Later this month, The Walking Dead's companion series, Fear The Walking Dead, will premiere on AMC.
Among the stars of the series is Mercedes Mason, who previously rose to fame by launching an international modeling career in high school and getting her first movie role in 2007's The Break-Up. She's heading to the end of the world though, as we'll meet her Ofelia Salazar character in episode two of Fear The Walking Dead, which is set to air August 30.
We caught up with Mason for an exclusive interview in preparation for Fear to talk all thing Walking Dead, Comic Con, and real world apocalypse!
CB: Was Comic Con a little bit overwhelming?
MM: A little bit. I had been to the Comic Con in New York prior but it's nothing compared to the one in San Diego. San Diego is like the mecca. It was a little overwhelming. If you're a people watcher it was a visual feast to say the least. I was thoroughly, thoroughly amused and entertained.
When you were there, had you wrapped production yet?
No. We literally took a two day break. We should have been shooting that Thursday/Friday but we took Thursday off to head down to San Diego. We did the panel on Friday and all the interviews on Friday and Saturday and then we went right back to production that Sunday, actually.
Wow, that's intense. Are you guys done with the first season now?
Yeah. We're done now. We've been done for a couple weeks. I know we start shooting season two in November so we have a little bit of a hiatus here before we head back.
There you go. Take a vacation. You've earned it.
I'm actually...I'm loving it. I feel like I've figured out the secret to life. You know what I mean? I'm working and it's so much fun and you get paid for it. I feel like at some point, somebody's gonna be like, "Alright, settle down. Your free ride is over!" It's incredible. It really is so much fun to do what you love and make a living with it.
That's awesome. I'm happy for you.
So, can you tell me a little bit about your Ofelia character and how she begins to find out about the end of the world?
Right! So, we weren't hired yet when they shot the pilot. We come in, my family comes in episode two. It's pretty much the family needing to escape when things start going haywire. It's obviously the end of the world but we think it's like a flu virus. The cool thing about the show is that the audience is far more well informed than our characters, so the audience knows exactly where we're headed. It becomes very... that proverbial, "Don't open that door!" kind of thing. Ofelia's father owns a barber shop where our family takes refuge. That's sort of how our families come together. Ofelia is the only child of those parents.
As protective of them as she is, she's very naive. She's very much a daddy's girl and you'll see, even in what I'm wearing, it's like a little dress. She's very young maturity wise I think. As things start falling apart and we start to realize that this thing is not going to blow over, this is really more dire than any of us anticipated. Ofelia is forced to grow up very quickly because the weak ones, when the world falls apart, are the first ones to pass - or to die, I should say.
So, Ofelia really has to find strength within herself. As that starts happening, she also starts to find things out about her parents, things that they may have lied to her about, so she's really at odds with herself. She kind of has to go back to square one and figure everything out for herself because everything she's known up to that point has been a lie. I can't give you too many more details than that but you'll see - it starts to come out about episode five, I think.
Sure! Don't spoil it for me!
I will not! I will not!
So, you touched on the weakest would be the first to go, if the zombie apocalypse were really upon us, which of your fellow cast members would be the first to go? Would Cliff Curtis be able to hold his own?
Who would it be... It's so funny. Cliff is so sweet. I don't know if you've ever spoken to him but he's a vegan, I'm a vegan myself, but he's very, very sweet. He's soft spoken but he's got strength. He doesn't say much but when he does we all listen. I don't think it would be Cliff. Sadly, I think I would be the first to go! If I see blood now, I faint! So, I can't imagine if I actually had to crack a skull open or see some guy eating somebody! I'm pretty sure I would go weak in the knees and just vomit. I would vomit, a lot, I think. [Laughs]
Did you see Cliff in Gang Related? Have you ever watched that show?
He was ruthless! I've never had the chance to speak with him, I'd love to, but I've been a huge fan for a long time. Now that you mention him being so soft-spoken and sweet, it's hard to believe after seeing him play such a ruthless part on Gang Related!
That's the thing! It really shows what a great actor he is. That's the beauty of him. He's played every sort of ethnicity. He's played every sort of role - from father to gang member or gangster. There's something about him, you'll see it in the show... He emotes so much with his face. I absolutely love actors like that who are very still and yet they show so much. He's great. Like I said, he's super sweet. We'll be sitting on the set, and he'll be playing chess on his phone.
Sounds like you guys are having a good time! Were you a fan of The Walking Dead before you joined Fear?
Brandon, I was a die hard fan. I was like, geeked out, nerd, everybody be quiet in the house, mama's watching her show. You know what I mean? No joke - big, big fan. As an actress, you'll tell your agents and managers, you know, "Get me on this show! Get me on Game of Thrones!" You want to be on things that you watch. I kept bugging my agent and finally they were like, "Listen, we want you to go out for the companion show." I hadn't heard anything about it because I had been traveling. I thought they were like the cruelest people in the world toying with my emotions. Like, "You can't tease me like this! When you laugh it's gonna hurt my feelings!" They were like, "No, dummy. Go out, meet with the producers and directors, you're going out in two days. Be prepared."
So, I lost it. You have no idea. I was so ecstatic. It's the first in a very long time that I've been super, super nervous in an audition. I just remember doing like a daily affirmation, "You are strong enough! You have people with you!" Just to get myself in that room. I wanted it so badly, I could taste it.
That's awesome. The real question is, though, did you read the comic books?
I didn't! I did not read the comic books because I don't know why. I started watching it and I knew about the comics but nobody in my circle of friends talked about the comics. I just wasn't exposed to it so, sadly, I wouldn't even know where to go. That says a lot about our culture, I have to tell you. An older generation would be like, "You go to the store, you buy a comic." I'm like, "Do I find it online? How does this work?" [Laughs] So, I didn't, but I feel like it's one of those things I really need to get into. I feel like I need a big span of time where I can binge read.
Yeah, you have to check it out. The Walking Dead is one of the comics I do keep up with as it comes out. I recommend it.
Yeah! I love that! I love hearing that. That's a cool thing with our show, though. With Fear The Walking Dead, there's no comics! I imagine when you read the comics with The Walking Dead, you kind of know, generally, what's gonna happen. With ours its free range. You have no idea what's gonna happen.
I know and its frustrating because I hate waiting to know what's gonna happen!
I know! But it's gotta be a little exciting, right? You genuinely are completely in the dark. So are we, though. They hand us our script at our table read so we all read it backwards - making sure we're still alive - and then we're shooting it the next day. It's really such a quick turnaround.
You don't have to tell me who, but have there been any tough goodbyes with cast members getting killed off?
There hasn't been anything yet. We're humans. We all have rumors and things like that like, "You're gonna die! I'm gonna die!" Things like that but nothing as of yet that's been too heartbreaking that we weren't aware of going into it.
Have you watched any of the episodes yet?
I've only seen the pilot. They showed us the pilot at Comic Con. I haven't seen anything else as of yet. I don't think I'm going to because I'm going to try and schedule a little viewing party at my house every week if I can. Whoever's in town can come see it and stuff, you know? That's what I did with The Walking Dead. It was this weekly affair where you get to hangout with your friends and watch your show and geek out at the same time.
And now it's like, "Come over and watch me!"
Yeah, yeah, yeah! Which is a little weird, but nonetheless, I'm still excited to see it.
Do you have a favorite character on Fear or The Walking Dead?
I mean...you know...Norman Reedus. Come on. We all have a soft spot.
Did you get to meet him at Comic Con?
I did! I did! There's actually a group picture of us from Comic Con. Literally, because I tracked him down and stood in his way. I was like, "Hi. Hi. Hello." He was probably like, "Who is this crazy girl?" [Laughs]. But all the other cast members, they were all so lovely to us. They're really welcoming and giving us tips and telling us how great the fans are. I literally formed us all into a group pic and you can see, I could not be hugging him tighter. Literally, just like, white knuckling him. Good thing I'm on the show because otherwise people would be like, "Okay, you need to settle down Mercedes. Take a breathe."
Okay, before I let you go, do you have a favorite super hero or comic book character you would really love to or dream of playing?
Yes. Yes, indeed. Obviously, every girl grows up loving Wonder Woman - but - as I got older, I've had this soft spot for Catwoman. I think, especially seeing Michelle Pfeiffer play that, she's like lengthy and sexy and there's so much to her that I'm just absolutely in love with that role. But, that being said, I have this whole thing about females playing male roles and just role reversals and men playing female roles. I would love to be the female Spider-Woman or something of that nature. Something with a complete flip of what we're use to. I think things are changing and I like seeing that women are strong. I would like to see that proud moment where I can play something that's very traditionally a male role.
Have you ever auditioned for any?
For any comics?
Any super hero or comic role?
I haven't but I am dying to. I'm way into the whole... The only comic I grew up reading was Superman. I was born and raised in Sweden and he was huge in Sweden so I even have like, the old school where he dies, you remember that cover? It's him and the flag in the background... I still have that. For me, it's always been, yeah... The old school comics I grew up with. I would be honored to play those. I haven't been asked. Can you make it happen, Brandon?
I'm gonna get Kevin Feige on the phone right now and say, "Call up Mercedes Mason! Spider-Woman, She-Hulk... She's ready!"
Yes! Yes! Yes! Exactly! I'm all about it!
Do you have a super hero you'd like to see Mercedes Mason take on for the big or small screen? Leave it in the comment section!
Fear The Walking Dead premieres August 23 on AMC.