The Hollywood Reporter talked with Fear the Walking Dead showrunner Dave Erickson and one of the topics they brought up was the fact that all the major deaths on the show so far have been black characters. He gave the usual defense of “it’s the story.”
Counting Artie, Alicia’s boyfriend, Matt, and Calvin, the three central deaths on the show so far have been African-American. Was that something you were cognizant of during production? Considering the flagship series has come under fire for similar issues, why did you opt to make those decisions?
When we were writing the pilot, it wasn’t something that came up in conversations in the room or with the network. Ultimately, it came down to when we were casting those parts, we didn’t know who was going to live, who would die or how those stories would arc out or not arc out. For us, it was about casting that felt reflective of the community and getting the best actor and that was the final determining factor.
When you decided to kill all three characters, did you think about tweaking that at all? That’s a lot in two episodes.
Once the story was set, it was the story. Once the story is playing out in a specific way, that’s the line that you want to follow. It wasn’t as though we were writing those characters and then casting those characters with an intention of, “This is going to be the death scene for this episode.” For that episode, it was about how it would reflect on the characters themselves and how things would play out over the course of the season. I realize it’s clearly become an issue and it’s something we are mindful of. But ultimately it’s trying to tell the story the best way we can and cast the best people we can. I wouldn’t want to go back and recast a character just to avoid … if it doesn’t feel true to the character or the relationship — the relationship with Alicia and Matt or Calvin and Nick — it’s really about the reality of the world that we’re trying to inhabit and trying to have the best actors portray those parts. When you’re dealing with a show where you have a cast that is as diverse as ours is, it’s inevitable that characters of color are going to get bit and are going to turn or die. If you look at the larger scope of this season, what people will see is that there is parity. We want to tell the story in the best way we can and want the best actors to play those parts. It would have been a mistake to go with Anglo actors for those particular roles because I don’t think that’s honest to the world of the show.
Maybe it’s just me, but I’m getting sick of the “it’s the story” excuse. Ask Person of Interest how well that worked out for them. Maybe one should write a story where the black characters aren’t any more disposable than the white ones?
The good news is that they were called out by a mainstream publication, and they are (rightfully) taking heat for their decisions. Maybe next time the people involved in the show will think a little harder about their storyline.