Last season saw a number of deaths in the Fear the Walking Dead universe: Travis, Ofelia, Lola, the entire Otto family, half the people who live on the ranch. So it is no surprise that that they are adding new characters for the upcoming Season 4 -- including Morgan.
One of the truly new characters is John, played by Garret Dillahunt (Deadwood, Raising Hope, The Gifted, and a zillion other projects). As with everything related to The Walking Dead universe, actors are under strict rules not to spill any details of the show, which makes interviews a bit of a challenge. Luckily, Garret is a huge comic book fan. We chatted about the basics of his character, joining the Walking Dead family, and some of his favorite comic book artists.
Tell me a little bit about your character, John.
He's a guy in search of something. He's been on his own a while. He's really good with his six-shooter. I don't know what else to say that isn't spoilery!
Well, then let's talk about how you got the role.
I had met Scott Gimple before -- well, over the phone -- when we were talking about the possibility of me joining the show. I was actually pestering him about that, more accurately. As we know, it was not a possibility, but we started a relationship through that meeting. When he wrote this character, I thought he wrote it with me in mind. So it was a nice phone call to get.
Are you a fan of The Walking Dead franchise?
I am, yes. My wife and I have both watched it from the beginning, so we are pretty up on it. I think I've missed a few episodes, but not many. We like that kind of thing. I like wondering what I would do in that situation, would I survive? Don't know if I would, but I would try. Also, I know Kim Dickens [who plays Madison] from Deadwood. Ray McKinnon [who plays Pastor John] was also on Deadwood. Dayton Callie [who played Jeremiah Otto] was also on Deadwood, so there were a lot of people that I knew and am a fan of that seemed to be liking it [working on the show].
Speaking of Deadwood... you've appeared in a lot of westerns, and in FTWD, you play a cowboy type, with a cowboy hat and a six-shooter. Do you think Scott was writing the character specifically with you in mind, or was it just coincidence?
I don't know... I don't think so. I think they always had the idea. I mean, I could be wrong, but I think they always sort of had an idea that this was a western in its scope. It's almost like a modern western. You can see it with The Walking Dead as well. That's cool by me. I love the genre. It's kind of the perfect blend between my two favorite genres, which is sci-fi and westerns. I think they work really well for storytelling, and you can tell almost any kind of analogy, any kind of story in that genre. I feel at home!
You are a fan of the franchise, and your character meets up with Morgan almost as soon as the season starts. Were you at all "star-struck"?
Well, I had met Lennie James before we shot the scene, so I guess any of that I got out of the way before then. He's such a sweetheart. We had some barbecue together, got to know each other... he's just a great guy. Great guy to work with, great guy to be around. We've all been doing this a while now, so I don't think we wasted any time being star-struck [laughs]. We just got to work! I like it that way.
Was it exciting to be part of this, what they are calling the "crossover event"?
Absolutely. I really appreciate that AMC and the producers and writers are all working hard to make this show as good as it can be. I'm glad they are fighting for quality still. They aren't just letting it coast. It's a good sign to me that they are thinking all the time and willing to consider changes and willing to try new things... it just feels like a group of people that are devoted to some longevity. It's wonderful to be part of that.
Do you prefer the fact that your character isn't based on a comic book character, or do you wish you had that background to draw on?
I never thought about that. I guess it really doesn't matter much to me. I love comics, I have about 20 boxes of them in my closet. I'm a nerd! I wouldn't have minded that [being based on a comic book character]. But at the same time, we have an advantage in that we are not bound by them as the story goes on. You see it in every show based on source material, like Game of Thrones. If it's successful, it's either going to catch up to or run out of source material, and they stray from it, just because of the limitations of the medium. I'm kind of glad we're not bound to that, but at the same time, I hope we stay real faithful to the aesthetic.
You are a comic book nerd. What is your dream role in a comic book movie?
Gosh, I don't know. That's a tough one. Though there are a few guys that get to do more than one, which doesn't seem fair, does it?
Ryan Reynolds has been in a bunch of them!
I know, I like him. And Josh Brolin seems to have the magic touch. Lucky for them!
Are you a DC guy or a Marvel guy?
I like some of both. I like the darkness and smaller scope of some of a lot of early DC stuff, but I have more Marvel. I don't know what that makes me! I collect artists. I have favorite artists that I collect.
Who are some of your favorite artists?
From my time, I love Jim Steranko, I like Neal Adams. The late, great Bernie Wrightson. I love his Swamp Thing. Paul Gulacy... a lot of those old guys. Jim Lee is pretty great. He's still cranking them out.
Can you preview this season of Fear the Walking Dead for us?
I'll try. The "no spoiler" warning always makes me a crappy interview. Well, you know you're going to meet a lot of new people. I think what they really stressed to us is that it's a lot of people who are sort of loners, who either find themselves or are forced to be working with other people. Some of us are more adept at that than others. Everyone has their own agenda and own demons and own desires, and we are going to try to see if we can find them together. I think you'll like it!
How do you see The Walking Dead and Fear the Walking Dead as different?
I think the cool part about Fear was always that it started from an earlier time frame. We sort of got to see how the whole thing began. It's a pretty zombie-expert world out there. There is a different pace to the storytelling. I think the biggest difference is the time difference. But they have been slowly creeping together over the past few seasons, as you meet the Fear people later and later in their lives. I've always liked them both, I've always watched them both, not just because I have friends on them. I just dig that kind of world. It makes sense to me that there are pockets of survivors all over the world, who develop their own methedologies of survival and teamwork. I bet there is a group of survivors in Australia or New Zealand that have their own problems or groups of people who are giving them trouble. It would be completely different, wherever you go. I just like that. I never knew there was an embargo on the crossover, but I imagined it would happen; it makes sense to me. The more people moved around, the more people looked for help or for other survivors that they would eventually cross paths with. It's exciting to be part of that.
Are you guys done shooting?
No, we are still going. We are just a little past the halfway point, which is nice. I like to work!
Fear the Walking Dead premieres on AMC on April 15.