Sunday night marked the Colman Domingo's directorial debut on television with Fear the Walking Dead Episode 4x12. It was a journey more than a year in the making for the AMC zombie show's Victor Strand actor.
Domingo is one of two Fear the Walking Dead cast members remaining from its original season. Four years into the post-apocalyptic journey, he has reached a new career milestone, serving as the first cast member of either Dead universe series to get behind the camera (The Walking Dead's Michael Cudlitz will follow it up during the original show's ninth season). While putting together is Barbecue play at the Geffen House over a year ago, the notion of Domingo directing an episode of Fear came to life.
"We went through the processes, I asked our producers, Dave Erickson, possible for me to shadow, and they agreed," Domingo told ComicBook.com. "I shadowed Andrew Bernstein towards the end of [Season Three] for two episodes, and I was really just mentored by one of the best television episodic directors I think around."
From there, Season Four rolled around with a pair of new showrunners replacing Dave Erickson but Domingo's longing for a directorial effort would still be fulfilled. It did help, though, that Domingo's Strand was sidelined for the episode and the two which preceded it, allowing him the proper time to prepare.
"Pre-production was 8 days, so I had 8 days of pre-production, and then I was just off from the episode right before, so it's really getting my bearings and really do the prep work, which is the key to anyone's, to any episode," Domingo said. "Making decisions about every prop, every detail. Your camera work, making sure you have your shots lined up."
Still, shooting such a complex episode which bounced between Lennie James' Morgan Jones and Jenna Elfman's June with Maggie Grace's Althea for an hour-long broadcast was a lot to bite off in just over a week. "The night before, it's terrifying because you knew you'd have so much weighing on you because our show was not just an ordinary show," Domingo admits. "Our show is like a mini film, and the budget of a small film, and you only have 8 days to shoot it."
While Domingo's first behind-the-camera efforts were well-executed, he is quick to deflect credit to his peers, including James, Elfman, Grace, and director or photography Adam Suschitzky. "I got to really see how game everyone is out there," Domingo said. "Jenna Elfman, I was able to see how open of an actor she is. She's willing to try anything, she has so much depth as a dramatic actor as well."
The humble and enthusiastic star handed out credit everywhere it was due. "Maggie Grace likes to interrogate a script, which I love," he said. "Lennie James as well, our new actors like Mo Collins, you know, just exceptional. I had the best time."
Still, Domingo does admit one of the most challenging aspects of his directorial debut came at him fast. "That car chase was terrifying," Domingo quips. The actor had to direct a sequence pitting a SWAT van against a pick up truck on Texas back roads, leading to one spinning out while the other jetted out of frame. "We made sure we story boarded it, we did test shots of it," Domingo said. "There was probably at least 300 e-mails going back and forth about every single detail of what we are going to need to do to achieve this. We had such active plans and we knew exactly what we were going to do, so on the day, we had to go with our plan and hope that it worked. Nine times out of 10 it absolutely did work."
In the end, Domingo knows he couldn't have done it without his Fear the Walking Dead family behind him.
"I do count this episode, especially my first, as it really is, it really did take that village, and that village to really help even empower me and embolden to create a good episode," he said. "I feel so proud of it, but I see the work of everyone, and everyone's best work in it."
Fear the Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on AMC. The Walking Dead returns for its ninth season on Oct. 7, 2018. For more updates and insider info all year long, follow @BrandonDavisBD on Twitter!