Are you ready for things to escalate on Fear The Walking Dead Season 1?
That's exactly what you're going to get this Sunday when the chaos grows and some people realize something horrible is happening ... while others are yet to understand the gravity of the erupting zombie apocalypse.
Where does Mercedes Mason's Ofelia stand?
The actress teased to me how we may be finding out some big secrets about her character very soon, while also talking about her loyalty to the fans of the franchise and how she doesn't plan on letting any of them down...
TV Fanatic: You're wearing kind of a pink or mauve sweater in the first episodes of the show. What's your relationship with that sweater because I'm guessing you're going to be wearing the same clothes for a while, right?
Mercedes Mason: Yeah and it's actually one of the things we discussed because, initially, when we do the wardrobe fitting, we have a couple different options and they purposely put me in this sort of baby-doll dress. I mean, it's very young and I think it was to reflect how naïve Ofelia is. She's post-college, but still very much…I don't want to say immature but maybe that is the best word to use.
She's very much a daddy's girl. She relies on her parents to sort of tell her the ins and outs of the world, even though she thinks she's protecting them, because they're the immigrants and she speaks the language better. So, I think they really wanted to start her very innocent and then, at some point, you'll see, there ends up being a change of clothes…it's a lot tougher but it's still very sort of young.
TVF: We’ve not found out a lot about her backstory at this point but did you personally need to know her backstory, or did you create one for yourself? I know oftentimes the writers don’t tell you much.
MM: They don't but they're actually really great. When we first got together, they were very good about sitting down with each of us, individually, and sort of fleshing out the character, what do you think, what do we think, you know? There were some sort of instincts that I had that they were completely on board with and some things that they told me, ‘well, we really see her as this.’
Initially, when we started, she was written as kind of a blow hard, like a woman in the work industry, and she's got her s**t together. And then, as it progressed, they started seeing her a lot younger, and, again, very naïve. So it really changed the wardrobe.
I think they really wanted to show each of the characters and how they would survive something like this from ground zero, at very different levels of their lives, because the original show, you have the adults and you have the very young kids. And for us, we now have the teenagers, we have the young adults, myself, we have all different sort of cultures. But I think they really want to tap into every aspect of how people would react, so that everybody has somebody to relate to.
I understand [Ofelia] because I'm a daughter of immigrant parents, myself so a lot of it makes sense to me. And that sort of just cleaned up the concept a little bit so that we were all on the same board together. I think we all agreed about the whole immigrant concept, the immigrant idea.
TVF: Going into this next episode, what is Ofelia's biggest challenge or maybe her family's biggest challenge?
MM: I think in this episode she thinks she's taking care of her parents but I think they very much have protected her a lot, which is what's caused such a sheltered, naïve young woman…and then by episode four and five she realizes there's a lot of secrets and secrets that her family haven't told her so that forces her to really have to grow up, again. So this next episode really forces her to think of her stance in the family dynamic a little bit differently. And then, like I said, as we progress with her finding out things [and] that helps her even more.
And I think that's what really causes her to grow up. I think she's forced to go through a very naïve, young mental state into, ‘okay, I'm on my own, I have to start protecting my family and myself, especially with this world falling apart.’ I think a lot of it is just growth with her.
TVF: Do you think she's more like her mother or her father?
MM: I think she thinks she's very much like her father, initially. She's far more like the mother than she would admit to herself, I think. You see in the beginning, [Mom] is telling Daniel, ‘let these strangers in,’ when he was going to turn them away. And I think Ofelia, same thing. I think she's very much like the mom. She's kind, she's considerate, she wants to take care of people but I think she wants her father's strength until she starts figuring out where her father's strength comes from.
TVF: I feel like I'm watching the show for that lightbulb to go off with the characters because we know what is happening before they truly know.
MM: I don't even think they know what's going on in other parts of the country. Honestly, they're so in the dark about it. They think it's a flu epidemic.
TVF: Do you think that's what the thrust of these six episodes are is getting us to the point where everybody does kind of know, ‘oh, this is what we're dealing with?’
MM: I think it's a huge sort of crux where everybody starts thinking differently at the end of that because we, as a society, have been raised thinking the government and police are there to protect us and help us. And when they come in and sort of invade our space…I think that's when it dawns on most of us that, ‘okay, something's really not right here.’
TVF: There’s a great scene of chaos in this next episode but when you’re shooting it, is it as chaotic or is it very carefully choreographed? How was that to shoot?
MM: I thought it was very chaotic. As choreographed as it is, you're doing the stunts, which is always a little bit scary and you have a million different extras that are there and these guys are so into it and it’s so beautiful to see, they're really involved in it, but, again, you're dealing with crowds of people. And it's like herding kittens. It's difficult when there's a crowd, not because people aren't listening or doing their job, it's just inevitable when you have that many members.
So, especially, as we're running and people are pushing, and there's a little bit of chaos, so a little bit of actual fear really does seep in and again, especially when there are stunts, because I can't tell you how many times, as we know, tragically, even, things go wrong. It's not always a perfect situation. And I think, in every actor's mind, that's always in the back of our mind. So, there's always a little bit of fear, a little bit of nervousness happening, but I definitely felt everyone was really good about making sure we were always safe at the rough periods.
TVF: And you get to speak some Spanish in this episode.
MM: I do! My Spanish is sort of touch and go, which has kind of worked, purposely because Ofelia, when she comes to the States, she's very young, I mean, a baby, and so English is pretty much her first language, even though her parents speak Spanish fluently. And I think because they want to give her every opportunity, they really pushed English at her, and at some point, you'll see Daniel, her father, says, ‘we should've taught her better English,” because I purposely speak with an accent. We wanted to make her very Americanized but that sort of sets her apart from her parents' culture.
TVF: How are you challenged differently in this role than you have in your past roles?
MM: I think I'm just differently excited because I'm generally a huge fan of the original show. It's such a different world. When you sign onto a pilot, you fall in love with the characters [and] you want it to go well. But I've sort of been the queen of the sort of shows that something always happens that doesn't really continue so I can't marry into it. Like, as much as I love The Finder and 666 Park Avenue, there's been all of these crazy things where I've sort of gotten disconnected from the character.
And with Ofelia and the excitement of the show, I don't ever want to let the fans down because I'm such a fan myself that I feel like I owe it to them. I feel like I'm representing them. And on top of that, I know that I'm going to be on this show for a while. I know because the numbers are so big and everybody's so supportive of it.
We're going to at least have a couple seasons here, if not more. So, it feels good to really, ‘hey, look, I can sink my teeth into Ofelia and live with her, and bring her home, and really make her a part of myself.’ I don't feel like she's fleeting, if that makes any sense. I really, really want to make sure I present the right Ofelia. And again, I feel like I owe it to the fans. I want to make sure that they understand her and fall in love with her like I have.
Fear The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9/8c on AMC.
Jim Halterman is the West Coast Editor of TV Fanatic and the owner of JimHalterman.com. Follow him on Twitter.