Jenna Elfman talks about her character development on Fear the Walking Dead

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Aug 11, 2018, 3:16 PM EDT

Fear the Walking Dead returns this weekend with the second half of Season 4. A lot happened in the first half of the season: two major character deaths; the appearance of a familiar face; and the eradication of a human enemy.

One of the new characters this year is June,  played by Jenna Elfman. Over the course of Season 4, we have also known her as Laura and Naomi. June has a dark past: when  the world went to hell and her daughter got sick, she left her at the FEMA center they were camped at while she went for antibiotics. By the time she came back, her daughter was dead, she turned, and killed everyone else in the center. As such, she has had a hard time opening herself up to new people, but things may be turning around for her.

We spoke with Elfman about her character's progression over the season, June's new family unit, and how the characters are moving towards mending their fractured relationships.

Your character has gone through a number of names in the first eight episodes: Laura, Naomi, June. Have you played her differently with each name?

It's an interesting question. From a viewer's perspective, I've had a bunch of names. From the character's perspective... she just didn't tell John her name. He named her Laura. So that's how one name came about. All she did was lie once and tell Madison's family that her name was Naomi. I think that's all indicative of her crisis. I think when this apocalypse hit, she had a skill set, as a nurse. But there is no skill set as a human being for the amount of loss you endure. Especially losing a child. The guilt of the whole FEMA shelter, on top of the loss of a child, that's enough to spin you. I think these names are an indication of her crisis as a human being, in terms of, "Who am I now?" First, there is just figuring out, when the apocalypse occurs, everyone goes through this learning curve of what is going on, and how do you survive, and who are the friends... oh now we have human enemies, it's not just the walkers! And I think we are coming to a point where she realizes she has to reconcile for myself, what is life now, and who am I in this life? I think that is part of her journey.

Has she decided what her life is now, or is that something we will see develop as the season progresses?

I think as we move into the second half of this season, that will be explored.

Everything is kind of fractured when we start episode 409. But at the midseason break, everyone seemed to kind of accept that they had found a new family. How did that division happen?

I think at the end of 408, we're all forced together by survival. We're telling the story of how that stadium affected us, and what all of our story is. I don't think we were all a group; I think we all were saying, "Here's my version of this experience" and we all had to face each other. There's a lot of hostility, a lot of loss, and a lot of emotion. We all have to face each other. I think in 408, everyone's finally ready to take baby steps to face each other, and telling our version. I think we all need to... chill out a little bit. Take a vacation from each other, and the hostility levels, and the trauma levels. I think we all faced each other, and reconciled a bit, but I think we need some space. We start this new episode with everyone just having a little time to have some space, and be alone and sort out all of these emotions. Then Mother Nature steps in and interrupts it.

Things get crazy with the storm! How does June handle the added difficulties of a hurricane?

Well, there's a great episode - they're all great - but in terms of my story, there is a great episode coming up in 412. Coleman Domingo [who plays Victor Strand] directed it, and that is going to be a key episode in terms of June's... this exact question you asked. So I think we can talk about it then!


Photo Credit: Ryan Green/AMC

June and John have kind of formed a little family with Charlie. How is that working out?

I think it is by default. June had a daughter. She's a mother. Once you are a parent... it's like a line in the sand. You never go back. Once you are on that side as a parent, you are always a parent, always and forever. That is a very specific role in life that you become endowed with when you bring a life into this world. John and June are starting to explore the "unit" of the two of them together. They have a less chaotic time; they found each other; they got to the other side of this Vulture life and the craziness at the stadium. June's a mother, so I think by default - default for now - it makes sense that Charlie is under the care of someone who was a mother to a daughter. But then [Charlie] can't talk. She's not talking. Can you imagine, an 11-year-old girl with that kind of guilt, murdering someone? It's so much. This apocalypse is just taking it out of everybody! There is a lot of healing and growth that has to happen. The second half of this season is how each person is going to affect each other in terms of the healing.

You are dealing with so many heavy issues on the show. Do you find it ever weighing you down?

No, not for me personally. I actually really enjoy the intense process of it. I find it quite stimulating, artistically. I know how to categorize my life and differentiate its parts. I enjoy the intensity, but then I have some nice walks and jogs afterward. That is something I do do - I go for walks,

Are you ever silly on set, between takes, or does that ruin your process?

I think everyone has their own process. I find being silly between takes is not helpful for me. I tend to be a little more on my own and quiet. I find that works best for me.  Sometimes it's right. Sometimes I am ok doing that. But a lot of times there are, like, four big emotional turns you have to take in a scene, and it requires a lot of focus. I find that personally, my journey is to be a little bit more alone and focused and calm.

You are one of the newer cast members this season. Was there any concern with how long your character would last?

That's just part of the job! I'm a series regular, but that doesn't mean anything. Who knows? You can't take this job and not expect that that's a fate at some point. For me, I'm just enjoying my time while I'm here, and I'm grateful for every second of it.

Can you preview June's character development over the back half of Season 4?

Let's see... I guess I can highlight the impact that John Dorie has on June and her well-being. His presence in her life, from the moment he met her, from the moment she met him, has been a healing influence. Physically, mentally, emotionally. I think we're going to see the impact of that continue.

Fear the Walking Dead returns to AMC on August 12.