[WARNING: The following contains MAJOR spoilers for Fear The Walking Dead Season 7 Episode 16, “Gone.”]
The episode is titled “An Earlier Heaven,” but make no mistake — Madison Clark (Kim Dickens) has returned to the land of the living.
Having survived her ordeal with flaming walkers in a burning baseball stadium, she’s here to stay; and she’s brought next season’s presumed antagonists with her.
TV Insider chatted with Dickens about preserving Madison’s “wobbly moral compass,” which new detail about her character came from her own imagination, and Madison’s remarkably indestructible leather jacket.
I was looking back at old interviews from when Madison “died” in 2018, and you said the side of her you had the most fun playing was the “dirty, filthy, unhinged” side. When you came back, how important was it to you to make sure that part of her was still there?
Kim Dickens: It was very important to me. I was really caught off-guard by [showrunners] Ian, Andrew, and [Chief Content Officer] Scott wanting to talk to me about this very idea of bringing her back. Going into it, I was just there to listen, and they had great ideas that blew me away. It seemed like they were going to keep Madison in her zone, which, you know, could easily slip into the dark side if it needed to. So, as long as I felt like their stories were great and they were connecting with Madison’s voice, I was in. It was important for me to be true to her, but a lot of time had passed — four years in the real world, and I’m not sure what the exact timeline is in the Fear story — but whatever she’s been through has to have made some changes in her or her journey’s reflected, somehow. She’s had a wobbly moral compass all along, so I can’t imagine that changed.
There were multiple new details about her in this episode — the oxygen tank, the Nick and Alicia tattoos, her new weapon. Did any of those ideas come from you? Or was that all from the writers’ room?
Early in the conversations, the guys had said, “You know, Madison’s been at this place. It’s being controlled by them, and it felt like a prison.” And I said, “That’s interesting,” because I kept having these visions. Periodically, in my time away from the show, I was busy doing other stuff but every so often, I’d get these flashes. I was just driving or something, and I would get these images of Madison and I would think to myself, “Why aren’t they bringing her back?” [laughs] I think something in me was still connected to it creatively, or maybe something in me knew! I don’t know.
One of the images was Nick’s name tattooed on her in a very primitive way, in a stick-and-poke kind of way. I say Nick’s name because, in my imagination, I thought, “Oh, wherever Madison is, she’s alive and she must have heard Nick died.” That’s why I pictured his name. The guys loved it. They worked it into the script and made it work by having both of their names on there, and that made even more sense to me. That came from a vision I had, and the other ideas were completely theirs and new to me, but I loved them. I loved that Madison’s back, and she’s got a bigger hammer. [laughs] The oxygen tank really shocked me and tripped me out. I thought that was the coolest image and answer to the struggles from getting out of that fire. It was also such a great concept. You sort of hear her before you see her, and it was so eerie. It’s also a challenge for her to surmount, and also for me, as an actor! [laughs]
She’s kept the same leather jacket, though! That thing’s been through so much.
Yeah, it’s obviously a really well-designed jacket. I think the guys were, like, “Look, she’s been gone a long time, and we kind of want her silhouette to be the same.” Recognizable. I thought that was important, too, because, at her core, she’s a resilient survivor. I didn’t want the silhouette to look completely different, like the other new characters and the new PADRE feel that you get. It seemed important to keep this icon where she was, you know? She has to be timeless in that way.
Yeah, I’d been thinking of the jacket like Negan’s jacket or Rick’s hat. It’s part of her.
Yeah, exactly! You know, the characters themselves probably hold onto those things for their strength, in a way.
I’m now rooting for the jacket to make it to the end, whenever that is.
You know what? Me, too. I’m in this. I haven’t even had a costume fitting yet this year, so — [laughs] I’ll see what I can do.
What was it like working with Lennie James (who plays Morgan Jones)? If I’m remembering right, you guys didn’t have any scenes together in Season 4.
No, we didn’t, and we were both disappointed once Morgan crossed over that Morgan and Madison didn’t meet up. It was insult to injury for me! I really wanted to work with Lennie. We both couldn’t believe it. We’d pass each other at base camp or in the hair and makeup trailer, even at the airport once in Texas, and we were both kind of like, “God, I can’t believe we can’t even work together.” That was a big plus for me, coming back. And what an episode for the two of us, to come back in this antagonistic, explosive way, to meet in that way. It was all I could ask for and dream of, and that my first fights back were with Lennie James was pretty cool. And what a great actor and a great scene partner. I was able to collapse in his arms and on his chest for all those scenes, and he was just there. So solid.
How might Madison react to seeing Strand (Colman Domingo) again, at this point? She refers to herself as being “gone,” but Strand’s kind of been “gone,” too. Would there be an understanding or forgiveness there?
Those two characters, Madison and Strand, are pretty connected. I think they do recognize the familiarity in each other. They understand what the other does and why, and they’ve always challenged each other to come back to their true selves. I don’t know what’s going to happen for them. I hope they write those characters together. I think I’ve already kind of threatened that there’s going to be an actor mutiny on set if they don’t bring them together! [laughs] But I can imagine they’ll bring us together and it may be antagonistic for a while, too, until they find their way back together, I’d hope. I would imagine. Because they always kind of did that for each other — they found each other, and grounded each other, and challenged each other to be better. Or worse, at times, I guess. But I think there’s a familiarity between those characters, and they don’t really know why, but it’s there. It’s otherworldly, in a way.
What can you tease about Madison’s story going into Season 8?
Honestly, I don’t know. I don’t know very much. She obviously went through a lot to get where we saw her in the Season 7 finale, and I think there’s a lot more to unpack. It’s going to be super exciting to see what happens with Morgan and Madison once they take off on that boat. It’s a big story to tell. I’m excited.
Me, too. It’s good to have you back.
Thank you! It’s good to be back. It’s a character and a show that I loved, and I’ve loved a lot of characters I’ve gotten to play, but it’s rare to get to go back and revisit it. We did that in Deadwood, and it felt remarkable. To be able to come back to a show that I loved and a character I loved that I really felt had a lot more story in her, has been a gift. It really surprised me, and I just went towards it.
Fear The Walking Dead, Returns 2022, AMC