Sunday night marked the second episode of Fear the Walking Dead which its Victor Strand actor Colman Domingo got behind the camera for. Having made his directorial debut in the show's fourth season, Domingo was eager to get back for more with Season 5, breaking the news to ComicBook.com months prior to its production. Now, the episode has come and gone and the actor/director has opened up about the process which included a major introduction for the Dead universe's first spinoff show.
"You know more you do better," Domingo says of his second shot at directing. "I think I knew what I was getting myself into, but this episode was even more stunts and special effects and visual effects." This time around, Domingo had to pull off sequences such as driving a van straight through a blockade of walkers but he was also burdened with launching the universe's next crossover as Austin Amelio made his Fear the Walking Dead debut.
Despite not watching The Walking Dead, Domingo never felt any pressure to give Amelio's Dwight a special treatment. "I didn't think about that at all to be very honest," Domingo said. "I really thought about 'Here's the script'" and 'Here's him.' I didn't think of it as his big entrance in any way." Of course, Dwight's arrival came with one of the wildest walker kills either Walking Dead show had seen, featuring Garret Dillahunt's John Dorie.
As Domingo has proudly rolled out the new episode on Sunday night (and rightfully so, as it was the best episode of Fear's fifth season so far), take an in-depth look at his process and perspective in the exclusive ComicBook.com interview below!
ComicBook.com: First, what was the biggest thing you learned from the first time directing an episode that you used, that you remembered and actively used this time around?
Colman Domingo: I don't know. I guess you know more you do better. I think I knew what I was getting myself into, but this episode was even more stunts and special effects and visual effects. I guess I did okay on my first time out, and so I think they handed me everything and the kitchen sink. I think I even learned even more patience. I've learned how to prep even more because I think prep work is where you do the bulk of your preparation for the day of getting the shots. I don't know. I think I learned that I had an instinct that being sort of a graceful, quiet director was the way to go, and still works for me.
I think you got to be the quiet in the storm. You can't be rattled when you have a huge team depending on you.
CB: Is this your only episode as a director this season?
CD: Yes. Exactly, yeah.
CB: I figure that it couldn't have been easy to put together driving a van through a bunch of zombies. Was that the most challenging part of this episode?
CD: No. I think the most challenging part of the episode was the western town shootout because that has so many stunts. There's a couple a couple gag stunts that I even added that I thought were just fun because we were in a western attraction town, so I felt like you had to do the shot of the cut-out. The zombie walking through the cutout of a western person in dressed attire, and you had to shoot through that. It was all these stunts that we had to really coordinate and really work out. I worked out with little action figures at some point, and then we worked it out, we mapped out.
Stunt team, we really went through it's choreography. I think that's my strong suit. You had to start thinking of it as choreography, as a dance.
I think we've had at least something like 16 shots. We used to count the shots. You know how many are left in the bullets. It's all a big puzzle, so it takes a lot of prep work, and then on the day you have to be really... because the fans are watching. They're like, 'Wait a minute, how did he empty the bullets from that six shooter and still has one bullet?' You know what I mean? It's all these things that people are counting up. That was very difficult, and it's in a very isolated street. But we had the whole western town to shoot with, so that was just interesting and fun.
CB: Who's idea was it to have the bullet split the axe and do that stunt with John taking out two walkers in one shot?
CD: That was the writer. That was the writer Ashley Cardiff. That was her idea, and she is very much a western aficionado. Apparently that's her strong suit. She came up with that shot. That was the coolest thing. Then, how to shoot it was we had to really figure that out, and how it could be something that's dynamic and fun. I wanted it to be fun. I think a lot of our kills and things like that are very serious, and we're fighting for survival. In this one I thought, 'We got to go straight up John Ford, Sergio Leone.' I wanted to have some fun with it.
CB: Yeah, well you did it, man. I was watching, I was like 'There's no way they're going to do this!' It worked, and it was cool.
CD: Well, cool!
CB: Did you feel a sense of pressure with being behind the first episode that Austin joined?
CD: No, not at all. I didn't think about that at all to be very honest. I really thought about here's the script and here's him. I didn't think of it as his big entrance in any way. I just thought, "Oh, this is we have to figure out how we set him up." I love the idea of setting him up as sort of this mystery man, and then we reveal him, and then he's still quiet. Even the way we stage him is just his head's down, and I like that he's almost obscure even when he has his hand up with the gun towards Dory. Where people are like, "Wait, is that ... It is. Wait." I wanted a little bit of that.
Then, eventually when he's finally revealed, I wanted to also show some moments of him. Because I did not watch The Walking Dead, Austin told me at some point, he says, "You know I've never smiled on The Walking Dead." I said, "Really?" Because he's got a great smile, and I felt like you got to get a kick out of Dory and June. You know what I mean? You got to get a kick out of them. It's this really, really sweet scene, and then he just smiles so bright. Then, after that scene he says, "You know, I've never done that before." I was like, "What?" He said, "Smile as Dwight." I thought, "Oh, I had no idea," but I thought, "Well, it makes sense because we're in a different part of his journey now, and you finally met some people that can make you smile. Isn't that nice?" He just smiled and laughed, and we just hugged each other.
CB: How much of Walking Dead or Austin's story as Dwight on Walking Dead did you have to factor or educate yourself on because you don't watch the other show?
CB: For you as a character, he's brand new, but as a director you have to understand the character. How did you kind of balance that?
CD: To be honest, as a director you understand the character on the page because only with the script that you have. I think the idea of doing so much history of characters and all, it's actually just not as useful. I think you can get bogged down in all of that instead of dealing with what the writers and showrunners have laid out in your script. That's all you can go from. I think the beautiful thing is we know that human beings are contradictory. All I can do is play what the actions are in the scene, and in the given circumstances. I think if you trust the actor to hold the character near and dear. You know what I mean?
CB: It probably helps Austin Amelio get enthusiastic, you guys are basically shoot in his backyard now, too.
CD: I feel like we're down the street from his house!
CB: Now, let's talk about your character. Why is it that you're never in the episodes you direct?
CD: I know. Isn't it something? I had no idea. It's funny because I thought that I might've been in this episode, but I just think it's good. I like the idea that I'm still able to just focus on directing, but I feel like I'm ready for the challenge now to direct myself.
CB: We saw you last week with the return of Ruben Blades. Just as actors, as people, what was it like for you two to get back together?
CD: It was just a love fest. I know that we're at each others throats and there's a lot of tension that someone's going to shoot each other, shoot the other in the face, but Ruben and I we love each other. There's such a bromance there, and we love sparring and playing off each other because I think that he's quick witted and funny and dark. I don't know. I love the fact that we can go toe to toe and we never know where the other will go. It's exciting. He's a great dance partner.
CB: For Strand, that's pretty shocking, but he went to Daniel on purpose.
CD: Yeah, and I think that says a lot about his character. What he's willing to do. I think in past seasons people wouldn't believe that he'd be willing to put himself on the line for other people, but it's showing you immediately that he's caring about others more than himself. He's going to put himself directly in harm's way. Directly with someone who has every reason to end his life, but he's saying it's worth it. If nothing else, it's worth it that I tried.
CB: What can you tease about the future for these two? This unlikely duo.
CD: They're going to drive off and become the buddy comedy that we've always wanted. It's going to be a spinoff. Strand, Salazar, and the cat! I'd watch that show, Two Men and a Cat. Oh, the cat's awesome. The cat is going to become the biggest breakout star this show's ever had.
CB: Next weeks episode with the cat is so good!
CD: Oh yeah. It's good. You're right.
CB: Do you and Madison actress Kim Dickens keep in touch, or ever talk about what it would be like to keep her around on the show?
CD: We never talk about the show. We just have a friendship that's outside of the show. I swear, I feel like it never comes up, and I see her all the time. She comes to my house or I go to her house. I just stop by when I'm in the neighborhood, and we just laugh, and talk, and enjoy each other as friends. It's like that's the beauty of a show like Fear the Walking Dead. You work with people 16 hours a day, and you become just close. It exceeds the show. People are still devastated that we don't work together, but I'm like I see her all the time.
CB: That's great. Do you, Alycia, and Danay... Do you guys still get a little nervous when you go into season meetings and you hear about who's going to come and who's going to go as it is with all The Walking Dead shows?
CD: To be honest no. Not at all. Honestly, I feel like I'm so prepared that if they told me that I was going to be bitten this season or next season, I think I would be okay. To be perfectly honest, I think it's not a fear that I have anymore. I think, you know, the nature of storytelling, and you feel like whatever tells the best story. I think we're all actors who know that we'll work again and again, and it's just the nature of the show. I think you want to really give it up to be a part of that. I think Strand has a lot more story to tell, but I think that who knows. If they decided something else, I think cool.
CB: Yeah. Are there more clues about this three ring logo, and the people who took Rick Grimes in the helicopter coming?
CD: Possibly. Possibly! Keep your eyes peeled.
There'll be more, but I think there's a lot of, I don't know, communities crossing each other and starting to cross. As we keep expanding in our universe, I think we're coming in contact with more people who are linked to others. It's just like living in L.A. and New York. You have a friend of a friend who knows a friend, and you're like, "Oh wow, I can't believe you know John from Long Island." You're like, "Yeah, that's my cousin." It's like that.
CB: So, you've got a couple TV episodes under the belt. If they were like, 'Hey Colman, we got three movies coming!" Would you want to direct one?
CD: I feel confident that I could. I actually do.
Fear the Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9pm ET on AMC. The Walking Dead returns for its tenth season in October. The Rick Grimes movies have not yet been given a release date.