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Kim Dickens talks about “Fear the Walking Dead”

One of the most talked about new series, “Fear the Walking Dead” recently made its worldwide premiere.

Available in Malaysia on the AMC channel on ABNxcess, the series is the spin-off and prequel of the highly popular horror drama “The Walking Dead”, which has introduced a new cast lineup which includes; Kim Dickens, Cliff Curtis, Frank Dillane and Alycia Debnam-Carey.

Kim Dickens who was last seen on the big screen playing Detective Rhonda Boney in “Gone Girl” – shares some insights on her new TV series leading role as Madison Clark who is a high school guidance counsellor.

Read up on the interview!

How do you feel about playing Madison in “Fear the Walking Dead”?
Oh, I’m really excited!  I guess people think there’s a lot of pressure being in this show, but, you know, it’s what actors do. You just show up and start doing the job and you do your best and that’s all you can do.  I’m just really excited to get to play the character and to be part of the story.

What’s your character like?
She’s a warm, courageous, strong woman. There are lots of different sides to her so she’s fun to play.

Did you prepare by watching “The Walking Dead” before you started to work on “Fear the Walking Dead”?
I‘d only just started to get into it and thought it was amazing but when I got the part of Madison I decided to stop watching.  I thought it was best not to know how the apocalypse develops if I was going to play this character so I thought I shouldn’t get any deeper into the show.  So I’m way behind on “The Walking Dead” – but I’ll definitely catch up on it.  My mother’s actually a big “Walking Dead” fan.

Yes!  And it’s really not her genre at all. [laughs]  But she started watching when I got the part in “Fear” and she’s addicted to it now.

How have the first couple of weeks of filming been?  Have you felt any pressure?
Yeah. “The Walking Dead” has such an incredible fan base.  The fans are so passionate and so loyal so I think they probably have some expectations of us.  But this is going to be a distinctly different show even though it’s in the same universe.  So we’re all just showing up and giving the job one hundred per cent.  We’re really doing our best because we want to do right by the fans.  We’re playing this as truthfully and as honestly as we can so hopefully they’ll like it.

You’ve appeared in a number of television shows but is this the first time you’ve had to shoot a number of different episodes at the same time?
I hadn’t done that until I appeared in “House of Cards” but this is so different for me.  There’s so much more for me to do in this show compared to being a guest star.  It’s a real challenge when you’re shooting more than one episode at a time.

So, you have to remember that the character doesn’t yet know something in, say episode four when you might have already filmed some scenes from episode five...?
Yeah.  You have to have all the scripts right there to hand and make sure you modulate where you are emotionally.  You have to make sure you know where you are in terms of where the character is knowledge-wise.

And how much of a challenge is that, when you have to get into a certain mood or emotional state?
Yeah… It takes a lot of focus. It does. But having said that , I just had a really chilled out weekend. [Laughs]  I just put the blinkers on and relaxed and focused on the work for the week ahead.  Took a moment to breathe.  But it’s also a lot of fun.  Whenever I pick up the script, there’s so much there that you can invest in so you can really focus on the emotional and the physical requirements and that makes it a really exciting piece to work on.

So, “Fear the Walking Dead” is a family drama?  Your character is a strong-willed mother with two kids… And a husband?
No.  I’m with Travis and we’re definitely in love but we’re not married.  Maybe we’re engaged.

But you’re wearing a ring.
[Laughs].  I am but it’s… um… it’s a promise ring. I play a single mother who had a good marriage but she lost her husband. He was in an accident, I believe.  So, Madison’s been a single mother with teenagers for a while and we’ve suffered a tragic loss.  But then she met Travis and they fall in love and create a new, blended family.  It’s a second family for both of them, getting together and bringing both their children together.  So they have their obstacles and challenges and emotional rollercoasters to navigate.  And that’s where we begin the story.  I think it’s actually a very relatable family because of that.  You get a sense of what the characters have experienced.  They’re working people.  They work very hard and they don’t have perfect teenage kids. Well I have one perfect teenager - the other one’s not so perfect!  [Laughs].

Which one isn’t so perfect?
Well, I have a really good girl.  She’s a kind of ‘golden child’ teenager.  She’s a good kid.  But I also have a son who’s very troubled.  He’s riddled with drug problems. It’s certainly a colourful family.

And do you have a favourite?
Does Madison have a favourite kid? No, no. I think she loves them both the same. But I think one is easier to love.

Madison is a high school guidance counsellor. Do you think that means she sees what’s happened to her son as a failure?
Well I, I think she feels the guilt and responsibility when it comes to her son.  She’s thinking “What have I done? Is it from my genetics? Is it from me?  What did I do?”  Yes, I think she’s only human in that respect.

But the apocalypse can change all of that?
Kim Dickens: Well… Yes, in a way, everybody gets to reinvent themselves.  Under that kind of pressure you get to see the kind of person you can be.

How much does Madison change?
I don’t know at this stage.  We’re just getting started.

What would you say is the main challenge for you with this show?
Well, the newness of it all.  I’ve never really worked in this kind of genre and it felt daunting to me at first.  But then, once I began working on it, I realised how much fun it was.  Madison’s a very complete character to play and she’s facing some big, universal themes.  She’s fighting for survival.  That’s a dream job for an actor.

What do you think Madison’s biggest fear is?
Losing her family. I think Madison is scared of losing her kids and losing Travis.

How do you think you’d manage in such an apocalyptic situation?
I’d probably be all right for about a day!  [Laughs].  Actually, I have no idea - and I don’t want to find out! I think I’m pretty clear-minded and focused in taking care of my home and my people and my, you know, life in general. I like to think I’m prepared for most things but I have no idea how I would really handle a really grave situation like this.  I like to think I’d be strong for the ones I love.

I asked that question when I spoke to Andrew Lincoln, from “The Walking Dead” and he said that he’d maybe last an hour!
Yeah, yeah – he’d just be a big mess?  [Laughs].  I think I have earthquake kits at home and in the car but they’ve probably expired by now.  Maybe I’d be better than Andrew Lincoln.  Maybe we should have a showdown!  [Laughs].

What’s your relationship with the other actors like?
None of us knew each other before working on “Fear” but I think we all showed up with the same passion and enthusiasm for it so we’ve been enjoying being around each other.  It’s been fun – we’ve been getting on well.

And you’ve become friends?
Yeah, we’re definitely friends now. We’ve built a bond and become pretty close.  They’re all such wonderful actors and very open hearted performers so we’ve all been having a good time together.

Which show would you say is more challenging, “Fear the Walking Dead” or “Deadwood”?
“Deadwood” was tough but for different reasons.  Sometimes we didn’t receive the script until the day before shooting and the language was so important to that show that it couldn’t be paraphrased in a modern way.  That required a lot of focus.  And shooting on location in Santa Clarita, where it was either really hot or really cold, could be difficult.  But it was an amazing experience. I think this show could be more of a challenge for me because it’s so physical.  Creatively, they’re both equally challenging shows to work on.  I’m glad you mentioned “Deadwood”.  I’m so fond of that show.  It’s something I was very proud to work on.  So…  I’d say they’re probably equally challenging.

You enjoyed working on “Deadwood”?
Oh yes. It was special. It was really special. And I think this will be too.  It’s a challenge but that really makes you focus and give it your all - and really, that’s what we’re all here to do.

You have to do your own stunts in this show?
Yeah, I’ve done quite a bit of stunt work so far.  We always have the stunt person on set and we go through what needs to be done – the struggle or the punching or the running or whatever – and they’ll explain how to approach it and then we work out who’s actually going to do it.  I don’t want to brag or anything but I think I’ve done almost all of my own stunts so far!  [Laughs].  But you only do what’s reasonable to do.  I don’t want to be ridiculous about it.  It’s not like I’m Tom Cruise!  [Laughs].

So you’re not hanging off a building or hanging out of a plane like he did in his last movie?!
[Laughs]. No!  How does his insurance company let him do that? He’s a maniac!  No.  No.  I’m definitely not doing that!

Interview transcript courtesy of AMC. "Fear the Walking Dead" can be seen in Malaysia on ABNxcess, Channel 351.

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