Fear the Walking Dead showrunners on the big Deadwood connection
Warning: This article contains spoilers about Sunday's episode of Fear the Walking Dead titled "J.D."
With each passing season, Fear the Walking Dead leans more and more into becoming a straight-up Western, and the latest episode took that to a new level courtesy of a genius bit of casting with a bit of a full-circle twist.
Hearts were broken a few weeks back when fan favorite John Dorie — played to perfection by Garret Dillahunt — was gunned down by Dakota and pushed off the bridge to his death below. But little did we know that another John Dorie was on the way — John Dorie's dad… John Dorie!
We met the senior J.D. on Sunday's episode of Fear the Walking Dead titled… "J.D." In the installment, we learned that the case John Dorie Jr. had discussed earlier this season in which John Dorie Sr. had bent the rules to take down a killer was a case involving the new season 6 antagonist, Teddy Maddox, and that John Dorie Sr. had put the quasi-cult leader in prison back in the 1970s and was now hunting him all over again in the zombie apocalypse.
The elder Dorie eventually combined forces with June to head back to the Dorie cabin in the hopes of getting clues to stop Teddy — while also reuniting the pair of J.D. pistols. It was an emotional installment that connected dots while also filling out the Dorie family history — a history that has an interesting footnote in terms of the casting.
Playing John Dorie Sr. was none other than Keith Carradine, who last saddled up in a Western as Wild Bill Hickok on Deadwood. But the connection between the two shows does not end there. As Fear showrunner Ian Goldberg points out, the person who killed Carradine's character on Deadwood was none other than… Garret Dillahunt! Dillahunt portrayed Jack McCall on the HBO series (before somewhat confusingly returning later to play a completely different character in the form of Francis Wolcott).
We spoke to Goldberg and fellow Fear showrunner Andrew Chambliss about landing Carradine for the part, landing Aisha Tyler as a director, landing on the Teddy–Dorie connection, and landing on that surprise Dwight and Sherry reconciliation.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: First off, how did Aisha Tyler end up directing this week's episode?
IAN GOLDBERG: We have been fans of Aisha's as an actor for a long time. We were aware of her and also knew that she was a big fan of The Walking Dead universe because she'd appeared on Talking Dead. And when we saw her name on a list of potential directors, we got really excited. And then when we spoke to her and came to know her and how much she loved genre and filmmaking and just her knowledge of the universe and her love for the material and the characters, it was the easiest "yes" to bring her aboard. And she absolutely exceeded every expectation we had in this episode on every level, with performance, technically... just a really beautiful job.
ANDREW CHAMBLISS: Because we had been shut down for six months, we got really far ahead on scripts. So were able to get Aisha the material a pretty good amount of time ahead of pre-production. She was able to sit with it and think about it. And then we had lots of conversations as she was prepping the episode.
The big twist in this episode is that John Dorie's dad — John Dorie — shows up. How and when did you all come across the idea to bring this character into the mix?
GOLDBERG: It was an idea that Andrew and I first started talking about when we were working on episode 604, the episode where John Dorie Jr. was talking about his father throughout that episode and, in particular, the monologue that he gives to Rabbi Jacob, where he talks about the case that his father was working back in the '70s, the case that destroyed him. And it was at that point that we had the dual idea of [bringing] in John Dorie Sr. and [wanting] to have this Teddy character as well.
And it was important to bring John Dorie Sr. into the story now because we knew this was going to be a heavy June episode and that June has not fully processed her grief over John Dorie. And we wanted to bring her into collision with someone else who needs to process their grief over John Dorie and both of them realizing they can do that with each other. And they end up finding that they're the only family they have left in this world. And we also got excited about the fact that the JD on the gun handle, the etching, stands for both of them.
I was going to ask you guys about how you made the connection between J.D. Sr. and Teddy, and that being the case that broke him, and you're saying that not only is episode 604 where the idea for the elder John Dorie came in, but also for Teddy, which I find fascinating. And then that you built it so slowly. It's not until nine episodes later when we finally connect it.
CHAMBLISS: It was just one of those things that we knew was probably going to play best as a slow burn. And when we read that monologue and said, "There's two really cool things in here. We need to figure out how to pay them off," it then connected to another element that we had been planting, which is the "end is the beginning" graffiti that we had been seeing. And we always had known that that group is going to rear its head towards the end of the season — after Virginia had been taken off the table — and be the threat that was really going to be the thing that would test whether all of our characters could come together or would be driven apart. So that dictated the timing. We're glad we waited because I think the payoff isn't just to see Teddy and to see John Dorie Sr., but it's actually to see June and her grief, and actually allow her some time before she even is really processing it.
Her initial reaction was one of anger and vengeance when she killed Virginia, and then she just shut down. And we had had a bunch of conversations with Jenna about how she felt she should play that moment, what we were thinking with the story going forward. And we really wanted her to be shut down as a character and not show any real emotion and vulnerability until this episode. And it was fun to give her that space to be keeping it all bottled up, so that when it did come out, it felt real, it felt genuine, and then felt really earned .
How did you all end up in the role of John Dorie Sr. with Keith Carradine, who obviously has done Western work on Deadwood and whose dad was in Stagecoach, maybe the most famous Western ever?
GOLDBERG: Not only was he on Deadwood, but he was killed by Garrett Dillahunt on Deadwood.
That's right! One of Garrett Dillahunt's many roles on Deadwood.
GOLDBERG: Yeah, John Dorie killing John Dorie. Honestly, we got him through our wonderful casting team and some good luck, because he is a world-class actor who is very much in demand. And we spoke to him about the character. He could not be more lovely, gracious. He was excited from the beginning when we talked to him about the character and what our plans were for it. He's just one of those performers that is iconic in his way.
Even just his voice, Andrew and I always say we could listen to Keith Carradine read the phone book and it would be riveting because he's just so compelling. And he's been incredible as the character.
Keeping in mind that anyone can die at any moment on this show — which we've certainly seen this season — but outside of that, how big a role can we expect for John Dorie Sr. to play moving forward?
CHAMBLISS: He will play a pretty big part in the show going forward. He obviously has a lot of unfinished business with Teddy, and he also has a lot of unfinished business in terms of his feelings towards his late son and all the ways that he failed him as a father. So those are, I think, two main issues that he's going to be grappling with as a character. And then we may just see him stick around for a little while.
Let's talk a little bit about Dwight and Sherry. June gives them the rings, they leave together. Are these two now back together as a couple? What's next?
GOLDBERG: I think this was a big step forward for Dwight and Sherry. It was a big moment for Sherry deciding not to pursue the vengeance that she's been harboring against Meagan for so long, putting that to bed, in seeing how the pursuit of Teddy and abandoning his family [resulted] in such devastating consequences for John Dorie Sr. in his life. That really shook Sherry to her core. And so, there is a new path forward for Dwight and Sherry. As Dwight says to her, "Why don't we just start over?" And I think that's what we're going to see them do. Not to say that everything is going to be smooth sailing from here on out, but they've turned a big corner as a couple.
When she said she was going to go to Virginia to take out Negan, I don't know if you guys bothered thinking about this or not, since she appears to not be going there, but I was trying to figure out where Negan would be at this point in the timeline. I guess he's in his cell in Alexandria, right?
CHAMBLISS: Yes, we did talk about it. And even though she made the decision not to go there, we did have the conversation because we didn't want to start a story, even within an episode, that people might call us out and say, "Wait a second, Negan can't be killed by Sherry!" But that gets tricky because all the shows are not really tied to an exact date. It's just general years and whatnot. So it's hard to sharpen against each other sometimes
Okay, tease us up for next week's episode.
GOLDBERG: Get excited for an hour of television entirely spent with the great John Glover.
CHAMBLISS: And then piggybacking on that, we heard Teddy — when we last saw him opposite Alicia — say he was always a bit of a mama's boy. We will find out exactly what Teddy means by saying he was a mama's boy.
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