With the second season of the blockbuster hit -- boasting the top-rated cable series premiere of all time -- prequel/spinoff series "Fear the Walking Dead" about to return on April 10, and a special edition home video release of the first season hitting stores this week, star Kim Dickens has every reason to be feeling pretty fearless.
But the actress -- whose impressive TV resume includes stints on modern classics including "Lost," "Deadwood," "Friday Night Lights," "Sons of Anarchy" and "House of Cards," as well as films like "Gone Girl" and "The Blind Side" -- admits there were a few phobias for her to shake as the show got off the ground, including getting over some very intense audition scenes and experiencing some disturbing apocalyptic nightmares early in production.
But, like her character Madison, Dickens is moving forward in one piece, reflecting on her first season experiences and even offering a carefully worded hint or two about what's ahead without getting in trouble with the creators.
Moviefone: What did you learn about this show through your experience making it and later seeing the reaction to it?
Kim Dickens: What did I learn? That it was a very challenging show to shoot, in a good way. I mean, it was all very high stakes, very high emotional stakes. There's a lot of action. It just required a lot of me, but I love that. I embraced it. It was exciting for me. I remember I was so grateful that we had the sort of audience that was earned by "The Walking Dead" looking our way -- I'm so grateful to have that opportunity. I'm very proud of the fact that we were able to keep that audience for this the whole first season.
I learned that you can't be warned about that. Because you just have to show up and do the best work you can. I learned that once it aired because I didn't really think about the attention it was going to have. I didn't think about, "Oh, the audience has a lot of pressure on us." "The audience from 'The Walking Dead' has expectations," etc. I didn't let that get to me. I just showed up and did my job to the best of my ability.
When it was about a week before we were going to air, I started to have shortness of breath and heart palpitations, which I'm not prone to. Like, "Wow, what's going on?" I couldn't escape the pressure of it. It was funny to me, in a way. But I definitely learned that once the audience attention happened.
Now that you've had some time to walk around in Madison's shoes, what are the characteristics about her that you find that you really like, and what do you think are the Achilles heels?
Well, I like how she's pretty fearless. I like how she makes really tough decisions quickly. I personally can't do that. I love how ferocious she is about protecting her children. I don't have children. I love that motivation for every one of her scenes, for every breath she takes, it is for those kids. I love that. Her Achilles heel? Probably, maybe, the drug addict son. Maybe what she will do for him.
Was there any point during the shooting of Season 1 where you found you really needed to rise to the occasion as an actress?
When I auditioned for the job and I camera tested for it, I found that the scenes we camera tested were so challenging for me. They were so emotional. There was so much story I had to relay. The scenes actually didn't make it into the show. They were little down, in a way, but they were for audition purposes. It was so emotional and so physical and all these things that I left the camera test thinking, "You know what? It's fine if I don't get it. It's going to be a really, really grueling, challenging job." And I think it was scary in a way.
I felt like I had a lot of those moments in the first season that I had to have my A-game all the time. There hasn't been that one of the main leads of the show that had that much responsibility. I can't think of a specific time only because there were so many of those times, pretty much on a daily basis. The first season for sure.
What have you found really compelling or fascinating about the world in which this show is set?
It was a completely new genre for me to be in and roll around in creatively, so I had to challenge my brain in a way. Everything is about grounding this very heightened experience, and grounding it in heart and soul and reality. So that's been good for me. I've been doing this professionally maybe 23 years, and for something to come along that was exciting and different and unique and makes me work in a different way, now I'm surprised that's even happened.
It's really been something I've embraced and enjoyed. The genre itself I've never worked in or really followed, but I find it fascinating -- how the license you have in storytelling and how you use the metaphors -- the zombies are metaphors for our society's anxieties and fears of not being able to take care of themselves, or not being protected by their government or not being safe from an epidemic. Those sort of primal fears, you're able to explore that. And that's been pretty fascinating.
As sfar as the zombie and gore element of the show, was there any "ick" factor that you had to get over?
I think the walking around off-set is what's kind of alarming, when you see somebody and you're like, "Whoa!" Yeah, It didn't bother me so much. I did have, in the first season when we first began, a few nightmares, but not specific zombie nightmares. You can tell it was like a weird apocalyptic [dream] -- my body, my psyche trying to work it out, whatever I was doing for my day job at that point.
We left everybody in a pretty juicy place at the end of the season. Can you give us a little tease as to what we can expect in Season 2?
Well, we're going to be on the high seas, let's put it that way. It takes off pretty quickly. The second season starts very closely on the heels of the end of the first season. There's not a big time jump. You're going to catch us right there and it kind of takes off. It really does catch fire.
Is there a member of the cast that you get to have some more interaction with in Season 2?
Yeah, I do, but I don't think I can say! It's still kind of a spoiler, isn't it? If I give anything away like that they're going to hunt me down and I don't know what they're going to do.
The story branches out for us all. All the characters you knew at the end of Season 1 are thrown into this yacht together on the open water. That alone -- some of us strangers, some from the family are thrown together -- creates tensions and anxieties and you're trapped out there. It's not like we're all used to being on the water and seafarers and such. No, we're running for our lives and trying to find a safe place to go. It's going to make for a very interesting dynamic. It's a bit of a tinder box, if you will.