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Fear the Walking Dead: Alycia Debnam-Carey hopes people will be 'confronted' by the new take: Interview

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Justin Lubin/AMC

The same. But different. Seems like a good way to describe Fear the Walking Dead, which debuts Aug. 23 on AMC. It comes from the same world as The Walking Dead comic and TV show, but features different characters in a different place at a different time. Alycia Debnam-Carey (who plays Madison’s daughter Alicia) is excited about both the similarities and differences between the original recipe and the new, extra-crispy version. We sat down with the actress on the Vancouver set of Fear to get her take on the newest entry in the Walking Dead universe.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Okay, Alycia, start off by telling me about your character of Alicia — with an I.

ALYCIA DEBNAM-CAREY: Alicia, for me, becomes a realist in the world. Especially during the first season, we see quite a development of her from having someone who has got a plan and who has a future ahead of her. She’s one of the few characters we see who actually wants to go somewhere and has things really figured out. She’s surrounded by a broken home, lost her father, she’s got a wayward brother, and a mother trying to keep it all together and she’s one of the few people who’s like, “No, I know exactly what I want.” She’s smart and she’s got ambition and she’s ready to get out, I guess. So what’s really heartbreaking is her very extreme demise and that fall, because she loses so much, in a way. When everyone else is just trying to grapple with everything, she kind of loses it all in one fell swoop — that ambition, that hope. That’s awful, because there’s so much hopelessness with her situation, which is really hard.

So that’s the core of whom she is when this whole event happens.

I think it’s hard for her. She’s still a teenager. That’s a really difficult time. You’re growing with who you are, but then suddenly to have nothing to grow with, no world to facilitate your growth — there’s nothing, and for her that’s just such a shock to the system. She loses a lot very quickly, and having to deal with that as a young person with so much ambition is really hard for her.

How would you describe the relationship with her brother, Nick, because obviously he has taken a different path in life?

I think it’s very fractured. There’s still love there, obviously, because they’re still brother and sister and they grew up in a very healthy, normal household. When the father died, obviously that changes a lot, and now that Nick’s sort of just left the home she’s had to deal with a lot of that. The weight of events that have happened and supporting her mother’s emotional journey — she’s had to bear a lot of the brunt of that, whereas the brother’s just sort of gone off. It’s all about Nick. It’s always about, “Oh, he’s in hospital again,” or “We can’t find him, he’s gone.” And so for her, it’s never really about necessarily her achievements. It’s always like, “Oh, you’re smart enough, you’ll deal with it yourself. You’re fine, you’ll be great.” And I think there’s a resentment, in a way, towards him, but the two of them have shared the same experience at the end of the day. They both have the same family and they’ve shared those experiences and they’re going to go through the end of the world together. So there’s a camaraderie, at least. [Laughs]

How familiar were you with the Walking Dead universe when you got the role?

I hadn’t watched it before I got the role, but when I did I thought I should probably immerse myself in it a little bit, and I became completely obsessed. I watched four seasons in, like, three weeks or something. I stop myself now, because I think now it’s kind of changing a few of the ideas that I’ve had, and so I’ve had to step a little bit back from it. So I don’t know what’s happened in season 5 and people keep trying to tell me things and I’m like, “Don’t say anything!” But I don’t think that’ll last very long. It’s an amazing world and I’m kind of stoked to be a part of it, really.

Not only are you a part of it, but you guys are filling in a really key part of it that fans haven’t seen before. In a way, you guys are informing the backstory for that show, which is cool.

Yeah, it’s amazing. And it’s one of the questions you really want to ask and know about when you’re watching the original. That’s what I was always like, “But what happened in the four weeks that he’s been in a coma? How’s this all happened so quickly?” And especially in a really urban environment, too. That’s why I think it’s so great, because this is set in Los Angeles, one of the biggest cities in the whole world, and that’s the way that a government, a society, a community just crumbles and how quickly that happens. I remember when we were going through scripts and I was sort of thinking, “Wow this happens so fast! We’re already at this in episode 3?” That is just kind of the reality of it, strangely enough. Once electricity and petrol and facilities and food stops, society stops. It’s crazy.

What sort of a response do you expect from Walking Dead fans? They are very intense and very passionate, which is a good thing, but there’s this standard they expect. And you guys want to hit that standard but also don’t want to do the same thing.

Yeah, I hope it stands alone as its own show, because I think it is very different and I think it’s great that it’s so different. It would be wonderful if it does challenge the original a little bit. I hope people are excited about it. I think it’s a good thing that it’s a little bit different — it should be. Of course it’s part of the same world. We’re not restricted to the comic books, so it gives us a little bit of freedom, but the world is already so established and the writers are so great on this show that authenticity is not a problem. Robert Kirkman is overseeing everything and it’s very true to the story still. I don’t think that fans will be upset by the world being changed. It’s still the same place, but it’s definitely a different feel. I kind of hope people will be a little confronted by it, because I think that’s cool. It should be different.

Anything ever gross you out while filming the show?

Not yet. I’m sure there will be plenty to come. But I remember when I first got this I was like, “I don’t do well with gore and blood, it’s not really my thing.” I’m not a person who’s obsessed with scary movies or horror films or anything like that, so when I was watching the original Walking Dead I was kind of surprised at how into it I was getting. I was like, “Wow, that’s really unexpected from what I thought of my personality.” There’s that scene in the well in season 2, where they bring that zombie out and he snaps apart — ughhh, that made me gag! But there’s a theatricality about it, which is really cool, and it’s still stylized which I really like.  

For more ‘Fear the Walking Dead’ scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

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