When Fear the Walking Dead returns with its fourth season on April 15, the show will have gone through some dramatic changes on both sides of the camera. Co-creator Dave Erickson has moved on, replaced by new showrunners Andrew Chambliss and Ian Goldberg (who worked together on Once Upon a Time) and Walking Dead franchise overseer Scott M. Gimple.
And while the Clark family (Kim Dickens’ Madison, Frank Dillane’s Nick, and Alycia Debnam-Carey’s Alicia), as well as other familiar faces such as Colman Domingo’s Strand and Danay Garcia’s Luciana will all be back, they will be joined by plenty of new survivors, played by the likes of Jenna Elfman, Maggie Grace, Garret Dillahunt, Kevin Zegers, and more (get the first photos and scoop on some of their characters right here). And then there is the big crossover, with Lennie James’ Morgan moving over from The Walking Dead to Fear.
With the exception of the new character descriptions previously given to EW, new showrunners Chambliss and Goldberg have stayed silent… until now. We spoke to the new men in charge for their very first interview to learn more about the what, where, and when of season 4, and how their show will feel both similar and different to what has come before. (Read through both pages for the entire interview.)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I spoke with Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman recently and he was talking about how the show is going to be very different now in season 4. Obviously, there are a lot of new faces both in front of and behind the camera but in terms of what people see: how is it going to feel different?
ANDREW CHAMBLISS: I think one of the things coming into season 4 that was kind of exciting about entering this world is that it’s a world that reinvents itself constantly, both The Walking Dead and Fear of the Walking Dead. Season 2 we’re on a boat, season 3 we’re at the ranch, and I think just the nature of the world lends itself to that.
Coming in, the elements we’re now changing up and bringing to the show is that we’re going to be kind of pushing some of the genre elements a little bit more. Definitely bring some of the stuff we loved about the world that Kirkman created in The Walking Dead. Walkers will have a big role. And there will be characters who are a little bit larger than life, because as we get deeper in the apocalypse, very often the people who survive and do well in the apocalypse are people who have out-sized personalities or have really interesting ways of living.
So those are some of the elements that we’re pushing broadly, and I think the thing that we’re also really excited about was just taking this cast of characters who have lived in the show for three years and putting them in a new location, a new setting, and putting them with some of the new characters we’re bringing into the show and seeing how the new characters affect the returning characters and vice versa.
IAN GOLDBERG: Thematically, what this season is about is it’s a journey from isolation to community, on one hand. It’s also about a journey from hopelessness to hope. It’s going to be a difficult journey, and one where we’re going to encounter a lot of adversity along the way but, ultimately, that’s what we got excited about is taking these characters that were so richly drawn the first three seasons of the show, and just taking them to new places.
What worked really well in the first 3 seasons that you wanted to build on and do more of?
GOLDBERG: I think we were very attracted and connected to a story of a family, and the nucleus of the Clarks, and what it was like to follow a family in the apocalypse, and where that journey has taken them.
CHAMBLISS: By the end of season 3, the family was very fractured, and that led us to an interesting place when we started season 4 of picking up in a place of isolation and really dealing with the themes of how do you build community and how do you build family in a way that can withstand all the pressures of the apocalypse.
Now let’s take the flip side of that: What did you all feel was something not working as well as it could have or needed some punching up?
CHAMBLISS: Well, I think some of the things that come into the show at season 4 and the fact that we’re going to be a little bit further along in the apocalypse, it kind of lended itself to be able to push some of the walker elements. The walkers are going to be more decayed. They’re going to be a little more fantastical than they’ve been just because these people have been in the world a lot longer. We’re also going to be pushing some of the characters in ways that make them iconic in the ways that they have found to survive and the weapons they use — very much, kind of, pushing things toward the grounded comic book, larger-than-life side of things.
We left off in Mexico with the dam exploding. What can you say about where and when, which is maybe the more interesting question, things are picking back up?
GOLDBERG: We leave season 3, and the only character whose fate we know is Madison’s. So, everything else is left unanswered. Let’s just say, without giving too much away, we’re going to be playing with expectations, we’re going to be telling stories that experiment with time.
CHAMBLISS: We’re playing around with narrative structure and, hopefully, have done it in such a way that when the audience thinks they’ve figured out where we’re going, we have a way to pull the rug out from under them. The decision to reach for those narrative techniques was to really make people feel on edge because this is how the characters feel in the apocalypse, never knowing what’s going to come around the corner. That’s one of the things we’re leaning into.
We know Madison washed up on the shores of the river after the dam broke, but everyone else, we’re not quite sure and we don’t want to give away too much of that because discovering what that journey was is a big part of season 4 and how that journey shapes the characters.
It’s interesting to hear you might be playing with time a little bit because ever since the news came out that Lennie James’ Morgan was coming over to Fear, people have been wondering if we’re going to see a time jump because the two shows do not currently line-up. Am I picking up from your comments that we may be looking at some different time frames taking place this season?
CHAMBLISS: [Laughs nervously] Maybe? I won’t say specifically, but yeah, maybe.
Besides zombies, who are always an issue, what can you say in terms of the main adversary we’re going to be facing in season 4? Is Proctor John still in the mix? Are there going to be some new foes out there?
GOLDBERG: To speak to what Andrew mentioned earlier, one of the things that we love about this universe on both shows that relates to Fear is that there is an element of reinvention. Every season, even every eight episodes, where we find our characters in different places, facing new adversaries. I would say that there will be some adversaries that our characters will come into conflict with that are very different than any that we’ve seen before in the Fear universe.
CHAMBLISS: Really, in the whole Walking Dead universe. There will be some new, unexpected adversaries. They may be adversaries who it’s not entirely clear how to deal with them. It may not be as simple as picking up weapons and going to war with them.
When things left off last season in Mexico, there were signs pointing towards to Houston. We know you’re filming in Austin, Texas. Is it fair to guess that at least some, if not all, of this season will be set in Texas?
CHAMBLISS: Well, some of the season will be set in Texas, but Texas is a long way from Mexico, so who knows?
We know Lennie James went pretty much immediately from the Walking Dead set to yours. What can you say about how Morgan is going to be incorporated into this story?
GOLDBERG: I should start by saying that we are huge fans of the character Morgan from The Walking Dead and his journey that he’s gone through on that show, starting in the pilot, and how he interacted with Rick, and how that played out over now eight seasons on the show. In terms of how he interacts with Fear, we started this season with a plan of where we wanted to take our characters, emotionally, speaking about isolation and community and hopelessness and hope. As it happened, it sort of became undeniable when we started to talk about that, Morgan should be a critical element in that story.
CHAMBLISS: It really was Scott who was working on the back half of season 8 came to us and said, “Here’s where Morgan is going to end up.” And we can’t talk too much about that because we don’t want to ruin it for the fans of The Walking Dead, but it really just made a lot of sense. It seemed like this would be the time to have the two worlds collide. Morgan’s journey from The Walking Dead to Fear is not going to be an easy one and, without giving too much away, it’s going to be a journey where he’s going to come into contact with the characters in Fear, and he is going to change them. Those same characters are, ultimately, going to change Morgan in a way that he’s not expecting.
NEXT PAGE: Why season 4 will feel like a Western
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You have a lot of new characters played by the likes of Jenna Elfman, Maggie Grace, Garret Dillahunt, and others. How do you integrate so many new characters while keeping the core ones that have already been there at the forefront and not moving off them too much?
GOLDBERG: Well, I think it’s something that Fear has done in the past. I’ve always experienced the show through the POV of the Clarks. To a large extent, that will continue this season. Just as in the past, they cross paths with Strand and Daniel Salazar, and many other people along the way, that’s sort of how it will play out this season, as well. Without giving away the specifics of how they interact, we will be experiencing these characters through the perspectives of the Clarks.
What can you say about the look and feel of this season? I remember being on set and talking to some of the other producers and they were pointing out a western vibe in terms of the way you were filming it.
GOLDBERG: What they said is right. We’re obviously in a new location and there will be a bit of a western feel to it. We’re taking an approach with the way we shoot the show that’s a little bit different than the past. It’s going to be a classical filmmaking approach.
CHAMBLISS: Hues of spaghetti westerns and John Ford westerns. It’s really about framing and characters moving within the frame and creating these images that can evoke some of the dramatics that we’re playing with in terms of isolation and these characters on a vast landscape, feeling very much alone. It’s been a really interesting challenge to set this visual look for the show, and [director/producer] Michael Satrazemis has been a huge asset to us in helping define the look of the show in this new location.
How does it work with Scott in terms of you all being the showrunners? You’re handling the day to day on this show, and his role is overseeing the franchise, so how does that work in terms of the dynamic with you three?
CHAMBLISS: We spent a good couple months when we first started having story meetings with him where we mapped out the character arcs and the journey for the season. Then, Ian and I took that and ran. With our fantastic staff, we broke the stories, and we’ll pitch stuff to Scott and he’ll add some great ideas and help us along.
We’re doing the day to day, and Scott helps out on the bigger picture stuff, but it’s been a really great collaborative experience. A great way to enter a new world with someone who is so well versed in it. It can be anything from getting advice to him on the creative side where he can say, “Oh, we tried something like that on The Walking Dead and here were the pitfalls we ran into.” But, then also getting his advice just on the practicalities of showrunning. It’s just such an intense job, and you have to wear so many different hats that, he’s a great resource that we can call and say, “Hey, how would handle this? How you put out this fire?” He’s really helped it to be a smooth transition for us as we stepped into that role.
What was it like meeting with the original cast that’s been there — folks like Kim, Alycia, Frank, Colman — and explaining your vision for the show and where you wanted to take it?
GOLDBERG: They were great. As we said, we came in as big fans of the show and of these characters and of the actors and their performances. We came in and our approach was to come at it first from an emotional place, so it was talking through the emotional journeys that we wanted to take these characters on, honoring everything that’s come before, but taking them into territory that we haven’t seen explored on this show yet. They’ve all been really receptive and collaborative.
CHAMBLISS: We’ve seen cuts of the first four episodes, and we’ve got great performances from them. We feel like we couldn’t be luckier to have a cast who went along with us for the ride. Like Ian said, the one thing we told them the first time we sat down with them is that we were bringing new elements to the show, but at the end of the day, we want to honor everything that’s come before. That’s very much what we’ve been doing.
Okay, so what’s your final pitch to viewers for what the new Fear is going to be like in season 4?
CHAMBLISS: I think season 4 is going to be about taking these characters that people love and putting them into situations that really bring out some of these really emotional arcs between the characters, puts them in some larger-than-life situations. There’s a lot of fun in it. It’s very heartfelt and emotional, and at the end of the day, it’s really about seeing this family put together fighting to survive. Like I said before, it’s not just about them fighting to survive to live to the next day, it’s about them fighting to survive for something more, to build a life in this world that has been overrun by zombies.
GOLDBERG: Just to add to that, we see season 4 as a pivotal moment for the series. There will be new characters, new worlds, new adversaries, but we’re going to be taking the story and our characters and pushing it in entirely new directions and to new emotional places. We are really excited to share it with the fans, and we’re anxious to see how everyone reacts to it.
CHAMBLISS: There is a lot of really exciting stuff for the fans of the show who have been with the show for three years. Then, because we are bringing new characters who bring a new point of view to the show, it’s something that Walking Dead fans can come to or fans who are new to the universe can come to and will be able to jump in for the ride.
For more Fear the Walking Dead scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.