“The 100’s” Alycia Debnam-Carey is sticking the post-apocalyptic theme in her new series, “Fear the Walking Dead.”
In the AMC drama, she plays a high school senior in Los Angeles named Alicia who is ready to graduate and get out of the city. She is surrounded by family drama — her older brother (Frank Dillane) is a drug addict, her mother (Kim Dickens) is dating a new man (Cliff Curtis) she isn’t quite sold on — and is ready to get away on her smarts. Unluckily for her, the zombie apocalypse strikes and makes all the plans Alicia thought she had null and void.
“I think she falls pretty hard and fast, and I think a lot of this season is about her trying to come to terms with that, and how to deal with how you move forward in a situation like that,” Debnam-Carey teases to Zap2it of her character’s arc in “Fear’s” six-episode Season 1.
“Fear the Walking Dead” explores the fall of humanity at the beginning of the zombie outbreak, a time period “The Walking Dead” skipped over in its series premiere, but AMC has made it clear that this isn’t just a prequel. The network is trying to show that the franchise is more than just about killing the undead, and Debnam-Carey breaks down what makes “Fear” a show worth watching on its own right — plus how the characters’ reactions in the series are as realistic as can be.
Zap2it: How drastic is the evolution of these characters in Season 1’s six episodes?
Alycia Debnam-Carey: It’s not so immediate, because obviously in the original you see Rick Grimes go from a coma to suddenly, “Wait, what has happened to the world?” With us, it’s much more of a slow burn, but I think that’s the heart. It’s a very realistic interpretation too, because as human beings you try to justify everything to make it very rational and logical. Anything, if it’s remotely out of the ordinary, you’ll be like, “Oh no, it can’t be that. It must be this regular situation that I do every day.” That was also hard to play but really fun to investigate those nuances of what’s happening, how it’s happening, what do I know, what don’t I know.
That’s actually something this show made me think about — how long would it take for someone like you or me, in our world, to wrap our mind around a real zombie?
That’s the thing. For a long time you try to justify it, like they’re really sick or they’re on some crazy drug that someone gave them accidentally — it must be that. We start exploring conspiracy theories that go around the Internet at the school and people are seeing things on their camera phones. My character Alicia even says, “No, that’s not real. It must be fake.” It does take a lot longer to realize, and also because we’re seeing these infected look like normal people. They don’t look like the zombies we’re used to seeing in “The Walking Dead.” They’re not decomposed yet, they’re not rotten.
There is one moment in the premiere, though, where you’re able to see how the “infected” got to be the “walkers” we’ve all come to know.
I remember they had to reshoot some of that because it looked too good still. It looked realistic, but they were like, “We need to make him worse. People aren’t going to buy it.” It’s pretty funny.
What is the explanation within the world of “Fear the Walking Dead” to justify why these people don’t quickly come to realize the “infected” are undead?
We’ve basically come to know them as “infected.” There’s so very little that we do know, especially my character. She’s kept in the dark and is quite protected for the first part. Robert Kirkman’s always established that this is a world where people don’t know what zombies are. The word doesn’t even exist, and so as human beings we’re obviously aware something really bad is happening but also that it will probably just pass and we’ll be fine. This is temporary.
How do you think you would react? What person would you become in this situation?
[laughs] Realistically, at first, I thought I would stand no chance. I would not make it. I would be dead on the first day. But now, doing the press and promoting it, I’ve started picking up really good tips.
I had someone tell me that, say you need to get someone or you couldn’t find someone. What would you do? I had never thought of that before; I guess I would just leave them a note. The person goes, “No, what you have to do is leave a time and a date in 10 days of where you’ll be on that date, and then if they’re not there then, then you’ll leave another one.” It’s so practical. I would have no practical knowledge in a situation of zombies. That’s the thing; preppers and scavengers, that’s a whole other world.
Is that something that the show deals with, those conspiracy theorists who are anticipating something like this?
Not in our world yet, because the focus is mainly on our very ordinary people. I think that’s kind of the allure of the show. But it’s amazing in the real world — in our world — how people have taken the lengths to go to prep. Or people will tell me, “You need to get into the woods and go high ground.” It’s like, really? That works? They’re like, “Yeah.” These are the tips we have to share with everyone.
In terms of Alicia, who do you think she will evolve into? Will she be the fighter, the leader, the nurturer? What role do you think she’ll take?
I’m actually not sure yet. She started out definitely in a place of optimism and hope. She’s in a hard situation already, and one that she just wants to get out of. She’s got a plan; she’s going to move, she’s got a great boyfriend, she’s going to start a life somewhere else and get herself out of this s***ty situation she finds herself in. Now, with the zombie apocalypse, she’s left then with absolutely nothing.
I think she falls pretty hard and fast, and I think a lot of this season is about her trying to come to terms with that, and how to deal with how you move forward in a situation like that. I do think she’s a tough cookie. She’s always had to be; her family’s gone through a lot. She’s always been the one to keep a lot of the stuff together. I think it will take some time, but she’s going to be OK.
In “The Walking Dead,” there’s a sense that anyone can die, even if they’re a main character. Does that same mentality shift over to “Fear”?
Obviously the stakes are high regardless, but people have a lot less information. The situation is no where as severe. They probably have more of a chance at this stage.
“Fear the Walking Dead” premieres Sunday, Aug. 23 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on AMC.