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Fear the Walking Dead premiere: Frank Dillane on playing vulnerable junkie Nick

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Justin Lubin/AMC

He was our first character in the Fear the Walking Dead series premiere to encounter a zombie, but why would anyone believe a junkie who just got hit by a car while standing in the middle of the road? Well, no one did. But they all soon learned well enough. Nick was our first point of entry into this world descending into chaos, and the man who played him, Frank Dillane, gave an eye-popping performance, showing the both street-smart and vulnerable sides of Nick in equal measure. We chatted with Dillane about his intriguing portrayal of an addict now facing brand new demons. (Also make sure to read our premiere reacts with star Kim Dickens and showrunner Dave Erickson.)

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I was really struck in the premiere by the childlike nature of your character and how you played him. It was not at all what I expected going in when I heard you were playing a junkie. I thought he would be more of a tough guy.

FRANK DILLANE: Well, yeah. I think that sort of developed slowly. I still am not sure whether Nick is telling the truth or not. I think what was interesting for me anyway is the time when a child goes astray or decides to take off or takes matters into his own hands. In Nick’s case, his father died. So I try to freeze-frame from there this 12-year-old boy whose father dies, and lift back the cover and see what there is. He certainly does seem to be very childish.

And the drugs seem to amplify that.

What’s interesting about heroin seems to be that these people…I have a few friends who are heroin addicts or have been an addict, and what’s frustrating about them is that they have lost the years that they were addicts for. I had a mate who was an addict for 15, 20 years, and he’s a bit older now, but if you meet him and you talk to him it’s like talking to a 16-year-old boy. All those years of growing up, he sort of lost. So he’s this strange mixture of old and young at the same time because heroin also keeps your cells dying and being reborn according to your fix, so I think it’s very interesting. A heroin addict does seem to be quite young and old at the same time.

How would you say the trouble that Nick’s gotten into has this impacted his relationship with his family?

It’s a difficult one with mom. I think he’s wary of care and being cared for and being looked after. I suppose this would be the time when, I mean, what he’s 19 now? So, he’s at an age now where he actually doesn’t need a mother, but a mother is needed earlier on in life, and then when a boy hits the age of 16, 17, you know, he’s sent out. If you’re a Viking, you sleep by the fire until you’re 17, and then when you’re 17 they’d send you out raping and pillaging and conquering. So, I think Nick’s hitting the apocalypse at a stage where he doesn’t need mom or women really, whereas he could’ve done with her earlier on probably.

I thought it was interesting how the episode starts with Nick being the one to discover this thing and trying to give this account, but because of his troubles with drugs and the trauma of being hit by a car that everyone questions the reality of what he sees. I thought that was an effective introduction to the show.

Yeah, I can imagine it being from someone else’s point of view quite unrealistic to wrap your head around, having some kid off his mind telling you all that stuff.

Unreliable source there a little bit.

Yeah, unreliable source.

Tell me about the accent. Had you worked with an American dialect before, and how did you come up with Nick’s voice?

Dialect was my biggest fear, so I spent a long time working with dialect coaches just trying to get American down. I think it’s very important and very easy to misinterpret. So, I mean I haven’t seen the pilot yet, so I am not sure as to whether I did a good job yet or not, but the accent is certainly my biggest fear.

Make sure to read our premiere reacts with star Kim Dickens and showrunner Dave Erickson. And for more ‘Fear the Walking Dead’ scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

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