The Fear the Walking Dead showrunner, Dave Erickson, has dropped a nice amount of information on the folks over at The Hollywood Reporter, and it looks like the show will sadly not tell us what caused the outbreak or give us the origin of it... but it will come close. And it will exist within the same universe as The Walking Dead, which is good news in my book!
Here's what he had to say...
"We are loosely covering the period of time that [The Walking Dead's] Rick (Andrew Lincoln) was in his coma in season one. We're able to watch and experience the things that he missed. It's more of a parallel story than a prequel; imagine the opening where Rick gets shot and goes in his coma — that day was probably very close to our day one. We're playing out the idea of what was going on in the country and the world until he woke up, stepped outside and it's welcome to the apocalypse. That's why a "companion piece" has been the phrase used at the network. It's not a prequel in the sense of Better Call Saul, where we're jumping back six, seven years. It does tie very specifically into the pilot of the original. ‘Prequel’ is not the right word; it's kind of its own strange, hybrid thing. I wish I had a better word.”
So, it won't be a prequel. It will exist in a sort of parallel universe to TWD. Okay got it. What else? Will we find out how this all started, or will it remain a secret, like show creator Robert Kirkman intended?
“I had a couple of early pitches that touched on what you're referring to 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. Robert's always said — and this is what we try to anchor Fear in is: Your parents got divorced or there are zombies. You didn't get invited to the prom, or there are zombies. Because we're starting a bit earlier and have more of a slow burn into the apocalypse of season one, it gives us the opportunity to really ground our family's problems. We have this highly dysfunctional, blended family and all the issues that they face and they would have faced if the apocalypse hadn't struck, those are the problems we're exploring. The main narrative drive is the conflicts within this family dynamic and how those things are exacerbated by the arrival of the apocalypse.”
So, there will be no "Walker Zero", I guess... huge bummer in my book. I wanted to know how this all began!
He gave us some insight into the characters and the story:
“We're also trying to show what first is perceived as civic unrest and riots and suddenly we bleed into something that's wholly unnatural. It's about a family: Travis (Curtis) just moved in with his girlfriend Madison (Dickens) after they got married. She has two children, one of whom has some issues. Travis has a very pissed-off teenager and an ex-wife. You're talking about two people who, as the story opens, all they want is to bring their family together under one roof and make everyone whole. The irony for us is that the only thing that helps accomplish that is that the world ends. What's intriguing to me is to take these problems, which I think would make for a compelling drama, and put them in this much larger canvas and see how they play out. All of the issues that we establish, these are the things that in my head will come to fruition in seasons three, four, five and six. It forges an interesting introduction into this world. It's much more about the "shark" you don't see in season one. We obviously play some of the tropes — and there are definitely walkers — but it's people trying to wrap their brain around what the hell is going on and not fully understanding the zombie apocalypse by act one. It's going through that process of the colleague or the friend you had coffee with the day before is now trying to kill you. And your first thought's going to be, "They're sick, they're on something." It takes a bit of time for everyone to wrap their brains around what this truly means.”
He went on to explain the central theme from the story, too.
“For us, it's actually one of the reasons why Los Angeles was so important to us. It's very much about identity and reinvention. The thing about California, or L.A. specifically, is that it is a place where many people — aside from the native Angelenos — go to in order to rebuild, reinvent or bury what's in their past. Many of our characters, as we will come to discover, have gone through some very unsavory things — histories that they try to bury. With the onset of the apocalypse, they're going to have choices to make as to whether they can tap into the darker sides of themselves things that they tried to distance themselves from in order to survive. They also end up going back to the quotidian of it. In a blended family, you're also dealing with people who have been in marriages and have lost loved ones; have been in marriages and gone through divorce; and they're going through their own identity shifts when we first meet them within the family drama world of things. Then, as everything becomes more serious, you're forced to shift, adjust and become the thing that you hated. There are some lovely intersections between some of the thematics on the original show, where at a certain point doing the right thing becomes the absolute wrong thing. We're going to start with some relationships, specifically the Travis and Madison relationship — which is beautiful and everything seems to be harmonious and they're truly in love — and we're going to put them through the ringer over the course of season one.”
In a separate interview with IGN, the show's creator Robert Kirkman had this to say about the family aspect of the new FTWD.
“One of the things we’re trying to play with this tight-knit family unit in Fear the Walking Dead is this concept of an extended unique family. What we have is Madison (Kim Dickens) and her family and we have Travis (Cliff Curtis) and his family. They’re building a relationship. They’re getting ready to be married. Civilization is crumbling around them. They both have kids from separate marriages. It’s just an interesting family dynamic to deal with in any story. But having all of the intricacies and struggles that come from that kind of family dynamic, and setting it against the fall of civilization and in the face of the zombie apocalypse just makes things that more interesting.”
He also described the zombies/walkers themselves...
“[The zombies in Fear the Walking Dead are] not going to be as decayed, and they’re not going to be as monstrous, which is going to make the violence in the show and the different things that happen that much more startling. Because we’re going to be dealing with a much more human walker. So while there is going to be a tremendous amount of paranoia and psychological trauma, I think there’s not going to be any loss of zombie action or excitement in this show. We’ll be bringing in the best of both worlds.”
Okay, after hearing all of this news, I am officially "all in" on Fear. I am going to call it Fear, I think. Or FTWD. The full title is a bit of a mouthful. All I know for sure, though, is that this show is in good hands. I'm confident that it will live up to the hype!