The cast and crew of Fear the Walking Dead are tucking into their lunch buffet with all the appetite of the show’s zombies (or as the show refers the them the “infected”). The sun is beating down in Baja, Mexico, the location of the studio where the show is filmed, and though most of the day’s shoots are happening indoors, everyone still needs to travel from the large building where the buffet is laid out to various sound stages, office buildings, dressing rooms and several infinity tanks which give the illusion of open water (both in front of green screens and facing out onto the ocean).
Can zombies swim? Fear the Walking Dead sets sail for season twoRead moreFear the Walking Dead, the “companion show” to the original Walking Dead series, follows several loosely blended families trying to survive the early days of the outbreak that will eventually create the world that Carl, Rick and co inhabit. Over the first seven episodes of the show’s second season (the eighth airs on Sunday 21 August), the cast travels from Los Angeles to Baja aboard the Abigail, a yacht belonging to enigmatic businessman Victor Strand, played by Colman Domingo.
Hence the infinity tanks, which today are empty – the main exterior Abigail set has just been removed from the studio’s prize outdoor tank, which resembles an enormous series of interlocking concrete salt dishes. It’s a massive undertaking: the original task of moving the boat from the soundstage where it was constructed to the tank was scheduled for half a day, but took over two days. Still, even the empty tank is impressive, and looks more like a skate park than a film set. (It comfortably held the entire vessel used for Master and Commander: the Far Side of the World).
Day with the Dead: surviving 24 hours on the set of Fear the Walking Dead The tank is wide open, but the rare moments of filming I see during my day on set are crammed into tight spaces in what comes to feel like a maze encompassing the indoor sound stages. Each scene is set up in a space so narrow that it would be almost impossible not to get the angle the directors want, so they only run through a quick take or two before sending the relevant cast members off to another segment of the maze. The haste makes sense: each episode is filmed in eight days (some seven) on a tight turnaround.
Not that the cast members are upset. “People see what they want to see,” Colman Domingo says, stretched out on a couch in his dressing room in one of the studio’s main buildings, surrounded by a gaggle of journalists. He’s describing the ambiguity of his character, Victor Strand, who provides some respite from the constant trauma of life in a zombie apocalypse and who is by far the best part of Fear the Walking Dead.
“What I love about our show is that you’re ahead of the game,” Domingo adds, referring to the fact that the Walking Dead audience knows far more than the characters. Alycia Debnam-Carey, who plays angsty teen Alicia Clark, knows all about the passion of the show’s fans. “You’re playing a teenager who is making mistakes in a world where the audience is so much more aware than our characters,” she says, which is something she describes as “frustrating for our audience”. She continues: “They’ve got six seasons of The Walking Dead rulebook to go by.”
What, exactly, is in that rulebook? Speaking in a room covered in 3D models and SketchUp renders that look like unused concepts for Doobie Brothers album covers, production designer Bernardo Trujillo tells us that he and his team did the entire design and building of the Abigail sets in six weeks, from elaborate renderings depicting the full interior of the yacht to the various pieces that combine to create almost all of the locations and cabins. (“We learned a lot about boats,” he says, laughing.) Erickson admits the intensity of this demand: “It’s very easy to be in the writer’s room and say hey, they’re gonna get on a boat for a season. It’s another thing when you have to build your section of the boat in six weeks.
”There’s an extraordinary amount of stuff needed to keep the Fear machine going. Case in point: the props department, housed in a warehouse filled with fake weapons, backpacks and cans of food, in addition to making molds, filling them, and generating a large silo of prop weapons (including several differently-sized duplicates used to film slightly different, stitched-together versions of fight scenes), has to get clearance for the use of certain items. This legal limitation contributes to the oddity of many of the weapons used on the series – as props master Colin Thurston wryly notes, handing one of the assembled reporters a rubber machine gun for further examination, “AMC are very protective about marks and branding”.
The Walking Dead is, perhaps, the most valuable of those marks – especially considering the intensity of its fanbase. Over the course of our set visit, each actor on the show our group talks with is asked about the rabidity of fan reactions. “Out of every hundred people,” says Mercedes Mason, who plays Ofelia Salazar, there are “three or four who are mad at everything”. Domingo, who plays Strand, is slightly more delicate: “I love the idea that people are that …” He takes a moment to find the word, “spirited”.
In this light, the rush to make more Fear makes sense. The studio is the site of a hyper-efficient production assembly line, churning out the same scenes with different variations to meet a large demand for Walking Dead content. It’s kind of like a lunch buffet, just waiting to be crammed down so everyone can get back to work. But despite this high level of activity, the set is still somewhat subdued, more efficient than lively – for the production of a zombie show, Fear the Walking Dead is surprisingly bloodless.
‘Fear the Walking Dead’ cast only know what’s happening days in advance, actress says –
SINGAPORE, Aug 17 — The zombie genre is one that never seems to be in danger of fading, and Australian actress Alycia Debnam-Carey thinks this is because of what is going on around the world.
“I’m a bit surprised that the zombie craze has gone on for so long, actually. But I guess it has a lot to do with what we see in the media all the time… the environment, genetic engineering, poverty, diseases like Ebola. I guess it’s all part of our collective consciousness and that’s reflected in films and on TV,” she said. “I think we’re realising our place in the universe, that we’re quite fragile and the more that science and technology takes the lead in our development as a species, the easier everything could be taken away from us.”
Debnam-Carey, 23, is currently playing Alicia Clark on AMC series Fear the Walking Dead, an American horror drama which is a spin-off and prequel to the channel’s uber-popular The Walking Dead. Her character is the overachieving teenage daughter of high school guidance counsellor Madison Clark, played by Kim Dickens.
Initially, the horror genre was not the actress’ cup of tea. “I’m not really a horror person so I was a little apprehensive to read the scripts for Fear. But when I did, I thought it was so engaging and so well written,” she admitted.
After she started watching The Walking Dead, she “quickly got into it”. “It’s nowhere near as much about the zombies as I thought it was. It’s about the human beings and what they’re willing to do to each other to survive. The manipulation, the power balance and the struggles… that’s what’s so interesting about it,” she shared.
Not only does the show cause viewers to be on tenterhooks, the cast, too, are left in the dark. Debnam-Carey says from episode to episode: “It’s very much a case of working one work week to the next.”
“So, we find out, perhaps five days in advance, what will be happening in the next episode… And while we’re filming, we really don’t know the outcome of the season. You chat to people on set, speculate a bit! But everyone’s really tight-lipped about the details.”
Without giving away any spoilers, will there be an especially dark moment or event in this half of the season? Will one of the main characters become infected, perhaps?
Without spoiling? I couldn’t tell you something like that without it being a spoiler! (laughs). What I can say is that our characters are now being exposed to a lot more in this new world. They’re fractured and they’re separated which means they have less security. So, definitely, they’re certainly at risk of coming into contact with the infected a lot more and that’s definitely more of a threat. But, really, you’ll have to watch and find out what happens!
Your character has been forced to grow up very, very quickly. Do you feel that has also happened to you in real life?
I was always a pretty serious kid, to be honest. My mum always used to tell me that I was like a little grumpy old man with a grey cloud following me, because I was so driven and determined and serious! (laughs) I think me and my character are actually quite different. I think we’ve grown up very differently, as well. But yes, I guess growing up happened quickly for me, in terms of starting work and then for that work to be recognised so suddenly. But, a lot of the time, you do a job and there’s a lot of time before it’s released and it doesn’t actually feel like a lot is happening. Being out on a press tour has actually helped me realise the impact of the work a bit more! But, no, growing up for me hasn’t been such a severe transition as it has for Alicia.
Your character was very much a teenager in Season One. Did you look to any inspiration to play that part?
No, not really. I was 21 when we started, so really being a teenager wasn’t that far behind me. I actually think it’s quite hard playing a teenager because you’re the subject of a lot of predetermined characteristics. There’s a stereotype, in a way. You know, people already have the idea that a teenager is obnoxious, or moody, or naive, or maybe sassy … But as an actor, you’re trying to make it more real. You want to find out about the essence of the character rather than the stereotype. What defines her? What does she want? — TODAY
*Transcript courtesy of AMC.
Fear the Walking Dead was created in part to expand Robert Kirkman’s zombie universe to show how the other side of the country was handling the apocalypse, and viewers have gotten to see a surprising number of different locations in the season and a half that have aired. I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Fear actress Alycia Debnam-Carey and I asked her about new environments coming to Season 2 and how having all these area changes has affected the show. Here’s how she answered.
“Our group stumbles on a hotel, which was a really great tool for us to be able to introduce some new characters. And new, also local characters from where we were shooting. So we’re shooting in Mexico and finally we get to actually introduce people of that country, and that was really great because it’s a totally different dynamic. Language, we get to play with, and culture, so that was really exciting. Definitely gave a different flavor.”
This is precisely one of the things that I have enjoyed so much about Fear the Walking Dead so far. So much of the horror genre exists entirely in limited spaces, whether it’s a haunted house or a neighborhood or a weird cube machine. And yes, that includes hotels, too, which Alycia Debnam-Carey hints is coming to this show. (It can be seen in the trailer the show released a few weeks ago.) But does anybody really expect Madison, Strand, Ophelia and Alicia to stick around in this place until Season 3 comes around? It’s not the best bet. Looks like a nice place, though.
Like The Walking Dead before it spent a limited first season traveling through Atlanta, Fear the Walking Dead spent its initial episodes getting familiar with the ins and the outs of Los Angeles (and a suburb). But while Rick & Co. spent way too much of Season 2 in and around Hershel’s barn, the first half of the companion series’ second year has taken its central characters off-land and out to sea for a while, hitting up a few locations as it became clear the Mexican city of Baja California was the destination of choice. And then they actually went to Baja California, where a bunch of horrible shit went down that splintered the core group.
As you can imagine, the second half of Season 2 will follow the different groups – with Nick heading into some particularly intriguing places – which means we’re getting even more different settings beyond the hotel mentioned earlier. And while she didn’t tease any other future whereabouts, Alycia Debnam-Carey did talk a little more about why she personally loves when productions take her outside her normal locales.
“I love working on location because it changes all the time and it’s new and exciting and you get to see so many cool new places and immerse yourself into the environment. But it also means that, yeah, you’re away from home and you aren’t in the same space. And especially working in Mexico, too, there’s a lot of differences. Like the language barrier or food, which were all amazing at the same time.”
As someone who is terrible at picking up other languages, spending months at a time in a different country is almost as intimidating to me as fighting off zombies. Not really, but my communication skills would be the same in both situations. In any case, I love that Fear the Walking Dead is able to bring in local citizens from the different locations to give the episodes that much more authenticity.
Thankfully, The Walking Dead is about to enter what could be its most location-filled season yet, with new areas such as the Kingdom, the Sanctuary and more coming in Season 7; but it’s hard to forget all those years where it just felt like the survivors were just walking through the woods. Fear the Walking Dead has yet to get static with its environments, and we certainly hope the show keeps that refreshing vibe going for as many years as it’s on the air. But
Fear the Walking Dead will return to AMC for the second half of Season 2 on Sunday, August 21, at 9:00 p.m. ET. To learn when and where everything else will arrive on the small screen later this year, check out our fall premiere schedule.