Actress Kim Dickens reflects on her characters in Fear the Walking Dead and Deadwood and the differences in her fanbases
Alabama-born actress Kim Dickens plays tough mother Madison Clark, California guidance counselor-turned-zombie apocalypse survivor/warrior in AMC‘s hit sister show to The Walking Dead, Fear the Walking Dead. But the veteran performer – who has appeared in everything from Paul Verhoeven’s Hollow Man to David Fincher’s Gone Girl to TV’s House of Cards and so many more celebrated projects – first found her taste of cult fame starring as the gentle yet strong-willed prostitute Joanie Stubbs in HBO’s lamented adult western series Deadwood.
And while the latter show certainly has exposed Dickens to the kind of obsessive fan base that will no doubt follow her to her grave and beyond, nothing can quite match the ferocity of her FTWD followers. She’s now part of an international phenomenon that shows little signs of yielding. And she loves every minute of it.
On the cusp of the DVD/Blu-ray release of Fear the Walking Dead‘s second season, we had the chance to briefly speak to the charming, funny and kind Dickens who politely indulged this writer’s own fixation on her days the world of Deadwood.
CS: I’m just going to channel my inner Powers Boothe and call you (does bad Cy Tolliver impersonation) Joanie Stubbbbbs…
Dickens: (laughs and lowers voice) Joanie Stubbbbbs...
CS: Do people still come up to you and call you that?
Dickens: Oh yeah, totally. All the time. At least one person has also said it to me like Powers does, like you just did. I’ve had people ask me to quote some of the more colorful lines that I’d rather not quote here (laughs). People were pretty inspired by “Deadwood” that’s for sure. I’m always impressed these days when people recognize me from that, though. I have such a different look now. My hair is different in “Fear the Walking Dead” and of course, the show isn’t a period piece. Someone saw me in the gym the other day with my cap pulled down and in total gym clothes, y’know and they recognized me from “Deadwood” and I was like, wow, that’s a really good call to see Joanie Stubbs buried in there!
CS: Well, all your roles are so diverse. Physically or otherwise, I can see few connecting threads.
Dickens: Yeah, well that’s good, I guess.
CS: When was the first time you felt the presence of FTWD’s fan-base and how different is it from the Deadwood fanbase?
Dickens: Oh yeah, I mean there was this huge “The Walking Dead” fanbase that was looking our way from the start. And to tell you the truth, they weren’t necessarily excited about the idea (laughs). Some were, but most were skeptical and I get that. The first time I really felt the surge of the fan-base though was when we sort of ‘came out’ at the first Comic-Con in San Diego, which was just before the show even aired and we had this really long trailer to screen and it was even the first time for us, the cast, to see this trailer. And it was a very exciting thing. “Deadwood” was a very strong fanbase, but it’s obviously not as hug and mobilized as The Walking Dead fanbase is. Not so much different in passion though.
CS: One of the things I like about FTWD is that it is so different than its sister series. It’s so sun-baked and urgent. It almost feels like a western, in fact.
Dickens: Yeah, I agree.
CS: And Madison is a great character. I have always appreciated how the no-nonsense, non-judgemental way she treats her son Nick’s addiction is mirrored in how she practically navigates the literal end of the world. It’s amazing to watch her evolve and adapt to this bloody new world. Is this what attracted you to the role?
Dickens: Yeah, but you know, my first instinct was completely wrong, by the way. I was coming off the HBO show “Treme” at the time and I was looking for my next marriage, if you will, and my agent brought me “Fear the Walking Dead” and I was like, yeah, no. That’s not really for me. The last horror thing I did was “Hollow Man” and it’s just not usually the genre I look for or is interested me, frankly. But AMC just kept coming back. So I looked again and started to really fall in love with the character and I was totally moved by her family relationships. And I loved how the show developed these characters in this way before the zombies show up at all. So I thought it would resonate for the audience on that level. And while making the show, I have come to realize that it’s really not that far off from a lot of the other stuff I have done. When I did “Treme” in New Orleans, they were really in an apocalyptic time. They had been betrayed by their Government. Same thing with “Deadwood,” which is set in apocalyptic universe. So it’s really not that far removed than what I have been doing and what I have been doing for years.
CS: I guess that’s the spine of all horror entertainment, really. Taking everyday people and putting them into extraordinary and hostile circumstances.
Dickens: Yes, I agree. And I think it’s a wonderful backdrop for storytelling,
CS: Are you an action figure yet? Has that happened?
Dickens: Ummm…yes? Hello? Where have you been? (laughs)
CS: My 7-year-old son collects The Walking Dead toys but Fear the Walking Dead toys are not yet on his radar. So my ignorance can be blamed on him!
Dickens: Yeah, it’s out there. My friends see me in the mall all the time and text me and let me know.
CS: Wait, so you don’t have one yourself?
Dickens: Oh yeah, I do, I’m looking at it right now. My Madison’s weapons are a hammer and… are you ready for it?
CS: Yeah, I’m ready.
Dickens: A fire extinguisher.
CS: Wicked! And this is your first time being an action figure, right?
Dickens: Yep. It is. I wish we had one for “Gone Girl,” though.
CS: I read Gone Girl is a horror movie. We ran an essay on that very thing, in fact!
Dickens: Oh yeah, it’s totally a horror movie!
Fear the Walking Dead The Complete Second Season streets on December 13th from Anchor Bay Entertainment
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