The Walking Dead

Jenna Elfman & Keith Carradine Interview: Fear the Walking Dead Season 7

We speak to Jenna Elfman and Keith Carradine on what fans can expect from their characters in the second half of Fear the Walking Dead season 7.

Fear The Walking Dead is back from its break on AMC, and millions of fans are ready to jump right back into the arcs of the shows different characters. With Fear The Walking Dead headed into season 8, Victor Strand (Coleman Domingo) continues his machinations from the tower. The entire ensemble of Fear The Walking Dead is facing his plans in different ways, including June (Jenna Elfman) and John Dorie Sr. (Keith Carradine).

Following the nuclear blast set off by Teddy (John Glover), June and John have adapted to new versions of their old lives of medical work and law enforcement. However, as Strand continues exerting control over his enemies from the tower, June and John find themselves philosophically and morally tested in multiple ways. With Fear The Walking Dead completing the second half of season 7, viewers are in for quite a ride with them and the show’s other characters.

We speak to Jenna Elfman and Keith Carradine during a Fear The Walking Dead roundtable about the show’s seventh season and what viewers can expect in the stories of June and John.

You’ve been on the show for quite a while now. What is something you would like to see happen with your character, if it was completely up to you? (Jamie Ruby, Sci-Fi Vision)

Jenna Elfman: I would love to sink my boots into deep, squishy mud of that place June was at when she killed Ginny.

Keith Carradine: Ah, well, this is a show that’s about survival, so if I had my druthers, what I’d really love is for John Dorie to somehow achieve immortality without becoming a zombie.

As far as in the tower, you kind of have different roles. Jenna’s now in the medical area, and Keith is kind of embracing his law enforcement side. How does it feel for your characters to take on those roles again? (Tony Tellado, Sci-Fi Talk)

Jenna Elfman: I love it, because it’s who she is. But each version of this is with a twist, which is the environment she’s in now; this toxic, egotistical tyrant called Strand. And it’s just getting worse and worse and worse with how he’s running the tower, and it’s really conflicting with everything that June is. Her entire moral code is just being collided with, so I think it’s fun to see.

June was a nurse before the pandemic. It’s who she is; helping others is always her north star. But then, bumping into these incarnations of her environment that totally blunt and obscure the flow of that ability, and that ends up changing her ultimately as she ends up going along. I think it’s really fun.

Keith Carradine – You know, I’m going to echo that, in terms of the aspects of dealing with one’s moral center. Particularly as Dorie Sr. came out of law enforcement, and the whole concept of law enforcement is stopping bad people from doing bad things. That’s the veneer, and here he is in a circumstance where [he has to] actually be a law enforcement person in the service of someone who is really unremittingly bad.

That’s very conflicting, and it’s a difficult line to be walking for Dorie Sr., and I think it’s going to be interesting for the audience to see which side of that fence he might drop down on. There’s every possibility he could drop into Strand’s world and become an actual ally and asset for Strand’s M.O. I think that’s going to be fun to watch.

We know what happened with Dakota, and especially with John Sr. I was wondering how exactly he wasn’t able to save Dakota, and how that may have weighed heavily on him a little bit. In the second half of the season, how do you feel that he’s seeing her re-animated corpse, and does that kind of affect how he goes about trying to save someone else? (Dana Abercrombie, The Koalition)

Keith Carradine: Well, I think the idea of the futility of trying to make a difference in the overall scheme of things, in terms of what civilization has become, or has ceased to be. Anything remotely civilized is at a premium at this point in this particular world that these characters now occupy. I think that hopelessness of that, the futility of that – the idea of trying to rescue Dakota, trying to save Dakota, and being unable to do so and seeing that failure on his part in a certain sense – has resulted in a kind of eternal damnation in a way for her and for anyone who winds up in that plight.

I think that echoes a profound sense of moral failure. It’s the ultimate representation and manifestation of the idea of the abyss and its bottomlessness.

Obviously, they’re not too happy being in the tower, but they’re sort of putting up with it. What is it going to take for them to be willing to leave and fight with everything they’re worth? (Jamie Ruby, Sci-Fi Vision)

Jenna Elfman: What a great question. I guess it’s that feeling of – depending on who you are, but for June – where can you do the most good. And it’s so hard, because if you’re dead, you can’t help anybody. And what kind of environment is out there with how bad it’s getting with Strand and progressively worsening. You start looking at the ratio of compromise to benefit, and at a certain point, is it worth exposing yourself and going out there? Are there pockets where you can’t survive? Is that less bad than the feeling of a slow death by your integrity of watching this person do these things to people and how contagious the toxicity is?

There’s a dwindling spiral going on in the tower, and is it ultimately worse to stay or go? It’s when they start shifting and meet in the middle of the ratio of these choices. And what starts happening that starts shifting those viewpoints with June and her integrity and stuff? That is a big dilemma.

Keith Carradine: Yeah, I think from Dorie’s point of view, what would it take to be able to go outside and continue the fight? I think that it’s one simple thing, and that’s the ability to find hope. And if there’s even a grain of hope, that is the smoldering coal – if there’s a coal of hope left that still has any life in it. And I think that is what would feed certainly my character’s ability to decide to try it again.

You’re making the show at this point in time, where we’re dealing with the pandemic for two years now and everything that’s going on in Ukraine. With the current situation in the tower, has that been a conscious reflection of certain events in the real world at the moment on the show, or is that something you try to imbue your characters with? (Brad Curran, Screen Rant)

Jenna Elfman: In terms of Ukraine, season 7 was conceived and recorded long before that ever occurred. But I think the pandemic aspect, even as a viewer, I would think it helps you lean into what you’re watching. Because you now have that much more of a personal point of view about what you’re watching, because it kind of resembles some of our experiences on a micro level.

I’ve definitely been able to tap on to how the pandemic has affected me personally and certain priority shifts that have occurred in my personal life and how strong my point of view is on those priority shifts. It’s helped me understand the priority shifts in June as they’ve occurred, and lean into them more and understand them. Because when we live in this world that’s functioning on how much you take for granted, then when that becomes challenged, it becomes obvious how much you take for granted – and then the priorities totally recalibrate.

That really helped me understand on a very subjective, cellular level the experience of June in the apocalypse and how things can fundamentally change your priorities as you go.

Keith Carradine: Yeah, I also think that it’s true of just the nature of filmmaking, storytelling – the collaborative process of everyone who is involved in that process of capturing that energy with a camera on-screen. There’s a human energy that is a part of that, and a world energy that is a part of that. And whatever is going on cannot help but be reflected in the work that is being captured by the camera and put on the screen.

So, in a funny way, a lot of that – the fact that we were filming during this pandemic – there was nothing any of us could do about it. You go to work, you do the best you can, you follow the protocols, you try to take care and be safe and pay attention. And all of those aspects of having to work that way end up, somehow or another – and sometimes, it’s quite apparent and sometimes it’s quite subtle – all there on the screen because it’s in everybody that’s a part of it. I think that’s one of the fascinating things about the nature of visual storytelling with which we are all involved who are doing this stuff.

The other thing is that when it comes to something like what’s going on in Ukraine, as Jenna said, we did all of this before that happened. But I’ve been at work on projects where you’re in the middle of something and something horrendous goes down – and again, it’s that same thing. You have an obligation to carry on and do the work. And in theater, the nature is, “The show must go on.” No matter what’s happening, you still get up there and do it. And when you’re making a film, you do the same thing.

But there are events that can happen in the world than can make it exceedingly difficult to get up and go to work and do what we’re doing, which can seem profoundly shallow and frivolous in the face of what’s happening in the world. So, you have to be able to kind of compartmentalize yourself from that and still fulfill your obligations and do the work. It’s an interesting process, and there’s a part of me that’s quite relieved that the work we did on season 7 was completed before Ukraine happened, because I’d have found it difficult to concentrate with what’s happening in the world.

Jenna Elfman: I do want to say one thing. As an artist, even if there’s trauma in the world like there is, no one can sit and just focus on that all day long. It will destroy your morale, and frankly, evil wants to destroy that. And it is our obligation as artists to bring story, to bring some relief from what’s going on. I think it has a valid place in the world even during global trauma, I think art is always going to be a succor for people. And it refuels you, you have to be able to be able to take a break, if you’re just sitting there engaged in it all day long, it destroys you. If you’re not in the immediate environment, you can’t just sit staring at it all day long, you must also finds ways to keep your morale and keep the world there.

Keith Carradine: You’re so right, and that’s also such an essential aspect of human nature. I mean, you see some of the stuff coming out of Ukraine now, in the midst of what’s going on, they are still finding a way to live, to try to be normal, under certain circumstances to try to sit in a café even though there’s bombing happening thirty miles away. The human spirit in that regard is something extraordinary.

What’s interesting to me is they’re stuck in the bunker, they leave and they go to the tower. Was there maybe a little desperation in their initial feeling to join the tower or was it a little bit of hope too? (Tony Tellado, Sci-Fi Talk)

Keith Carradine: Well, when I got to the tower, I was unconscious! I woke up to see where I was, and the first person I saw was June, and the next person I saw was this maniac Strand. But from that moment, I think John is trying to find his way. I think it was different for June, because she was quite conscious and aware during that transition.

Jenna Elfman: And the bunker did collapse on us.

Keith Carradine: Yes, it did!

Jenna Elfman: It was kind of like, “What are our options? Nothing!” We’re in a radiated environment, and the thing that we had collapsed and wasn’t functional, and then guys with guns are there. So, it’s like there’s not much of a choice, and that was set up that way, so it creates that dilemma. And as everything’s unfolding in the tower with Strand just becoming more and more toxic ego and dictator-like, it just feed that dilemma.

But a well dressed dictator, I might add.

Jenn Elfman: Very, very attractive.

Keith Carradine: Oh, he has style to the nines.

For both John and June, which strengths will you rely on in each other to get you through what’s remaining for the season? (Dana Abercrombie, The Koalition)

Jenna Elfman: Well, I think the fact that they are family, being connected through marriage, there’s always a default sort of trust factor with family. I think that’s just extant with them from June’s point of view, and that there is that sort of goodness in the Dorie blood that has come up before where June underestimated factors with the Dorie.

When John was going so low, I don’t think she ever thought he would get so low where he would leave her. So, that’s a little bit of an underestimation that June had. At a certain point, is the default setting something that you take for granted and will it surprise you if it changes?

Jenna, you talked about taking things for granted during the apocalypse. What would you guys miss the most about what we have if you had to be there, not in the tower with things, but out in the wilderness? (Jamie Ruby, Sci-Fi Vision)

Jenna Elfman: I feel like a great mattress! Like a really good night’s sleep where you’re not having like the other eyeball and the third ear for your survival. But a really good night’s sleep and really feeling well rested.

Keith Carradine: I’ve kind of become somewhat addicted to a warm bath in the evening, and it’s actually a precursor to a good night’s sleep for me. So, it’s kind of the same thing, I think I’d miss that. That would suck.

Jenna Elfman: There is sort of that undercurrent when we watch the show as actors, I’m like, “Well, she hasn’t slept, she hasn’t eaten, and that’s going to affect her mood.” But it’s not something they’re pointing out in the writing, because it’s not key storylines. But I think when you’re watching survivors for real, during long, extended apocalyptic settings, they would be so hangry all the time and so tired and grumpy. I feel like that’s a chronic undercurrent, the food and sleep factor during an apocalypse.

Keith Carradine: It all winds up being Lord of the Flies eventually.

The next episode of Fear The Walking Dead, which premieres this Sunday, is titled “Mourning Cloak.” In it, Charlie shows up at the Tower unexpectedly, while Howard recruits a young ranger in training to determine the reason for her visit. As they journey beyond the Tower together, Charlie’s true motives are revealed.

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