Is Fear the Walking Dead making Strand a villain in season 7?
Fear the Walking Dead's sixth season ended with nuclear warheads detonating, which seems… bad. But maybe it wasn't such a bummer for everyone — Victor Strand, for instance. After surviving the blast in his newly occupied tower, Strand (Colman Domingo) seemed to fully embrace his do-whatever-it-takes-to-survive philosophy. And according to Fear showrunners Ian Goldberg and Andrew Chambliss, that embrace will become even more pronounced in the upcoming seventh season.
We spoke to the showrunners about what to expect in season 7, and it seems like Strand may have finally made the transition from friend to foe. Goldberg and Chambliss also shared some intel on the aftermath of the nuclear wasteland and explained why they "went through the entire stock of smoke bombs in the U.S. and had to start importing them from Europe."
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What can you say about the post-post-apocalyptic landscape we're about to see here? What will things look like once people start peeking outside?
IAN GOLDBERG: We ended last season with this huge event — the detonation of multiple warheads across the landscape of Texas — and we're going to see that it has very much altered the world for everyone. Physically, emotionally, on every level things are going to be different. Our characters are navigating a different world now. For us, the thing that was the most exciting and that you'll see as you watch season 7, is it's a new world, and a lot of these characters are reinventing themselves within it. We're going to see our characters relate to each other in different ways than they ever have before. And one thing we're incredibly excited about is one of those characters in particular is going to take on an adversarial role against members of his own "family." We see in the premiere that it is Victor Strand.
When are we picking back up? Is there a time jump at all?
ANDREW CHAMBLISS: We'll be picking back up a few months into the now hyphenate apocalypse: the nuclear-zombie apocalypse. Our decision was [made] to give our characters some time to get their legs under them, or find that they can't get their legs under them. When we come in, we're going to find all our characters in very different situations. Some will have found ways to thrive in the apocalypse. Others will have found it to be perhaps the hardest thing they've faced. It really is about creating this new world for them. When we come in, that world will be underway.
So let's talk about zombies, because I'm sure you guys had some fun coming up with the look of nuclear fallout walkers.
GOLDBERG: This was one of the first things Andrew and I talked about when we decided to detonate these warheads: How would it affect walkers? And this became a collaboration between us and [executive producer] Greg Nicotero and the team at KNB. If you go back to season 5, we did have walkers that had been exposed to the radiation from the meltdown of the plant where Grace [Karen David] worked. But what we haven't seen is what it looks like when a walker has actually been hit with the blast from a nuclear weapon. I think you can see very early on in the premiere that it looks pretty gnarly. It's seeing the effect of being charred; it's seeing pustules. It's basically like making them both scary visually and more dangerous for our characters to navigate.
CHAMBLISS: The one thing we did from a narrative level was break it down to the different types of walkers you'd have. There'll be walkers who were already walkers when the bombs went off, and there'll be walkers who will be charred. And half of them we call "50/50 walkers" because one side of them —whatever was facing the blast — is charred. Then we'd have people who died in the blast. And those are ones we'll see with the radiation burns. Then we'll also see people who are exposed to radiation and died and turned into walkers. And [they will have] pustules. It really was [about] creating all these different categories of walkers in order to support the narrative, and also just have fun with them in a nuclear apocalypse.
The look of the show, even with the colors and hues you are using, appears really different in season 7 after the blast.
CHAMBLISS: That was a very conscious decision: to represent what a nuclear fallout would look like. And the really interesting thing we found when we researched it is that it varies a great deal, depending on the way the wind's blowing, the weather patterns, and all this. So even within a relatively small area, let's say the hundred square miles we are in Texas, that can vary mile to mile. We got excited about creating the worst areas — the fallout zones, we called them. We have to give props to everyone on the ground and our production team in Austin, because that truly was a collaboration across every department.
It was our art department creating all these set pieces that looked like they had been affected by the blast. Then it was our special effects department literally blotting out the sun with smoke bombs. We literally went through the entire stock of smoke bombs in the U.S. and had to start importing them from Europe just to create that haze. Then our visual text department will step in and help us complete the picture. And then when it goes into coloring, it's all about creating the right kind of filter. So we get that yellowish-orange haze that feels poisonous, and it's filled with really nasty stuff.
At the end of season 5, you separated everyone. Then you started season 6 with everyone separated and they gradually came back together. Then at the very end of season 6, you separated everyone again, so now they're starting apart. How is that going to be different than last time?
GOLDBERG: I think there are some differences between the end of season 5 and the end of season 6, namely this gigantic nuclear event that has happened. So I think what excited us from a narrative perspective about separating everyone at the end of season 6 is that now we're going to see them have to navigate this new world without that nucleus of their greater family, and how they're going to navigate it together.
We also got excited about not just seeing them separated, but seeing how some people like Victor Strand have created this tower and are thriving outside the fallout zone and doing quite well versus someone like Morgan [Lennie James], who has the sub, but he and Grace and the baby are barely scraping by. [We wanted to look at] how that's affecting them emotionally versus how it's affecting Strand. We see all of our characters pushed to places they haven't been pushed to before because of the dire circumstances of this new world, and not having each other to lean on just makes it all the more heightened for us.
Fear the Walking Dead premieres Oct. 17 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on AMC.
This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.
Sign up for Entertainment Weekly's free daily newsletter to get breaking TV news, exclusive first looks, recaps, reviews, interviews with your favorite stars, and more.