“We’re going to war.” In the fallout of nuclear destruction, an explosive falling out between Alicia Clark and Victor Strand means war on Fear the Walking Dead. The first half of Season 7 ended with a fever-stricken Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey) searching for the supposed safe haven PADRE and determined to topple The Tower, where a vicious Victor Strand (Colman Domingo) now rules as a despot of the nuclear zombie apocalypse. Backed by mentor Morgan Jones (Lennie James), Alicia declared all-out war against her former friend: “I am taking the one thing that matters to you the most. I am taking that tower.”
“We’re going to see where that lands this family, this very broken Fear family,” Domingo tells ComicBook about the family feud in the second half of Fear the Walking Dead Season 7.
As civil war breaks out between the divided group of survivors choosing Team Alicia or Team Strand, there will be victories and losses — on both sides. In the aftermath going into Season 8, James teases, “The shape of this family going forward will not be as it has been.”
Actors Colman Domingo and Lennie James called a truce in their war over The Tower to talk to ComicBook and preview Fear the Walking Dead Season 7B, the battle between leaders Strand and Alicia, and the Season 7 return of Madison Clark (Kim Dickens).
ComicBook: Colman, you approached showrunners Andrew Chambliss and Ian Goldberg about making Strand the villain. Was Strand’s descent into full-on villainy inevitable? Or was there a specific point when you thought Strand should finally fully embrace his dark side?
Colman Domingo: Well, I like to believe it’s an ascent to his villainy (laughs). I think he’s been building towards this in some way. Strand has always been a little precarious when it comes to his moral compass. And I think that the moment when Morgan joined our journey and he led, it was going against a lot of Strand’s own instincts and I think that’s part of the conflict, that’s part of the conflict with a lot of characters. And I think for a long time, Strand was swallowing his own instincts in order to appease the group. And by the time we ended season five, I thought it was a great opportunity actually to rediscover who Strand is under these circumstances.
I know I presented the idea of a villain coming from within, because we were always stumbling upon some villain. Someone else was trying to get what we had or do something. And I thought we’ve never really taken the time to build it from within, which I think is very interesting because there’s so much history and we’re all tied into each other as a family. And so I thought that would pose something really great and I’m glad the showrunners were like, “That’s an awesome idea to see how Strand constructs his own world and his own world view for the first time.” I love the idea when people hate Strand. I think that we’re doing our job well then, because I’m like, “Yeah, you should not want to be like Strand.”
I think that’s good, but also, I think that there are some aspects of what Strand believes in and what he believes in the way to actually be a leader, is useful and good, actually. What I think it poses is that ultimately all of our characters are right and all of our characters are wrong at the same time. It really is like a metaphor to the way civilizations are built now and what keeps people apart. But if we come together at the table and find what’s useful with each other and find this great grand balance to actually lead together, it will be to all of our success, but we’re human and we just can’t get there.
What Strand does, he poses something really strong and vigorous for the show and makes everyone double down on what they believe in — in some way, shape or form — and seeing if people are willing to bend in some way or another. So I think that’s what it does. And I’m really glad that we did that. And then I’m looking forward to seeing what happens now, what happens when he’s explored that? What does Strand become next? Does he have an evolution? Does he go away? I don’t know, but stay tuned for season seven and then you’ll find out.
ComicBook: Lennie, the last time we talked, you said Morgan wasn’t surprised Strand threw him to the walkers aboard the submarine. Since then, Strand’s become more villainous: he killed Will to hurt Alicia, he’s holding hostage Grace and Baby Mo, he hired Eli to murder the Larson family. Did Morgan ever think Strand could be capable of such evil?
Lennie James: Well, did he ever think so? I think that’s an interesting question, but it’s never how Strand appears to you. This is a thing I always say about Strand and it is particularly because of the character that Colman has created. And it is what is the genius of Strand is that you always expect better of him. And then he does something that you weren’t expecting, but it doesn’t stop you from expecting better of him. And that’s genius because you don’t spend your time just going, what’s the worse thing that could happen, because that’s probably what he’s going to do.
We’re always going to Strand, asking him to look at his better gods, to do the thing that is about somebody else, not necessarily about Strand, and the mistake we all make is forgetting that Strand is Strand. And Morgan is as guilty of that as anyone, really. I mean, I think the thing about it is, is because what Morgan sees and what redeems Strand is, although you have to live under his thumb in the tower and live with the results of whatever his whim might be, he does have something like — I think he says it at one point — I think he does say that there’s like 400 people living in the tower and they are safe. They are clothed, they are fed, they are entertained. They are reproducing. They are medically looked after—
Colman Domingo: They have yoga (laughs).
Lennie James: They have yoga, they have movie nights, they have backgammon, they have a photograph wall. He is providing a lot. And as far as he’s concerned to a certain extent, asking very little in return, which is, ‘Just do what I say.’ And although Morgan can’t live under it, he can see that other people might choose to do that because it’s a way of surviving. So it’s not the evil of Strand that gets you. It’s expecting him not to be evil that gets you. That’s the bit that takes your legs away.
And certainly for Morgan, a part of Morgan looks into Strand’s eyes and sees his vulnerability, and there is some vulnerability there. He sees the battle that Strand is having with himself. And if for Morgan, I think that that’s why he constantly expects better of Strand. And this is merely me projecting from Morgan’s perspective. I think it’s partly why Morgan and Strand can never quite stand on the same side.
ComicBook: This question is open to you both. In season seven, Strand and Morgan each realize they need Alicia. Strand selfishly for his own needs, and Morgan selflessly for the needs of others to help everyone find somewhere safe. Is it accurate to say Alicia is the main source of the antagonism between Morgan and Strand? Plus, she’s dividing them on the poster for the half-season.
Colman Domingo: I guess she sits in the middle of our ideology. That’s what it seems. I think that she’s torn in a way, like she loves both, one as a mentor, one as a surrogate father figure in some strange way, you know what I mean? So I think she’s torn on which way to go. Remember we’re people she looks up to in some way, shape or form and have history with. So I think that’s what I see when I see the poster, I see someone torn over ideology and then who’s ultimately going to become themselves.
Lennie James: Yes. I think both Strand and Morgan realize that the future of this family ultimately is in Alicia’s hands, that she is the future leader of this family. She will take the family into the next generation. And I think that the battle between Morgan and Strand is legacy, really. It’s them saying, ‘It’s you and you must take it on in this way.’ And both of these men are aware of the influence and love that Alicia has for them and that they have for Alicia. And it’s about how they take responsibility for that and what that means for everybody in the future.
ComicBook: That love for Alicia is, ultimately, why Morgan spares Strand [in “The Portrait”]. Lennie, it’s shocking when Morgan gets so desperate that he poisons Strand. Why does he take such a drastic measure? Does Morgan believe Strand is too far gone to be redeemed?
Colman Domingo: Yeah! Talk about that, Lennie. Talk about that (laughs).
Lennie James: The impetus to take out Strand isn’t solely because of Strand, the only part of it that is about Strand is that because Morgan can make Strand the devil, he can do this terrible thing to him because what is he doing? He’s only killing the devil. The reason why Morgan does it, isn’t because of Strand or what Strand is doing. The reason Morgan does it is the reason that he has for the large part of the second part of season seven. And that’s his family, Grace and baby Mo. I was saying this earlier, but Morgan has come full circle.
When we first met him [in The Walking Dead], he was a man with a child and a wife, albeit a wife that was halfway dead. And now he’s a man again with a partner that he sees as his wife and a child that he sees as his own and he’s back to fighting for them. He knows what it is to lose that. And he won’t lose it. He will do whatever he has to do in order to preserve it and protect it. And that’s why he goes at Strand. He goes at Strand because of Grace and Mo. He doesn’t go at Strand for necessarily for Strand. It’s just Strand makes it possible because they’re enemies.
ComicBook: Colman, the first half of season seven ended with Alicia declaring war on Strand. Even with their bad blood, is Alicia willing to kill Strand? Is Strand willing to kill or hurt Alicia, eliminating his one weakness? Or is that the line he won’t cross even as their conflict escalates into violence?
Colman Domingo: It’s tricky. That’s so black and white in black and white terms. I think for both of them, if they sized it up and they realized that this was their only choice for survival, I honestly think because we have such very strong-willed human beings, that it is possible. Will it hurt them or break them or turn them into something else? Possibly yes. There will be a definite fallout from it in some way, but I think that there is always that possibility because they believe that they’re doing something for the greater good and for humanity and for civilization and rebuilding civilizations. And I think that they’re both willing to let go of the thing. It’s almost like letting go of one to take care of hundreds more. I think that they’re both willing.
ComicBook: Kim Dickens is returning as Madison Clark in season seven. How did you each react when it was made official? Lennie, you’ve said you regretted not getting scenes with Kim when she left just as you came on [in Season 4].
Lennie James: Yeah, that’s the absolute truth. And my reaction with hearing that it was official that she was back was just excitement. My next question was, ‘Am I in any scenes with her? Am I in the episode when she comes back, how was she coming [back]?’ It was all the questions that very selfishly were just about whether or not I got to work with Kim. That was all I was really interested in, really, because that’s what I felt I’d missed out on. And that’s what I wanted to tick off on my bucket list.
Colman Domingo: I would add that I was very instrumental in Kim coming back. She’s not only my best friend, such a great colleague, but also knew that the showrunners… I was doing the showrunners’ bidding, to be very honest. I wanted to make sure that Kim knew that she was going to be well cared for when it comes to story. And coming back to a show that she help build from the ground up. I wanted to make sure that she knew that not only the cast and the crew, and the show owners and producers, that we’ve got her back.
And we wanted her to know that she can flex here. She can stretch here, that there’ll be great creative there for her, which is all any good artist really wants, is the creative to be on point and there to be a reason for her return. And I know that I was instrumental in making sure that I’m bridging that gap. So I was very excited after many late-night phone calls and strategizing and figuring it out on both sides.
ComicBook: What can you tease about what’s coming up in the second half of season seven with this Alicia and Morgan versus Victor Strand war?
Lennie James: I would go first and just say, as it happens in all wars — well, most — is they very often don’t turn out the way you expect them to, and more often than not, what is remembered are the losses. And I think that that is something that will resound through the second part of season seven is, yes there are victories, yes there are triumphs, but there are also big losses. And the shape of this family going forward will not be as it has been.
Colman Domingo: I think I just want to just echo Lennie’s statements. Honestly, I feel like it’s just going to be we’re really exploring the landscape in a very unique way of this nuclear fallout in Texas. And I think the character arcs are even stronger and being elevated and people are doubling down on their ideology. And so we’re going to see where that lands this family, this very broken Fear family.