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In the Fear the Walking Dead midseason premiere, "Follow Me," we get to see the aftermath of Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey) leaving the bunker. She met up with some old enemies who blame her for the bunker's fall and spent time with a new ally, Paul (Warren 'Wawa' Snipe), who ended up making a huge impact on Alicia's current path.
In an exclusive post-episode chat with Alycia Debnam-Carey, the actress tells SYFY WIRE that she loved getting to do a two-hander with a brand-new character like Paul, who allowed a lot of Alicia's insecurities and guilt to be expressed in a raw and pure way. In communicating with a deaf man who needs her to make right the equipment she broke that allowed him to live alone and survive, the two were able to vent a lot about personal failures and disappointments in their new lives.
"My scene partner, Wawa, is just so extraordinary," the actress enthuses. "He was just such a generous, beautiful actor and person. And our director, Heather [Cappiello], was just so wonderful at creating that arc and that journey. Sometimes those two handers are the funnest and best way to explore those dynamics. You really get to be in the nitty gritty of it. And I think it's been a long time coming to finally see Alicia, believe in herself."
Speaking of which, in the episode "PADRE," audiences weren't aware they were seeing the Alicia who had gone through that harrowing experience with Paul and now lives with his wise advice in her ear. She declares war on Strand (Coleman Domingo) showing her new resolve to see justice before her "illness" takes her down.
"I thought it was a really cool way to work through Alicia's inner turmoil about knowing where she has come from, being a reluctant leader to finally by the end of this, growing into the realization and then the commitment to following her own belief," the actress reflects. "Finally believing in her own set of values, ideology and dream. And seeing that the way Strand has been isn't for her, the way Morgan has been isn't for her. And maybe, the reality that she even was believing in previously is not even the right way to go about things."
Debnam-Carey says taking such a stand is a culmination of years of growth for Alicia. "The audience and myself included, have seen Alicia as a bit of reluctant leader for a really long time," she says. "I think this is the final moment where we see her truly come into her own and become the leader that she deserves to be."
Asked how much she knew about Alicia's dramatic arc this season, Debnam-Carey says she had a talk with showrunners Andrew Chambliss, and Ian B. Goldberg at the start of the season so she was fully briefed on the big turns. "It was part of the conversation that we had. And I had an idea of where it was going to land," she shares. "But at the same time, there are things that as actors, and this is my experience, but you can't help but give part of yourself over to a character. And the way you shaped the character can often be based on qualities that you find within yourself, or that you want to exemplify in a character and see that come out. There is sort of a bit of a dance between actors and showrunners of molding a character a certain way."
With Alicia now seemingly very strident about her purpose in bringing Strand down, the actress says it's actually a lot of fun to play her in this new way. "As an actor, getting that kind of distinct choice and decision for a character is a really liberating feeling because you can finally go in one direction and really commit to it," she explains. "Sometimes it's a little harder when you've got a character that isn't sure of where they want to be. It's a bit of a relief, actually, when you can finally say, 'Great, I know what this character wants. I know where we're going. And so I can make choices.'"
But is that choice born of hope or a fatalistic certainty that her time is winding down in light of her bite?
Debnam-Carey offers, "I do think there is a bit of both, to be honest. I don't think it's all fatalistic, because obviously we've seen Alicia defy the odds to survive. She's also a fierce fighter. She's going to go until the wheels fall off, so I think it's not all fatalistic. But I do think that is obviously a huge driving force for making this cause very urgent. And her purpose is very urgent because there's some sort of fatalistic element attached. But I think there's always a hopefulness with Alicia, because there is a thread of a belief in humanity that always will propel her and that that's something that I think has also kept her going for such a long time. But both are two really driving forces and I think that's why she's finally been able to be in this position, at this point, because we've landed at that crossroads and it's driving us in one direction."
New episodes of Fear the Walking Dead Season 7 air Sundays on AMC, and a week early on AMC+.