Fear The Walking Dead Interviews (Part 1) – Kim Dickens & Alycia Debnam-Carey

Apocalypse and Zombies, and the development of the characters facing those terrors, have been the essential ingredients in the success of The Walking Dead. Now AMC is taking it a step further with their new series Fear The Walking Dead, a story set before the very first events of TWD. After seeing the first previews at Comic Con, I spoke to the cast and crew of the new Walking Dead spin-off series which premieres worldwide on 23rd August on AMC.

This interview with Kim Dickens, who stars as the mother of two and high school counselor Madison and Alycia Debnam-Carey, who plays her daughter Alicia is the first in a series of five interviews.

For you, what were the challenges of joining this big franchise? The Walking Dead has been one of the most popular TV shows in the last couple of years and has a big fan following. Did that put you under any pressure?

Kim Dickens:
I think as a performer you go in, you just do your job. We get sort of immersed in the day to day, the moment to moment, making this show as great as we can. Doing the best work we can on a daily basis, trying to tell the best story.
As it gets closer to presenting it, I’m a nervous wreck now. They’re [the fans] the most amazing audience that I have ever seen for The Walking Dead. They’re so passionate! For them to have interest in us and to be excited about us, or to be wary of us, it’s something that’s rattling. That always happens to a performer, that you reach that moment when you then present it to the world. In this case I feel exceptionally vulnerable because you want them to be happy. You want it to be well-received. We really worked hard on it and we’re proud.

Alycia Debnam-Carey: We are. We love it. We’re honored to be a part of this. You don’t want to let the fans down who have so welcomed you into this wonderful world. We put so much passion, energy and work into this show and we’re all so proud of it. It is very different, too. It does stand alone and I got to see a rough cut of the pilot and it’s great. It looks so very different. It’s got a very different style and feel. That L.A. backdrop is so special to the show, too. It’s very urban. It’s gritty. It has a real charm to it that’s so different from the original as well.

Shooting in East L.A., especially for you as an Australian, is that interesting?

Alycia Debnam-Carey:
Yes, absolutely! I think that’s one of the great things about this, too. I’ve been kind of living in L.A. for a couple of years now and you do become very quickly accustomed to “Oh, it’s Hollywood, or it’s West Hollywood,” that kind of vibe. East L.A. is a very real part of L.A. It’s a working class neighbourhood. It’s a raw and gritty place but it’s also very beautiful. For me I only started really feeling at home in L.A. in the last six months. Discovering East L.A. was actually quite a big part of that, too, realizing that this is where the heart of it is. It’s one of the oldest parts of Los Angeles, too. There’s a lot of history and culture in that place. It’s a very interesting part, too, because it’s hilly but it’s not the Hills but it’s still kind of got the palm trees. It’s a really lovely pocket I found. As an Australian, it kind of rang much truer to me than the typical Hollywood Hills.

How did you come to be a part of the project?

Alycia Debnam-Carey:
It kind of came to me out of the blue, actually. Initially I hadn’t watched the show. It wasn’t something I was really like. I don’t know, zombies. I don’t know if that’s really my thing. I mean, I read the script and it was so brilliant. The writing is so phenomenal. When I actually got the job I started watching the show and I became completely obsessed with it. [laughs] I’m really pleased to be a part of it.

From the start of the production process, did you worry about how much of The Walking Dead you needed to know?

Kim Dickens:
I did ask early on – I was auditioning and going for a second call back. What do I need to watch? How much do I need to watch? They said, don’t. You shouldn’t know anything. They kind of liked us right where we were, not super knowledgeable about what it’s going to look like in the apocalypse and just wanted to root it in these complicated relationships.

Alycia Debnam-Carey: There is so much each character is doing. Each has quite distinct parts, each of us. How much you know and how much you don’t know. That’s quite a big thing I guess. Each episode we’re always like, wait. You know this but I don’t know this. I don’t want to be informed about it because it is our duty to make this as realistic as possible – that discoveries are so real.

So I how much of The Walking Dead have you actually watched?

Alycia Debnam-Carey:
I haven’t finished it. I stopped because then we were filming and it was starting to mess with me a little bit. I became really obsessed quite quickly. When I get home it’s the only thing I want to do – being able to watch The Walking Dead. I have to stop. I did get quite far, though. I got to I think Season 5. There was no stopping me once I was on that train. I was binge-watching for two weeks. I got through it that fast. It was fun. Once we started filming it was starting to inform things that I shouldn’t know. As humans you justify anything that’s absurd and illogical. You try to make logic of it and reason of it. We don’t have any survival tactics yet in this. I started thinking, where would I – where’s my first weapon going to be? No, that’s not good. Don’t think like that.

So did you binge-watched all of it in one go? Do you prefer that or watching shows as new episodes come out each week?

Alycia Debnam-Carey:
I kind of like the waiting because I enjoy having a regular thing. I miss that now. It is so easy on Netflix or Hulu or whatever to binge-watch stuff and you don’t get the same rhythm of the show. It is designed in a way to keep you wanting more and to keep you watching week to week. I like that.

Kim Dickens: It’s a serial. It’s really a serial so you should pace it out. I think what you miss – I mean I love binge-watching stuff because I do it but what’s fun about it is to share it with other people. When you want to discuss it or the water cooler conversations you’re like, you have to be careful. What are you up to? When you’re watching something weekly then you’re like, oh my God, and you can relive it and you can tear it apart and really digest it and enjoy it. They both have their positives and negatives. And then like Mad Men, but I want to know, I want to keep going. I don’t want to wait until next week!

Alycia Debnam-Carey: The landscape of film and television has changed so much now. You kind of have to keep up with that world. It’s not the same like it used to be.

In terms of the format of the series, the miniseries has become more and more popular again, with shows like Fargo and True Detective. What format do you prefer to be in as actors and what do you prefer to watch?

Kim Dickens:
I like a nice 13 to 16 I think because I’ve gotten used to that. It feels like it’s able to remain really dense and complex without getting watered down and spread out. I’m a fan of “Mad Men” and so after 13 I do always want a little more.

Alycia Debnam-Carey: Also working on a bit longer than six, you suddenly find this family that you’re working with, you really find the groove. Then to suddenly cut it short at the end of it, you go off and do some other things. It is like, “Wait, I wasn’t done yet!” This is the longest I’ve done TV stuff, too. It’s my first real experience with it. By six episodes I was like, I’m just feeling it. It’s very different, too. Each show is so different. You learn so much more. It does take quite a couple of episodes to really feel like okay, now I know where I am, where I stand and what my character is. I kind of always crave a little more. Yes, 13 is good, too.

What is Season 1 in a nutshell?

Alycia Debnam-Carey:
This first season really is about discovering this world and how to adapt to it. It is a slow burn and so there is a lot to learn. It’s also surprising how fast society crumbles, too.

Kim Dickens: A lot of that you’re accustomed to or relying on gets lost so quickly. We’re so dependent now. We’re getting a little deconstructed.

Alycia Debnam-Carey: Literally I learned very quickly in filming this that I have no idea what I would do in a zombie apocalypse and I don’t think I’d stand a chance really. I had my first experience of an earthquake in L.A. recently and even that I was just like, “hey, what do I do? Do I stand in a doorway? Do I get in the bathtub?” It’s kind of good, too, you know. We’re supposed to be discovering this on our own in this world. Clearly we’re all doing a great job of that, like having no clue what to do. [laughs]

How are you with zombie characters on the set? Are they as real they are looking as on the show?

Alycia Debnam-Carey:
They’re terrifying. They are really scary. The special effects on these are so phenomenal. It’s a real treat to go into set and see and it’s like Halloween Horror Night in Universal Studios every day.

Kim Dickens: They really get into their characters. A lot of them are stunt people and they’re very talented performers. They’re playing for real.

Alycia Debnam-Carey: I was thinking it would be hard to do. There’s such a method to it. There’s a way that they are supposed to walk, certain movements that they do that are very distinct. It was like a regular step, one-two, step, one-two, step. Things like that, that are really quirky that you start to pick up on. It makes the world so real. That’s why it works so well.

If you died on the show, would you want to go down as a zombie?

Kim Dickens:
You can add it to your resume. I play zombies very well. [laughs]

Alycia Debnam-Carey: If I go I want like a full-on zombie rage.

Kim Dickens: You want to do the walk.

Alycia Debnam-Carey: I want to do the walk, the one-two-two step. [laughter]

Click here for my next Fear The Walking Dead interview with Rubén Blades & Mercedes Mason.

Fear The Walking Dead premieres globally on 23rd August and on 31st August in the UK.