AMC has a lot riding on Fear the Walking Dead.
The cable network home to TV’s No. 1 show among the advertiser-coveted adults 18-49 audience is banking on Robert Kirkman, who created zombie drama The Walking Dead, to launch a second monster hit as the network looks to redefine itself following the conclusions of critical favorites Breaking Bad and Mad Men.
The so-called companion series — it’s not quite a spinoff and not entirely a prequel series — is set in Los Angeles at the dawn of the zombie outbreak. Like the flagship series, which enters its sixth season in October, it starts out centered on a family. Kim Dickens stars as Madison Clark, a widowed mother of two who works as a guidance counselor in El Sereno, Calif., with a past she tried to hide. Cliff Curtis is Travis Manawa, an English teacher at the school and a divorced father with a strained relationship with his ex-wife and son who just moved in with Madison and her two teenage children Nick (Frank Dillane) and Alicia (Alycia Debman-Carey).
And while Fear is like the flagship in that it’s a story of survival and reinvention, there are a handful of things the freshman series won’t tackle, showrunner Dave Erickson tells The Hollywood Reporter. Here’s a look at seven things Fear — whose six-episode freshman order will jump to 15 for season two — won’t be taking on any time soon.
1. The cause of the outbreak. Just as in Kirkman’s comics — which also won’t ever reveal what caused the world as we know it to crumble — neither Fear nor the flagship drama will ever explain what happened to civilization. Erickson, despite his best pitches to Kirkman to touch on the subject, was shot down. “I had a couple of early pitches that touched on that and Robert shut me down. For him, it’s never been about what caused it; it’s always been about the impact it has on people,” Erickson says.
2. Crossover with any of the original Walking Dead cast. Asked if Fear could provide a way for beloved characters from the comics who were killed off too soon on the AMC series (ahem, Andrea), Erickson said the “idea of seeing an ancillary character who happened to be in Los Angeles and got out and landed in Georgia is interesting. But I don’t think we’re going to do that. There’s no plan to see any original characters.”
3. A cure. Just like with The Walking Dead, finding a cure at the onset of the outbreak isn’t high on Fear’s agenda. “No cause, crossover or cure,” Erickson insisted.
4. The CDC. That also includes seeing Noah Emmerich reprise his role as CDC good guy Edwin Jenner. While Kirkman has said that the season one CDC episode is among his biggest regrets, an early script for Fear included a scene in which Dr. Candace Jenner — aka Test Subject 19 and played by Claire Bronson on the flagship — was introduced. The character previously worked with Jenner at the CDC before being infected and ultimately killed. The idea of bringing her on, however, didn’t last long with Kirkman. “We won’t see the CDC,” Erickson says. “When we have two narratives living under the same umbrella mythology, the instinct would be to bring those two stories together and to conflate them. From a creative standpoint, I think we have enough story that we’ll be able to ride on for quite some time.”
5. Politicians. “We definitely will not see politicians and generals trying to coordinate and figure out what this is,” Erickson says. “It’s not World War Z. One of the things we will stay true to as it pertains to the comics, as it pertains to the original show is the blue-collar quality. These are folks that are people you would see on the street on any given moment. People that we know. Teachers, guidance counselors, wannabe nurses, aspiring nurses.”
6. Zombies who are easy to kill. Erickson said one of Kirkman’s notes for Fear was that the zombies be different than how they were first seen on the original show. With the early onset of the outbreak, skulls will still be hard and the point, Erickson said, is to see a character trying to stab a walker in the head and not be able to penetrate the skull. “The point was it’s hard physically to kill somebody,” he said.
7. The term “walkers.” The original series — like the comics —avoids using the term “zombie” and Fear will avoid using the flagship’s default term of “walkers.” “We don’t call them walkers, we’re coming up with as much cool West Coat verbage as we can,” Erickson said.
Fear the Walking Dead premieres Sunday at 9 p.m. on AMC. Stay tuned to THR’s The Live Feed for more coverage and check back after the episode for more from Erickson.
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