SPOILER ALERT: Read on only if you have already watched the season 4 premiere of Fear the Walking Dead.
Fear the Walking Dead went through numerous changes before the start of its fourth season. There were several new cast members (Garret Dillahunt, Maggie Grace, Jenna Elfman), new showrunners (Andrew Chambliss and Ian Goldberg, taking over for Dave Erickson), a new setting and location (Texas), and a character moving over from The Walking Dead to the sister show (Lennie James’ Morgan).
Questions abounded as to how this would all translate to the screen, and now we have our answers. The season 4 Fear premiere showed us how Morgan went from one show to the other (walking, running, and driving from Virginia to Texas), introduced him to new friends (Dillahunt’s John Dorie and Grace’s Althea) and foes (some jerkface named Leland and his cronies). And in the end, it brought old school and new school together as Morgan, John, and Althea had guns turned on them by Alicia, Frank, Strand, and Luciana from the original cast.
Not only that, but there was a huge surprise in the form of three other Walking Dead characters crossing over to Fear, albeit briefly. Andrew Lincoln’s Rick, Melissa McBride’s Carol, and Tom Payne’s Jesus also showed up at the start of the episode — visiting Morgan at the Heaps in an attempt to get him to return with them to civilization. Instead, it just drove him off. (Nice job, guys!)
We spoke to incoming Fear showrunners Chambliss and Goldberg about those secret scenes as well as everything else that went down in the season premiere. (Also make sure to read our interview with Lennie James as well as franchise overseer Scott M. Gimple’s comments about getting Rick, Carol, and Jesus to make an appearance on Fear the Walking Dead.)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Talk to me about the transition here as we have not only Morgan crossing over, but Rick, Carol, and Jesus as well. How excited were you to get them involved as they see Morgan off into this new world?
ANDREW CHAMBLISS: I mean, we were thrilled. We started talking about Morgan transitioning to the show and it just felt like Morgan couldn’t leave The Walking Dead without kind of having some final moments with some of our favorite characters. Ian and I signed on to do Fear the Walking Dead and then when we were lucky enough to get Lennie to join the show as we brought Morgan over. I don’t think we ever dreamed that we would get to be writing for Rick, for Carol, and for Jesus. So it was kind of a very exciting moment when we realized all the pieces were lining up. It was also a big responsibility to have these final moments between these characters and shooting on a really cool set like the Heaps. We were just thrilled to be able to do it.
IAN GOLDBERG: The other exciting thing for us in having those moments with Rick, Jesus, and Carol is that these are three people who Morgan has spent a long, long time being close to. These are people that are very important in his life. The things that they say to him when they visited in the Heaps are very much things that emotional Morgan is going to carry with him throughout the season. So even though he’s walking and actually running away from The Walking Dead, those words and what they mean to Morgan are going to resonate, so he’s carrying a piece of Rick, Carol, and Jesus with him.
So when we meet Morgan here, he’s back to not killing mode. He even tries to help up that one baddie he is fighting on the rooftop. Is that no-kill policy going to be sustainable, though?
GOLDBERG: Well, we’re going to see. I mean, we’ve seen Morgan on The Walking Dead run the gamut between violence and nonviolence and go back and forth before. One of the things that he says in our premiere episode of Fear is what happened to him when he loses people. He loses people and he loses himself and that’s why he’s running away from people. He’s trying to be on his own because one of the ways that nonviolence can work is if you just don’t attach to people. That’s something that Morgan is struggling with is whether or not he can remain close to people who he might well lose.
CHAMBLISS: I will say that Morgan’s journey this season on Fear is going to be all about that question: How can Morgan be with people with that danger of his history in the back of his mind, knowing what could happen at any moment. Because this is a world where you never know when you could lose someone, and for Morgan, that fear of who he can become when he loses someone is stronger than making a connection with new people.
Let’s talk about some of those people. In the very first minute of the show, he meets John Dorie, played by Garret Dillahunt. Unlike Morgan, he’s a guy that almost craves company, right?
CHAMBLISS: Exactly. When you meet him in the very first frame, and the entire teaser of the episode is John speaking to someone who may or may not be there. We get the sense that it doesn’t really matter to him, that it’s just been so long since he’s opened up, since he’s even had the glimmer of being able to share something with someone that he launches into this monologue about who he is and what it is he’s doing.
You can really get a sense of his longing for some connection. Writing such a big monologue with a new character in the very beginning of the season is a little unnerving, but we were lucky that we were able to cast Garret as John Dorie, and the minute we saw him performing that monologue, we knew that Garret was John Dorie and that we like this guy. We want to know more about this guy. We’re hoping the audience connects to him in the same way.
What’s up with him constantly offering people candy?
GOLDBERG: I would say keep watching, because John’s love for candy is something that we will explore as the season goes on. There is sort of an innocence to him, even though he’s an incredibly capable fighter and obviously a skilled gunslinger in this world. There is a lightness to him and an innocence and a need to connect with people. That’s so much of what he’s looking for. He’s talking about someone that he got separated from, the woman named Laura who he is searching for and wants to reconnect with. There’s just a freshness to that and a glimmer of light.
Will we ever meet this Laura woman with the identical pistol?
CHAMBLISS: I think it’s safe to say that John’s search for her is going to have its ups and downs, and he’s not going to give up, and maybe we will cross paths with her. The when, the where, the how — they’re lots of surprises and, like I said, some ups and downs for John on that journey.
GOLDBERG: There are a lot of obstacles to finding people in this world.
Yeah, some dead, some alive, right?
GOLDBERG: That’s right!
Let’s talk about the other newcomer here that we have in Althea, placed by Maggie Grace, who apparently has survived the Hurricane Heist. What’s the story on where she got this crazy armored SWAT vehicle?
GOLDBERG: We feel tremendously lucky to have Maggie playing Althea. Certainly the way we meet her in the show is a pretty dramatic entrance. She’s driving a SWAT van, and we see how she had it rigged up with her guns and the gun ports. But the other thing that we find so fascinating about Althea, or Al, is that she’s somebody who is doing pretty much the same thing that she was doing in the apocalypse as she was doing before. She’s out collecting stories. She’s a journalist. She is interested in who people are, where they came from, who they’ve crossed paths with. We don’t learn a ton about her. She’s on the other side of the camera. She’s the one asking the questions. So where she got that SWAT van, she’s not ready to talk about it yet, and we may not find out about that for a long time.
What’s her ultimate goal with these stories? Is she thinking about, “Hey, one day maybe we’re going to get back to normal in this society and then we’ll be able to tell this story about what happened.” Is that the ultimate goal for her?
CHAMBLISS: I think a big part of what she is doing is preparing for the future and trying to get a record of how people survived — and beyond the how people survive, what comes out when people are pushed to their limits. In the premiere, we see both sides of that. We see characters like John Dorie and Morgan, who kind of revealed the best sides of themselves during the fight in the trailer park. Then we see the other side of it with Leland and his crew, where they’re really just out for themselves and they don’t really care about what they do to anyone. So I think Al is just fascinated by the spectrum of people’s reactions to this world. We see some hints of there being a little bit more motivating her than just collecting stories.
GOLDBERG: There’s that great moment where Morgan kind of turns the interview around on her and really presses her and says why her asking questions is so important. He never really gets an answer, but I think that silence coming from Al is just as much as if she had actually given him an answer.
What can you say about this 51 flag marker we see in this episode because it certainly appears to be pretty ominous?
GOLDBERG: I would say you will not be disappointed if you continue to watch, because that flag will be explored and it may not be the only one.
CHAMBLISS: It is definitely a harbinger of things to come. Al was not lying when she said she’s seeing them popping up over the landscape. We may, as Ian said, start to see some more of those things.
Before we wrap up, give us a little tease as to what’s coming ahead. We end with the new guard coming across the old guard, who pull a fast one on them in the middle of the road.
CHAMBLISS: I would say the final line of the episode, this thing that Al says: “What’s your story?” We’re going to start to get the answer to that question in episode 402.
GOLDBERG: Just to add to that, when we see Luciana, Nick, Strand, and Alicia, they seem to be in a pretty dark place at the end of the premiere. When we start to see more of their story, we’re going to be slowly unpacking how they got there.
CHAMBLISS: They may be in a very different place than where we saw them at the end of the premiere.
Fear the Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC.