Warning: This post contains spoilers about the Fear the Walking Dead season 2 episode, “Grotesque.”
Fear the Walking Dead‘s resident recovering drug addict (and bloody t-shirt enthusiast), Nick, certainly has a way with women — and that’s not always a good thing.
Thus far, Nick’s detached himself, physically and emotionally, from his mother and his sister, while two leading ladies from his past are (presumably) dead: his temporary mommy-of-the-moment, Celia, seemingly went down in flames alongside her massive compound during May’s midseason finale, and his ex-girlfriend, Gloria, was the first walker to appear onscreen as part of the AMC spinoff. Fans will remember Gloria as the bloody, blond zombie who shuffled through the abandoned church at the beginning of Fear‘s pilot, and Sunday’s episode reintroduced her in a big way as Nick continued his lonely journey across the scorching Mexican countryside.
“The flashbacks were really about tapping into the loss of Gloria in the sense of responsibility and culpability. He feels for that. Then also the idea of the absence of a dad,” showrunner Dave Erickson told EW.
Lexi Johnson, the actress who brought Gloria to life, had a chat with EW about the significance of Gloria’s return, offering insight into the important role she plays in Nick’s lonely, brutal search for closure as he navigates the various messes of his own creation. Read what Johnson has to say about her Fear the Walking Dead role in the full interview below.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Though Gloria is only in this episode briefly, why is your character so essential to this story?
LEXI JOHNSON: She was a compass in Nick’s life, but the magnetism between them sadly was stronger than their own inner strength. Her affections blinded her and she was severely misguided, despite her good intentions. They really loved each other, and losing her is essential to Nick’s story because her absence creates emptiness, which invents space for him to start asking questions about who he really is and what he’s capable of.
I think Nick and Gloria’s story resonates with anyone who’s engaged in a relationship, because it’s about power and beauty and potential, whether slow or sudden, waking up and realizing the narrative has changed and it’s devastating, and you’re left wondering how much of a part you played in turning the person you loved most into a monster.
Speaking of monsters, Nick totally sees your face in that herd of walkers, right? What’s up with that?
I think it’s about him trying to find comfort. It’s his mind trying to make peace with [her death]. I think, when you’re in life or death scenarios, the mind does some funny things to bring about closure and peace. His subconscious is taking over, trying to bring about a sense of healing. When we were shooting that, my interpretation of it was more about how Gloria was an angel of death, if you will, because Nick is so close to death.
Is that interpretation something you discussed with [actor Frank Dillane] while you were shooting?
Well, me being in the scene was added last-minute, as the scene was being shot. It was an idea from the director, and we just kind of jumped on it. It gives you an inside look to where his mind is at with how he’s processing Gloria’s death, and in a way, wanting to join her.
So he needs comfort and closure with Gloria, but why does he need that specifically from her?
He needs a sense of understanding and unconditional love. Having this relationship with him, Gloria was like, “I see you, I’m meeting you where you are because I have that same kind of inner struggle and pain, too.” That mutual understanding they have for each other is part of the reason they brought each other down. They were both struggling so much, and yet they could share that feeling with each other like no one else. Having someone like that, and then that person suddenly dying — on top of being thrown in the midst of the zombie apocalypse — is going to inspire quite a journey to sort through.
On that note, we see you go from being his enabler, in a positive way, at the beginning of the episode, but toward the end we obviously see you doing drugs with him as an enabler in a very negative way. Do you think Nick is capable of acting independently without outside influence?
I think he’s absolutely capable, and I think it had to be something this heartbreaking to usher him into a new sense of self. I don’t know that without Gloria dying, he would know how to stand on his own, though. But, I think because of it, it’s bringing about new life for him, and he will eventually be capable of independence.
It seems like every pivotal relationship he’s had so far has been with a woman, from his sister to his mother to Celia. Why do you think Nick has such intense attachments and detachments from women in his life?
I think it all points back to his relationship with Madison. I think that’s the starting line, and we might see more of that in the series.
What do you think is next for Nick? Where can he go from here, now that he’s left Gloria behind?
Honestly, I think he can only go up. The perks of starting a show at rock bottom, right? I think it’s going to be really interesting and exciting to see how he interprets this new world and what he does with it, and how it takes everything collapsing around him for him to build himself back up.
Fear the Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC.