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In 'Walking Dead' Spin-Off, Expect To Get An Apocalyptic Education

<em>Fear The Walking Dead</em> follows high school English teacher Travis Manawa (Cliff Curtis) and guidance counselor Madison Clark (Kim Dickens) as they deal with the fallout of a mysterious outbreak.
Justin Lubin
Fear The Walking Dead follows high school English teacher Travis Manawa (Cliff Curtis) and guidance counselor Madison Clark (Kim Dickens) as they deal with the fallout of a mysterious outbreak.

When Fear the Walking Dead premiers Sunday night on AMC, don't expect to see Sheriff Grimes. There's no Daryl, either. In fact, the streets aren't even overrun yet with those dirty, hungry hoards of the undead that viewers know so well.

Still, something weird is happening — and it's happening in LA, not Atlanta, this time around. Fear, a prequel to the hit show The Walking Dead, swaps the post-apocalyptic Deep South for the West Coast, where that apocalypse still has yet to happen (or is just getting underway).

As show-runner Dave Erickson explains, that change of location was decided quite early in the series' planning process — when he and Robert Kirkman, the creator of the comic books, began discussing the shape of the new show.

"When he and I first sat down, he had already decided on Los Angeles," Erickson explains. "It was somewhat predetermined by the master of this universe."

But don't expect to see the city's standard landmarks, either. Instead, the action takes place in El Sereno, a neighborhood in East Los Angeles. He says the aim was to have the setting and characters reflect the makeup of the real LA.

"It's incredibly dense and incredibly vibrant as a place. It's surrounded by freeways which is something we tried to capture as another icon of Los Angeles," Erickson tells Tess Vigeland of All Things Considered. "It was a process of trying to find pockets and areas that hadn't been shot before and also to try to draw out a community that's not typically filmed."

To hear their full conversation, click the audio link above.

Dave Erickson was also an executive producer on Netflix's <em>Marco Polo</em> and FX's <em>Sons of Anarchy</em>.
Justin Lubin / AMC
Dave Erickson was also an executive producer on Netflix's Marco Polo and FX's Sons of Anarchy.

Interview Highlights

On the timing of the new show

Our Season 1 going into Season 2 takes place in the time in which Rick Grimes was in a coma. So, Rick is shot in the comic and in the pilot of the original show, and our story would start about the same time. Because Rick was asleep through the fall of civilization, it was a chance to see what Rick had missed.

On the challenges of writing a prequel for a cultural touchstone

Both shows live under the same mythological umbrella, so the rules of the walkers, our infected, are the same — you know, the way the walkers turn, how you kill them, headshots.

What we did have an opportunity to do was show the steps by which people adjust to the apocalypse. You know, something is not right and now you're trying to tear up my throat. ... You want to help and you assume that the person is sick. You assume the person is on something, and that's part of the process, the process of discovery.

It's really an apocalyptic education for our characters. And our core group of characters are the first to witness, you know, first-hand the turning. It's really a process in the pilot of them coming to understand something unnatural is taking place. It's something otherworldly.

On the new characters

Obviously on The Walking Dead, with Rick and Shane you have two police officers. In some respects, they are sort of primed for something apocalyptic. And we wanted to start with characters who were completely ill-prepared for anything that was to come.

So, we have a guidance counselor, we have an English literature teacher at a local high school. And the goal was to essentially take the group — elements of the group — that we first meet outside of Atlanta at the end of the pilot of the original show and begin to demonstrate and dramatize the process by which they become, you know, zombie savvy.

It's interesting, because I think when you have characters that are that vulnerable — for me, that puts me that much more on edge.

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