‘Fear The Walking Dead’s Maggie Grace on Althea’s Connection to a ‘Wider World’
[WARNING: The following contains MAJOR spoilers for Season 5, Episode 5 of Fear The Walking Dead, “The End of Everything.”]
With a soldier named Isabelle, a helicopter, a radio and some hard-to-read maps, Fear The Walking Dead‘s world expanded leaps and bounds.
Althea, the show’s determined, daring journalist, wound up at the center of it all. That’ll be a perfect story for her, right? Wrong. As “The End of Everything” concludes, Al’s sworn to silence: If she wants to ensure CRM continues working toward humanity’s survival, she can’t tell anyone about her involvement with it or its existence, even though it appears the organization could hold the key to winning the war against the dead. That’s a tough predicament for any survivor, but for someone whose central mission is to tell the truth of the apocalypse, it’s even worse.
We talked with Maggie Grace about her character’s backstory, whether Al will uphold her vow to keep CRM a secret and what the rest of the season holds for the show’s uniquely conflicted truth-teller.
I was so happy to see Al’s backstory explained in this episode—I found it ironic that she’d gone around asking people for their stories, but we knew so little of hers.
Yeah! That’s a good point, actually.
Had Andrew (Goldberg) and Ian (Chambliss) talked to you about what her backstory would be, or was this script the first time that was addressed?
A lot of it, they’ve had planned since the beginning—some of the regret she mentions about putting her calling over people, and using Al as a way to break into this wider mythology and wider Walking Dead universe. So that’s exciting, and I think they found an interesting moment and encounter to bring that to fruition.
How much did you know about the Rick Grimes tie-in when you got the script? Was it intimidating to know fans would be analyzing every detail to find something that might have to do with him?
No, it’s fun that they’re building in easter eggs for the ride-or-die fans! And I have always known that there would be some way Al would connect to this wider world. It’s been exciting. I don’t know any more than the fans do, really. Al has to, moment by moment, gauge the nature of this organization, which certainly doesn’t seem to be one of benevolence—perhaps “brutality” would be more accurate—but also represents great hope. I think Al’s thinking they perhaps have the greater answer, in terms of how the species survives and continues.
Obviously, these are Scott Gimple questions, not for little ol’ me! But I think in the moment by the campfire with Isabelle, Al is really thinking big with what could be possible.
This might be another “Scott Gimple question,” but this episode begs the question of whether Al will be involved in the Rick Grimes movies. Is there anything you can tell me about that? I’d be sad if Al and Isabelle don’t see each other again…
I know! That’s all I can really tell you, is that I hope Al and Isabelle’s paths cross again. I personally struggle with how to have this character, who is built on asking these questions and a true quest for the truth—this is certainly the greatest story she’s ever uncovered. So even though it all made a lot of sense and preserved the most lives for her to walk away, in that moment, I think it’s going to be really hard for her to shrink the horizons of her world.
Based on who she is, it seems like she wouldn’t be warned away that easily. When Isabelle says “You don’t want to go there, it would take a really long time,” Al’s the kind of person who would be like, “Yes, I do.” She’s undaunted by those kinds of concerns. So, we’ll see! It’s an interesting question.
She almost has dual motivations for chasing that story now—she has the fact that it’s the biggest story, and Isabelle. So I’m rooting for her!
It really feels like Isabelle’s walking into the future, and Al feels trapped in the past. It’s the first time she’s felt alive since her brother died, and she has to walk away from that and somehow forget, as they’re struggling to eke out enough food for existence and solve the problems of their daily life, that somewhere, somebody is flying a helicopter! [Laughs] It’s tough to forget.
Yeah, it felt almost jarring when Al went back to Morgan and Alicia at the end of this episode. I’d acclimated to her being part of this whole new world. I’ll be interested to see where that story goes.
I think she’s very aware of preserving Isabelle’s life, which will keep her in check. But someone like Al would certainly try to hash out different strategies to make contact secretly, or to enter the organization without endangering Isabelle. There’s a couple ways to go about it, right?
Some fans had been wondering for a while if Al was an LGBTQ character, and this episode made that canon—and during Pride Month, no less. How did that come about? Was that always planned to be part of her character and her story?
Because we’re dealing with a post-society world, I personally think it becomes a different conversation. I don’t see social convention or labels mattering much to these people, in these circumstance. [Laughs] Does that make sense?
Yeah! They’ve got other stuff.
Yeah. I think there’s something really beautiful about that, that I think to Al, it’s something of a miracle to meet anyone in this world that you can come to recognize that deeply, and trust that quickly, and identify with so strongly in such a short time. That it happens to be a woman is not the big deal. The big deal is meeting someone at all, in this world. I don’t think people are that worried about labels or social conventions around whom they care about.
Were you happy to have Al have a romantic storyline? It’s great representation, but it also opened up a side of her we hadn’t really seen—a side that wasn’t just chasing stories.
I loved the character that the storyline was with, and how tentatively it was earned. Given the recent experience of these characters since the fall of society and before, it’s not so easy to trust, right? So it was interesting finding those moments where they see each other in spite of themselves. I loved that it wasn’t too overwritten. They felt their way through.
I thought it was nice that the kiss came at the end of the episode, because then throughout, you were seeing the build-up and the bond that was forming.
There were a couple different drafts, and I’m glad they went with that one. It felt right. That moment was really special to me, because it feels like they’re both acknowledging the lives they could’ve had. They mention it, briefly, by the campfire—there’s the people they’ve become, and the people they could’ve been, together. The moment when she finally tells her her name and that she’s from Indiana, that was really beautiful to me.
Now that Al’s back with the group, there’s a whole lot she doesn’t know about. What can you tell me about what the rest of Season 5 will hold for her, and where she’s going?
I think this episode really broke her open in certain ways and closed her in others. She is more clear on risking connection with the group, in that sort of comical moment when she tells them her name—the moment with Isabelle’s name is more about a woman claiming dignity and defining her own narrative in spite of the necessities of the situation. She’s choosing who she is. The moment when Al shares her last name with Alicia and Morgan is a very different moment! [Laughs] I think it’s a “we,” now, and at the same time, she feels closer to them than ever and further away because she has this whole other reality and these possibilities of the future that she can’t safely share with them.
Last question, kind of a funny question. I’m sure fans will enjoy the Isabelle-Althea pairing. What would you consider a romantic ‘ship name for them? “Isthea,” or “Alabelle”?
[Laughs] Oh, wow! I hadn’t thought about it, that’s great. I’m game for either. I’m down for either.
Fear the Walking Dead, Sundays, 9/8c, AMC