Fear the Walking Dead Preview: Robert Kirkman Promises New Zombie Look, More “Intense” Experience

Fear The Walking Dead
Justin Lubin/AMC
Fear The Walking Dead

It’s the dawn of a new dead as AMC preps Fear the Walking Dead, a companion prequel series to the wildly popular post-apocalyptic drama The Walking Dead. Fear takes place in Los Angeles and documents the origin of the disease turning unsuspecting people into dangerous flesh-eating zombies. Before Fear‘s six-episode first season premieres later this summer, we spoke to creator and executive producer Robert Kirkman to get more details on the show’s new survivors, new zombie look, and the possibility of crossing over with the original series.

What’s the biggest difference in Fear the Walking Dead compared to the original?
We’re taking things back to a time where things were more dangerous and there was more chaos. We’re going back to the early days of the zombie apocalypse, and we’re going to be really digging down deep and exploring all the ins and outs of that time period where [The Walking Dead‘s] Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) was in a coma. We glossed over a lot of that stuff in The Walking Dead, and now we’re going to get to see characters who are not used to the situation step up and make the kind of decisions and adapt. We’re going to watch these characters transform or perish in a very abrupt way.

When you say the early days of the zombie apocalypse, what exactly is the timetable?
When we pick things up in the pilot, there are definitely people that are unaware there is anything going on and are going about their normal daily lives. So for all intents and purposes, this is minute one and we get to watch things devolve from there.

How does setting the show in Los Angeles change the look?
We’re going to get a little bit more scale and scope. It will be very much akin to the time that we spent in Atlanta in the first season [of The Walking Dead]. Having a more metropolitan, urban setting is going to lead to some different visuals. But I think Los Angeles as a city is very interesting in and of itself. Dealing with the dense population, the large areas of land that the city itself covers, and all of the inherent dangers that come from those are going to lead to some very interesting storytelling opportunities than The Walking Dead. I’m very excited to report that there’s absolutely zero woods in any of this first season, so it’s going to be very different.

Since this is chronicling the beginning of the outbreak, will we discover a definitive cause?
You’ll get a greater sense of the overall picture. You’ll see people who are getting infected in the very early days. You’ll see that take hold and how that spreads, but getting back to the actual cause or in any way dealing with a cure is something that we’ll always be avoiding in The Walking Dead universe. This isn’t a world that worries itself with undoing what happened or trying to find some kind of cure. This is a show very much about people and survival and the drama that comes with it.

How would you describe the zombie look at this point in time?
It’s actually vastly different. I think [special effects supervisor] Greg Nicotero and his team really rolled up their sleeves to come up with a unique vision for what this show will look like. We’re going to see a little bit of what we saw in the first season of The Walking Dead, which was the zombies not being as decayed. But we’re going to see a more human kind of zombies that are almost more monsters, in a sense. We’re very excited to debut our new zombie look for this show.

Tell us about the characters we’re following in the first season.
This is the story about Travis (Cliff Curtis) and Madison (Kim Dickens), who are two school teachers who are dating and very much in love. They both have children from a previous marriage, so this is about different families being brought together to try to merge into one. But also, it’s about a happy couple. Too often, cable shows have focused on couples being torn apart with divorce or infidelity, and that’s really where the drama tends to come from. I think one of the core aspects of Season 1 of The Walking Dead was the love triangle between Rick, Shane (Jon Bernthal) and Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies). But this show is really going to focus on two people who really love and care for each other and support each other. It’s a really tight knit, family unit in the face of the apocalypse.

Will they encounter other survivors to form a small army?
That remains to be seen, but we will be having an expanded cast and there will be people coming and going. This is not going to be a show that shies away from character deaths, but whether or not a team is formed in a similar way as on the other show, we’ll just have to wait to find out.

Will there be any crossover at all with the original series?
There are a couple of winks and nods here and there that people will pick up on. This is definitely in the same world, but because of the distance geographically, we’re only going to be doing any kind of crossover elements that make one hundred percent sense. We don’t want to try to stretch believability to the point where we have characters in the other show just show up in California all of a sudden. But there will be things if you’re watching both shows where you’ll go, “Holy crap, they’re referencing that one thing that happened that we saw in The Walking Dead!”

How would you describe the arc of the first season?
It’s about these characters coming to grips with the fact that civilization is crumbling and trying to find a foothold as that’s happening. There’s definitely a focus on survival, but there are going to be a lot more elements to that. These people are in a city and the zombie apocalypse is happening. As we learned from the other show, the worst place you could be is a city. It’s the early days of the apocalypse, so rules aren’t set and ways to survive have not been discovered. This is very much people trying to feel around in the dark trying to figure out if they can live. It’s going to be a much more trying time and a much more intense experience than some of the earlier moments in The Walking Dead.