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 Madison Clark, played by Kim Dickens:MADISON CLARK is a popular guidance counselor at a high school in El Sereno who, prior to the zombie apocalypse, helped students prepare for their future. A widowed mother, she raised two children single-handedly, but has recently found love with the high school English teacher. The pressure of survival brings clarity for Madison and she is quick to make the hard choices that will keep her family alive. The outbreak reveals a past to Madison that she had tried to bury. Now, in this new world, she can’t hide who she really is.
Kim Dickens has proven herself to be a versatile actress portraying a vast array of complex and powerful characters throughout her career in television and film. She recently completed production on Tim Burton’s Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an adaptation of the classic Ransom Riggs novel from 20th Century Fox and starring Eva Green, Asa Butterfield, Ella Purnell, Allison Janney and Samuel L. Jackson. The film is set for release on March 4, 2016.
In 2014, Dickens was seen co-starring as Detective Rhonda Boney in David Fincher’s critically acclaimed psychological thriller Gone Girl opposite Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike. Dickens’ additional film credits include appearances in John Lee Hancock’s Oscar®-nominated The Blind Side; Golden Globe® Award-nominated satirical comedy Thank You for Smoking; and Allison Anders’ The Things Behind the Sun, a role that earned her a 2002 Independent Spirit Award nomination.
Dickens’ impressive television credits include HBO’s Emmy®-nominated mini-series Treme created by David Simon; NBC’s critically praised Friday Night Lights; ABC’s Emmy and Golden Globe Award-winning series Lost; and HBO’s Golden Globe Award-winning drama Deadwood.
Dickens was born in Huntsville, Alabama, and attended Vanderbilt University in Nashville, where she majored in communication. After graduation, she moved to New York City to continue her studies at the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute. She later graduated from the American Academy of Dramatic Art’s two-year performing arts conservatory in New York City.
Dickens currently resides in Los Angeles.
KIM DICKENS, “Madison Clark”
How did you come to be involved?
I went in for the audition not knowing anything about The Walking Dead. I knew the popularity but I hadn’t got to watch the series. So I got a call back and I asked what should I watch to prepare for this, and the producers got back to me and said, “Nothing. Don’t watch The Walking Dead.”
Do you think watching The Walking Dead would be beneficial for your character?
I don’t want my character to have an idea of what this apocalyptic world looks like. I don’t want me, myself to have an idea in my head that gets in the way. I’m waiting a little while before I watch the series because I don’t want to have fan knowledge of the show.
Madison is the greatest character I’ve ever worked on! I feel fortunate to have played really interesting characters in my career because there are so many layers to play in any given moment. And the action is great, too – physically demanding and really great fun.
What’s it like to work on something so secretive?
It’s scary! I’ve said things before and woken up in the middle of the night thinking about it. It’s hard but it’s exciting.
Is the stress your character is put though challenging?
Yes, it’s definitely challenging. I think that’s why the show is so fun. The stakes are so high all of the time, and there are so many undercurrents in it, too. They’re demanding but you get used to them and then crave more of it. It’s going to be scary; it’s fun to be part of it as an actor.
Also, there’s something there that resonates with people – this theme of humanity and what we do to survive and what we would become in those high stakes moments. What will it bring out in us and what will we discover about ourselves? These life and death moments are challenging and not experienced generally day to day. I try to personalize it so at times yes, that’s challenging.
Do you want to know what’s happening down the road for your character?
In all the TV work I’ve done, I’m not used to having more than one script at a time, and this creates its own magic, and shows have their own personality and way they work. This season was prepared for us and it’s beautifully written with every page being such a surprise to me.
What is Madison like?
This character is a badass. She’s fearless, she’s troubled; she’s dark, complicated and pretty focused. She’s strong and yet she has sort of a dark, questionable background.
Where is Madison Clark in life at the beginning of Fear?
She is a single mother to two awesome kids, one a little more trouble than the other. She’s a guidance counselor and her boyfriend Travis has just moved in. She’s madly in love with him, and they are bringing their families together – Travis with his son Chris (who lives full-time with Travis’ ex-wife Liza) and myself along with my son Nick and daughter Alicia.
What’s Madison and Travis’ relationship like, pre-apocalypse?
I think Travis is really grounding for Madison and accepting of her and her flaws and complicated family. She has a 19 year old who is a drug addict, in and out of rehab a lot, and that is not an easy situation to walk into. It’s very challenging, and he’s very supportive of that and that’s how much he loves Madison. I don’t think Travis and Madison expect perfection; they want to be able to be together and find some harmony in their dysfunction.
What is her relationship with Nick and his situation, and Alicia?
She wants to save her son. She’s co-dependent. It’s hard for a mother to not feel responsible for her child who’s not come out unscathed, and he’s definitely had drug problems for a while. We’ve reached a point now where he has the right to say yes or no, he’s an adult. She ultimately wants the best for him; she wants him to be clean. In her heart she feels responsible and a failure at times as he drives her crazy, which drug addicts often do. That behavior is really disruptive to a family.
Alicia is 17, the golden child – smart, beautiful, well-rounded despite her broken family and her father who passed away. That was a big loss for the family, and having to also deal with a drug addict brother – the squeaky wheel gets the grease, and that’s likely made her slighted at times and resentful of Nick, but she does love him. You do see the love in this family; as fractured and damaged as they are, there is love there. I think sometimes Alicia wants to leave and get away from us and be free from all the drama.
Why is this family relatable?
What makes this family relatable is that they are two broken homes coming together and trying to form a family unit again. It’s not an easy feat. There are plenty of divorces and restructured, new families out there today, and the audience will recognize these struggles.
Where do we find this family at the start of the series?
We find them at the very beginning of the downfall of society. We find them in their day-to-day life and struggles, like an “every man” sort of story, and yet all of the sudden they are faced with the beginnings of the apocalypse. No one has any answers; everything is out of control, and it’s horrifying. I think it is most people’s worst nightmare with any natural disaster that we have no control, no knowledge, no power, and in the show we are stripped of these things. We could all die, and our neighbors are changing in front of us, and they don’t look like otherworldly creatures – they look like one of us. The walkers on our series are “newer.” They are more recognizable as human, as one of us; they just look a bit different, and that’s more frightening.
What will be different for The Walking Dead fans that watch Fear?
For the characters, we are so behind the audience. We don’t know any of the information that they know, so I imagine audiences will be screaming at us through the television, telling us “Don’t go in there!” But I think they’ll also have compassion for these characters who are struggling and using all of their smarts and instincts to figure it out and weather these circumstances. It’ll be interesting to watch in that way.
What is the heart of the story?
I think the heart of the story is family and what families go through, and how circumstances that challenge us to our core bring us together or tear us apart. I think for Madison, it’s just about saving her family, and the worst possible thing that could happen to her would be to lose them.
What does Madison fear before she has knowledge of the perceived outbreak?
She has fears that her imperfect family will be a deterrent and someone like Travis might not want to handle all the issues brought along with it. I think that’s her fear and insecurity. Thankfully Travis is game for it. Travis and Madison are in it together. We’re surviving even before the apocalypse, so in ways this disaster might draw them together – or not.
What’s it like working with Adam Davidson as a director?
I love Adam Davidson. He directed the pilot and episodes two and three. He’s an amazing director I first worked with on Deadwood, then a few times on Treme. He’s a really compassionate director and he was an actor, too. He studied with Stella Adler so he’s got some really great ideas and he never forgets any single moment for the actor. He keeps things really human and real in every moment. He just gets it, and he keeps the characters very smart. There’s a lot of creative love in this, and that’s what Adam has – a lot of heart. He’s the perfect match for us.