Fear the Walking Dead: Frank Dillane on Nick's Struggle for Survival

Rob Moynihan

Frank Dillane as Nick - Fear The Walking Dead _ Season 1, Episode 1 - Photo Credit: Justin Lubin/AMC

The zombies have arrived. AMC's Fear the Walking Dead upped the stakes this week as more infected were introduced and the city of Los Angeles began its downward spiral into chaos. But for Nick Clark (Frank Dillane), the race for survival took a more dramatic turn as the heroin addict went through withdrawals while attempting to warn his family about the flesh-eating threats. We spoke to the 24-year-old English scene stealer about Nick's storyline, his peculiar choice of clothing and why he spent time with the homeless in Los Angeles.

Were you a fan of The Walking Dead before you got this role?
I hadn't seen The Walking Dead. All I knew is this show was something to do with The Walking Dead.

What was the audition process like?
They were very secretive with the scripts, so I auditioned with two scenes that had nothing to do with the story. When I auditioned for it in America, I had to sign the contract saying I was going to do it before having read many of the scripts. They are so secretive and it's exhausting. I suppose it's a good acting exercise because you just have to be truthful in the moment.

What did they tell you about Nick?
I knew he was an addict and I knew he was the first to see the zombies. It's very difficult to pin him down. I don't know if he's telling the truth or not because I don't know where it's going, so I often don't know what I'm doing. I can't pinpoint my objective. All I know about Nick is that he takes up a lot of energy! [Laughs] He's exhausting. I thought it would be interesting if you never knew what he dressed like. He's like a chameleon, just picking up other people's clothes, so you don't know what sort of person he is because they are not his clothes. And all I know about him is it's constantly life or death. Heroin addicts, their genes and their body is constantly growing and dying depending on their fix. So if they haven't had their fix for a while, their genes start to die inside, and then they get their fix and things get born inside.

Why is it so important that he is the first person to recognize the infected?
Because he's unreliable. If someone told you the end of the world was coming, you wouldn't believe him. Try a junkie telling you the end of the world is coming, then you really won't believe him!

How would you describe Nick's relationship with his family?
What made him go off the rails seems to be the death of his father, the figure who should tell you what to do. A mother's love is unconditional. You can do whatever you want and your mother is going to love you. So I don't know how involved in the family he wants to be.

But he seems to have a connection with his sister, Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey).
She's the one person he has left, really. I take my mom for granted far too often, I think most men do. But I don't think he takes Alicia for granted because she's younger than him and she's the last string of thread to humanity that he seems to have, really.

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With the zombie apocalypse on the horizon, what strengths does Nick possess to survive?
If you're an addict, you have one problem: Where am I going to get drugs? Everything else is insignificant. As long as you get that drug, you are happy and complete. So I think that mindset of one-mindedness, forgetting the rest of it, fighting for survival and choosing life constantly will put him in good stead for the apocalypse.

What was it like when you saw somebody made up as an infected for the first time?
It was really horrible. I remember the girl who played my girlfriend, Gloria, I spent a lot of time around her because she was beautiful. Then I remember her suddenly being made up and turning to me and being in horrible, horrible shock. It's really hard and difficult because what do you do? It is not like anything anyone's ever seen before, so I found it really difficult to work along.

What do you think the Los Angeles setting brings to the show?
If the apocalypse came, LA would fall the hardest. LA would crumble and people who live by the morality of Hollywood would fall furthest and these buildings would burn the brightest. It's the hub of capitalism. I don't know much about LA, but it seems to be full of these harbingers of death on the street, like people screaming about the apocalypse. And there are so many homeless in LA. Why is that? In the American fabric, there is the hobo, the wanderer, the Kerouac, the bum. I spend a lot of time around these homeless people and they're all right, but they are outside of the system. I think Nick has their ideals and moralities since he's not adhered to the current state of affairs. His plights are those of someone working outside of the system, like a hobo.

What's his arc for the rest of the series?
I don't know where it's going, so I find it difficult to plan an arc. I try to be as vulnerable and as much of an open embryo or wound or window that you can possibly be. At least I've got something to build on. Personally, I'm a bit horrified at the performance I've given because it's really not tasteful. It's not a classy performance. I'm happy I have something to now refine.

Fear the Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9/8c on AMC.

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