Exclusive Interview: 'Fear The Walking Dead' Showrunner Dave Erickson

AMC premieres the new Walking Dead spinoff show Fear the Walking Dead this weekend. Set at the beginning of the zombie outbreak in Los Angeles, Fear centers on two families, the Clarks and the Manawas. Travis Manawa (Cliff Curtis) has moved in with Madison Clark (Kim Dickens), and their respective kids don't get along, so the zombies are seemingly the least of their problems.

The cast and producers of Fear the Walking Dead gave a panel for the Television Critics Association last month. During the panel, show runner Dave Erickson answered common questions about the series. Fear won't catch up to Rick waking up from his coma for at least two seasons, for example. And no, cast members from the Georgia-set Walking Dead won't show up in Fear.

After the panel, I got some one on one time with Erickson to find out some of what we will see on Fear the Walking Dead.

My favorite part of zombie shows and movies is not the zombies. It's the people looking for supplies in what's left. How long before that becomes an issue for Fear the Walking Dead?

The only thing that resembles a supply run is in episode two, Madison's trip to the school. But the way things are structured for the first season, we won't get to the place of scavenging for survival. We won't get to the place of we have to go and go through the neighbors' cupboards to try to find canned goods. We see it a little bit in [episode] two with Tobias but we won't hit that probably until season two.

Are you looking forward to doing that in L.A. as opposed to Georgia?

Of course. What's interesting is by the time we got to Atlanta in the original show, they had it figured out. He was going in, he knew where to go, he knew how to bring back supplies. Absolutely, at a certain point, they don't know how to do this at all. So going through the simple challenges they'd already established by virtue of the coma and the time jump, we get to have fun with that.

We do see looting. That's sort of the opposite of scavenging.

Yeah, we see looting which I think is stemming more from violence that has occurred and panic in the street, paranoia and fear, and people as we've seen taking an opportunity. To a large degree, that's not necessarily folks who realize it's on and we've got to stash up. It's there's an opportunity, let's take advantage of the opportunity.

Do Nick and Alicia Clark (Frank Dillane and Alycia Debnam-Carey) represent the two sides of this family, where Alicia is the good girl and Nick is the black sheep?

Yes and no. Yes, I think Nick is a problem child. Nick, since their father passed away, has kind of gone off the rails. And Alicia, in contrast to that, has tried to excel, not because she wants to be better than her brother necessarily but because she wants to get out. She's going to go to Berkeley, she's going to get away from all of this. But they're both very alike in that they both have a different sense of mortality because their father died. So they share something that's incredibly [close]. There's a connection between the two of them that no one else in the show really has, and she also more than anybody else understands her brother and knows when he's full of shit. When his mom, Madison, wants to save him, wants to protect him, but she's also a little bit enabling in that respect. Any time Nick says anything to suggest, "I'm going to be okay, it's going to be fine," Alicia's the one that says, "That's bullshit."

You're able to have great moments where Travis already knows how bad things have gotten, but the neighbors are just bummed no one showed up to their kid's birthday party. Now that all hell is breaking loose, how much longer do you think you can play those moments where some characters know more than others?

I think that's the great thing is that we actually have a window of time where we can continue to explore that. We may progress away from Los Angeles. We may be exploring cities adjacent. Like I said, we have a window of time. We're not butting up against the moment that Rick woke up from his coma, so I think there's more to explore in season two. I think at a certain point, we will go full apocalypse and I'll deal with that when I get there. It's going to be interesting because by the end of season one, they still have a lot more to learn. I think that's the exciting thing for me is to let them continue that exploration, that apocalyptic education.

Is that the heart of this stage of the epidemic, that morality of when to help your neighbor and when to protect yourself and your family?

Oh, definitely. Yes, absolutely. I think that's going to be a fundamental thing going this season too. When I got the gig, I worked with Robert [Kirkman] years ago on another project, but when he invited me onto this, I re-watched Apocalypse Now and then I watched it again because there's something, it's just a real juxtaposition of images and this idea that we're going to take a beachhead not because we need a beachhead but because we want to surf. The Playboy bunnies in the middle of the army camp. Those elements I find really interesting and they do them beautifully on the original show every so often. There's that one scene where they're in a kitchen looking out the window and you see a little girl playing tag with a zombie.

The juxtaposition of those things, the surreal with the normal, by the time we get to the end, more people will definitely be aware, especially in Los Angeles and the L.A. Basin but I think we'll have an opportunity to explore other places where the apocalypse may not have visited yet. So there'll still be a process of discovery if that makes sense.


Fear the Walking Dead premieres Sunday, August 23 at 9 on AMC.