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 Ofelia Salazar, played by Mercedes Mason:OFELIA SALAZAR is a hardworking professional with immigrant parents. She is protective of her parents, believing they do not understand many of the harsher realities of living in the U.S. She is quick-witted, devoted and always ready to stand up for what she believes in. When faced with the apocalypse, Ofelia clashes with her father’s opinions on the best course of action — identities are about to shift.
Mercedes Mason’s recent television credits include a major arc in the final season of Showtime’s Californication and a starring role in the AMC pilot White City. She also starred in ABC’s 666 Park Ave. with Emmy® Award winner Terry O’Quinn and Emmy-nominated Vanessa Williams. Mason also appeared in critically acclaimed shows such as Entourage, The Closer and Traffic Light, as well as recurring in the fan favorite Chuck. She was also the lead female in FOX’s Bones spin-off The Finder opposite Oscar®-nominated Michael Clarke Duncan.
Who is Ofelia Salazar, and what drew you to her, initially?
When I first read the script, my character was quite strong, going mano a mano with her father Daniel, but as we developed her, she became a lot softer, very much a daddy’s girl. I don’t think she has the strength yet to stand on her own. The challenges of this world will help her develop her strength, and I love strong women and I was a fan of the original show so immediately I was interested. Ofelia is an only child so there is a lot about her parents she doesn’t know. I love the idea going from an innocent and sheltered place, and thrown in the deep end, and as an actor it’s really exciting to dig your teeth into that. I want her to go from being sheltered to being badass and wield some sort of weapon – as I imagine might happen at some point?
What is the premise of the show?
We start out at ground zero. Fans of the original see Rick Grimes waking up and the world has gone to hell already and survival is at its optimum. With this show, none of us know what’s happening; as characters we don’t know the magnitude of the situation. On top of that because the walkers in our series are “fresher,” they look like your neighbor, your friend, so it’s more difficult to kill someone. It becomes very psychological to shoot someone who is more human-looking as opposed to a walker who’s been dead for years and decaying. And that amps up the fear tremendously. We’re forced to figure ourselves out and who we can trust and who we can’t. Then throw walkers into that, and you have a lot of characters struggling with morality and discovering of how this new world is being shaped.
To me, this read very much like an adult version of Lord of the Flies. That was one of my very favorite books growing up. Strangers are thrown into the mix and you have to survive, and it’s amazing how much human nature can adapt to survive. Family is important because those are the only people you can trust and rely on during the apocalypse. It’s also important to be self-reliant and understand your own strength. Human survival and human instinct is what we’re really talking about here.
What kind of dynamic is created by the audience knowing more than the characters?
They know already way more than our characters know. As actors the scripts are so secret, like National Treasure secret, and they are released right when we have the table read, and we discover things then. The audience is 100% more knowledgeable about the walkers, this universe and where we’re headed than we are. We’re shown between the hiatus of the original, so it’ll be nice for the fans to go back and forth between these two worlds.
What does family mean to Ofelia?
I love that she is a blend of both her mother and her father. Her mother is like the Virgin Mary in my eyes, where she’s all good, all sweet and all kind. Her father has the strength, knowledge and wisdom but absolute distrust and paranoia of what’s happening around him. She respects both of them and loves them both, so she’s stuck in between these two worlds of trying to be kind, but also trying to not be naïve.
What happens when the families come together, and where do we find conflict between our characters in terms of surviving and doing the compassionate thing?
It’s a natural thing to do when people have banded together. You want to have someone to rely on, you need to have companionship, and you need to have trust. We’re all different human beings; we’re not all going to get along. So not only is the world falling apart on the outside, but there’s also crumbling on the inside because we’re forcing families together because we have no other choice.
I think once survival comes into the equation – the human need to survive is so strong that you do whatever you need to do to make sure you and your loved ones are safe. Just before then is where morality sets in where you ask, “Is this person hurting me? Can I get away from them? Is my only option to potentially kill them?” And I think that line gets drawn quite quickly and on an individual basis. It’s a constant battle in this show because our proverbial enemy looks very human. It makes it more difficult when it is your neighbor that you had coffee with yesterday