Fear the Walking Dead showrunner on that huge zombie pier stunt
SPOILER ALERT: Read on only if you’ve already watched Sunday’s “Pablo & Jessica” episode of Fear the Walking Dead.
Watch out below! A few weeks ago we saw zombies falling from the sky (or, more accurately, hotel balconies). On Sunday’s episode of Fear the Walking Dead, infected were once again going airborne, but this time off a long, giant pier after Alicia came up with a plan to draw all the flesheaters out of the hotel and out to sea.
How did they pull it off? We asked Fear showrunner Dave Erickson. And we also asked him a bunch of other stuff as well. Like, how often can they keep going back to the same trick of using zombie blood as camouflage? What’s up with Nick and Luciana getting some sexy time? And where the hell is Ofelia? Read on for answers! (Well, some at least.)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Tell me about how you all went about shooting this giant scene with Madison leading hundred of zombies out on to the pier.
DAVE ERICKSON: It was a combination of stunts and then heavy VFX. I think we tripled or quadrupled the number of dead on the pier in post. And then usually when a stunt person jumps from that height they go feet first, but we had a number of stunt people who actually fell in zombie style at awkward angles and I think there were some very painful belly flops on the way down. The pier is just outside of the Rosarito Beach Hotel, which is where I and most of the cast and crew stay when we’re down there, so for a stretch of time a lot of us were just rolling out of bed in the morning and going to work. I’ve always wanted to find a way to use that, and we figured out a way.
I know zombies can’t swim, unless maybe it was zombie Katie Ledecky, but couldn’t they wash up on shore and return?
They could, but what we tried to do is play that earlier beat where the suggestion was that there’s a rip tide, so the suggestion was once they dropped at that distance from shore that the tide would take them out. That was the goal and that’s what happened.
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Let’s backtrack a bit because we start the episode with Madison and Strand escaping these zombies at the bar, and they do that by camouflaging themselves by smearing zombie blood all over their bodies. We’ve seen this previously with Nick, obviously, and a few times on the other Walking Dead show and in the Walking Dead comic. It’s kind of a get out jail free card in a way, but you don’t want to use it too often because then dealing with the infected becomes almost too easy. So how do you determine how often you can use that trick?
I think we’ve used it enough. It’s actually something we’re discussing in the writers’ room right now. We’re about five weeks into the break on season 3 and we’re going to have an answer to that so we can downshift a little bit because you’re right: If everyone can just sort of gore themselves up, it diminishes the danger of the infected. That’s something we’re going to speak to when we get into season 3.
Yeah, other than a rainstorm coming and washing it away it seems like a pretty effective method. What about Madison? She makes this big case that this hotel could be a really solid fortress if they get into shape. Personally, I don’t share her enthusiasm because I know how these things tend to go on shows like this, but keeping that knowledge out of it, do you think it’s a good plan to try and hold a place like that? At some point you know people are probably going to take it away from you.
It’s always the good plan, and it’s one of the tropes — for Walking Dead and Fear and really any apocalyptic drama. For her emotionally, she’s lost Nick, but she’s found this place, and this plays over the next few episodes. Whenever Nick would leave and go out and disappear back in the old days for days or weeks at a time, there was always a place for him to return to, and I think there’s an element for Madison where it’s, yes, this a place that could be a sanctuary and we could be safe here, but I also think she’s still working off of maternal instinct.
She still wants to create some semblance of home so that if they are able to get a line on Nick, or Nick is able to get a line on them, there’s a place for him to go to, which is why they left the message at the site of where the Abigail was left in hopes that he would eventually find his way back. So, no, ultimately it never ends well when folks try to set up a new sanctuary. Frankly, if things went well, it might get a little bit boring.
Strand has this whole scene where he convinces Oscar that he has to let his poor zombie bride go. He says “Let me help you. Let me help Jessica.” Is he also helping himself at this point in terms of dealing with his grief over losing his own love?
That’s interesting. The answer is yes. We see an atypical Strand in this episode. Now that they have found what they think is a relatively safe place and have cleansed it of the dead, he’s mourning for the first time since Abigail died. They’ve been on the run for the past few days and he’s definitely grieving that loss. That offering to put down Jessica, I think he is trying to find some closure. He’s trying to find some way by offering this gesture to Oscar to offer himself a balm as well. That’s interesting, and Coleman plays it beautifully. Strand is in a very fragile place and it’s a place we haven’t seen him before. I think part of what we’ll see moving forward and then moving into season 3 is sort of the resurgence of Strand and he’ll start to find that older version of himself.
Get that swagger back?
Nice. And then we have Nick and Luciana finally hooking up. Was she indeed testing him by starting to leave his place before anything happened?
A little bit. I think in that particular moment it was more about she’s just realized that her brother is dead and this is a woman who has to be strong for the other people there and because Nick is something of a stranger she’s willing to let down her defenses. I do think that there’s a certain protocol in the fact that she’s in his trailer. She’s a little bit concerned about how that’s going to look, but ultimately it’s the apocalypse and the two of them were both lost and they find themselves.
They’re two young, attractive people who have been through hell, so it sort of made sense to us that they eventually would come together. She had tested him earlier. She hasn’t really given him much leash and she’s been not terribly nice to him, so this is the first time she weakens a little bit, and it’s because Nick calls her on it. Alejandro had said to him this is how she operates. She’s going to test you because she doesn’t trust you yet and this is the first indication that she might trust him.
All right, I’ve asked you before. I’ll ask you again. Where’s Ofelia?
We will reconnect with Ofelia very, very soon. She took it upon herself to leave her makeshift family for reasons that we will reveal shortly, and what it will represent for her is the last stab at hope — the last stab at something that for her is really an act of defiance of the apocalypse. We’re starting to lay track and starting to introduce elements that will gradually steer us towards season 3, and her journey is kind of instrumental in that.
So what do we have coming up next week?
Everything is going to be beautiful. Things at the hotel are going to be great. They’re going to start to farm.
I don’t believe you.
As you’ve indicated, we’re setting ourselves up for a potential fall and Madison’s efforts to reconnect with Nick — that’s going to gain a foothold and ultimately she’s going to be tested in terms of where her love really lies. How far is she willing to go to save her son when her daughter is right there by her side?
For more Fear the Walking Dead scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.