Fear the Walking Dead is going through changes, that's for sure. The AMC series is not only seeing some shake-ups taking place after its third season with new showrunners and a familiar name coming in as an executive producer but, starting this weekend, the series is looking to make some waves within its own storyline.
Returning with a shocking batch of episodes, Fear the Walking Dead will take its characters to new locations and enlighten parts of the Dead universe which have remained dark until now. In doing so, the series will introduce a batch of new characters as Madison's group is lead to Broke Jaw Ranch: the home of Jeremiah Otto and his boys where pre-apocalyptic days were spent preparing for the end.
Among those boys is Jake Otto, a new character played by The Following and Dexter alum Sam Underwood. As Underwood describes him, Jake is "the polar opposite" of his brother Troy, which introduces and intriguing family dynamic right off the bat with the series' return.
"He comes from a different mother than Troy," Underwood tells ComicBook.com. "Same father. "
"They both grew up in this very prepper, militia border patrol-esque community. The difference between Troy and Jake, however, that Jake left to go study constitutional law over on the east coast for a number of years, so there's been a huge separation between him and his family. There's also been a cultural progression and exposure to Jake that the others don't seem to have in the same way, so when he comes back to this community, he has a different world view and a different perspective on how to approach things, which often comes up with tension between him and his family and some of the other members of the community."
Leaving town may have either left a bad taste in Jake's brother's mouth or, perhaps it will be the ability to achieve such feats with schooling which leaves Troy so bitter. Either way, the contrast between the brothers is stark and Jake will be dealing with them upon arrival.
"When we first meet Jake, he is literally jumping into a situation he's had to do many, many, many times, which is getting his brother out of a situation that he seems to have, yet again, walked himself into," Underwood said. "I think he's completely underestimated Kim Dickens' character, Madison. He's underestimated a woman, which is another huge theme in this show is underestimating women and their roles in society. Jake is coming in literally to save his brother's ass, which, again, is a regular occurrence throughout their life."
For Jake, protecting his family (often from their own boneheaded decisions) has been a "lifelong journey." However, when one family member isn't exactly trustworth in the world of the dead, it casts a shadow on everyone nearby. "You're going to begin to see what Jake's world view and perspective is and how that helps or hinders the Clark family coming into this new community, and whether the community is going to grow and thrive, hopefully, from there."
While it will be Troy displaying his dark side from the get-go, Jake might have something brewing in him, as well. When asked if Underwood's role might involve a dark side, the actor says there is "absolutely" a possibility.
"I'm definitely no stranger to playing dark roles with characters I've played before," Underwood said. "When you're faced with an apocalyptic world change, and not just an apocalypse that's manmade, like a supernatural kind like the dead coming back to life, that throws at you a lot of questions to how humanity is going to survive and how society is going to continue. How civilization is going to advance and move forward. Is it going to move forward, or is it going to completely collapse? I think that there's room in those scenarios for even the best people in society to become perverted by the situation around them and relying on their baser human survival instincts, which we all have."
It's all part of what makes Jake the most interesting new character heading into the third season of Fear the Walking Dead. His external conflict with his brother and wherever its roots lay offer him the opportunity to be the hero our characters need or the villain such a show often creates.
As Underwood points out, "We've seen that with characters that we love already in Season 2."
Clearly up to date on the events of Fear, Underwood cites, "Alicia had to kill someone at the end of Season 2, and Travis ended up murdering two kids because they killed his son. He held off being that man for so long. He held onto idealism and no violence."
"There's room for even the best people to get lost along the way, and Jake is, by no means, immune to that."
Landing the role on Fear the Walking Dead happened for Underwood in unconventional fashion. The actor was celebrating in Europe when he suddenly was offered an audition.
"I was actually on an anniversary trip with my wife in Amsterdam when I got the audition, so I self-taped my audition in this little, cute Airbnb in Amsterdam, which is always a fun addition to the trip," Underwood said. "I was very, very aware of the show. I'm a huge fan of Kim Dickens, and right when I started watching the show, I became a huge fan of Frank Dillane's work as well, so having the opportunity to audition for that would be a huge plus to the trip, and it was even more of a plus to find out a week later that I'd booked it. Maybe I should self-tape from overseas more often!"
"It was one thing to get the chance to join these actors on this already fascinating story. It's a very whirlwind experience. To be turned around from getting cast and moving to Mexico was incredibly short, so that was an adventure in itself. Then, I arrived the day before I started shooting, so I had a quick sit-down with [showrunner] Dave Erickson in person to discuss the character for a good hour and a half. It happened as a whirlwind. It really, really did, which was probably for the best because you get to jump on the bandwagon and ride it all the way to set. It's been the same ever since. Obviously, the show just moves at such a pace, and it really, really keeps you on your toes. I think they prepped me for what the shooting of the show was actually going to be like as well."
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Fear the Walking Dead returns for its third season on June 4 at 9 pm ET on AMC. The Walking Dead will return for its eighth season in October of 2017. The first trailer is expected to arrive at San Diego Comic Con in July. For complete coverage and insider info all off-season long, follow @BrandonDavisBD on Twitter.