fear the walking dead season 2
Courtesy of Michael Bulbenko for the Paley Center

Fear the Walking Dead” will prove that there is “no safe harbor” in Season 2, when the companion series to AMC’s “The Walking Dead” takes its survivors out into open water in an attempt to escape the zombie outbreak that has decimated Los Angeles. The cast and executive producers Dave Erickson and Gale Anne Hurd were on hand for the show’s panel at the Paley Center for Media’s PaleyFest event on Saturday afternoon, where they discussed what’s ahead for this group of survivors in the early days of the apocalypse, now that they’ve found a boat to transport them away from the city.

Before the panel kicked off, fans were treated to a first look at two scenes from the Season 2 premiere: the first saw Kim Dickens’ Madison Clark and Ruben Blades’ Daniel Salazar standing outside on the bow of the boat, debating whether they could trust Victor Strand (Colman Domingo); the second featured Frank Dillane’s troubled Nick Clark swimming before coming face to face with a zombie in the water.

But rest assured, Season 2 of “Fear the Walking Dead” isn’t planning to recreate “Jaws” with the undead just because the characters are on the ocean. “Zombies can’t swim,” Dave Erickson revealed, but “they can wade.”

We’ve encountered a few waterlogged zombies in “The Walking Dead” before, but executive producer Gale Anne Hurd noted that zombies like the bloated Well Walker from the original series had been submerged for quite some time, whereas the dead are still pretty fresh in “Fear,” giving them a different aesthetic.

The ragtag band of survivors are eager to escape Los Angeles this season, but their destination is less of a concern, according to Erickson. Their goal is “to find a place where they can drop anchor and stay, ultimately,” he said. “The Abigail has a fairly expansive range — there is Hawaii, there is Vancouver; we don’t know when we first hit the water which direction we’re going to go.”

Because Season 2 picks up fairly soon after the Season 1 finale, Alycia Debnam-Carey pointed out that the group is still in fight or flight mode. “This all happened so quickly — LA falls in a matter of days. I don’t think you have any time to adjust, you just have to run with it and deal with it as it comes,” she said.

The biggest mystery going into Season 2 is arguably Colman Domingo’s Victor Strand, whom the actor described as “an enigma wrapped in a riddle wrapped in cash.” While Strand seems to have things all figured out — he had a boat ready and waiting to help him escape the zombie apocalypse, after all — Domingo said “that veneer [will] be deconstructed a bit” in Season 2 as the rest of the characters learn more about their supposed savior.

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Even though they’ve been traveling together for a while, there’s still a lot that these survivors don’t know about each other, which will make for plenty of surprises, according to the cast. “Under a new situation, one different from expectations, people will do everything they can for survival,” said Blades of Daniel’s approach to the zombie apocalypse and his strained relationship with his daughter, Ofelia (Mercedes Mason). “The first season was about discovery, second season is about reaction. Everybody now understands some of the things that were not clear before, so I think Ofelia begins to realize that the rules have changed, and they might’ve changed before.”

“Ofelia really is at a precipice of understanding adulthood and what it means to survive,” Mason added, admitting that Ofelia now sees her father as human and flawed instead of just a parent.

As we saw in the Season 1 finale, Travis (Cliff Curtis) was forced to kill his ex-wife Liza (Elizabeth Rodriguez) after she was bitten, which will create more strain with his son Christopher (Lorenzo James Henrie) this season. “It opens up a whole new world for Travis and Chris – his dad killed his mom; how is anyone supposed to deal with that?” Henrie said. “It’s an amazing arc that Chris has to go through.”

“It’s an impossible situation,” Curtis agreed. “Travis’ biggest concern is not the apocalypse — his biggest concern is his love for his son and his love for Madison … we’re going to go on a wild journey together.”

Alicia lost her boyfriend and her dreams of college last season, so Debnam-Carey previewed that Season 2 will provide plenty of change for her character. “She’s still grappling with what this new world is,” she said. “She’s struggling to find connections in this very confined space, [and] she starts looking elsewhere for it.”

Erickson noted that Nick and Strand have an interesting dynamic that will continue to be explored in the new season: “Strand is very good at recognizing the currencies. In this world, he knows Nick is a heroin addict, he knows he’s a survivor, he knows he’s lived on the fringe, he sees value in [that]. He sees possibility; we’ll start to learn more about those possibilities as the season progresses.”

Before the panel ended, talk inevitably turned to a potential crossover with “The Walking Dead,” which Erickson was quick to shoot down, pointing out, “The chronology is so far apart, and there’s a continent between them,” meaning that it “would be difficult” to link the two shows, at least at this stage.

“Fear the Walking Dead” Season 2 premieres April 10 on AMC.

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