AMC’s highly anticipated new series, Fear the Walking Dead, will provide viewers the opportunity to learn what life was like at the start of the outbreak, through the perspective of a family living in East LA. While the first season of the original series, The Walking Dead, focused on the period after the government and society had already collapsed, Fear the Walking Dead will reveal how people initially reacted to the infection, the increasing awareness of the threat, and the chaos that will eventually lead to the fall of modern civilization.
Fear the Walking Dead follows an extended family as they become increasingly aware of the infection. School guidance counselor Madison Clark (Kim Dickens, of Deadwood and Sons of Anarchy) and her fiancé, teacher Travis Manawa (Kiwi actor Cliff Curtis) are a couple with real-world problems. They are are dealing with Madison’s high achieving daughter Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey, Lexa in The 100) and troubled son Nick (Frank Dillane, young Tom Riddle in Harry Potter). Travis’s ex-wife and nurse-in-training Liza Ortiz (Elizabeth Rodriguez of Orange is the New Black) and his estranged son Chris (Lorenzo James Henrie, star of unreleased indie film Warrior Road) are also a part of the narrative. The family is helped by Daniel Salazar, who is played by Rubén Blades, the Predator 2 actor, Grammy award-winning musician, and political figure in his native country of Panama. Salazar strives to protect his wife Griselda (Mexican actress Patricia Reyes Spíndola) and adult daughter Ofelia (Mercedes Mason of The Finder) from the chaos around them.
At the Comic-Con panel for Fear the Walking Dead, Executive Producer and showrunner Dave Erickson described the approach of the series: “It starts as a family drama and we filter the apocalypse through that. … What it did was afford us the opportunity to really anchor the show in this family that we’re dealing with in these characters, and then see how the apocalypse crushes them.”
The audience understands the risk, but the characters don’t have that information. During the first signs of the infection, people believe the authorities will eventually resolve the problem. At the panel Erickson explained that Madison’s job as a guidance counselor means that she has to take care of other people, therefore she reassures one of her students who is concerned about the outbreak by saying that “Someone would tell us if something was going on.” Erickson pointed out, “There is a belief that we are protected … There’s a natural belief in our society that we won’t be lied to and that people will take care of us.” Throughout the season, Fear the Walking Dead will explore this expectation—that the government will share information and eventually deal with the threat—through the lens of these families. Those who begin to take the threat seriously will become divided from those who do not.
Photo slideshow from the pilot episode of Fear the Walking Dead
All photos by Justin Lubin, courtesy of AMC.
City of Angels
Fear the Walking Dead is set in Los Angeles to distinguish it from the original series. At Comic-Con Erickson explained, “We wanted an urban backdrop and a direct counterpoint to the original show.” In an interview with EW, Robert Kirkman said that this new setting means spending a lot less time in the woods. East LA provides new storytelling opportunities:
“Los Angeles is such an interesting city in and of itself, just because of the vast melting pot of diversity that California has become. The urban sprawl—it covers a tremendous amount of land, and it’s got an extremely dense population, so there are a lot of things about that that lend itself well to good storytelling in the zombie apocalypse. But also, this is a city where a vast number of people come to the city to reinvent themselves, or they’re new to the city for various different reasons. It’s almost a city of immigrants inside a country of immigrants. So there’s definitely some aspects of that we’ll also be playing with as well.”
As the crisis hits, people turn to their own family and community. They have limited knowledge of what’s happening outside their own neighborhoods; people wait for the authorities to come. Fear the Walking Dead reflects the diversity of LA though casting, but also by touching on issues of class. Executive Producer Gale Anne Hurd noted during the Comic-Con panel, “The expectation that if you have money that you can buy your way out of the apocalypse, and that’s something else we’ll be dealing with.”
Another difference between the original series and Fear the Walking Dead is more teenagers in the main cast. The presence of teens, and their strong connection to mass media, helps to spotlight the challenge of identifying what’s real from misinformation during a disaster of this nature. Actress Alycia Debnam-Carey assured the crowd at Comic-Con that though the world is falling apart, teens will still be teens. She pointed out that the apocalypse will alter who they become as people: “It could destroy you, or it can … it will govern you; it’ll change who you are. I think that’s going to be a really interesting thing to discover with these characters, especially.”
Meet the West Coast Walkers
We have seen on The Walking Dead that people in different communities have varied names for the reanimated corpses that have come to exist in their world. In the original series, names include biters, cold bodies, dead ones, lamebrains, roamers, rotters, and of course, walkers. In Fear the Walking Dead, they are referred to as “infected.”
The 90-minute premiere of Fear the Walking Dead airs August 23 9/8c on AMC. It will be an international premiere, showing in over 100 countries at the same time. Season 1 will have 6 episodes. AMC has already ordered 15 episodes for Season 2, which will air in 2016.
Are you hungry for it yet? Check out the trailer to get a taste of what you can expect in Season 1 of Fear the Walking Dead.
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