SPOILER ALERT: This story contains details of tonight’s Season 1 finale of Fear The Walking Dead
EXCLUSIVE: The companion series to The Walking Dead wrapped up its ratings record breaking first season tonight with Liza Ortiz getting her ex-husband Travis Manawa to kill her after getting infected. The finale also saw Ofelia Salazar taking a non-fatal bullet from her tortured lover, the military seemingly abandoning the City of Angels and the core cast temporarily holding up at wealthy enclave on the Pacific before heading out to sea on a yacht from a bleak L.A. overrun by the infected.
Not that fans who watched as the early days of the zombie apocalypse broke out in Los Angeles and civilization started to collapse will be going cold turkey with the end of FearTWD’s initial 6-episode run. The Walking Dead returns for its sixth season with a 90-minute premiere on October 11. Add to that the fact that a 15-episode second season of FearTWD is set to debut next year and you basically have all walkers, all year – which makes the audience of millions and AMC very happy.
In anticipation of next week’s TWD S6 debut and tonight’s FearTWD S1 ender, plus the rockstar sized premiere TWD event planned for Madison Square Garden on October 9, executive producer Gale Anne Hurd talked with me with me about this blockbuster world based on Robert Kirkman’s comic series. The EP, who is working on the final episodes of TWD S6 right now, spoke about the additional fear that LA-based FearTWD induced, where one show is and where another is going, the consequences of the return of Morgan, what fans can expect at MSG and why there will never ever be a crossover between TWD and FearTWD.
DEADLINE: With the moves by the military and the choices that the characters have to make in “The Good Man” finale of Fear The Walking Dead, there’s a poignant line in the hospital that the National Guard has set up where Dr. Bethany Exeter (Sandrine Holt) says to Liza, “what is family now?” That’s a major theme of Fear, and of course it also has been of The Walking Dead itself. So what does family now mean in this world going out of the Season 1 of Fear of The Walking Dead and into Season 2?
HURD: It really goes back to the initial question that anyone would have in any kind of apocalyptic situation, which is who do I save and at what lengths will I go risking myself to save someone else? And every person has a different tipping point. You know, as we can see Travis (Cliff Curtis) tends to believe that it’s important to try and save everyone.
And then you have characters like Daniel Salazar (Ruben Blades) whose attitude is I’ve been through this in the country I emigrated from, El Salvador, and I’m only going to protect my immediate family. And if I see that someone can be useful, I’ll throw in with them but I will stop at nothing to get the information I need and to protect my family. So family means different things to different characters.
— Mercedes Mason (@mercedesmason) October 5, 2015
DEADLINE: Unlike TWD, FearTWD is an urban version of the zombie apocalypse as it takes places in modern day L.A. Now the first season is over, how do see think that backdrop impacted the series?
HURD: A lot of people said it was scarier because it felt more real to them. You know, most people do live in urban environments rather than rural settings. And it also showed the decline of the rule of law.
You know in The Walking Dead, when Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) wakes up in a coma, it’s been a month in, so we didn’t see how those institutions that we rely upon begin to fail us and what that does to us. So Fear was an opportunity now to explore that. And going forward we will not be traversing the same terrain either in terms of literal geography or story lines that we’ve seen in The Walking Dead.
DEADLINE: So for Fear Season 2, we’re staying in L.A.?
HURD: I can’t talk about that but for instance, we’ve also never had a character like Strand (Coleman Domingo) in The Walking Dead. You know, he’s not someone that you would encounter in rural Southeast. He’s very much a character who has survived and succeeds by his wits and his ability to negotiate in a complex urban society.
You or I who’ve watched The Walking Dead know that expensive cufflinks or a gold watch is not going to have much currency in the new world. But Strand is able to assess someone and find out how he can use them to get what he wants and what it is that they want. And that’s another very useful skill going into the zombie apocalypse and Fear.
DEADLINE: Fear showrunner Dave Erickson has said repeatedly that there are no current plans for a crossover between the new show and The Walking Dead. Why did you guys decide to go, or rather not go, in that direction?
HURD: Well, it’s truly the rules of the universe. I mean our group of survivors in The Walking Dead haven’t even made it as far as Washington D.C. yet, in six seasons, and they are not that far away. So for the Fear characters to make it across the country? For what? I mean why would you go there? I mean how would we motivate our characters to head to D.C., or you know to head to the Southeast. I just don’t think that that’s something that would be a natural outgrowth of who our characters are and where they are when the show begins.
DEADLINE: You know though most producers and most networks would jump at the opportunity to use a crossover like that for simple pizzazz and a ratings bump.
HURD: Right but that is truly jumping the shark because it’s not an outgrowth of who your characters are and what it is that each wants and needs. You’re trying to contort them so that they’ll fit into a plot line that simply isn’t logical. I think the thing is to care for the characters.
That’s what has enabled The Walking Dead to go into its sixth season incredibly strong, because you care about individual characters be it Rick, Michonne or Daryl Dixon or Morgan. You care about the new characters that are introduced. You know what the rules are and you also know that whatever you expect will happen likely won’t, or if it does it’ll happen with a unique twist. So I think the same will apply to Fear.
DEADLINE: Speaking of that, with the Season 6 return of TWD next week, we’ve also got return of a very familiar face with Morgan Jones’ resurgence in the last episodes of Season 5. Going into this new season, it’s obvious that the Lennie James portrayed character plays a predominant role but where is he at, that character emotionally, and how does he fit in now he’s back with Rick and the other survivors?
HURD: Morgan is, I think, for everyone who’s a fan of the show, one of the favorite characters. The remarkable thing is considering how few episodes he’s been, the impact that he’s had. That even though he hasn’t been present very much, Morgan’s presence continues to resonate. And now clearly he’s a very different person than he was when we saw him in the Clear episode, back in Season 3.
We saw him from time to time along the road headed to Terminus last season. And he no longer seems to be the mad man that Rick, Carl, and Michonne encountered back in Season 3. So I think what will be interesting is to find out not only just how much he’s changed but why he’s changed.
DEADLINE: Obviously you’re keeping those cards close to the chest, but speaking of change, how has TWD changed for you from when it started to going in Season 6 as solidly the biggest show on TV?
HURD: I think one of the things is that the scope of the show has continued to grow. And the challenge really is that since our cast is so large, and of course it has to be, it is inspired by the underlying comic book, and now we’re in communities. You know we’re in the Alexandria Safe Zone now in Season 6, running it. So I think the challenge, for me, is to maintain epic storytelling with so many characters while still bringing each one of those characters to life in a fully realized fashion.
DEADLINE: At the same time, you’ve have strict focus, especially with your basic source material being the comic series, and you re-invent to some degree each season…
HURD: Yes, yes. You know what, you need to keep it fresh. Once again, people know the rules of this world. They know that any stranger is more likely to be foe than friend. That the threats are even greater from the surviving humans often than from the zombies themselves. So you do have to reinvent and we’ve done that purposefully.
DEADLINE: You know, people go through the comic series for plots and hints of where the TV series is going to go this season, even though there is a lot in the show that’s not even from the comics.
HURD: Of course they do and every season there are panels of the comic book that we’ve brought to life. And you know they’ll have even more to embrace this season.
One great thing is (showrunner) Scott Gimple being an enormous fan of the comic book long before he joined the show as a writer. He knows where the show’s going through multiple seasons. He knows what has to be threaded in had to be threaded in last season to make this season work. So they’re subtle things but they are so important. You can’t just finish a season and then say “OK, we’ll open the writer’s room in a few months and we’ll make it all up” It’s serialized character-driven storytelling – so all of those character developments in future seasons, you need to lay the groundwork in earlier seasons.
DEADLINE: In terms of groundwork you guys are going large for Season 6 with a premiere event and a screening of the season opener on October 9 at Madison Square Garden. With New York Comic Con going on, what do you have planned for the tens of thousands of fans who’ll be packing this Dead Con?
HURD: I think they’ll experience not only the show in the biggest place perhaps that any show that I am aware of has ever been screened, but this will be the ultimate fan experience. This is really the season in which we honor the fan and this is our gift to them. You know, we wanted to have more interaction, even if you’re in Hall H at Comic Con, you know that’s limited to let’s say 5,000 people, we’re going to have more than three times that number able to experience just how much we love and respect them in person.
DEADLINE: So the cast, you, Kirkman and others are all going to be on stage in one form or another as well as the screening and everything?
HURD: Yes but we can’t really say exactly who is going to be there.
DEADLINE: Which then, with the comics and the past seasons in tow, means I have to ask if we are going to see any core characters die in Season 6?
HURD: (Laughs) You’ll have to watch and find out.