, because they think that they’re sick. I think it’s safe to say that once walkers start eating everyone’s faces, chaos ensues.
This seems to have been the main inspiration for most of the cast, including Dickens, who said that this is a story about how ordinary people with ordinary lives have to evolve in order to survive:
“We keep it very rooted in these human people, human characters. So you’re not just like, right away, we’re just action figures. We’re very human in it and very flawed in our attempts.”
Executive producer Greg Nicotero also touched on how the world changes people:
“[Something] the two shows have in common is how the circumstances change people whose values say, ‘This is who I am. This is the person that I’m going to be’, and see as they go through certain scenarios how they’re going to either remain that person or evolve into someone else and what that does to them.”

4. Stannis’s son is the first to encounter the walkers

Dave Erickson and Frank Dillane
Photo by RHS Photo. Courtesy of AMC Global.
We’ve already seen in a previous trailer that Frank Dillane’s (son of Stephen Dillane, who plays Stannis Baratheon on Game of Thrones) character Nick, is the first to encounter the walkers firsthand, but his warning is seen as the mere hallucination of a drug addict.
He is the opposite of his sister Alicia, a Type-A personality who dreams of escaping to college to get away from the drama happening in the family.
Nick, who is battling a drug addiction, is the black sheep of the family. Ironically, the end of the world might just prove to be an opportunity for him to start anew.
Dillane seemed fascinated with the prospect of being involved in a show that was essentially about civilisation going to hell:
“There seems to be something at the moment in this zeitgeist [that is fascinated with] the apocalypse…I was in the cinema the other day and there was Tomorrowland and Mad Max [showing]. I mean everything is end of the world, everything is apocalypse. It seemed very interesting to me just as an actor that there seems to be something at odds with the end of the world and it’s great to be involved with [this show].”

5. You won’t see the glitzy LA you see in the movies

Photo by RHS Photo. Courtesy of AMC Global.
Photo by RHS Photo. Courtesy of AMC Global.

Initially, I found the idea of walkers roaming the Sunset Boulevard finding people to eat hilarious, but it seems that the producers had something else in mind.

Co-creator and showrunner Dave Erickson was quick to clarify that the Los Angeles of the movies won’t be what we’ll see in the show:

“It’s not the ritzy LA, it’s not the West Side. The neighborhood where our family lives is in sort of East Los Angeles so it has a very specific textured look to it… it feels real, it feels tactile…it’s really a Los Angeles that you don’t see in films that often…”

Alycia Debnam-Carey, who plays Madison’s daughter Alicia, agreed that this side of LA made things feel more real and gave the show a unique feel:

“It’s always a great place to shoot. It’s a really different dynamic from the original The Walking Dead. It’s got a completely different feel. It’s very urban. It’s artistic. It’s not typical LA in that Hollywood style…There are palm trees against that smoggy sunset. That’s the amazing iconic background for us to have in this show and I think the characters are really interesting. It’s a working class neighborhood, too. That’s a lovely setting. It’s grounded in community and it’s urban, which makes it different from the original because the original is quite rural and it’s in the woods and it’s a little provincial in a way. It’s a nice setting for us to explore all these.”

It seems like the show is banking on a slow burn to kickstart this story. Nearly everyone promised that the audience’s knowledge of the walkers would up the tension in the show and get them thinking about how they’d react in similar situations.

Whatever it is, I can’t wait to see how FTWD plays out.

Fear The Walking Dead premieres on AMC on Aug 23. AMC can be seen on Singtel TV, Channel 322.