‘Fear the Walking Dead’ Star Rubén Blades on Daniel’s Memory Loss & Strand’s Offer

Ruben Blades Fear the Walking Dead Season 6 Daniel Salazar
Spoiler Alert
Ryan Green/AMC

[WARNING: The following contains MAJOR spoilers for Fear the Walking Dead Season 6, Episode 10, “Handle with Care.”]

AMC’s Fear the Walking Dead spent Season 6’s “Handle With Care” episode finally focused on one of its very important core characters: barber/former intelligence agent Daniel Salazar (Rubén Blades).

We’ve watched Daniel survive the zombie apocalypse — particularly its human threats — since the Walking Dead spinoff’s first season, but now we’ve learned he’s having some trouble keeping the facts straight. Recently, Daniel spent time in the settlement of late baddie Virginia (Colby Minifie), where he was convincingly playing the “old man” card, and pretending he doesn’t know, or remember, any of his former group to keep their secrets safe. Now that he’s been reunited and is helping Morgan Jones (Lennie James) build up his own camp, Daniel admits that this was all a clever act. Or… was it?

In “Handle With Care,” we learn that Daniel is having trouble once again, losing time and doing things by accident (like hiding all the visitor’s guns in his tent, or sending some of his favorite people to a dangerous locale) and healthcare worker June (Jenna Elfman) doesn’t think he’s faking it this time. Fans might recall Season 2’s “Shiva,” where Daniel was seeing hallucinations of his late wife and lit that wine cellar on fire. Well, he’s not seeing hallucinations, yet, but this is looking to be just about as bad for him as that time was. Case in point: He nearly shoots Victor Strand (Colman Domingo) in the face, to mimic the injury Strand gave him way back when, because he thinks Strand is responsible for the missing firearms. “It was a pretty loaded episode,” Blades admits.

It wasn’t all bad though — Daniel was reunited with his cat Skidmark and is accepting the help he clearly needs. In the end, he agrees to join Strand back in Lawton, though as Blades notes below, there is more than one game in motion. Below, Blades dishes out more intel.

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Are we 100 percent sure that Daniel isn’t still faking his memory issues at this point?

Rubén Blades: I think one of the wonderful things about this episode is that because of Daniel’s background, there’s always going to be a little question mark in everything he does, especially because most people would wonder why he accepted Strand’s invitation. In Daniel’s world, which is the intelligence world, there are issues that need to be explained and clarified, like the bomb that went off. He does not trust Strand, but he also knows from what Dakota [Zoe Colletti] said in that meeting that it is very, very possible, it’s almost assured, that there are moles in the place that Morgan has made.

I think at this point, he did not remember [moving] the weapons. I don’t think he did. I really think that that moment was a horrible moment for him. When he had to actually admit that he was confused, it was horrible because he can connect with that moment [in Season 2] when he burned that house — that moment when his mind just went off. It’s an interesting scenario. I would like to be less cagey, but I do think he’s going through PTSD, big time. But don’t forget — we’re not dealing with absolutes here. He may be affected, but he’s also capable of having color coordination when he dresses and speaking in complete sentences, and still trying to find out why certain things happened.

Ryan Green/AMC

What was your reaction when you learned this was the direction the writers were taking Daniel’s story?

I was concerned, originally, because one of the things that attracted me to Salazar as a character is his complexity and his constant battle between the ideal of maybe being able to see things differently than the way he does, and the reality of the world that he’s been forced, since being a child, to confront. Morality demands of him a certain behavior that reality defeats. He needs to be ruthless. He can’t make attachments. When you make attachments, you’re vulnerable, and you can’t be vulnerable in this world. And so, it’s a constant fight that he has with that situation. My concern was that by making him weak, his capacity to put one and one together and come up with three would be lost, if he was suddenly like, the old guy who forgets things. But as an actor, it’s also a very interesting situation. Having faking memory loss, now to deal with actual memory loss and the consequences of it, and how to make the audience empathize with him, but at the same time suspect him because he might just be pulling, again, another one.

The most demolishing moment in the episode for me, watching myself, was the moment when he says, “It’s confusing.” I’m very glad the director left it alone and allowed the pause to exist. I was surprised at the emotion I felt watching that. For me, I hope Salazar doesn’t lose his edge, and it’s vital to have someone who goes beyond the hopefulness and the ‘everything is going to be good in the end,’ kind of feeling. This guy is like, ‘Maybe.’

Ryan Green/AMC

One of the most emotionally charged moments was when Daniel pulls the baggie out of his sunken-in cheek and we see his full face injury, and he talks about what he feels every day after this injury that was, of course, inflicted by Strand. Did you have to do that whole dramatic speech with that baggie in your mouth?

I could have used it all throughout, but it would have been more difficult to speak, so I had it on and then I had it off. I thought they did a very good job [with the editing] — I thought it was very effective. When I read the script, I thought, wow, they’re going to pull something like what happened in that James Bond movie, Skyfall. But he had been eaten by acid, so that was worse. But it was a poignant speech, I agree with you. Also, if you noticed, there’s another interesting thing that happens in that scene and it’s the vulnerability that we never really see Strand. That question that Strand asks, the, ‘do you really mean that?’ That was one of the few times, I’ve seen Strand actually react like that, unguarded.

Now, Strand and Daniel headed to Lawton together. Can you share anything about what’s ahead on the road for these two?

The arrival at Lawton provides Salazar with an opportunity to measure the influence that Strand is acquiring. Whether people realize it or not, Strand now has become a version of Virginia. He’s the person in charge now. For Salazar, he’s in a situation where he’s going to be looked after, so that he can on the one hand, not be a danger to others, and at the same time, he’s picking up all that he can pick up from this new place, and measuring the amount of power that Strand is accumulating and how he could use that power to hurt other people. Again, even though it was a very generous offer [for Strand to make], there is an ulterior motive in everything that Strand does and Daniel is very aware of that. He wants to see what hand Strand has.

Fear the Walking Dead, Sundays, 9/8c, AMC