“My personal feeling is that the story is strong enough in Fear, that we could have easily have continued for another two seasons, without the need for the crossover,” says departing Fear The Walking Dead co-creator and showrunner Dave Erickson of the upcoming crossover with The Walking Dead that Robert Kirkman made public at New York Comic-Con on October 7.
As Fear ended its third season tonight with a man-made flood, some sharp shooting, reunions, possible fatalities and a new beginning of sorts from the mouth of a child for a drenched Madison Clark (Kim Dickens), the thoughtful Erickson chatted with me about the two-hour episode and its aftermath. To that, the EP also revealed his pride in the spinoff he helped spawn and where he would have taken Season 4 if he was still running Fear.
Pivoting toward a fourth season that Ian Goldberg and Andrew Chambliss will run, with longtime TWD showrunner Scott M. Gimple now joining Fear as an EP, the Canterbury’s Law creator offered his own theories about the highly-hyped crossover, the drawbacks, why now and which character could provide the bridge. With the eighth season and 100th episode of TWD set to debut on October 22, Erickson delved into how Fear reset itself after a wayward Season 2, what’s next and how they got Avatar sequel-bound Cliff Curtis to return for tonight’s finale.
DEADLINE: So, looks like Madison survived but Strand (Colman Domingo), Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey) and maybe Nick (Frank Dillane) and Daniel (Rubén Blades) are either drowned or in little bits after the dam blew up?
ERICKSON: Well, if I were doing Season 4, I could say safely that they’re not dead, but I’m not. So, the suggestion that Alicia’s dead, and that we actually see her grave in the flash forward fantasy sequence, yeah, that’s really all from Madison’s POV, and sort of her worst-case scenario. So, everything we see, and all the suggestions that we have in that, it’s Madison drowning, it’s Madison in her death throes. I’d say just because we don’t see Alicia or Strand, don’t assume that they didn’t get to shore in the same way that Madison did.
DEADLINE: And Daniel and Nick, they were right at Ground Zero, so to speak. No?
ERICKSON: I think they’re a little bit safer because we wanted Daniel to arrive in that moment, and the suggestion being that Daniel can now drag Nick away if need be. I think Nick was ready to go. I think if the dam fully collapsed, he was not going to move because in the final moments he’s too worried, and he’s too — you know — desperate to see what happened to Madison and Alicia because he’s staring down at them as they’re drawn into the cataract. That said, I’m not sure what the guys are going to do.
DEADLINE: Sounds like there are some Easter eggs in this finale?
ERICKSON: Look, the intention by the end of this season was to have a rallying point and to have all of our characters back together once again, and that includes Daniel Salazar — even though Strand shot him in the face. That includes Madison and Nick and Alicia too. And possibly, Walker and Lee as well. The common cause and the common adversary would have been Proctor John. So, we edged away from that a bit by the end because I want to leave enough elbowroom for the guys to take over. But you know, it’s not anything varied, there’s really no Easter eggs necessarily. I think that, much like Luciana, you know, Walker and Lee, they’re out in the world, and they are characters that are going to continue their stories, and there’s always a way to circle back and reconnect.
DEADLINE: With your departure from running Fear announced back in the early spring and now seeing this two-part, two-hour finale, it feels like you were doubling down for what could have really been a series finale, with that last “Hola” the child says to the gasping but alive Madison by the waterside…
ERICKSON: I will say, it was an interesting balancing act because as we got closer to the end of Season 3, the more I got in, the closer I got to the end, the more I could imagine how Season 4 would manifest. You know, and there were suggestions, obviously, I think that Proctor John is a character that I would love to see explored more.
But also — and I think the finale shows this — I wanted to have a sense closure for myself. It was important to explore the emotionality connected to the violence, and the moral choices that Madison’s made as a character and that Nick and Alicia have made. Still, I still think there’s enough of an open-endedness to it, and I think that allows for Scott, Andy, and Ian to do whatever they want.
DEADLINE: Speaking of whatever they want, what about this long-awaited crossover that Kirkman made official at New York Comic-Con last week? If you were around running Fear for another year, who would you have the crossover character be if it came from this show?
ERICKSON: God, in terms of the crossover character? I have no idea. Honestly, your guess is as good as mine.
I do think it’s an interesting challenge. I think it’s something that the audience, the fans are definitely going to lean into until they reveal how they’re going to manage it. I also think the larger challenge logistically, and we’ve always talked about this beginning in Season 1, is from a narrative standpoint and from a timeline standpoint. And a geographic standpoint, it’s tricky too. How do you bridge that?
One of the things that I hope we’ve accomplished over the past three seasons is that we’ve created a show that’s totally specific. We live within the larger universe, and we have to abide by its rules. But that we have a look, and a tone, and a feel that’s valid unto itself. That to me is a challenge because I think you have to now find a balance between the two different tones. Then you have to figure out the narrative and the aspects of how do you get one character thousands of miles, from point A to point B.
DEADLINE: Well, there is this notion that Season 4 will see Fear at least somewhat located in Houston and we know that’s part of Michael Cudliz’s Abraham Ford journey into the world of TWD – he even tweeted a teaser of sorts after the crossover announcement was made…
Crazy shit is about to go down. See y’all on the other side. 👊👊👊
— Michael Cudlitz (@Cudlitz) October 8, 2017
ERICKSON: Look, that city is a happy coincidence. The idea of Texas really came from the Proctor John character, nothing more planned there.
DEADLINE: I’m not sure I think anything is a coincidence in this franchise, but with all the clambering for a crossover ever since Fear debuted, do you worry, that now with one finally in the cards, it will take away from the singularity of Fear as well as provide greater stakes and a ratings surge?
ERICKSON: Not necessarily. I think it’s going to be a big turn, and it’s going to be something that’s going to pique interest. I think that it’s definitely something that’s going to juice ratings. There’s a lot of reasons why you’d want to approach it this way.
My personal feeling is that the story is strong enough in Fear, that we could have easily continued for another two seasons, without the need for the crossover. But that said, I don’t know how that’s going to manifest. It could be something more amazing than anything I have imagined. So, I don’t know that it taints it. I just think that it’s an interesting narrative challenge. You know, it’s a lot to juggle, but I’m sure that Scott and Robert have a good line on it.
DEADLINE: With that in the future, looking back over three seasons of Fear, what are you most proud of as co-creator and showrunner?
ERICKSON: I think you just spoke to it. I mean, the thing I’m most proud of is this sense that we arrived at a place where the show justified itself. I think that Season 2, if I could go back and change anything, I think it’d be a lot less boat and a lot more Mexico. I think if we would have arrived, and sort of grounded and anchored ourselves in Mexico sooner, the first half of Season 2 was far more episodic than I think that I am comfortable with. I also think that we didn’t allow ourselves enough story.
DEADLINE: No boat jokes but you clearly changed course in Season 3 …
ERICKSON: Thanks. My intention, going into this season, was to adjust off of mistakes in Season 2 and try to put the show in as strong a place as I could. So from that perspective, I think we did that, and I feel like we’ve got a rhythm that we’ve really started to find as a show, and as a story.
DEADLINE: Sounds bittersweet with you exiting…
ERICKSON: That’s the bittersweet part because I do feel like I have got a pretty good line on what Season 4 might be. It’s hard to cut the cord, and walk away from that, you know.
DEADLINE: Talking of walking way, in a way, we saw a glimpse of Cliff Curtis’ Travis in one of Madison’s death hallucinations that weaved throughout tonight’s finale. Will he back again and how did you pull him out of James Cameron’s schedule?
ERICKSON: (Laughs) I doubt it because the character’s definitely dead, and also, I think he’s going to be hanging out with Mr. Cameron for the next 17 years, shooting four movies.
In terms of schedule, it was just a phone call. I mean, Cliff was a full-time member of the show. So, he was available pretty much for the run of the season. I called him and sort of explained what it is we wanted to do, He definitely had started production, I think he had some prep stuff that he was doing for Avatar, but he was around. So, it was an email, a phone call, and a plane ticket.
DEADLINE: In terms of an email, a phone call and more for you, what’s next now? You are adapting Cronenberg’s Consumed novel…
ERICKSON: Yep, I’m adapting a book by David Cronenberg with Sheri Elwood. We’re in the process right now of sort of breaking down the novel and that’s the next thing that we have up at AMC. Then, as you know, I just signed a deal at Sony, working with the guys I started with Canterbury’s Law, years and years ago — Chris Parnell and Jason Claudfelter. So, there’s a couple of things I’m hoping I get to start doing soon, but I don’t know so I can’t talk about them yet. But yeah, for now, it’s Consumed, and then whatever we come up with at Sony.
DEADLINE: Before you fully step into that, as your Fear chapter closes, how are you feeling, what are you missing?
ERICKSON: I feel good about it. I mean, look, like I said, it’s bittersweet. I mean I am going to miss the busyness. I am going to miss the sort of the all-consuming aspects of the gig.
I was very lucky. I mean, it’s an amazing cast and an amazing crew. I’ve got friends. I’ve got people I’m hopefully going to stay in contact with the rest of my career, and hopefully, you know, and hopefully beyond. And Andrew Bernstein’s our producing director, who’s an amazing talent, and an amazing guy. You know, I talked to Kim this morning. Coleman Domingo took my parents out for dinner because he’s directing a play in Boston, and got to spend time with them. You know, it’s rare to find a group of people who are as talented as these folks are, but are also just really decent, good, kind people.
It’s humbling, you know. So, it’s been a really good run, and I think I learned a lot, Now, I’ll take those things I’ve learned, and apply them, hopefully, for whatever the next show is.