October 15, 2017 at 11:00 PM EDT
Richard Foreman, Jr/AMC

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Was the plan to always kill all of the Ottos by the end of the season?
DAVE ERICKSON: Jeremiah was always going to go. Troy was a hard one because I actually had a conversation with Daniel earlier in the season where I said that at that moment my intention was to not kill Troy. And then when we got to a place where I realized I had to have a bit more closure than I had originally intended, I had another conversation with Daniel where I said, ‘You know how I said I wasn’t going to kill you? Well, unfortunately, now I am.’

From a story perspective, it made sense and it actually worked with the narrative. And the truth of the matter is he deserved it. I mean, if anybody on our show deserved to go it was Troy — just based on the place where we met him, based on the things we’ve seen him do, and frankly, the things that Madison’s abided by.

I think it was in that moment [where she kills him] she realizes that I tried to do the right thing, I tried to offer charity and I tried to offer kindness and I let him go and now because of that the ranch is gone, the dam is compromised, and I think that’s the moment where Madison comes full circle. That’s the moment where she realizes, this is who I am. Nick’s not wrong. That violence is ingrained in her and what she realizes is that she deviated from that course. She wasn’t true to herself and people suffered because of it, and so in that instance, she decides to put him down. And that has a direct impact on Nick as Nick moves into the last episode because he wants to reject that and find another way.

Where did this idea come for the latest villain of Proctor John, played by your old Sons of Anarchy buddy Ray McKinnon?
Well, what’s interesting about this season is we didn’t have a traditional big bad. Jeremiah and Troy are the closest we came to it, but I also think they were never just pure evil. So really Proctor John is a person who has embraced the reality of this world, really had embraced it pre-apocalypse. He’s not necessarily evil; I think he is practical, he’s pragmatic. He knows that violence is the currency. We talked a lot about Strand’s ability to name the currency of the time, and for Strand, it’s water. For Proctor John, it’s violence and it’s part of nature and he recognizes that.

And I definitely think he’s the closest we come to a big bad so I have no idea what the plans are for that character moving forward, but it was important that we had somebody who could manifest that and could embody it, and we got lucky because Ray just happened to be available. I don’t think he’d acted since Sons because he’s been running Rectify for the past five years.

You co-created the show with Robert Kirkman and have been with it every day since the very beginning. What does it feel like now to be done with it and moving on to developing other shows?
It’s bittersweet. It’s been a good run. I’m really happy with the work we did in season 3. I’m curious to see where the guys take it moving forward. It’s been fun. The closer I got to the end of season 3, the more clearly I started to see season 4, so that was a little bit strange. It’s difficult to let go and I think I’ve directed it long enough. We finished the last effects shots last Wednesday so it is now time officially to put it to bed and move on and do other things.

My wife Sheri Elwood and I are going to adapt David Cronenberg’s book, Consumed, for AMC. That’s the next thing that’s up in terms of projects to come. And then I’m actually going to go work with my old friends at Sony as I signed a deal with them, so we’re noodling over potential projects, which hopefully will manifest in the next several weeks.

What’s the thing you’re most proud of with the show as you look back?
It really started as a family drama. It began as this dysfunctional blended family and then we killed off one-half of that family, so it’s no longer blended but it’s still hugely dysfunctional, and I think at its core what’s compelling to me is watching how specifically Madison, Nick, and Alicia have changed and grown over the past three seasons. And I also think one of the things I do appreciate is that I think we took time with it. We gave them their due. We didn’t churn them into zombie killers within an episode or two, and it’s something that they’ve continued to wrestle with. And I hope that we’ve played to the tropes of the genre and I hope that we’ve embraced the universe that Robert created.

The thing I’m most proud of is I do think tonally the show is its own. I do think that it’s become something unto itself and obviously we abide by the same rules of this world but that within that world we’ve sort of carved out something that’s specific, and something frankly that could survive on its own merits.

I’ll ask you the flip side of that because everyone can be critical of their own work. Do you have any regrets and things you look and say, “Hey, we zigged here, and I wish we had zagged instead,” or anything like that?
Yeah, hindsight being 20/20, from a narrative and plot perspective, I wish we’d got to Mexico sooner. It pains me because Bernardo Trujillo designed the Abigail boat and it was a massive expense in terms of construction and design, and then was a massive expense when it came to the effects that accompanied it.

So I don’t regret the boats, but I do think what it caused in the first half of season 2 — the show had much more episodic feel than I think it had in the later part of that season or had this season, and I wish we had arrived sooner and invested in Celia and the folks at Abigail’s compound a bit sooner and had more time to explore that because that ultimately has become more of the pace of the show. It would have been nice to have grounded ourselves longer either at the hotel or at the compound or both, and specifically at La Colonia. I mean, we got a good chunk of time in the back half last season there, but I think it would have been great to indulge more deeply into that.

Make sure to check out our post where Erickson reveals the series-ending scene he’d like to see, and for more Fear the Walking Dead scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

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