After watching the very fabric of society break down and countless clusters of post-apocalyptic life being explored across the Fear the Walking Dead timeline, the Season 6 finale truly dropped the biggest mic yet: detonating nuclear bombs. The survivors of the undead apocalypse have never encountered anything quite so dire as the landscape overrun by walkers and the few resources still available absolutely irradiated.
With Season 7 of Fear the Walking Dead premiering Oct. 17 on AMC, executive producers/showrunners Andrew Chambliss and Ian Goldberg tell SYFY WIRE how their decision to go nuclear is going to forever change the world for the survivors.
Talk about making that call to hit the nuke button.
Andrew Chambliss: It was a decision that we made pretty early in Season 6. Pretty much as soon as we decided to plant a nuclear submarine in the premiere. I mean, we joked and called it Chekhov's nuclear submarine: when you see it, you've got to fire it.
How long will it have been post detonation when Season 7 opens?
Ian Goldberg: Without giving away exactly how much time has passed between seasons, we did want to show how the characters were navigating this new normal for them. We wanted to see how life's going for them having been in it for a little while. But that doesn't necessarily mean that we won't see stories of characters that are still underground. Everyone ends up in different circumstances and is navigating the nuclear apocalypse in different ways. It's really all about seeing how some people have acclimated better than others. No matter how much time passes, this is a persistent problem that actually evolves as the season wears on. Just when the characters start to think they've got their arms around how to survive and how to navigate it, new problems arise that they hadn't even foreseen. The fallout landscape has challenges that crop up all the time.
The teaser trailers have definitely alluded to the survivors all experiencing this event in very different ways?
Chambliss: We're definitely gonna see people react to the challenges in the environment in very different ways. It is really about the characters who had hope, and who wanted to build something better, starting to question whether or not that's really possible. If you think back to the finale of Season 6, one person in particular who knew it was coming was Grace, just because of her experience in being around a nuclear power plant that had melted down and knowing some of the science and the facts behind what they would be facing.
But on the other hand, there are other characters who fared much better. One of the interesting things that I found when we were researching is the way that bombs detonate, how fallout spreads, and just how unpredictable it can actually be. There's so many factors that go into play. It depends on how much of the nuclear material in the warhead actually detonated. It depends how close it was to the ground. It depends what the weather was at the time... all those kinds of things. It could leave places that are very, very dangerous, and 10 miles away could be a place that is a relative oasis. It will make those areas that are safe to live in that much more desirable, and will just increase the conflict.
We saw a little bit of a hint of that with Strand as he was bracing for destruction in this tower he found. The bombs seem to have spared him. And it may not just be the bomb that's spared him, but perhaps the fallout did as well. That's going to continue to push him in the direction we saw him start to take steps in at the end of Season 6, where he actually started to embrace the decisions he makes. For lack of a better term, he is going to embrace his “Strandiness” and continue down that path. It's a lot of fun to allow these characters to become more extreme versions of themselves in this extreme environment.
Will the series become more fraught with friends and enemies desperately seeking the materials to survive, much less escaping walkers?
Chambliss: There definitely is going to be an element of the haves and have-nots of the nuclear zombie apocalypse. We're going to see that Strand is fairly selective in who he allows to enter his world. He's going to have his reasons for doing what he does. And the people who join him are going to have their reasons for doing what they do. It doesn't mean they're necessarily seeing eye to eye, it just means their interests align. And then there are going to be people like Morgan, who seems like he's got it pretty rough living out in the world. Those two factions are definitely going to come into conflict. But it's not going to be as simple as one side versus the other.
How will radiation impact the walkers themselves? This feels like it could be a sea change in stakes for the lumbering undead.
Goldberg: We did introduce a bit of a radiation element with walkers in Season 5 with the ones that had been exposed at the power plant that melted down. But this is a whole new situation where you have warheads that have detonated and the radiation is at a whole new level and can actually manifest in different ways through walkers. You have people that were alive and killed by the blast that became walkers. You have walkers that were already walkers that were walking around when they got the after-effects of the blast. There's just radiation in the air in certain areas, Andrew alluded you could be in one area that's an oasis, and then 10 miles away, you're in an area where your Geiger counter's where the readings will be off the charts. And it just presents a whole new level of challenges for our characters, when they come up against walkers that they're not prepared for, and that they're gonna have to learn to be prepared for.
The cast list is ever evolving. What kinds of new characters are you adding to the roster this year, including Aisha Tyler’s new character?
Chambliss: In terms of the cast that we're introducing to the show, it's a little bit of expanding the ensemble, but then also having characters enter and help reflect back on the series regulars and help them in terms of their journeys and their character arcs. It's always fun to expand the world and then have it fall back in on itself as characters exit, as characters enter, as they become part of the family. It was a lot of fun to have Aisha join. She directed an episode in Season 6. We had a lot of fun working with her as a director. When we started looking at casting this particular role that she's going to play, which I won't say much about right now, we were really excited about it when we thought of her.
Have you crafted Season 7 to have a definitive ending, since there’s no official pick-up for Season 8 yet?
Goldberg: We really did approach this season the way we have with all the previous ones we've done on the show, which is we tried to reinvent and evolve on every level. We want to bring it to a satisfying conclusion. Every episode, every eight episodes and ultimately, every 16 tell a complete story that also leaves room for more story to be told beyond that. No one has told us that there won't be more story.
Fear the Walking Dead Season 7 debuts Oct. 17 on AMC.