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Actor and director Lennie James had his third go behind the camera directing Fear the Walking Dead with Sunday's episode, "Mourning Cloak." After an Alicia-centric installment last week, this week's episode focused on what's going on in The Tower community, especially with Howard (Omid Abtahi) who is holding down the fort in Victor Strand's (Coleman Domingo) absence, and the unexpected arrival of Charlie (Alexa Nisenson).
****Spoilers below for Fear the Walking Dead, Season 7, Episode 10****
In a unique episode for both characters, audiences get to see the two each experiencing some very potent character arcs as Howard experiences leadership out from under the thumb of Strand's omnipotence and Charlie experiences her first love, Romeo and Juliet style, in The Tower. SYFY WIRE spoke to both actors about getting to have an episode to finally explore their characters more in very distinct ways.
In particular for Abtahi, getting to be Strand for a day ended up being more of an emotional trial than he expected. "I had a love/hate experience with it," the actor admits. "I loved getting to play the character like that. I love being given the green light and then the writing was phenomenal. And it felt so good to have an action sequence! Those two black belts finally came in handy. I'm like the nerd with glasses. You don't expect that."
He continues, "But there were nights, and I've said this before, where I would come home, I would jump in the shower and I would have to try to scrub Howard off," he says with candor. "It's hard when you don't agree with your characters choices. I had to like completely detox from him. But that being said, it's one of the better experiences I've ever had as an actor. And getting to work with Lennie and Alexa, and Ashton Arbab who plays Ali, was just one of those acting dreams come true. Just a really good time."
However, Abtahi says he still feels guilt for Howard's role in wiping out Charlie's new romance by making the call to kill off her crush, Ali. "He makes certain decisions in there because he thinks that's what Victor would want. He may or may not agree with it." the actor explains. "And even though he follows through with it, I don't think it was easy on him at all. He poo-poo platters on Romeo and Juliet," he jokes. "It's hard! And as a dad, I don't get to play those kind of father-like figure relationships too often. You do care about these characters and it breaks your heart when you have to make certain decisions."
As the recipient of Howard's dark decisions, Alexa Nisenson says it was a tragic story arc to play but one that will really push Charlie into all new directions. In the span of one hour, Charlie gets to experience some of her firsts, including romance and a kiss with Ali. But that happiness doesn't last long, as is par for the course in the post-apocalypse.
Nisenson says she especially loved getting to play the duality of Charlie's reaction at the end of the episode. "First of all, we see her in shock for parts of it towards the end there. And she's just really coming to terms with the situation that everything has been ripped away from her, just like that," the actress explains. "But I also think, even in the midst of being so sad and heartbroken and crushed and angry, she's just grateful and happy that she even got to experience that to begin with, because she never thought she would get to have such a normal teenage, beautiful experience like that. I think it's such an interesting balance at the end of the episode of seeing her happy, like 'I got to have this wonderful experience.' But also, 'I'm so sad and so angry because look at where I'm at now.' Playing that balance was was really interesting to me and something very, very new for me. And very new for Charlie."
While Howard is now in her revenge sights, Nisenson says that anger is also going to be pointed at Strand, too. "They're in his Tower, and I think she's aware that some of this is probably on him as well. She feels so much anger and sadness. And we will definitely continue to see how her being exposed to radiation affects her too."
Asked if the fallout from Howard's part in all of this will make him a different man when Strand returns, Abtahi teases, "I think it's safe to say he is changed, but whether that is just an internal thing or an external thing, we'll just have to wait and see."
New episodes of Fear the Walking Dead drop Sunday nights on AMC and a week early on AMC+.
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