Fear the Walking Dead: Frank Dillane on how 'Harry Potter' prepared him for the show
Being a new offshoot of the most popular show in cable television history automatically means there has been a lot of attention on Fear the Walking Dead, even though the new AMC series has yet to air a single episode. (The premiere is set for Aug. 23.) But if there’s one person who may be prepared for the crush of fan attention, it is Frank Dillane. Not only is he the son of former Game of Thrones star Stephen Dillane, but he played none other than a pre-Lord Voldemort Tom Riddle in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince — another franchise with a rabid following. We chatted with Dillane about playing junkie Nick on the new show, his familiarity with The Walking Dead, getting too deep into character, and the nightmares he’s been having since taking the role.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So how familiar were you with the other Walking Dead show and this whole world when you got the role?
FRANK DILLANE: Well, I actually wasn’t familiar at all. I haven’t seen it yet at all. I’m trying to stay clear as much as possible. My understanding is it’s a very different show and certainly different characters, so I’ve stayed clear of it. Also, I think it could be detrimental if I start to watch something I’m supposed to be a part of, if I start to imitate at least the style of that kind of show or whatever, so I stay clear.
How are you about watching your own work?
Oh very, very, very bad. Yeah. I haven’t watched it. I said I may. I don’t know if I … I really don’t want to watch it, but I think I’m coming to an age now as an actor where it’s time to start actually looking and analyzing and going, “Right, well, that didn’t work,” or, “Right, this did work.”
How do you feel about being a spin-off or a companion or whatever you want to call it to the other Walking Dead? The advantage is the automatic attention the show has already received, but the inevitable comparisons could be seen as a potential disadvantage.
Well, people forget things very quickly, don’t they? So, I imagine that 10 years down the line when people look back on The Walking Dead era, or the companion series, that they’ll just seeing The Walking Dead. It’s like Star Wars, isn’t it? I remember when they started remaking Star Wars, the fury that surrounded that whole thing, and how dare they? But now that’s just a common denominator. People are going to keep making stuff. Things are going to be spin-offs. Also, you know, it’s still the creator that is involved. I certainly was very concerned about it originally, but I’m trying not to think about it too much.
It’s interesting, Frank, because you’re one of the few people in this new show that has some experience with such an intense fan base from playing You Know Who in Harry Potter. Do you think that may have prepared you a bit for what’s to come with this very intense audience?
Yeah. You know, it’s interesting. I think it might have. I think it has because I was exposed to that kind of hysteria quite early on, so I kind of expect it. It’s not going to be a surprise at least. I don’t really like it, but I kind of expect it at least.
When you say you don’t necessarily like it, in what sense do you mean, because you feel all that noise takes the attention away from the actual craft?
Well, there’s that. Also, you know, I’m sure there will come a time when I won’t be able to, you know, walk around so easy sometimes, or it’s just things that I don’t necessarily want. I don’t really necessarily want to be famous. It takes away from the craft a little bit, but I think it’s part of the job these days, it seems to be. But more just on a personal level, I’m quite easily influenced, so I don’t want to start to believe in all that s— because you might fear sort of a wacko jacko coming. You know what I mean? I’m like I might completely lose my s— and end up in f—ing Neverland or something. You never know, like you’ll find me with four dead hookers or something like that in Season 3, you know? [Laughs]
What about your dad [Stephen Dillane]? I mean, he’s obviously experienced intense fandom recently with Game of Thrones. Has he talked to you at all about the crush of media and fan attention or prepared you for this?
My old man, he’s done it very differently from me. He had years of honing his craft and years of doing all that stuff before he even had to worry about Game of Thrones. So he’s absolutely established himself as an actor without the fear of having to have a personality as well. I sort of started a different generation, so all this fandom and all this, you know, interviewing before the shows even come out and all that stuff, I think it would be unfair to compare it to my father. He’s had a different run of it.
You’re working on this super-bleak show and your character has a super-bleak background. Is it hard to ever shake off? You’re intensely working on this character and the roller coaster of emotions that Nick is feeling. Is it ever difficult to shake that off at the end of the day?
Yeah, I suppose so. As the series has gone on, after we filmed the first episode, it’s sort of become less and less. It’s felt more like work. But when I first got into the pilot I was having a pretty miserable time of it. It’s difficult though, you know, because characters creep up on you. I’ll never learn. I’ll work on the character and I’ll do stuff and you know, two weeks in it, it’s like, “F—, I can really do some heroin!” Or like I can really like whatever the character’s thing is. You start to really want it without noticing that it’s just your character talking, like the character’s taking control or something. So, it’s an interesting one. Nick certainly did creep up on me and does creep up on me at times, but I have enough perspective now to know. I mean, we’re at full flow, aren’t we? We’re a season in now, so. I can’t be walking around method-acting all day when I’ve got, you know, three days off here and there.
It’s interesting because I know a few of the people on the other Walking Dead show have had zombie nightmares. Because you dream about your work inevitably, and so it’s happened to them.
I had one last night! That’s so weird. I had one last night. I had a dream. I dreamed I was on this island and there were two hotels, and one hotel was filled with dead people and the other one wasn’t, and I was in the hotel full of dead people.
What happened in the hotel?
There were just like walkers all around. They were just dead people wandering around. There was this little boy with a gun who had a corpse there, and he’d cut up the corpse, and he would take the flesh of the eater, of the walker, and put it in this little gun, this little flesh gun, and then shoot it at people, so that you could sort of zombify people from far away. Hold on, that’s a pretty good episode!
That’s season 3!
Yeah, that’s season 3!
For more Fear the Walking Dead scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.
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Fear the Walking Dead