In the Season 7 finale of Fear The Walking Dead, “Gone,” we were again reminded of a genre truth: no one’s gone unless we see them die on screen. After infamously “dying” in Season 4, one of the show’s OG survivors, Madison Clark (Kim Dickens), returned from the dead in “Gone,” surprising audiences by appearing to rescue Morgan (Lennie James) and his daughter, Mo (Avaya White), and taking them to a new TWD community: PADRE.
“Fear The Walking Dead’seighth season begins after the conclusion of Season 7, when Morgan’s and Madison’s hopes to rescue Mo from PADRE do not go as planned,” reads the official season description. “Now, Morgan, Madison, and the others they brought to the island are living under PADRE’s cynical rule. With our characters demoralized and dejected, the task of reigniting belief in a better world rests with the person Morgan and Madison set out to rescue in the first place — Morgan’s daughter, Mo.”
At WonderCon 2023, Fear The Walking Dead co-showrunner and executive producer Ian Goldberg, director Michael Satrazemis, Mads actor Kim Dickens, Jenna Elfman, and Sherry actor Christine Evangelista surprised fans during their Saturday panel, moderated by Chris Hardwick, by announcing that Season 8 would include a 7-year time jump. Following the panel, The Beat attended a press junket where the Fear cast and crew discussed their approach to the show’s final season, Dickens’s exit and return to set, favorite Walker kills, and more.
Fear The Walking Dead Season 8 Looks Back to Look Forward
The press junket began with a question from The Knockturnal‘s Julian Cannon, who asked about the cast and crew’s approach to filming Fear‘s final season.
Goldberg approached the question first, saying, “For Andrew Chambliss and I, we knew going into this season that it was going to be the final season, which informed a lot of the way that we were going to tell the story.”
“We thought about honoring everything from Season 7 because there were a lot of stories left to unpack, but, we also wanted to use these twelve episodes to bring the characters to a conclusion,” the EP, who started on Fear in Season 4, continued. “What got us excited was thinking about where characters started on their journeys—whether it was on Fear or Walking Dead—and charting those [stories] as they went to their conclusion. In some cases, characters had moved past the scars of their past, but in a lot of cases, they hadn’t, and that was how we dug into telling these stories: taking them back to their origin.”
“The end is in the beginning” was the creative team’s mantra when developing the story for the final season, which Goldberg described as “coming full circle for all the characters” and “looking back to look forward.”
And yes, if you’re wondering about the long-term impact of the nuclear-contaminated zone, Goldberg is implying that, although Season 8 occurs seven years after Season 7, fans can expect the story to continue to deal with the fallout from the ten warheads that exploded across the Texas terrain in the show’s Season 6 finale, creating even deadlier Walkers for the survivors to deal with in Fear‘s penultimate season.
“We’re moving out of the nuclear-contaminated zone this season, but there are ripple effects that will touch several characters,” said Fear‘s EP in response to a question from Friends of Comic Con. “It’s hard to talk about it in specifics without spoiling things, but that is very present. When you’re in such a heightened environment like that, you don’t get to leave it all behind, so it’s part of the storytelling.”
Here, Elfman, who plays June Dorie on the show, commented on how the final season’s time jump impacted her acting preparation. “With the time jump and where we find June, I went to Savannah a little early to immerse myself,” Elfman said. “Water is a big part of this season, so I picked a hotel with a river view […] and spent time digging to establish a mental home base for where June was. I did a lot of prep on the front end. Preparing for the final season was cool and fun; there were lots of new stimulating environments.”
Evangelista said, “With Sherry, the start of the season is centered around her being a mother and how that motivates her decisions and actions.”
Referring to Goldberg’s comments about the season’s mantra of “looking backward” and “connecting the dots” with where the character is now, the actor, who started her TWDU career on The Walking Dead, commented on how with Sherry, “all the lessons that she’s learned in life and with Dwight inform all of her decisions moving forward in the final season.”
“It has this beautiful culmination of all the lessons we’ve learned,” Evangelista concluded.
At the beginning of Season 8, Madison is “in a place like where we’ve never seen before and where a place we’ve never seen her before [physically and emotionally],” Dickens added. “I just had to lift up my skirt and jump.”
The next question was asked by Sarahbeth Pollock of What to Watch, who had a question about how Walking Dead spinoffs impact the storytelling across the franchise.
Satrazemis, an EP and director on Fear, who has been with the franchise since the beginning, responded to the question. He said, “It kind of ebbs and flows. When I came on Season 4, we knew Morgan was going to be making the crossover to Fear, so that was a huge amount of storytelling on all levels, and then, we brought Dwight and Sherry from The Walking Dead — those things expanded the universe and gave us story possibilities within Fear.”
“Something I’m very grateful to Scott Gimble for is, as much as the universe has expanded since we started on Fear, it has always been Fear first,” he emphasized. “It’s about telling the most satisfying emotional stories for these characters, and it’s just a huge bonus that expands the universe.”
Goldberg agreed. “It’s about servicing the characters that you have and your story,” Goldberg told the room. “[Crossovers] don’t change the way we approach the characters in the story that we have; you know, maybe they provide the opportunity to see a different perspective, but other than that, it’s always this story at heart.”
Kim Dickens on Bring Back Madison
“When I left, it was upsetting for me too,” Dickens said in response to a question from CineMovie about her departure from the show, a role that felt like a once-in-a-lifetime gig at the time. “It was surprising and upsetting to process, and I had to work. I had to film Season 4, so I knew that going into Season 4. So, you know, it was a magic trick to do.”
Dickens continued, “I showed up in Austin and everything had changed. I never met Mikey, and he was our producing director. He came up to me — which was like walking into propellers because here I was this wounded person who was trying to soldier through —and he walked up to me and said, ‘I got you,’ and that helped me get through it.”
“It’s probably the reason we did a good job,” Dickens said of Satrazemis’s work with her on Season 4.
Likewise, Satrazemis praised the actor, saying, “I’ve been through a lot of deaths and a lot of loss of people that you create with. She dealt with it more professionally than anyone that I’ve lost, and I’ve lost a lot of people in the apocalypse.”
Speaking about the actress returning for the final season, he added, “I was so happy when Kim was coming back. I feel like what we’ve done with this story and written for this final season is really elegant, really beautiful, and I’m very lucky to be a part of it.”
“I appreciate how everyone welcomed me back,” Dickens said. “I worked with Jenna in Season 4, but I had never worked with Christine and Austin Amelio, so going back I told myself that it was a different show, and hopefully, they’ll welcome you back.”
Goldberg added, “When Andrew and I started talking about Season 7 and Season 8 and wrapping things up towards the conclusion, it got to a point where we said to each other we can’t imagine ending the show without Madison. It was really difficult and emotional the way the story went in Season 4. We went into the meetings with Kim about this story and were both very nervous, but she could not have been more gracious, kind, and so excited about the story. I am so grateful that we got the chance to close out the show together.”
Fans rallied for years to see the show’s former lead return to the TWD spinoff. In “Gone,” she was dubbed “Madison 2.0” because she was colder and more ruthless than the suburban housewife and high school guidance counselor introduced in the first season. Mads has been trafficking kids for PADRE since she survived the stadium Walkers.
Although no one has confirmed that’s the case for her, Dickens is convinced that her character returned for seasons 7 and 8 because the fan base was so mobilized and passionate. “It did get to me,” Dickens told CineMovie. “I heard about and saw it, and it meant a lot. I was dealing with it alone, with my family and friends, and I was like, ‘Okay, Madison didn’t matter,’ so it felt nice to have the support. I didn’t know what it would mean. I think it was a flame, a match that lit a flame. But I am so grateful. I’ve said it to the fans in so many ways. I can’t thank them enough.”
Everything You Every Wanted to Know About Walker Kills
Every person wanted to answer when asked about a favorite gag or Walker kill over the seasons. That being said, not all answers are included here because of spoilers (hey, IMO season kill counts are the best part).
“I love the Walker fused to the shopping cart in Season 7. I thought that was fantastic. Oh, and I loved the one that had the machete through its chest in the ‘Laura’ episode,” said Goldberg.
“One of my favorite scenes was in Season 5, in the temple, when Garrett Dillahunt and I had to go from the roof to the ladders connecting the cars, and we were killing the walkers as we were going. We were balancing on things and had harnesses,” Elfman responded.
“Walker kill scenes are often on the heels of a big emotional scene, so to continue to tell those emotional stories within those fights while also managing the stunts and staying in the frame… It’s like ‘Don’t reach that far. But also you can’t lift that foot…'”
“The big Walker teams are almost like a kundalini yoga type of breath,” added Evangelista. “They’re coming from all angles, and you’re getting all the choreography down and making sure you don’t hurt the stunt people that play the Walkers because it’s so intense.”
Then, she commented on her most fun Walker kill moment in the show, saying it was certainly the one in the wrestling ring: “I mean, that was so much fun that we added a day of B roll stunt work. They got me to do something acrobatic that will never see the light of day, but it made me so happy.”
That said, Evangelista was jealous of some of her co-stars’ kills, wanting to get in on even more of the action (who can blame her?). “My scenes are mostly with Austin, so the two of us are usually in situations. Anytime he’s about to go make the kill, I’m like, ‘I was just about to do that,'” recalled Evangelista about filming Walker kill scenes with Dwight’s actor.
From there, the cast and crew reminisced about some of their favorite (and least favorite) moments on set, with Dickens joking, “I’m jealous of anybody who didn’t have to get in the swamp.”
She continued, “I love watching my co-stars, like, I remember one night with Coleman, and I was watching him, and watching him, and he’s on camera and goes, ‘It’s your line.’ I love watching everybody be their best; it’s inspiring.”
Satrazemis pondered, “Fondest memories — I mean, being on The Walking Dead with Christine, and then having her arrive here. I remember her first day on on The Walking Dead, so it was so special when she arrived. Then, for Jenna, dumping her in the oil tank, and watching this comedic actor grab drama on another level. For me, Season 4 was a huge opportunity to learn about myself, and what I could do with a reinvention. I also knew I was going into a very hostile environment potentially, but not having it be hostile, and seeing the grace that Kim works under was special to me.”
“I have so many memories that I will cherish. It hit me on set when we were filming the finale, and Mikey was giving a speech — if you ever need a speech, off-the-cuff, from the heart, this is the guy — because I had been able to hold it together and not cry up until that moment, and Mickey broke me,” recalled Goldberg.
“It’s not lost on me, and I think I can speak for Andrew as well here, that you get to be a part of something that is so creatively fulfilling and affords you the opportunity to work with amazing people that are kind, brilliant, and warm, and form a family. I don’t think that those two things intersect often, and to have had the chance to come into this show, into this universe, and to be a part of it for so many years is a real gift. I’m still processing the end of it for sure.”
Fear The Walking Dead debuted the final season trailer at WonderCon 2023. Get a glimpse below:
Fear The Walking Dead returns for its Final Season on May 14th on AMC and AMC+ at 9:00 p.m. ET/PT, with its final six episodes arriving later this year.