It’s bad enough having to deal with a zombie apocalypse without having a camera stuck in your face. But one of the fresh faces on Fear the Walking Dead’s fourth season isn’t just there to survive; she’s there to learn and record the stories of other survivors.
We met Althea (played by Lost’s Maggie Grace) in the Fear season premiere, and that video camera proved to be just one of her many toys. She also drove a tricked-out S.W.A.T. vehicle and used some badass “push daggers” to take out the undead. We spoke to Grace to get her take on all the gear and gadgets, as well some intel on why Althea is so intent on collecting stories from the likes of Morgan (Lennie James) and John Dorie (Garret Dillahunt).
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Let’s start with the Althea haircut. Was that for the role?
MAGGIE GRACE: No. It was just for me. I did it back in June. It definitely is well-suited to the apocalypse. You could part your hair with a razor, and you know, not have it get in the way. Althea doesn’t have time for primping.
Tell me about driving the S.W.A.T. vehicle. That seems like a lot of fun.
It’s actually really easy to handle. Obviously, you’ve got to take turns carefully. But it’s an automatic. And it’s an MRAP, mine-resistant, ambush-protected, and it’s designed to survive the threat of IEDs, and has a V-shaped blast hull. And I think we have the real chassis, but you know, those things cost like half a million, up to a million, so ours is definitely lighter. It’s way less and costs less. Of course, the one question is: God knows where she gets that much diesel, let alone how the diesel would be stable after this many years, but let’s not get into that. That just movie magic!
Is there any backstory for how Althea got this mobile?
I’m not allowed to get into that, but yes, sir, there is.
So we are going to find out some answers there?
Are we going to get some of Althea’s backstory as well at some point?
I would just say that she’s uniquely suited to this environment, and has a comfort level with this level of self-reliance and danger. Even the choice to drive this crazy vehicle, it’s certainly an asset on one hand, because it’s so much protection, and it’s essentially her house. But on the other, it really makes her a target. It certainly stands out and draws attention, and something that draws very negative attention. It’s something that others want.
What’s Althea’s goal in terms of collecting these stories on camera? What does she ultimately hope to do with these?
There are quite a few layers there. On one hand, there’s the personal. You know, we tell ourselves stories in order to live. And I do think this agenda is saving her life. And in a deeper way, I think this season is very much about trying to find human connection when there’s few humans left. I think she’s really looking for that very human quality that’s still left in people. Is there still anything noble, or worth saving, about humanity that separates us from the walkers? It’s reduced a lot of people to nasty, brutish, and a short life. But then there are also incredible acts of kindness and compassion and self-sacrifice, and really incredibly diverse groups working together in ways they might not have before the apocalypse.
So, I think there’s that side, and then I think there’s a very practical side as well, in terms of, these are small societies being built from the ground up, and this is the closest thing that they have to news. So, there is that, and the ways these different sides interact, and different ways of building societies too. There’s that. I think also, in a way, it’s history rebooting. What are we leaving for those that come after us?
That’s the way I was sort of thinking about it too, like, “Hey, in 50 years, we may conquer this thing, and build back, and it’d be nice to have a record of what the stories were going through this.”
I very much think that’s the case. I think it’s all of the above. I mean, she carries stories that are important to her on many levels, deeply personal ones and politically important ones. Even in this Walking Dead universe, there are people you need to watch out for, people that are not to be trusted. And then we’re trying to cobble together a sense of meaning, even in this. I mean, why do you get up every day? What can we hold onto when all the structures and belief systems we’ve built our lives on dissolve beneath our feet? And the answer is, each other. We hold onto each other.
What’s it like for her getting someone like Morgan then, who is so secretive and clearly going through some major PTSD? Is that even more intriguing to her? The more he resists talking to her, does that make her that much more intrigued?
I think there’s something about him. It’s not that there’s resistance, but there’s clearly a lot of depth, and this is a very thoughtful person with a guarded exterior. And he’s traveled a great distance. It’s definitely a story worth finding out more about.
I was watching you on set dispose of some walkers, and not only do you get the S.W.A.T. vehicle, but you get the coolest weapons as well. You have some brass knuckle spike thing happening?
Yeah, they’re push daggers that she wears in a chest harness. It’s almost like boxing, in a way. But it’s easy to keep close at hand and have on you practically at all times. Portable, right? And it doesn’t require ammo.
What was it like working with Lennie James and Garret Dillahunt, because you guys all showed up there as the newbies, and all together?
Yeah, that was our little gang, our little crew, the three of us. We did a lot of time together right at the start, and it was such an incredibly lovely way to come into it. They’re both really special. Lennie is so generous, and warm, and incredibly talented. I mean, this is the man that reopened the Globe Theater after hundreds of years in Two Gentlemen of Verona, opposite Mark Rylance. And I love it when I have scenes with him.
And Garret couldn’t be sweeter, so yeah, I was really happy that. And also just the fact that the three of us were thrust into this brand new situation. It was like leaping onto a moving train, and it was nice that we were all in that boat together. I’m mixing my metaphors, trains, boats.
Planes, Trains, and Automobiles?
Planes, Trains, Automobiles. Can I work a plane in there somewhere?
As an actor, you’ve had every situation. You’ve been part of a regular cast, where you’re part of the core, and this is different where you’re the newbie coming into a regular cast. I’m sure it’s a different dynamic.
Yeah, I’ve been kind of a free agent for many years. I avoided television commitments, and it was just, I love to travel and move around and have kind of an itinerant life. But this is a new experience coming into something that’s already so well-established, and there’s this core cast that knows each other really well. So, of course, we were nervous, as anyone would be, but they were so gracious and so lovely, and we had nothing to be worried about. But yeah, it’s intimidating coming into an established cast. It’s like switching schools halfway through middle school.
What can you say in terms of what’s coming up for this character and the show morning forward?
There were a lot of surprises, even in reading the scripts. Just when you think you understand who someone is, there are a lot of surprises. And it’s really interesting the way that the isolation has driven so many of these characters’ choices.
For more Fear the Walking Dead intel, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.
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