Fear the Walking Dead showrunners share insight on the Dwight crossover
SPOILER ALERT: Read on only if you have already watched Sunday’s “Humbug’s Gulch” episode of Fear the Walking Dead.
Enter the Dwight. Following in the footsteps (and highways) of Lennie James’ Morgan — who crossed over from The Walking Dead to Fear the Walking Dead last year, Austin Amelio’s Dwight also made the transition on Sunday’s episode of the zombie companion series. The former Savior encountered John & June in a wild, wild west theme town called Humbug’s Gulch, and while that encounter started as a gunfight, it ended with the couple promising to help the stranger from up north in his quest to find his wife Sherry.
Why have Dwight introduced in this fashion, and why with John & June? What was up with that awkward reunion between Dwight and Morgan? And what about those sneaky kids at the end trying to pull a fast one on Alicia? What’s going on there? We spoke to showrunners Ian Goldberg and Andrew Chambliss to get all the answers.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: This show has taken on a definite Western vibe since you came aboard on season 4, and as a big Western fan, I love that. But tell me about the decision to go all-out in this episode. We even have the tumbleweed and the whistling and all the hallmarks of the genre.
IAN GOLDBERG: We are also huge Western fans, and this is an episode we’ve been excited about since episode 405 last season when John Dorie first told June about the wild west show where he used to work. So baked into the premise of a wild west town, we got to have fun with all the kind of hallmarks of the Western: The tumbleweeds, the trick shooting, the windmill. And there were a lot of references for us. You know, everything from The Big Lebowski to 3:10 To Yuma, to High Noon. They were all percolating in our brains.
The other thing that that excited us was it was an opportunity to explore Dorie and June on a different level. Obviously, Dorie is someone who we’ve seen this season is struggling with having a lot of good luck while other people don’t have it, and finding the Gulch at the beginning of this episode was another example of that. And it’s seeing Dorie wrestling with that survivor’s guilt.
It’s also June learning more about Dorie in this place where he had a life at Humbug’s Gulch. It’s her helping him through the survivor’s guilt. And, of course, the thing that really illuminated it all and made it super exciting was bringing Dwight into the episode and into the show as someone who in many ways is wrestling with some of the same things that we’ve seen Dorie wrestling with. He’s someone who is looking for someone he loved, which Dorie was doing last season as well, and it just presented a really cool tableau and environment for Dorie to help someone who was in a position that Dorie himself could have easily fallen into it had he not had the good luck.
We knew Dwight was joining the show this season crossing over from the mothership and obviously there are a lot of different ways you could have brought him in. What Ian was just saying makes all the sense in the world with the clear connection between Dwight and Dorie. But tell me a little bit more about figuring out the best way to introduce this character. Was it pretty quickly that you guys settled on at the Gulch with John and that connection there, or did you play with some other ideas as well?
ANDREW CHAMBLISS: We definitely played with some other ideas, but what I think led us to the Gulch was the fact that it really seems like Dorie and June being the first people to encounter Dwight just felt right because of all those similarities that Ian just mentioned, the fact that Dwight is looking for someone who he loved and Dorie had been through that same exact experience. It really seemed like those two parallel story tracks were telling us that Dorie and June should be the first people to encounter him. And we really saw it as Dwight being a mirror image of Dorie and almost a sign of what could have happened to Dorie if he had not had the luck to find June.
And given where Dorie is at the beginning of this season, of kind of feeling the guilt for all the things that he does have in the apocalypse — Dwight really exacerbates that, because it is someone who has not had the same fortune he’s had.
As you spoke with Austin Amelio about coming over and playing this character a year or so later after everything he’s gone through, how did you tell Austin you were envisioning him playing that guy now?
GOLDBERG: It was exciting for us to sit down with Austin because we’re huge fans of his character and of the work he did on The Walking Dead. But what we thought was cool and what we got excited about with bringing Dwight onto Fear is that it was going to be a redemption story, and we were going to see a more hopeful side of Dwight start to take shape. And obviously when we find him, he’s not in a hopeful place.
And this episode, it’s quite the opposite where we know that when he left The Walking Dead at the end of season 8, Daryl spared his life and told him to find Sherry and make it right. We see that that hasn’t been going very well for him. And he’s in a desperate, low place where he doesn’t believe he’s ever going to find her or ever make things right, which puts him in a position where he’s at the end of his rope.
He doesn’t think there’s any place for him to go. He’s suicidal, frankly. And he’s fortunate enough to come across John Dorie and June, who’ve got this incredibly hopeful story that we saw play out over season 4. And there are people who are able to bring him out of his funk and to give him a reason to keep going. That was really exciting to us. And like everyone else in the group — from Morgan to Alicia, Dorie, June, really everyone in our group — Dwight’s someone who has things to make up for, and now he’s found a new family that he’s going to be able to do that with. And it’s going to be a challenge for him. But we’re going to see a different side to Dwight than we saw for a lot of The Walking Dead.
Tell me about how you wanted to play the Morgan and Dwight reunion, because they were on opposite sides, and then the same side, and then both just kinda took off.
CHAMBLISS: Yeah, it was a big moment obviously. And I think what we really wanted to have out of it was just A, the kind of shock that somehow they found each other, and also just have a little bit of fun with it. And the interesting thing when we were sitting down with both Lennie and Austin at the beginning of the season, they said to us, “We really haven’t worked much with each other.”
They were in some of the bigger group scenes, but Morgan and Dwight hadn’t actually had a lot of personal one-on-one interaction. They obviously both kind of know each other as characters and their history. So I think when they find each other, it was really the surprise that these two people ended up in the same place. And we give some hints that there are some reasons that they both ended up in the same area in Texas. And there’s a little bit of that back and forth where they’re talking about what roads they took. And I think we’ll learn a little bit more about what forces drove them to this area.
But the other thing that we wanted to get is just the promise of these two people finding each other when they’re very different than they were when they left. Morgan was still very much a broken person. Season 8 was very tough for him, and the same for Dwight. They saw the worst sides of each other and now they’re amongst new people trying to be the best versions of themselves. So I think there’s a little bit of wariness about, “Hey, this guy knows who I really am. Is that okay? Is that side of me going to come out again?” And we’ll continue to kind of see the two of them kind of size each other up and see how much they really have changed.
How much is the search for Sherry going to play a part moving forward? We saw John’s search for June, which ultimately was successful, and sometimes these search missions can be a primary mission, and other times, there are other much bigger things happening that have to be dealt with.
GOLDBERG: If this episode shows us anything, it’s that he’s definitely not giving up on his search for Sherry. Dorie and June give him a kind of renewed energy and hope that she could still be out there. And so he’s going to continue to search. But along with that, he’s going to do the other thing that Daryl told him to do, which is make it right. And that can take a lot of different forms that don’t necessarily relate directly to Sherry. Dwight’s got a lot of bad things he did to make up for. In addition to looking for Sherry, he’s going to be looking for ways to redeem himself, and it will be with this new group of people finding how he does that and how he fits in with the greater family.
Where did the idea for the San Antonio split come from?
CHAMBLISS: We really wanted to see some of the origins of Dorie’s skills as a marksman. And we were looking at old wild west tricks — you know, Buffalo Bill’s show and the kind of things that they would do there. We even sent some writers to the Autry Museum of the Wild West out here in Los Angeles and we found the bullet split, and it seemed like just such a fun kind of a trick that just comes up to the edge of what’s possible. And it’s something that they actually used to do at wild west shows.
We really want to have a trick like that, not just because it’s fun and a cool way to kill walkers with one bullet, but ultimately for the emotional reason — it’s John Dorie embracing the person he was before the apocalypse. It’s a sign that he is letting go of a lot of guilt he’s feeling. And for June, she’s seeing at the same time this side of John that she’s been trying to get out of him for the whole episode. So it kind of brings them together in a new fun way.
What can you say about these kids Max, Annie, and Dylan who are tying the zombies up in the road and trying to pull a fast one on Alicia and company. What are we to make of these, these tykes?
GOLDBERG: They’re full of surprises. There’s a lot more story to tell with those kids.
Why are they so intent of getting rid of these people?
CHAMBLISS: A surprising reason, and it’s probably not what anyone’s thinking. I’ll say that.
So what do we have coming up next week? Give us a tease.
GOLDBERG: More Skidmark. The episode is titled “Skidmark,” and Skidmark has a real moment to shine in next week’s episode.
CHAMBLISS: And then I’ll say that we probably have one of the bloodiest, goriest walker set pieces we’ve ever done.
Fear the Walking Dead