[SPOILER ALERT: Read only after watching Sunday’s premiere episode of Fear the Walking Dead.]
Being a parent is hard enough. Then you throw a junkie son and a zombie apocalypse into the mix and a woman’s really got her work cut out for her. And the woman in this case is Madison Clark of Fear the Walking Dead. In Sunday’s premiere we saw Kim Dickens’ Madison dispensing both love and tough love while trying to make sense of the impending threat and her son’s addiction. We spoke to Dickens to get her inside take on the premiere, and whether Madison is the one to blame for Calvin’s death. (Also check out our premiere reacts with showrunner Dave Erickson and star Frank Dillane, who plays Nick.)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Before we get into the premiere, I know you guys finally got to meet all your Walking Dead counterparts from the other show at Comic-Con in San Diego. So what was that like getting the two casts together?
KIM DICKENS: It was really great. They were so supportive and excited for us, and they were just so gracious. They really embraced us, and we got to hang out for the evening with them, and yeah, they talked about their experience, and they’re so in love with their show. They have the greatest time. They really love it. They love their fans, and like I said, they were just so generous to us and just really cheered us on. It was pretty cool. They’re such great people. It was really fun to be with them.
Did Norman Reedus lick your face, because he does that sometimes, you know?
He did not. He did not lick my face, but hopefully that will happen in the future.
Good luck with that. Okay, I want to ask you about a few things specifically from the premiere. Madison has that one line where she’s talking to that student Tobias where she says, “If there’s a problem we’re going to know about it. The authorities would tell us.” She’s someone as a guidance counselor that’s trying to get kids to have faith in the system, but I guess faith in the system is a dangerous thing here, isn’t it?
Yeah, I think what Madison’s also doing in those scenes with Tobias is being a counselor and also taking care of him. I mean, his fears are rampant and paranoid, and he’s scared, and I know this kid is someone who doesn’t have the most stable home life as well, and it is an effort to alleviate his worries and his concerns and also to rely on what we know as the truth in our society, which is that, you know, we will be taken care of. There are organizations in place, you know?
And that’s why I think you can sort of feel it in those scenes. I really like those scenes with Tobias because you feel her take him in fully and not just dismiss him and really try to alleviate his worries. But also I feel like, at least when I was playing it, I feel like it resonates in Madison a little bit that he has some sort of prophecy or he is a bit of a prophet in a way. She doesn’t just dismiss him, but she tries to calm him.
I thought you calibrated Madison’s reaction to Travis and his drug problems in a really interesting way. We see Madison going to the hospital and trying to take care of him, but she’s also clearly really fed up. How did you come about striking that balance?
Well, you know, I found that it was on the page. Like, it’s clear to me that she loves this kid, her son, but I know enough about having addiction in a family and that the addicts can be so selfish. They can be so mean. It hurts to care about them so much. And so I just found it all played very real — like, her complete adoration and love for her son, and she would do anything to help him survive. Even if it’s an element of codependence with an addict or even if it is just an element of primal love for a son, it played out so naturally, kind of all those different colors. And then on the other side of it is how it wreaks havoc on her personally and on her heart. It rips her apart.
Like, waiting for that phone call. Every time the phone rings, it gives that character a start. That could be the phone call that…you know, maybe it’s the morgue. That all plays so truthfully off the page. And Frank is such an amazing actor. I feel fortunate to be able to portray this relationship because I think it is something you can really look at all the complexities of it.
I was struck by one thing Madison said when she reacts to her son’s situation as a junkie where you say “I don’t know if I want him to come home. What does that make me?” That’s something a mother in that situation no doubt thinks but may not often say.
You have to feel for her because it probably just hurts so much if he comes home, and how hard it is to watch this person destroy himself, or not succeed, or not stay clean, and what that does to a family, and how it can destroy a family. It can destroy everyone around them. Several dead bodies are left behind with some of those awful addiction stories.
I love that too about the writing and about Madison. It’s like, yeah, this is the way I feel sometimes, and that’s the thing about their relationship too. It shows in their relationship that Travis is such a compassionate man, and he’s there for her, and he’s willing to accept this family, this flawed family, and do what he can to help. You don’t get to see those moments much.
You realize you kind of killed Calvin the drug dealer here. If Madison doesn’t go and visit him looking for Nick, then Calvin doesn’t try to kill Nick, and then Nick doesn’t kill Calvin, and then Calvin doesn’t turn into a zombie. So it’s kind of on you, Kim.
Because I went to Calvin?
Yeah. That’s the start of the chain of events!
Okay. Yeah. Well, you know what? You can’t blame Madison for that. Madison’s looking for her son. She doesn’t know he’s gonna try to murder him. [Laughs]
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