9:06pm PT by Josh Wigler
'Fear the Walking Dead' Star Opens Up About Stunning Departure
[This story contains spoilers for the season 4A finale of AMC's Fear the Walking Dead, "No One's Gone."]
In the midseason two finale, ferocious Fear the Walking Dead survivor Daniel Salazar (Rubén Blades) appeared to die in a literal blaze of glory, only to reemerge half a season later. Will Madison Clark (Kim Dickens) follow suit, following a similar exit from the show: apparently burned to death, surrounded by walkers?
According to the star herself, viewers are not advised to hold their breath.
"It's so sad," Kim Dickens said during The Talking Dead, following the airing of AMC's Fear the Walking Dead midseason four finale. "Madison has been an incredible character to play. I feel like I worked my whole career to get to this point to play her. It's been an honor."
Madison's fate was up in the air throughout season four, once The Walking Dead mainstay Morgan Jones (Lennie James) entered the picture and original castmembers Alycia Debnam-Carey ("Alicia"), Frank Dillane ("Nick"), Danay García ("Luciana") and Colman Domingo ("Strand") emerged looking thirsty for blood — and not in the same flesh-hungry manner as the walkers.
The first half of the season told stories split across time, as the survivors of the old guard embarked on a vague vengeance quest against the Vultures, while Morgan's group and viewers alike struggled to make sense of the current events. The midseason finale, "No One's Gone," clarified matters significantly: following the Vultures' half-baked attack on the Diamond, Madison lured the horde of walkers away from her loved ones and into the baseball stadium, locked them and herself inside and died in the process.
The exact specifics of her death are unknown, as Madison is last seen cornered by zombies, gun in hand, launching a flare into the middle of the baseball field and standing tall as a fiery glow reflects upon her person. Is Madison's final scene ambiguous enough to give viewers reason to believe that she is still alive? Certainly, according to some fans, but the opening words from host Chris Hardwick during The Talking Dead should dispel those hopes: "She died doing that one thing giving her a reason for living: protecting the ones she loved."
"This is a complicated woman with a dark past with a very strong and good instinct," Dickens added, weighing in on why it was so hard to part ways with Madison. "She's a mother. When you inform your story from there, it turns things on its head. It spins you out from the stories you can tell."
According to her testimony, Dickens was informed early on in the process of season four by new showrunners Andrew Chambliss and Ian Goldberg that Madison would be dying in the episodes ahead. "I was heartbroken," the actress said on Talking Dead. "I was devastated."
The emotional response extended to other members of the Fear the Walking Dead family, according to the only two season one holdovers still on the cast, who both happened to be sitting on the Talking Dead couch: Alycia Debnam-Carey and Colman Domingo.
"I think there's a bit of symbolism in the show in how she holds the torch," said Domingo, visibly emotional, dabbing tears from his eyes during the night. "Kim Dickens is someone who you have to burn something down to light someone else's way. Kim has become such a dear friend and comrade. She's a pro, through and through."
"She's been such a ferocious, kind and gentle leader," continued the actor. "That's exactly what you need in a show like this."
"We're drawing on close emotions, which is dangerous as an actor," added Dickens, specifically citing co-executive producer Michael Satrazemis and cast coordinator Steve Davis as members of the Fear the Walking Dead family, verifying the difficult process she and her castmembers endured on set over Madison's death. "We had to work through it in those five months that I was there."
"Kim has become one of my role models as a woman, as an actress," said Debnam-Carey. "I've learned so much from her. How to lead a set. She has the most gravity out of any people I've ever met. ... I can't explain how much I've learned from her. I'm going to continue learning from her. It's been the greatest blessing being part of this show, growing from a young girl to a young woman and having [Dickens] right there."
"I was so moved by her performance," said Dickens, weighing in on Debnam-Carey, the heir apparent to the Fear the Walking Dead crown. "I was brought to tears. I'm so proud of her. She's so incredibly talented, and she has been since we started. I've seen her her grow into a young woman. Frank, too; I've seen him grow into a young man. It was so moving. That performance, I said to a friend, you could turn the sound down and you can watch her, it was so powerful. When you watch the video? I couldn't take it. It was so beautiful. She's a star."
Dickens' final scene on the show was also Madison's final scene. The actor says she was the only castmember on hand that night: "The crew was very respectful and somber. We wanted to do a great job, and we did. I felt proud of it. Steve, our cast coordinator, was the one guy who stayed all night with me. It was freezing. He stayed all night until sunrise. Every time I went into the tent to sit in my chair, he sat there quietly, sitting for support."
"As Kim the actor, I thought, I feel I would cry during this scene," added Dickens, "but you realize the mother in this scene would impart through subtext, 'I'm okay. Don't worry about me. I'm okay. I love you.' I think that's what Madison [conveyed] across the lines. She was strong for her daughter."
For what it's worth, while Dickens is departing Fear the Walking Dead, the star says she's in the process of locking down for a fall shoot on HBO's Deadwood revival — news that inspired Chris Hardwick to propose the possibility of a "Fear the Talking Deadwood" live show.
At the end of Talking Dead, a sneak peak of the next episode of Fear the Walking Dead debuted: a scene in which a fully functional Morgan works alongside a relatively stable (if somewhat drunk) Strand to kill some zombies. The series returns on August 12.
What do you make of Madison's death? Sign off in the comments below with your theories.