[WARNING: The following contains MAJOR spoilers for Fear The Walking Dead Season 8 Episode 12, “The Road Ahead.”]
The Fear The Walking Dead series finale has come and gone, and throughout all of the story arcs, several actors on the show had their own theories of how their characters and the show at large would wrap up.
When touching on the series finale, Kim Dickens said she’s much happier with her character’s second ending, which saw the once-thought-dead Madison Clark reunite with her once-thought-dead daughter, Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey). “The Dell Diamond sacrifice was a surprise to me, and I wasn’t—I wasn’t that happy to leave at that moment,” she remembers. “I also thought Madison would’ve frickin’ climbed or gotten out of there somehow!” Thankfully, as it turned out, Madison had gotten out of there somehow—and Dickens had the chance to give her character a more hopeful and fitting conclusion. “I had a conversation before I came back with Ian and Andrew, and they laid out their creative plan and ideas for me, and I was excited,” Dickens explained. “I was grateful that they’d come up with such an intricate plan. I was excited about it all along, and I was very happy with it.”
Colman Domingo, too, was happy with Strand’s happiness, especially considering he thought his character wouldn’t live to see Season 3. “A character with a moral compass that’s that askew, he can’t possibly survive,” Domingo remembers thinking in the show’s early days. “But that’s exactly what helped him survive so many seasons; he could change, or shift, or become something new and adapt.” As Season 8 approached, Domingo recalls meeting with showrunners Andrew Chambliss and Ian Goldberg to discuss Strand’s story, and Domingo felt that Strand should learn to live. “I think his journey was to find love again and to find peace, and understanding now how to put all of those pieces together.”
Jenna Elfman is simply relieved her character has put all the trauma of unexpected deaths, nuclear wastelands, and dictator-led towers behind her as she drives off to her late husband, John Dorie’s (Garret Dillahunt) cabin. “For June, it’s a need to go connect back to the source of what healed her in the first place during the apocalypse, which was John Dorie, and just to go be,” Elfman said. “To reorient herself and reground herself, and getting to do that with Dove is very meaningful since she doesn’t have her daughter. I think it’s going to be a time of healing, and she intends to heal and catch her breath.”
Of course, despite the show’s behind-the-scenes changes, there’s no getting away from the moral grayness of Madison Clark: this is a woman who bashed a man’s head in with a hammer in Season 3, and then in Season 8, she (accidentally, but still) sent a child to her death, and who unceremoniously fatally stabbed a man who’d made the turn from villain to anti-hero. It’s no shock, then, that both Dickens and Domingo thought their group of characters might end up as villains. “I think originally, before [Season 4], that’s where I got the feeling it was going—toward Madison being the villain, and we were sort of internally speculating,” Dickens said.
In his interview, Domingo agreed. He stated that while many of Erickson’s original ideas were nebulous, he believed a villainous turn was the plan, as was an examination of who was the good guy and the bad guy. “The joke was, ‘You know what’s funny? We go from place to place, from encampment to encampment, and we eventually burn it down. We seem to come in, and suddenly there’s a lot of problems. We take over things and shift things, and that’s alright—but maybe we’re the villains, actually.’ I think that that was the lens that’d swing around, and you’d find out that we were not the heroes of the story.” Dickens even suggested the show might’ve taken a dark turn, with Madison and Nick destined to wind up in an eventual climactic face-off. “I think we were speculating back then, and I thought it was going to be a Shakespearean sort of thing. Is the son going to kill the mother? Is the mother going to kill the son?”
Whether heroes or villains, Domingo was thrilled to share the set again for the final season with Dickens. “Oh, are you kidding me? That’s my best friend!” he exclaimed when asked about Dickens re-joining the cast. “She’s truly my best friend, and I think what we’ve built [between Madison and Strand], I honestly don’t know if it was written at first. I think it was our chemistry; I think it’s all the subtlety and the nuances of the way we played it. That relationship grew, and the writers wrote toward it.” Domingo elaborated that many of the Fear cast have grown close over the years, specifically mentioning Frank Dillane, Karen David, Lennie James, and Alycia Debnam-Carey.
Debnam-Carey’s triumphant return will likely be the highlight of the final episode for most fans, and according to Domingo, the specifics of it were the subject of much discussion behind the scenes. Ultimately, he and the creative team decided not to have Alicia reunite with Strand despite the familial love between them. “There were many versions of the last episode, and by the time we got to the final version, I said, ‘There’s nothing to say. We’ve said it all,’ Domingo said of Alicia and Strand. “We actually did say goodbye, and I actually did say ‘I love you,’ and she said, ‘I love you, too.’ I didn’t want to gild the lily.”
After shows end, stars often keep mementos. Dickens has Madison’s iconic jacket, sledgehammer, and boots. Domingo saved pieces of Strand’s costumes, even a lock of hair from Season 8. Elfman holds June’s bracelet and necklace but hunts for her boots.
“I really wanted my boots, but they were sopping wet,” she lamented. “I was leaving early the next morning, and I didn’t even know how to transport them because it was going to be totally disgusting. I really wanted them because I actually did wear the same pair of shoes from Day One. I wore those boots the whole time, the entire series.”
On the subject of costumes, Domingo agrees that of the Fear characters, Strand was always the most stylish—and he has fond memories of his character’s outfit in Season 7. “Villain Strand is awesome, and me and our costume designer, Zureta Schulz, we went ham on that one. We’re like, ‘Oh, no, if he’s getting everything from museums, he’s got to have raided these museums and have put all of that on. He’s wearing history. He’s making himself the iconic version of himself that he’s always wanted to be in this world.’” Domingo chuckles as he recalls the specifics of that look and its allure. “I thought he looked his hottest and sexiest in Season 7. You know, because villains have to look sexy! That’s the rule. If you’re a villain, you have to be sexy.”
Fear The Walking Dead, Season 1-8, Streaming Now, AMC+