‘Fear the Walking Dead’ Season 3 Premiere: Robert Kirkman on That Shocking Death and Why This Season Is So Good

Warning: Spoilers ahead for the “Eye of the Beholder” and “The New Frontier” episodes of Fear the Walking Dead.

Yup, he’s really dead. Despite the news that Cliff Curtis would be playing a lead role in James Cameron’s four Avatar movie sequels, it still came as a major shocker that Travis Manawa got shot, then cemented his death by falling out of a moving helicopter high in the sky at the end of Fear the Walking Dead’s two-episode Season 3 premiere.

Things certainly don’t get less dramatic in next week’s third episode, and Yahoo TV talked to Robert Kirkman, the father of all things Walking Dead-ish, about why it was Travis’s time to go, about what this will mean for Madison and her family as they become more entangled with the Otto family, about how the spinoff series is at its best in Season 3, and about whether or not we’ll ever see our Season 1 Apocalypse Whisperer, Tobias, again.

Travis is really dead, meaning the whole Manawa clan is gone now. We know Cliff Curtis is going to be starring in the Avatar movies. How much of a factor was that in Travis’s death?
Everything is factored in, but when it came down to it, this was a death that had been planned for some time and was always meant to kick Season 3 off in a big way, and kind of push the characters in the direction that we needed them to go in as they get to Otto’s ranch, and the mindset that it puts them in. I don’t want to get too spoiler-y, but there are certain actions that are dictated by that death that wouldn’t be there without it, and that are necessary for Season 3 to work.

Cliff Curtis as Travis Manawa in AMC’s ‘Fear the Walking Dead’ (Photo Credit: Michael Desmond/AMC)

All the things that Travis has been through… losing his son, having to be the one to kill his ex-wife, the recognition that he was going to have to continue to do things that were going against his instincts, his humanity, to survive and help his family survive, it all makes Travis’s death seem a lot more tragic, but also maybe that this world was too much for him to continue on in.
I think that were his life not cut short, Travis seemed to be on the road to adapting to it, but it did weigh on him and affect him more than it did the other characters, which is something that’s important to note. And I do have to hand it to Cliff. This character was on a real roller coaster ride. The things that he had to do in Season 1 to the things he had to do in Season 2, he almost played six different characters at times. He’s a high caliber actor, which is evidenced by the fact that he’s going off to star in nine Avatar movies. But it’s been an absolute pleasure to work with him, and he will definitely be missed.

You hinted at this: His death is a loss that seems certain to propel Madison into full heroine, butt-kicking mode. Not that she’s ever shown a lack of that, but we can be pretty certain she isn’t someone who will fall apart or give up at this crucial time for her family.
With Madison, we are always trying to show someone who is very adaptable. I think that at every turn in Seasons 1 and 2, you see that she’s almost the first character to recognize their situation and begin preparing for it, or adapting to it, or really… there hasn’t been anything that we’ve thrown at her thus far that has broken her or even caused her to stumble. That’s kind of her character arc: someone who is able to handle all these things in almost an odd fashion. The audience should be going, “How has she been prepared for all of these different things? What is it in her life that we haven’t seen that has made her work this way?” That’s something that we’re going to be diving into this season.

Kim Dickens as Madison Clark and Cliff Curtis as Travis Manawa in AMC’s ‘Fear the Walking Dead’ (Photo Credit: Michael Desmond/AMC)

That was going to be my next question. I think the audience has been dying for more backstory on Madison because it does seem clear that her strength isn’t just situational. This is something that’s part of who she is and probably sparked by her past experiences.
We’ll definitely be finding out more about what’s going on with her, but even what we know… this is someone with two children, who lost a husband in a very tragic way, who’s had to raise kids on her own, and any single mother could tell you it’ll prepare you for a zombie apocalypse, just that.

Kim Dickens as Madison Clark in AMC’s ‘Fear the Walking Dead’ (Photo Credit: Michael Desmond/AMC)

That seems to inform her interesting and unique interactions with Troy. Other people are kind of shocked by his behavior, afraid of him, when they realize there are some pretty deep emotional, psychological, things going on with him. But not Madison; in fact, she seems to have an instinct about how to handle him. Is that a hint at what she’s gone through in her past as well?
It’s definitely that, and it’s also a little bit of Nick as well. She can certainly identify with Otto Sr., who’s dealing with a troubled child, and how do you figure out what’s the best thing for the child and what’s the best thing for the community around the child? Madison’s had to deal with that for many, many years. And so, I think that as much as she doesn’t like Troy and as much as she fears him, I think that when she meets Jeremiah, Dayton Callie’s character, and the struggle that he’s having with it, I think she can’t help but identify with it a little bit.

We don’t see Ophelia in the premiere or the next episode. The last we saw her, though, she met up with the man we now know is Jeremiah. What can you say about Ophelia?
That is a big reveal yet to come. I couldn’t spoil that. But it’s certainly no mistake that we met Jeremiah through that scene in Season 2, and now we’ve seen him in a different light, but we haven’t yet seen Ophelia. So she is… definitely in this season. Just stay tuned.

Mercedes Mason as Ofelia Salazar in AMC’s ‘Fear the Walking Dead’ (Photo Credit: Richard Foreman, Jr/AMC)

This new season really starts off at such a great pace, lots of action, part horror story, part psychological thriller. It feels like a new series in a way.
We really wanted to hit the ground running and get into it. I feel like the same way The Walking Dead hit its stride with Season 3, I think Fear the Walking Dead is hitting its stride with Season 3. And there’s nothing better than having a really intense start to a season to kind of kick things off and get the audience really revved up for what’s coming.

When you first started working on Fear, what did you want the different focuses to be, between TWD and FTWD? At this point, we’re seeing some overlap of themes as the Fear characters get further into the apocalypse and experience some of the same things, but what do you see as the differences between the two in terms of themes?
I feel like I could list differences all day, but I think it really comes down to two things. And we knew going in that there would eventually be some overlap when we got into Season 3, Season 4, and beyond, just because we are inhabiting the same world. But I think that the family dynamic is something that we really wanted to draw attention to with this show. I think that you see a surrogate family form in The Walking Dead, and we wanted to deal with this Clark family in Fear the Walking Dead and see how a family holds together, as opposed to all the families that have been torn apart in The Walking Dead. And so we felt that would be something that we could use to define this show.

And I think by starting it at the early days of the apocalypse really focused more attention on character evolution. There’s no end of character evolution in The Walking Dead, but oftentimes we pick characters up after they’ve lived in this world for a long time, and we find out who they were through backstory, but we don’t really get to see that transition. And I think it’s interesting with Fear, because we’ve seen every single character deal with their first zombie kill, deal with their first human kill, and see how that has really affected them in a much deeper way than we’ve been able to do in the other show.

I think when it gets down to it, the audience has a different relationship with these characters. They’ve witnessed everything that they’ve lived through the same way that they’ve witnessed everything that Rick Grimes has lived through. It’s almost like a show of 10 Rick Grimes.

Kim Dickens as Madison Clark, Frank Dillane as Nick Clark and Dayton Callie as Jeremiah Otto in AMC’s ‘Fear the Walking Dead’ (Photo Credit: Michael Desmond/AMC)

Another big part of this season is exploring another location, another group of survivors of the apocalypse. A prepper group would seem like the ultimate people to ride this out with, as they’ve already worst-case scenario-ed everything. But they’re still humans, and that seems like where the real conflicts are going to come from, even more than from the apocalypse itself.
Yeah, and there are also some outward threats from outside of that group that will be coming into play, so there’s no end of things for our characters to deal with in Season 3. They’re going to be getting it from all sides.

OK, one more quick thing. I’ve asked Dave Erickson this many times, and I have to ask you, too. Will we ever see Tobias again?
I wouldn’t rule it out completely, but… I don’t know. How cagey was he when he answered?

About this level.
[Laughs.] You never know.

We just love that character.
So do we.

Fear the Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC.

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