When Fear The Walking Dead returns for its two-hour season three premiere Sunday night on AMC, we'll learn what's happened to our heroes after last season's cliffhanger ... well that and we'll run into a whole bunch of zombies, says executive producer and co-creator Dave Erickson in this exclusive interview with Syfy Wire.
In what Erickson calls a “border season,” we'll find out what happened to Nick's group after they were attacked going over the U.S. border, whether Madison will finally find Nick, what will happen to Strand at the hotel, and where Ofelia's been taken. But don't expect the characters to end up back on a comfy boat anytime soon.
Fear The Walking Dead, which will have 16 episode this season split into two parts, is also bringing in a host of new characters. We'll meet a survivalist group called the Militia, which is headed by Jeremiah Otto (Dayton Callie) and his two sons, Troy (Daniel Sharman) and Jake (Sam Underwood). Emma Caulfield (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) will also pop up, as will Ruben Blades, which means the return of Ofelia's father, Daniel Salazar, who appeared dead after starting a fire that wiped out the hacienda in Season 1.
Check below for what Erickson (Sons of Anarchy) has to say about Fear The Walking Dead's Season 3 premiere, the evolution of the characters, and the new groups our heroes will encounter.
What do we have to look forward to when Fear The Walking Dead returns for its third season?
There's some very big turns and some very big surprises in the first several episodes of the season. I feel like the rhythm, the tone that we settled into in the back half of last season, that we’re going to carry through. Then we’re going to see a bucketload of zombies. Especially in the first episode.
Last season we almost had a happy-ish ending, until Nick's group was attacked and you left us with a cliffhanger. Tell me about that.
At the end of the last season Nick and Luciana led their friends from the colony to the border crossing, and they’re heading north into America, because Nick believes that there's a refugee center of some kind -- a refugee camp. As they’re crossing the border, they’re set upon by this militia group. We see they’re wearing uniforms, but we don’t see any insignia, no stripes, no designation in terms of rank. And that is a group that we’ll get to know very well once we move into Season 3. The gentleman who Ofelia came across at the border, played by Dayton Callie, is going to show up, and we’ll find out probably that he’s part of that larger organization. There’s going to be a number of people north of the border and then south. We’re still shooting in Mexico.
So the stories will be in both U.S. and Mexico?
It’s very much of a border season. That was always the intention, and so by introducing the militia group on one side, and then there will be a group that's just outside of Tijuana that we'll possibly see Strand with. It was a matter of creating a number of different dynamics on either side of the border. And this preceded the election. So the intention was to always tell a border story.
What are some of the themes you'll explore this season?
One of the other things about this season is that it is very much about appropriation of land and culture, so it’s interesting to us to be able to explore what happens when there’s a reset. When the old world is gone. It’s dead. It’s game over. Can people take things back that were taken from them over the decades, the centuries before? The border itself across the country is fascinating. There’s something specific about the southwest and western elements of that. There are absolutely western motifs and themes and tropes that we’ve had in the show, and I think that those are all going to be prevalent in this season as well. I worked with Dayton Callie on Sons of Anarchy. I first started watching him on Deadwood. I have been excited to see scenes being played out between him and Kim Dickens, because the two of them played beautifully together on Deadwood, and it’s nice to see them slotted opposite each other again, to see what they’ve been doing in some of the scenes they've been playing. So it’s interesting.
I suspect Madison, aka Kim Dickens, isn't going to be happy until she finds Nick.
No, she won’t. And even if she does, it’s really a question of what does that mean, because Nick started off as somebody who seemed to have a facility for the apocalypse, just based on his past life and the fact that he had lived on the fringes, on the margins. There needs to be some kind of a reckoning between mother and son. I think they’ve always had some co-dependent relationship, which Alicia has recognized. Can such a relationship function when you could be attacked and eaten at every turn? It’s interesting and challenging for them. I think that there have always been two love stories on the show. One was Madison and Travis. But the first love story was Nick and Mom, Nick and Madison.
We’ve alluded to some darker history in Madison’s past. I think there are elements in Nick that are also part of who she is and where she comes from, as well. I think that’s a big part of their interconnectedness. All of which are things we’ll be exploring over the course of the season ... Everyone’s going to go through some interesting evolutions over the course of the year.
If Madison had a Sophie’s Choice, Alicia wouldn't win.
She says that she loves them both the same, and one would hope that that were the case. But it’s interesting, though, because of what Alicia has done. Because Alicia has now taken a life. What I don’t want to see her do is shrink away from that reality. We started a story with the last season, where she confronted Madison and demanded to understand why she kept searching for Nick and why, when she was standing up there, Nick was always … as you say, if she had a choice between the two, she would always choose Nick, and she risked her daughter and risked everybody at the hotel in order to do that. Alicia is going to be a changed person as we move into Season 3. She’s going to be far more interesting.
Alicia seems to realize that she has to be independent, that she has to be able to take care of herself at this point. Mom isn’t necessarily going to save her.
She’s also learning about her mother and understanding her mother in a way that she didn't before. I think she, Nick and Chris, up to the time we lost him, were all going through their respective coming of ages. And I think she’s now arrived at a place where she needs to be able to stand by herself. That’s something that’s important this season as well. What’s interesting, the one person who really has stayed by Mom and fought for Mom is Alicia. I think that Alicia is going to start fighting for herself. We’ll see how that manifests.
Now Strand is still back at the hotel, and I suspect the hotel people won't trust him. He could have gone with Madison but chose to stay. What's he going to be up to this season?
Strand’s coming back at some point. There were a couple of things in that moment. I think he was recovering from his knife wound, and so I think he legitimately didn’t think it was a good time for him to start traveling again and go on a run. I also think, in a certain strange way, he’s developed this relationship with Madison ... When the fire burned down the hacienda last season he helped to rescue Madison. We’ve seen the two of them bond, and then there’s a mutual understanding and respect. Not to be petty, but I do think there was a little [resentment from] him when Travis showed back up and they were willing to abandon the safety of the hotel and go off into a very dangerous future. I think he was probably a little pissed off about that. He sort of was standing in as a surrogate friend/husband figure. And I think that bothered him a little bit. But he is going to recover. He is going to heal.
Strand is nothing if not a survivor.
He’s an absolute survivor, and he’s very good at getting a sense of which way the wind's blowing and to figure out what the currency is. In the apocalypse, one of the things we'll be exploring this season are our resources, specific resources, the things that people are willing to kill and die for. I think his objective is going to be to corner one of those markets. We'll find out his experience in land developing both in the States and Mexico will come in to play. There are some people and some players that he knows from the old world. He will be active, but he, like everyone else, will be going through a tough time. He's going to be brought quite low before he resurrects.
He's a fascinating character.
What’s interesting about that character, you have somebody who’s a con man, who ultimately suffers some degree of selfishness and self-interest, but there is a warmth and a humanity that just comes through. It doesn't matter what the con is. It doesn't matter how hard he might be. There's always an element of that character that seems redeemable. I think that's largely the quality that Colman Domingo brings to it. He's also funny. Strand thankfully gives us ... we don't have a lot of jokes. Even when [it's intense] he finds a lot of moments that lighten the mood.
What about Travis?
For Travis, we’ve really put him through the wringer and reached his breaking point in the episode of last season when he found out how Chris died ... I think that, in terms of Travis’s arc, having him reach a point where he’s consumed by the apocalypse and becomes something new was important. It opens up an interesting door as we move into Season 3. Because I think he’s far different person.
And Ofelia, we saw her being captured. We know her dad is coming back.
She reached a breaking point last season where she lost her mother, and that was in the wake of finding out that her father was a killer and torturer ... And then he went crazy. The irony is that you get crazy just to the point where he was becoming somewhat feeble ... Ofelia thought they had lost him ... She spent her life thinking she had to protect her mother and her father. The kick in the butt was the realization that she didn’t have to. That they were far more capable, and frankly dangerous than she ever suspected. And just when he was reaching a point where there was some vulnerability, yes, he lost his mind and he lost his way and burnt down the house. In the wake of that, her attitude was “Look, I’m with Alicia and I’m with Madison, but these people are not my blood. These people are really not my family. I’ve been in servitude to my parents the bulk of my life.” So she tried to do a thing for herself to find this man, as foolish as it was. That was her last-ditch effort to say, “This is sort of an F U to the apocalypse. I’m going to do something for me before I die,” with the assumption that she was definitely going to die soon. That she feels everyone's going to. Her encounter at the border, obviously it creates something of a detour. It's an unexpected detour. I think Ofelia is going to find her way back into the fold, but it will be possibly with a new group and in a way we wouldn’t have expected.
Is there anything else you'd like to add?
I think the fracture of the family served us last season. Now, what’s intriguing to me is, having changed each of the characters individually, having put them to their role and their own separate journeys, when they’re reunited, do they recognize each other anymore?
Here's a look at the Fear The Walking Dead trailer for Season 3: