'Fear the Walking Dead' Showrunner Vows "We're Not Doing 'Love Boat' With Zombies"

Dave Erickson talks with THR about what to expect from season two — plus see the new key art.
Courtesy of AMC

AMC's Fear the Walking Dead is heading out to sea.

The prequel series will kick off its second half with a mild time jump after the horrific events of season one that saw the show's central blended family handle the death of one of their own. They're now partnered with the mysterious Strand (new series regular Colman Domingo) who is leading Travis (Cliff Curtis), Madison (Kim Dickens) and their brood to his extravagant yacht as L.A. burns.

Here, showrunner Dave Erickson talks with THR about what to expect from season two. Plus check out the new key art, below.

What's the theme of season two?

Quality of displacement. We've got a group of people who have been removed from their homes and there's a great sense of mourning and grieving. They've all lost loved ones over the course of season one and are in a fragile place. On top of that, they had to abandon Los Angeles. They drive through their city and it's been destroyed at the end of season one. One of the big questions thematically is: What is family now? Is it blood or is it bond? We're going to have a group of people, some of whom don't know each other very well — Strand is still an enigma who may or may not have his own agenda and intentions when they get onto the boat. … It provides for this interesting balance of paranoia and anxiety — which is not dissimilar from last season, but we're now on a boat in the middle of the ocean, and that's going to give us a lot of drama for the first few episodes.

The other big question for the first half of the season is: Where do we go? There's a difference between being land-bound and going from town to town and being stuck. The great thing about this boat is we have a wide range of places we could go and a lot of this will feed into the agendas of our characters and the things they're keeping to themselves. It will drive a lot of the tension for the first half of the season.

Finally, it is about finding hope. It's about having gone through all these loses: Where do we go? Where can we start over? And can we start over? We talked a lot last season about the overlap between our story and Rick's [Andrew Lincoln in the flagship] coma. If you count the days in season one, Rick hasn't woken up yet going into season two. We've completed part of our apocalyptic education and we now know the dead are dead. Even Travis has to come to terms with that. But they don't know how bad it is elsewhere; they've heard snippets. Part of what they're doing is trying to find what safe harbor might be out there.

How are you approaching season two? Is there a larger story for all 15 and two smaller arcs for each half?

We're going to build through a rather explosive turn in the finale of the first half of the season. One of the big questions for me this season is: Can we do what we tried to do last season — hold this family together? We're going to see the slow fracturing of our family, and it will start as a hairline fracture and over course of the season as a whole and beyond, it will become more pronounced and traumatic. It's going to be interesting to watch the pressure put on this family — never mind the apocalypse, but you've got a bunch of people stuck on a boat in the middle of the sea, and there's going to be a little bit of cabin fever among them.

Will there be a time jump?

It's not going to be a dramatic jump. In the wake of what's going on in Los Angeles, I didn't want to abandon the city without some residue about what it was like to lose the city. I wanted the audience to have an introduction to the boat.

How much of season two will be spent on the water?

A good amount.

Can zombies swim?

They can't swim. Zombies can wade and that's something we experimented with in the first couple episodes; it has a lot to do with decomposition and gas buildup in the body. Here's what it's not going to be: We're not doing The Love Boat with zombies. Every episode will not be a new port of call; there's no Juliette McCoy. We are going to go to land and we are going to have a balance between sea and land. The important distinction and reason for that is because we will come to realize that there's a lot of people who have the same idea we did. We're on a vessel that's something to be coveted. It's something that in theory allows them to survive. We realize quickly that the dangers on the ocean are equal to if not greater than the dangers on land. And that's going to put us in a place where we're stuck between the two.

So pirates?

I wouldn't call them pirates. (Laughing.) Zombie pirates!

Is there a destination in mind? You mentioned in October that an island was a possibility. Is that still something you're considering?

Yes. The great thing about the boat is she can go 2,000-3,000 miles if they don't work the engines. That's a big question when we start the season: Are we going to go back to Vancouver? Are we going to make our way to Hawaii? Do we go to South America? That's all part of the tension in searching for a home and a new place. We will get somewhere. We're not going to make it across the Pacific. But there will be multiple stops and, at some point, we find a place we can call home and try to rebuild. And if we do that, that will go terribly wrong!

Operation Cobalt was never fully explained. What more can you say about what that is and how big of a role will that play in season two?

You may get a wink of it in season two at some point. Part of what they will learn as the season progresses is how widespread this is. ... One of the cool things is them trying to piece together bits of information that form this fabric of understanding with how bad it has gotten and is it really the end? Part of what they do as they try to find places that they can hide out and escape the dangers on sea and land is they'll also be getting the realization and confirmation that there may not be a safe place anywhere.

What can you say about the body count in season two? Will all of the regulars survive?

I can't really say. I would love if they all survived but you never know. We'll meet a lot of new people as the season progresses.

Fear the Walking Dead premieres Sunday, April 10, at 9 p.m., the week after The Walking Dead wraps its sixth season.