Published: Sunday, 11 October 2020 13:02 | Written by SciFi Vision
Tonight, AMC premieres an all-new sixth season of Fear the Walking Dead. The episode picks up where the cliffhanger left off, with the group of survivors having agreed to leave with Virginia (Colby Minifie) for her settlement, where they will be separated, leaving Morgan (Lennie James) left for dead after having been shot.
Recently, stars James, Jenna Elfman, who plays June, and Danay Garcia, who plays Luciana, answered questions from the press in a junket to promote the series, which SciFi Vision took part in.
The stars talked about where everyone is mentally at the beginning of the season. Garcia talked about Luciana agreeing to go with Virginia, because it was still a way to keep the group safe. "I'm resolved to distract her from the entire group finding their home, and that's something that was my intention. Mentally, I think I was in autopilot mode, because I wanted to keep going with that. That's actually what I told June, to find that home that we'd been looking for, find that place. Don't let this break [us]. It's a survival mode, because Ginny, she's so unpredictable. She says one thing; she promises one thing, and then she does something else."
Elfman discussed how June is just trying to keep her head down until she can be reunited with John (Garrett Dillahunt). "June and John had finally [taken] Morgan's advice at the end of season five: make any moment you have in front of you at that time mean something. So, we finally do that, despite knowing we're going to be separated…We're in this horrible oppressive environment, but at any moment in front of you, you can do something to improve it…I think June's just keeping her nose down and trusting that John can take care of himself and having faith that he's okay, because that's all you can do. John has proven that he is quite capable in that way. I very much intend to get back to him, and in the meantime, I'm just doing the very best that I can and just keeping my nose down and doing my work."
James added that Morgan is "somewhere between living and dying at the start."
The cast also discussed how being separated will affect the group in season six. James said that loyalties will be challenged, and they will all be affected by it. "By the end of season six, every single character will have changed. Every single character has been challenged, and every single character has gone through a major change. That's kind of staggering, and it happens at different points. But this this season, the way the boys and the writers room are telling the story, and the way that they've challenged themselves to tell it in a more anthology-type way, I think it gives more time with the characters. It gives more depth to the characters and the transformations that they go through. We get to watch in as real time as possible. So, I can't give specifics, but it is a deep, dark, challenging season, this one coming up, and I really can't wait for the fans to see it."
Elfman talked about how the audiences will experience the character changes differently this season because of the anthology-type episodes. "The way the season was laid out in four and five, it was a broad, long term story. Now in this season, we're going in on these anthology episodes. So, the stories are like these character stories, and they're so potent, it’s like story concentrate. So, in terms of each character changing, it's not like, "Oh, it takes this entire season" and the slow waves of change as it goes through sixteen episodes. You have these very intense anthology episodes where big things happen, and they're potent, and they're life changing. Then people come out of that episode, and when we see them again several episodes later, they're bumping into that concentrated change that the other characters have gone through. So, it becomes very dynamic…It's not long drawn out and sort of subtle, and come to the end of the season, we see how they've changed after this long season. It's like a whole different architecture of impact on characters and how that forwards the story."
Garcia appreciated the fact that we get to see those changes in everybody this season. "It's not like somebody disappeared and came back and you're like, "Where have you been?" It's everybody. The audience will get to really go on that journey and those micro changes that then bring us back together at some point, I hope, but they will be able to go on that roller coaster."
James added that telling the stories this way explores the characters’ histories in a new way. "Their histories come right to the fore. It's one of the things I hope the fans enjoy, because they have knowledge of these characters' histories. They are constantly coming into play and constantly clashing against each other in it. It's what adds some of the depth of the way we're telling the story this time around."
For the full interview, read the transcript below, and don’t forget to watch the season premiere of Fear the Walking Dead tonight on AMC and stay tuned for the second round of interviews from the junket.
Zoom Call Fear the Walking Dead Lennie James, Jenna Elfman, and Danay Garcia
October 1, 2020
QUESTION:We've seen so much development from these characters and the way that the story arc has played out in Fear the Walking Dead. How do you feel about where the journey has taken you as actors as we go into this new season, because there's just been so many changes and so many surprises?
DANAY GARCIA:We started in Mexico, so it feels like 20-27 times for Luciana, and I think [since] we started a lot has happened - changing, moving, villains, not villains, togetherness, spreading out, and then the new group. I feel like every year is like a new world for the characters. It's like when I see June for the first time in every season; it just feels like she looks different. I will never forget when she was a vulture, and that felt like so long ago. I remember when I saw Lennie, Morgan for the first time. Every season, that's the one thing that feels kind of cool for the show, that every year we're never the same, and that's kind of refreshing. Not just me, but everybody's different. That's my experience. I'm excited to return to the second half, because even even though we're in the same season, it feels like so much has happened.
LENNIE JAMES:I would say that if you had said to me ten years ago that the character of Morgan would still be challenging me and interesting me and that I'd still want to be playing him, I would have said, "Go away; you're an idiot." But I find myself here in a situation where I'm still challenged by the fella. There're still new things to discover about him, and I still like being around him. So, that alone is something I've never expected and is a surprise to me every time we go back.
JENNA ELFMAN:I think what's great, what I've really been enjoying in this storytelling, is the primary manifestation [of] change. I've been really enjoying the encounters June is having, how she's impacted by the people, the losses, and then the people who have changed her and the dynamics that are the points of change for her, and her evolving out of her loss and gaining more strength and getting back for herself her core purpose to help others, which is what she was doing before the apocalypse as a trauma nurse. And how no matter what's happening, the environmental changes and stuff, at her core, no matter what, that is her purpose. Exploring the challenge to maintain who you really are, what your true purpose is, in the midst of all of these impacts from your life experience, and navigating that, I'm really enjoying those transitions.
QUESTION:Lennie, Morgan takes a bit of a Carol-type turn, an aspect that he wants it all to end. He doesn't want anybody's help, and that's a major, major difference for Morgan. I noticed especially that it was the first time that walkers actively avoided someone that hadn't covered themselves in blood or anything. I'm wondering what it's like to step into that kind of role reversal, where you're not helping people; you're actively trying to push them away, that you don't want to be saved.
LENNIE JAMES:Well, it's a weird thing to say, but I'm going to say it, “I enjoyed it, really.” I'm constantly surprised that we're coming up with with new ideas for walkers. I'm constantly surprised that we're coming up with new characters that fit in our story. Like I said before, I'm constantly surprised with the challenges that Morgan presents me, and I think that the fact that he could walk amongst the walkers, as it were, I took it as like it was a superpower. I was like, "Well, this is new,” and I just relished it.
And as for his journey to the end, I'm always looking for what is the truth of this guy and his journey and his truth at that particular moment in time as he believes he's lost everything. His belief that he can't die is being tested right now, but he does believe that he has a purpose and there's a reason why he's in this limbo, this place between life and death. He's there to make something safe for Grace, and that's all that there is left for him, because he can feel himself dying. So, that's how I saw it, and that's how I tackled it.
SCIFI VISION:So, they've, I don't want to necessarily say "given in," but they've agreed to go in with Virginia for various reasons. Can you talk about where everyone's mental state is at the beginning of the season and where we're going to start with them?
DANAY GARCIA:Well, I kind of agreed to go with her. I kind of drag everybody; nobody wants to leave me behind. I think that, in my case, she's very focused. I think that before we finished season five, we've been looking for this place that they took away from us, and we've been looking for this home in which June can have her hospital, we can be safe, and we can create that community that people keep taking away. That's been our mission as a group, as a community, and now that this woman shocked us and everything kind of exploded, we think that's the end. And me joining her, it's kind of like getting in the middle of the problem. I'm resolved to distract her from the entire group finding their home, and that's something that was my intention. Mentally, I think I was in autopilot mode, because I wanted to keep going with that. That's actually what I told June, to find that home that we'd been looking for, find that place. Don't let this break [us]. It's a survival mode, because Ginny, she's so unpredictable. She says one thing; she promises one thing, and then she does something else. That's basically what everybody's going to find surprising: all her turns. The pendulum goes so many ways that it's hard to catch her. So, that's something that we have to deal with.
JENNA ELFMAN:June and John had finally [taken] Morgan's advice at the end of season five: make any moment you have in front of you at that time mean something. So, we finally do that, despite knowing we're going to be separated… We're in this horrible oppressive environment, but at any moment in front of you, you can do something to improve it. So, I think June, her being a trauma nurse, is very valuable to Virginia. So, I think June's just keeping her nose down and trusting that John can take care of himself and having faith that he's okay, because that's all you can do. John has proven that he is quite capable in that way. I very much intend to get back to him, and in the meantime, I'm just doing the very best that I can and just keeping my nose down and doing my work.
LENNIE JAMES:I think, for Morgan, as I was just saying, he's somewhere between living and dying at the start.
QUESTION:[During the first three episodes], I'm thinking of "adapt or die." How do your characters reinvent themselves to survive what they're going through right now and yet remain true to their core?
LENNIE JAMES:I think we're at a really interesting point now. I don't even know how many years we are into our particular apocalypse, but it is beyond the first wave, and it's beyond the second wave, and we're into something like the third or fourth wave of what this apocalypse and pandemic has done to us. I think that sense of "adapt or die" can change on a sixpence, as we would say back in the UK, on a dime.
So, some days, for Morgan, it's like at the beginning of episode one; Morgan is ready to die. At the end of episode one of season six, Morgan is ready to kill. That's how you survive; you survive by adapting sometimes to the long mission and sometimes just by the day to day. That's how I believe that Morgan gets it done, really, or comes to get it done, because, again, he's a man that has adapted as things have gone on.
DANAY GARCIA:Yeah, I think for me too. I think when I decided, "I’m going to stay with Virginia," [it was] putting my life on the line. I don't know this woman. I don't know, her feelings or intentions; all I wanted is for the group to continue with their goals.
I agree with Lennie, I think every day you don't know whether you're ready to die or you're ready to adapt to another crazy task that you're put through. It's what keeps these characters interesting. You don't know how far they can go for that goal. I agree with you, Lennie, it's true.
JENNA ELFMAN: Yeah, I think in terms of my character, it's, "What's that talisman that you're always holding on to?" You have your goal; you have your ideals. Then, you get hit and slammed by these experiences and loss, and then your environment changes. It's that North Star; what is the most important guiding light for that person at that time, and can they maintain it? Or does being hit by these experiences throw them off and throw the talisman out of their hand, and they're lost until they scramble through the dirt and finally find it again, and the experiences of the people they come in contact with and the change in those people, how that helps them see that little shining talisman in the dirt. So, I think it's the resolute quality that any character has or does not have on their ability to maintain their sights and grip on that talisman that defines who they are.
QUESTION:Lennie, congratulations on your directorial debut. That so far is probably one of the best episodes I've seen, just because of how well everything flowed. Was there anything really challenging about directing that episode, and what was your favorite part of it?
LENNIE JAMES:Everything was challenging about it, because it was all sudden and new, but I suppose the best thing about it was a newfound respect I have for our crew and our cast, really. It's a very weird thing just stepping from in front of the camera to behind the camera, how your perspective on everything changes. Literally, time moves differently in front of the camera than it does behind the camera, because there are whole periods of the process of directing the show that we're just not part of as actors. So, there were people who have worked on this show longer than I have, that I've never met until I was directing, because they do all the pre stuff. So, it was an adventure.
I was staggeringly supported by Adam Suschitzky and Casey, my first on that one. The crew all took me seriously and supported me, and the cast did likewise. It was a huge amount of fun. I think if you asked me what I enjoyed the most, I would say I really enjoyed the directing side of it. It's not the only thing I enjoyed, but one of the things that jumped out and I was most proud of, was the teaser, because that was kind of all me to a greater or lesser extent. I mean, with Adam and obviously, Nazrin [Choudhury], the writer, everybody involved in the teaser were new characters. Where it happens is a new place, and it's all about introducing and invention and bringing it to life and telling that story in those five minutes or however long it lasts. I'm very pleased with what we did in that beginning, because I think it kind of sets the tone, and I was very happy with it.
QUESTION:Lennie, I wanted to ask, since The Walking Dead fandom is kind of hit or miss when it comes to cliffhangers dealing with possible character deaths, I wondered if you could talk about having to keep quiet about Morgan's fate for way longer than anyone really expected and how it feels to now be able to speak about it freely.
LENNIE JAMES:It's a weird one, really, because I was fine with keeping the secret, except times when you have to talk about the episodes, where you have to do interviews and doing all of that.
I remember doing - I can't remember what it was, it might have been New York Comic-Con, or it might have been San Diego Comic-Con. I was on with Colman [Domingo] and Alycia [Debnam-Carey], and they were asking questions about the new season and what was happening, and I found that I could say absolutely nothing. It was Alycia who went, "You can't say anything, can you?" I'm like, "No, I can't."
So, that's kind of when it hit me. I'm glad we can talk about it now, just because I think it's an interesting addition to the Morgan story. It's a good kind of kickoff to who he is going to be this season and what he's going to become and where he's going to go. It has been tricky, but it's always been tricky in this particular universe. I mean, I learned very quickly and very early on when I went back to The Walking Dead, and they stuck me in the middle of nowhere and made everybody around me sign NDAs. They take keeping secrets seriously here. So, I'm kind of well-practiced, but this was a tricky one, that's for sure.
QUESTION:This is both a lighthearted question and a serious question. Lennie, that beard was so cool. I was so disappointed when you shaved it in episode three, and I'm curious, did that beard go into a freezer the way Norman [Reedus] did for Andy [Lincoln]?
LENNIE JAMES:They had to stop me setting fire to that beard.
LENNIE JAMES: That beard was the bane of my life. I'm somebody who usually [goes] on to the makeup and hair wagon, not much hair wagon stuff going on, and makeup I've tried to keep to an absolute minimum. So, I'm usually about five, ten minutes. For the first episode of season six, it was nearly three hours every morning to get it on. With the wound and the beard and the [mustache] parts and the hair and the scars, and then the veining from the poisoning going through, it's like three hours in two or three different chairs.
So, I was glad when that was over, but I did like the look. I think our hair and makeup and special effects makeup team did a fantastic job, but I'm glad it's over. I can say that in absolute fact.
JENNA ELFMAN:It usually takes him longer to drink his coffee than it does to have full hair and makeup.
LENNIE JAMES:It's true; it's true. I was so antsy they had to literally strap me to the chair. Then we shot episode two, and I had to do that a little bit at the end because of the way we had shot it. We didn't shoot it in order, so it was a month later that we went back to shoot episode two, and they brought that beard towards me, and they literally had to hold me down to glue it to my face.
QUESTION:…How do you separate yourself from this kind of intense shooting on a daily basis, like the walkers and zombies and fighting and blood.
JENNA ELFMAN:I find taking a nice long walk at the end of the day, sort of reorienting to my present environment helps a lot. Then, of course, when you have kids, nothing will slam you back into reality faster than, "Mama? Mama?"
DANAY GARCIA:I also do that; I go for long walks. I try to meditate, sometimes long showers, but I think of the planet and I'm like, "I need to save water." All that stuff it gets into me. But yeah, long walks are really, really healing, because you realize - now I don't know how the long walks are going to be, because we have a different situation in the world, and you want to avoid people, but, yeah, long walks. You have a routine: meditation, showering, all that good stuff that gets the blood out of your face and your hair. Imagine what Lennie went through in that episode, we have to go through it. Not the beard; we don't have to wear beards. [laughs] I cannot imagine putting something on my face like that. But…can I get my character out of my hair? For sure, I'm like, "I can't wait to take this out of my hair." Then you're good. Simple things.
LENNIE JAMES:Yeah, pretty much the same. Riding my bike or music, I find, really helps, or watching something daft on television or cooking. That's my solace, where I find peace, the science of the kitchen. I enjoy that.
JENNA ELFMAN:Can you come cook for me?
LENNIE JAMES:I'll come cook for you.
JENNA ELFMAN:Thank you.
LENNIE JAMES:You're welcome. I'll cook for of all you at some point; that will be the mission. At some point when this pandemic is over, Lennie cooks for everyone.
JENNA ELFMAN:I would love that more than anything.
DANAY GARCIA:I'll help you out, Lennie, cutting things.
LENNIE JAMES:Thank you. Everybody works as well.
QUESTION:I was wondering if you've learned anything from this show that was useful in the real-life pandemic that we are in the middle of? Also, do you expect viewers to look at the new episodes of the show through a different lens given their own experiences in 2020?
DANAY GARCIA:I know something; I learned don't talk to strangers. Like, just don't approach people that you don't know or the crew doesn't know. It is weird, because the pandemic on our show, we know who is infected, and so we really have to deal with the living, with the real people. Usually when somebody comes that we don't know, we always have our antennas up, right? Like, who is this person? When we have a place, we have things set up; somebody is in the tower. I used to be in the tower before. But now that this pandemic happened, the one thing that is consistent, is just don't don't approach strangers unless there's a problem or something serious, obviously. That has been my thing everyday; I just try to stay away from a lot of people, people that I don't know, [that] I don't know where they have been. Just kind of being at home all day, it's very apocalyptic in a way.
JENNA ELFMAN:I redid our emergency kits, because we had recently had a mini move when all this went down, and I realized our emergency kits were expired and everything, and I was like, "I'm going to update those." Having been on the show actually gave me a much more comprehensive view of what I might need, because, you know, when it first happened in March, none of us knew. We didn't know the scope, the order of magnitude at all of how this was going to impact us health-wise, financially, the global economy, employment, our children, education, the whole thing. We didn't know what the hell was going on. So, when something hits like that, you don't have enough information, but you see it's got this global aspect to it, and you hunker down, and you protect your family. I was like, "I have to get these emergency kits straightened up." And boy, it was much more comprehensive than the previous emergency kit, I'll tell you that. The earlier one was like some toilet paper and the prepared meals, and this was a lot more. So, that actually was helpful, because it made me feel much more prepared.
LENNIE JAMES:I think one of the things I learned from the show that I never would have thought was useful but somehow kind of [is], I think, because of training to do the bo staff and [Morgan's stick] is my kind of spatial awareness. Suddenly I find if I see a group of people - I live in an apartment block - and if I'm walking down, I can keep the six feet distance from a number of people at the same time and know who's coming up behind [me]. Well, not not like Spider-Man or something, but I do find myself being able to kind of pivot quite easily to make sure I'm the distance that I want to be without it feeling like I'm being impolite to the people that I'm around.
And as for people, how the experience that the world has gone through, how that will change the way that they watch our show? I don't know, but I'll be really interested to find out. I'll be really interested to see, because we're always going to be too close to it. We're always going to know what was happening on that particular day when we were shooting that particular shot, and it's slightly distances us. But for the fans of the show and the people watching, I'll be really interested to see whether or not having gone through their own pandemic, their viewing of our particular version of an apocalyptic pandemic, whether it's different to before then after.
JENNA ELFMAN:[They'll be glad] to have some new content, though. I think everybody's watched everything at this point. So, everybody's very, very excited for some new content in this Walking Dead universe. It is a family, and everyone has stayed in touch in that way. I think with the fans and everything, it's really brought everyone together even in a more comprehensive way. So, I feel like it's got a little bit more of meaningful energy in terms of everyone's engagement. With everything starting to air again, I think everyone is excited for new content and to hook back up again and start that conversation going.
DANAY GARCIA:You know, what I found really interesting, is I was talking to the fans, and I was wondering the same thing Lennie was. I wonder how they're going to receive this new world, because they've been through their own stuff. And they said [that] it will be so great, because it will bring a sense of normality that our shows are back. Because we were supposed to air in August or July during Comic-Con, our first half, and the fact that everything got pushed for them, it's like you're dealing with a pandemic and everything that normally goes out is taken away. So, they're like, "At least our shows are coming back. So, we feel normal; there's something normal in our lives." And I was like, "Wow, I was not expecting that."
SCIFI VISION:So, obviously, everyone's separated at the beginning. Can you talk about how that separation is going to complicate things for the group? And how maybe in some ways being away from certain people could help them? How will that kind of affect everything?
LENNIE JAMES:Well, the short answer is, "We can't tell you," and the slightly less short answer is, "That's the story of season six, really." I mean, it's the journey that people go on, and loyalties will be challenged. I said it in an interview a while ago, but it's absolutely true. I was thinking about it after I said it to figure out whether what I’d said was the truth or a lie, and I think it very much is the truth. By the end of season six, every single character will have changed. Every single character has been challenged, and every single character has gone through a major change. That's kind of staggering, and it happens at different points. But this this season, the way the boys and the writers room are telling the story, and the way that they've challenged themselves to tell it in a more anthology-type way, I think it gives more time with the characters. It gives more depth to the characters and the transformations that they go through. We get to watch in as real time as possible. So, I can't give specifics, but it is a deep, dark, challenging season, this one coming up, and I really can't wait for the fans to see it.
JENNA ELFMAN:…Just from my own experience on season four and season five, there was a lot of, obviously, this year there's a lot of story also. But the way the season was laid out in four and five, it was a broad, long term story. Now in this season, we're going in on these anthology episodes. So, the stories are like these character stories, and they're so potent, it’s like story concentrate. So, in terms of each character changing, it's not like, "Oh, it takes this entire season" and the slow waves of change as it goes through sixteen episodes. You have these very intense anthology episodes where big things happen, and they're potent, and they're life changing. Then people come out of that episode, and when we see them again several episodes later, they're bumping into that concentrated change that the other characters have gone through. So, it becomes very dynamic. These changes are like you can hear the gears shifting; it's not long drawn out and sort of subtle, and come to the end of the season, we see how they've changed after this long season. It's like a whole different architecture of impact on characters and how that forwards the story and the gears. It's like a completely different set of gears on how it rolls out.
DANAY GARCIA:Yeah, and the cool thing is that everybody gets to experience that. It's not like somebody disappeared and came back and you're like, "Where have you been?" It's everybody. The audience will get to really go on that journey and those micro changes that then bring us back together at some point, I hope, but they will be able to go on that roller coaster.
LENNIE JAMES:One other thing that I realized in this season, is that in the way that we're telling the story now, we really rely [on] and explore and use all of the characters' histories in a way that we haven't done before. Their histories come right to the fore. It's one of the things I hope the fans enjoy, because they have knowledge of these characters' histories. They are constantly coming into play and constantly clashing against each other in it. It's what adds some of the depth of the way we're telling the story this time around.
JENNA ELFMAN: I love your answers, Lennie.
LENNIE JAMES:Thank you. I've got written down in front of me. The boys are just typing them, and they're coming up on my screen, and I just read them. I've hired them for the day to write my answers.