Spoiler alert: Read on only if you have watched Sunday’s midseason finale of Fear the Walking Dead, “No One’s Gone.”
Shocked. Disappointed. Heartbroken. That is how Kim Dickens describes her reaction to finding out her character of Madison Clark was going to be killed off in the season 4 midseason finale of Fear the Walking Dead. And that’s most likely how fans of the show are feeling now that Madison is gone.
Viewers have been on edge about Madison’s fate all season due to the fact that she never appeared in the present-day story line, and in Sunday’s “No One’s Gone” midseason finale, we learned the truth about what happened to her — that Madison had sacrificed herself during the Vultures’ zombie assault by leading the walkers back into the stadium and then locking herself in so the others could escape.
Unlike Frank Dillane, who asked off the show, leading to the present-day death of Nick a few weeks ago, Dickens was hoping to continue on the zombie drama, but was informed by new showrunners Ian Goldberg and Andrew Chambliss before filming began on season 4 of their plans for her character, who had been the show’s lead since the very beginning. (The deaths of Nick and Madison mean that Alycia Debnam-Carey’s Alicia is now the only original character from the very start of the series who is still alive — unless Rubén Blades’ Daniel Salazar eventually resurfaces.)
We spoke to Dickens to get her take on the big move and her behind-the-scenes perspective on filming her final episode. And while the actress is candid about her disappointment over Madison’s death, she also has a message for fans about what it means for the show proceeding without her.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So when and how did you get the news about Madison’s untimely demise?
KIM DICKENS: Well, I went in about a month before we started production on season 4. I went in and talked to the producers and showrunners about how the season was going to work, and they sort of broke it to me that they had their story line, and that vision was for Madison to meet her demise in the midseason finale. So I knew about a month before going into production.
And how did that news hit you?
Well, it was shocking. Obviously it was shocking to me and it was disappointing. It was heartbreaking. I have loved this character, I’ve loved playing this character, I’ve loved this show, and I’m so proud to have been a strong female empowered lead of a genre show. They’re usually led by male leads, and it was just such an honor to have this special experience of being that lead female calling the shots. And also, I’m not in my 20s or not in my 30s, mind you. She was a mother too — a mother who was ferocious, and I just thought it was just such an honor to get to play her.
I also thought there was so many more stories to tell and so many more places to go, so I was initially shocked and disappointed and heartbroken. But you know, it’s in the hands of the writers and the producers, and that’s the fate that befalls so many of the characters in this genre. Basically, the message is, no one’s safe. And these kinds of deaths will ultimately propel the story of the other characters into other places. It’s part of the genre, it’s part of the storytelling device, and I just have to wrap my head around it and go into production.
It is shocking because it’s an ensemble show, sure, but Madison is the glue. She was the one, as you said, calling the shots. We view this whole world through her eyes. And now we’re going have a completely different vision. It’s a bold move, to say the least.
Yeah, I think it is a bold move and they had the courage to do that and the vision to do that, but it certainly sends it into a spin. I don’t know what the second half of the season entails. I haven’t seen any of the scripts even. I’m still super-close to my castmates and everything. We’re all really tight, but I haven’t really heard anything about what’s going to happen on the show. It’ll be interesting to see. And it will be a void.
When the show was created by Robert Kirkman and Dave Erickson, it was like seeing this apocalypse through the eyes of this family and keeping this family together. I found that so compelling, and something that really resonated. I mean, this is a woman who was not just surviving, and interested in surviving one day at a time — she was interested in saving her children and starting over and creating a new world. That was really interesting to me. So it was going to spin into a different direction, and I think there will be a void for a while, but that void is going to inform the lives of the other characters.
You mentioned you went in about a month before the season, they told the news, you’re shocked, you’re wrapping your head around it — was the next step making sure she went out in a way you felt did the character justice?
I immediately spoke to Andrew and Ian about that, our new showrunners, and we sat down together after that initial meeting, and once we were starting production we sat down and I expressed my concerns and they were very open, and they obviously had the story line already plotted out, pretty much. So, we knew basically how it was going to look and they took my concerns to heart, and I feel like they addressed them in the script, and for that I was grateful.
What was it like filming these last episodes with a mix of new and familiar faces both in front of and behind the camera, knowing you were moving on?
I certainly went down to location with a bit of a broken heart, based on my character as well as Frank Dillane’s character, Nick, so we went into it with a little bit of a somber feeling. It was different than the other seasons I’d gone to work. That last day, even though my character was succumbing to the fate, I wasn’t really ready for that, but of course I just gave it my all, there was no question.
We were all sort of licking our wounds. Lennie James and I were upset to not get to work together, and Garret [Dillahunt] and I didn’t get to work together and he’s, of course, my old dancing partner on Deadwood, and we wanted to play again as these main characters. So you carry it with you into production, and I was playing some real moments there that had truth between Alycia and Frank and myself. Everybody knew, so it’s there in your heart and in your performance.
What were those last days like, and then having to say goodbye to your castmates?
You know, every episode you do that is a tough episode. We always aim for the fence and we shoot them in eight days, which is a lot less than a lot of other epic shows get. So we’re always working hard and aiming for the fence and I think that last episode, we’d all kind of been going through it for five months, so by the end we were just doing our job and making it as good as we could. And it wasn’t very melodramatic or dramatic for me at all at the very end. We’d been saying goodbye and I said goodbye and we’d already had our dinner, we’d been hanging out all season. We still see each other now, so it wasn’t that bad.
What was the last thing you filmed?
The last thing I shot was the first scene of the midseason finale. The first sequence, so with Maggie. That was the last thing we shot. It was in the schedule earlier, and the winds were so high we couldn’t shoot it. We can’t use a lighting crane at a certain mile-per-hour wind, so we had to shut down and we picked it up later, at the end of the schedule. So that was the last thing I shot, and it was kind of great. That was probably one of my favorite scenes. I loved it and felt like I had Madison back. She was obviously at her darkest and wildest and filthiest and most desperate and hopeless, and it was fun to sink my teeth into that.
For me, one of the biggest moments of the episode is you giving that Wilhelmina bird speech to Maggie’s character, Althea. A lot of dialogue there. What was filming that scene like?
We were outside in that beautiful setting by the train tracks, and freezing. That scene cuts back and forth to other scenes in the episode, but we shot it all together, which made it into about a six-page scene. So we were sitting there for a very long take and just going for it. I thought it was beautiful writing. I loved where it took Madison’s journey. She was in such a wild, animalistic state in the start of that sequence, I think it really took her being ziptied to be broken down and to actually talking and expressing really what it was she wanted to do. I thought the whole piece was so beautiful. It was fun to play.
What was the experience like for you of watching this episode? Did you have any different feelings going through that, or was it just kind of like watching any other episode for you?
Well, I was prepared for it. I know what the episode is, and you see different pieces of it as you do ADR, and you watch some things on the monitor on set. I knew what it was going to be, and I was pleased. Sometimes you get a little let down and you’re like, “Oh God, they didn’t use the take I wanted” or whatever, but I was pleased with it and I had a little anxiety going into watching it, but that sort of went away after I watched episode 7, because that was the real build-up to it. So then I was used to the idea. I was proud of it.
You should be. And your slow-motion acting was on point!
Thank you! That was so fun. I have to tell you, it wasn’t really written that way on the page, and I credit [director] Michael Satrazemis with achieving that storytelling device. So much of it was being recounted anyway and it just looked incredible, and it was super-fun to do as well.
People were tweeting me on social media, saying before the episode aired that if Madison died they were done with the show. What would you say to them?
I’d say this is part of the journey with this genre. It’s part of the storytelling, and it’s the risk you take, I guess, investing in it. Characters will meet their death untimely and it may not feel fair, but it does try to play truthfully, our story. So I understand the heartbreak, trust me, but I just think it’s part of it.
For more Fear the Walking Dead scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.
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