'Fear the Walking Dead' Star Colman Domingo on Season 3: 'Every Situation Is Life or Death Now'
When we left Fear the Walking Dead’s fractured de facto family, Madison (Kim Dickens), Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey) and Travis (Cliff Curtis) were reunited and on the road, not knowing Nick (Frank Dillane) was so nearby. A lone Ofelia (Mercedes Mason) was in … someone’s … sights. And a badly wounded Strand (Colman Domingo) chose to stay put at the hotel. So now what?
“Every scenario is life and death,” says Domingo of Season 3, which sees the U.S.-Mexican border wiped out, making cash and country irrelevant. “These Americans are trying to get back to America, but suddenly there are no borders, so they have to examine what that means.
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"It’s also echoing things that people are dealing with in our modern times — especially about what it means to be a refugee. It shines a light on our humanity and the choices that we each make for survival. Are you going to lean into another? Are you going to separate yourself? Are you going to protect your clan more than the others? And what is other now that there are no borders, when there’s no currency, in terms of money? Who rises to the top?”
Like a zombie, we picked Domingo's brain clean about Strand, his connections with Madison and Nick, and what we can expect from what looks like an ultra-violent and dead-filled Season 3.
Season 1 was largely about meeting our players and understanding this new world order. In Season 2, we moved not just to a new country but an entirely new mindset about what might be happening in the world, and how each of our players dealt — or didn't deal — it. What would you say is Season 3’s theme?
Colman Domingo: I would pick evolution — but also deconstruction. I always considered Season 2 to be about deconstructing the characters that we met in Season 1, and finding out how everyone has a journey to become something else. In Season 3, that’s exactly part of the evolution. If it's the stages of man, we’re hopefully at stage 3 now.
No one knew that that’s what needed to happen for survival — that you have to evolve pretty quickly. Alicia’s character was a young girl in high school when we met her, but she had to become a woman quite quickly. In a matter of months. Victor Strand — someone who believed every bit in capitalism, in Western culture, in Western civilization — has now had to go to basics. And he's got to find out who he is and what is his worth now.
So everyone has this complete evolution, and it can take you away from yourself to a part that you had no idea existed — or it can take you deep into actually the truth of who you already know that you are. So I do think this season is about evolution. Evolution of that blood bond. Because the person that may be closest to you now may be someone who’s not even your blood.
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To that end, when we first met Victor he was loner and not the least bit fazed by that. In the Season 2 finale, he appears to be alone again, by his own choosing. This is clearly a guy who knows how to read people and situations and is heartbreakingly unencumbered by those blood ties, so can you give me some insight into why he stayed at the hotel and what his motivations are as we head into Season 3?
The thing that I’m understanding about Victor Strand is that he is always weighing his options. In that moment, as he protected that family and got them out to their car and handed the gun over, he realized it was not in his best interests to go with them. He’s already compromised them. He wasn't in the best of health, so he had to stay where there were resources, and find out how he could get himself well and move forward. I think he's very pragmatic in that way.
But also I think we found in Season 2 that Victor did need people more than he felt he needed them. I think he understood that in this world, you do need others. But he's very used to starting over, starting from zero, starting by himself again. It may hurt a bit more because he found that he did need people and they needed him. But when he was with the family, they compromised him, they compromised his security. Victor can always bet on himself to take care of himself. And I think he's betting on that right now.
That kinda breaks my heart because I loved watching Madison and Victor together in Season 2. You had these two no-B.S. souls with no time for hand-wringing figuring it out and getting stuff done. Is there any hope for us Madi-Stranders?
That’s not out of the realm of possibility. I think that they just have separate journeys at the moment. But they built up so much, so I think in their hearts, in their minds, it's one of those things you can't stop people from being together if they're going to be together. With hope in some stage they'll find each other again.
But when they find each other again will they be the same? I wonder! They know each other more than a lot of characters know each other. They developed this depth, and I think that's what fans are responding to. They were polar opposites and they had to learn to care for one another — and take care of each other in a deeper way. I think that's the thing that's been very seductive to people. They're like "These two, they get each other. They have each other's backs in a way that other people can't. And they're not afraid of each other’s power and strength.
I think Victor needs her in his life. But we'll see what happens this season. I'm hopeful — that's all I'll say. [Laughs]
If you're hopeful then I'm hopeful. I also loved Nick and Victor together as mentor — so hope there, too?
I so enjoyed that relationship! And if you look at the writing team, I think they have a keen sense of humanity as well, and understand that although people may appear to be polar opposites, they're so much more alike than unalike. You take away the trappings of a suit, of being an addict, and you'll see that they both probably have the same skill set — which is why they're drawn to one another. They're both very smart, very wily and cunning in their own way, and they get each other.
I love Frank Dillane, period. Our friendship mirrors Strand and Nick in some ways. I've got years on Frank, but he's my friend, he's my buddy and I like being a big brother to him, as well.
Speaking of brothers-ish, Nick has felt powerless a lot, but he also understands surviving in the worst of circumstances. In Chris, you saw this incredible, unfounded hubris that finally took him out. So there is really nothing cut-and-dried about what it takes to survive in this realm, is there?
Exactly. The tagline for this season is "Fear What You Become." And I've just been thinking about that line. Because the thing to be most afraid of is yourself, actually, because you have no idea what you're going to become in this, and I think that’s why people are attracted to our show. The characters are still more part of the world that we're living in today. They're not so far along into the apocalypse. There are viewers who are like, "I know I would make these choices because I'm a mother. I would make these choices because I'm a loner. I would make these because I'm a young guy" — but then it's "But what are you going to become?"
Your history, your past, your present all eventually influence what happens when family members are compromised and so forth, and you have no idea what your history and your life — what you — will become. Victor Strand said it at the end of one of the episodes last season: "Even though I am who I used to be, I loved who I used to be, as well.” Everything that you'd built up and you believed that you were, that you've poured every ounce of living into is no longer valid. And that's terrifying.
In addition to acting, you are also a writer and a director. Is it captivating for you to be part of this creative realm that is equal parts escapism and social commentary — especially given how many Americans are feeling completely up-ended about this new time in American politics and our standing on the world stage and what we're supposed to think when we get up every morning?
I say yes, yes, and yes! When it comes to crisis, when it comes to stark humanity, I think this is a really great story to examine a faith place, who we are. ... We're back to truly your own rules, which I think is a great examination. We can get underneath who we are and all these things that we built up to separate ourselves and build walls. That's why I believe that we're truly living in a golden era — maybe it's the platinum era — of television. We're using everything we've got, we're trying to reexamine who we are, truly.
Fear the Walking Dead Season 3, Sundays, 9/8c beginning June 4, AMC