Living in the same universe as The Walking Dead, Fear the Walking Dead is a gritty drama that explores the onset of the undead apocalypse through the lens of a fractured family. Set in a city where people come to escape, shield secrets, and bury their pasts, a mysterious outbreak threatens to disrupt what little stability high school guidance counselor Madison Clark and English teacher Travis Manawa have managed to assemble. The everyday pressure of blending two families while dealing with resentful, escapist, and strung out children takes a back seat when society begins to break down. A forced evolution, a necessary survival of the fittest takes hold, and our dysfunctional family must either reinvent themselves or embrace their darker histories.
Meet Liza Ortiz, played by Elizabeth Rodriguez:LIZA ORTIZ is a single mother working to put herself through nursing school – she has no time for b.s. For many years she was trapped in an unhappy marriage, but now that she’s on her own she’s finally chasing her dream. Liza is a multi-tasking whirlwind that doesn’t give herself any breaks when it comes to her future or raising her son.
An award-winning actress who crosses seamlessly from studio movies to independent films, from the stage to television, Elizabeth Rodriguez currently recurs as Aleida Diaz on the SAG Award-winning Netflix series Orange Is the New Black. Additional roles include Paz Valdez on the Starz series Power and Special Agent Chavez on NBC’s Grimm.
Rodriguez’s series regular roles have included NBC’s Prime Suspect and ABC’s All My Children. Other TV appearances include: Law & Order, The Shield, Six Feet Under, Third Watch, Cold Case, NYPD Blue, ER and Oz. On the feature films front, Rodriguez’s credits include The Drop, Michael Mann’s Miami Vice, Tio Papi (Imagen Award Nomination), Return to Paradise, Acts of Worship, Jack Goes Boating, Glass Chin and Take Care.
Rodriguez received a 2011 Tony Award nomination and won the Outer Critics Circle Award, as well as a Theatre World Award, for her role as “Veronica” on Broadway in Stephen Adly Guirgis’s The Motherfu*ker With The Hat. Additional theater includes three world premieres at NYC’s acclaimed Public Theater in The Last Days of Judas Iscariot (directed by Philip Seymour Hoffman), Unconditional and A View from 151st Street. Other notable plays include Beauty of the Father (MTC), Roger and Vanessa (Actors’ Gang), Den of Thieves (Black Dahlia), Unorganized Crime (Elephant Theater – Ovation Award Nomination), Robbers (American Place Theater) and The Power of Duff (Geffen Playhouse).
Who is Liza Ortiz?
Liza is a single mother. When she married Travis, she ended up putting her dreams and life on hold, and so after a while she decided that it was time to take that leap, and so she did and now she’s the predominant caretaker of her and Travis’ son. She is accepting of their relationship now, and full on making up for lost time training to be a nurse. So Liza is a student and a mother, and that’s a lot. It’s really great to be able to play a strong woman who can be clear and intelligent and also nurturing and not having to pick one or the other.
What drives her?
Helping people and doing the right thing drives Liza. She has a really big heart and is grounded in the truth and wants the truth with no B.S.
How is Liza’s relationship with Travis now that they’re divorced?
It is one that requires a great deal of patience. Things that always got in the way of their relationship are still part of his character. For example, he wants to fix everything. Travis and Liza will always be parents to Chris. I think automatically when it comes to the safety of a child, you come together. So we are on the same page in the sense that we share that. She can trust him.
Liza can be a little smothering with Chris because she wants to make up for the fact that Travis isn’t there, that he’s with another family now and that she initiated the break up with Travis. Chris is Liza’s everything, for sure.
What is our first glimpse into the world of Fear the Walking Dead?
Our characters are in Los Angeles, from two broken families, and they’re trying to make things work on a day-to-day basis in their lives. All of the sudden there is something that is thought of as an outbreak, so it being such a large city, there’s a lot of confusion, there’s pandemonium and trying to make sense of it at rapid speed. Things are happening so fast, and the people that are getting infected are still at times very human, so it feels like it can’t possibly be something other than a bird flu or something like that.
And we’re trying to take care of our clan while trying to understand what is actually going on, and trying to embrace the truth of this that is not just epidemic – that these people are becoming something inhuman. But you see them in states prior to them really being full-on walkers. We don’t even know that they’re walkers. They are people’s neighbors. We just don’t know that this isn’t something that can’t be taken care of, so it’s really hard to wrap your brain around what you’re seeing because you really have nothing to compare it to.
The audience knows more than we do, and this is exciting because I know anytime I watch something and I know what happens, it’s stressful. It’s the places between everything being normal and full-on walker or clan. So it’s a wonderful time watching these characters accepting the new reality at their own speed, in their own time.
How is this different to The Walking Dead?
This series parallels The Walking Dead but starts before, so you get a reminder of what the world was like. You get to see the values having to change and us making choices between bad and worse and losing pieces of ourselves along the way, or at least who we were when we start in episode one. We learn so much in such a short period of time and how quickly things break down.
What are some of the choices Liza has to wrestle with?
I think at some point or another we all make choices that we never thought we could have made. We can’t fully imagine what it would be like to be in this situation, and Liza steps up. On an emotional level she can’t process her own feelings, because she has to put on a mask for her son so she can focus on keeping him safe.
What do we owe the living and what do we owe the dead in this world?
How do we honor the dead? It’s instinctive to help or take care of people or their wounds, and in this situation you have to go against it because we don’t know enough and we could die if we help. So you’re working against human instinct. And then, what do we do with them to honor their life? It’s such an interesting crossroads to think about and we’ll get to explore it this season.