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Fear the Walking Dead: Kim Dickens on taking the lead role, and why she almost turned it down

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Justin Lubin/AMC

After delighting TV audiences as part of ensemble casts on shows like Deadwood and Treme, in recurring roles on Friday Night Lights, Sons of Anarchy, and House of Cards, and in a guest-starring turn on Lost, Kim Dickens is now No. 1 on the call sheet for the highly touted Walking Dead companion series, Fear the Walking Dead. But when she was first approached about starring as widowed guidance counselor Madison on Fear, Dickens wasn’t sure the zombie-apocalypse drama was the right fit.

“It’s a totally new genre for me,” she tells EW. “When I first was presented with the option to audition, I thought, ‘I don’t fit in there.’ And then I read the script and was like, ‘That’s an amazing character. But still, I don’t know.’ And then finally it just became this much more universal story than just an apocalypse, and that’s what I responded to.”

Now she hopes audiences will also respond to the story of a blended family — including Madison’s junkie son Nick (Frank Dillane), overachieving daughter Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey), and boyfriend Travis (Cliff Curtis) — trying their best to navigate a full societal shutdown, one that we will begin to see more of in Sunday’s episode. “I think it plays into our biggest fears of, well, what if we’re not protected?” says Dickens. “And what if we can’t protect ourselves? And those are very human fears and realities that we think about. This family is sort of the audience’s surrogate, and they get to watch as these characters experience this crumbling of civilization and how rapidly that happens.”

But Dickens is now comfortable among all the chaos and wreckage, and the genre that once seemed so foreign now feels like home. “To be working on this show, it’s like there’s no greater gift. I’m having a great time, I’m challenged, I’m surrounded by amazing talent, and it’s just like, well, this is exactly where I’m supposed to be.”

A version of this story appeared in Entertainment Weekly issue #1379, on newsstands now or available for immediate purchase here.

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