Exclusive Interview: Garret Dillahunt Talks Tonight's Game-Changing Fear the Walking Dead

Garett DillahuntTonight, the mid-season premiere of the hit series Fear the Walking Dead, premiered on AMC. At the end of last season, John Dorie, played by Garret Dillahunt, snuck away from Lawton after he couldn't prove to Virginia (Colby Minifie) that Janis (Holly Curran) did not kill Cameron (Noah Kyle), and she had her brutally killed. He left his wife, June, Jenna Elfman, behind and went to his cabin to be alone.

Tonight's episode, "The Door," was quite an important and memorable one for Dillahunt. Earlier in the week the actor talked to Jamie Ruby in an exclusive interview about the game-changing episode.

Read the full transcript below, but be sure to watch the episode first, as there are a bunch of really big spoilers. You've been warned!

SCIFI VISION:   Before we talk about the new episode, I wanted to back up a little bit and talk about when he left to go to the cabin in the last episode. I know John and June risked everything to be together. They're finally married and everything, and then he decides to take off to get away from Ginny, even though he's leaving her behind. I just want to know if you could talk a bit about how he came to that decision and why he decided to leave and why that was more important to him. Just your own interpretation.

Garett DillahuntGARRET DILLAHUNT:   I guess, I have to find a reason why. It's very out of character for John, but sometimes people do things out of character if they're not in the best state of mind. I think that's really all I know about it. I didn't write it, so I'm not sure what they think his motivations are.

I mean, for me to find one, I just thought, "He's just not himself. He doesn't feel healthy here, and he's got to go." So, that's what he did. I'm not saying it's the right decision or the correct decision; John can make mistakes as well. It's what he did.

He just was, I think, very frustrated after [that] key episode. You know, he was unable to protect Janis. He was unable to do anything he wanted to do really in that town, and he thought he was kind of living, I think, in a fantasyland of being a cop again, doing good. He just thought, "I'm going to get killed if I stay here, because I'm at odds with Ginny, and something's not right. So, I got to get out of here."

He would have loved June to come, but I think it's pretty understandable why she would be hesitant to do so. She would have probably been like, "What are you talking about? We're finally getting organized and doing something good." I'll be as anxious as everyone else to see how that plays out with Ginny in the coming episode.

The other thing I wanted to ask you about is how your character is a sharpshooter. In this episode you even shoot a shotgun too. You probably might have done so for other projects before this, but have you gotten a lot of weapon training? Do you enjoy that kind of thing?

Sure, you know, you want to look like you know what you're doing. I've used a lot of firearms over my career, which I'm finally starting to admit, it's been a long one; I still feel like a kid. You have to sort of admit at some point, you're a grown man, and you've done a lot of things. So, I have had a lot of weapons training, because, you know, especially in this case, you're playing a character who is an expert with firearms. In fact, he's a trick shooter. He’s a professional marksman in a way. Anyone can pick up a gun, but it kind of depends on the character how good they are with that gun, and this one's really good.

So, I've never done any quick draw training or anything like that. Before I started, a few guys gave me some pointers about shooting and spinning the guns and all that stuff. That was a big help, but I'm certainly not as good a shot as John, but I honestly don't know anyone who is.

Can you talk about working with Zoe Colletti as Dakota in this week’s episode? Because she was really good too.

Yeah, we were worried, [laughs] because there was another teenager that offed a character in season four, and she got a lot of flack from fans. I don't know if fans just can't separate actor from character or what, but we were worried, but she's not as young as Alexa (Nisenson), having to go through all that crap, and Zoe's excited; she's not afraid of it.

…But she's a lot of fun. We got along really well. I really liked her, and I think she's a very talented young actor. We made each other laugh a lot. I got some fun pictures I'm going to share on the day or after the day of the eleventh. I hope the fans embrace her; it's a very complex character she's playing. Dakota has a lot of balls up in the air.

Can you talk about kind of the logistics of the stunt scene with the car and everything in the episode? Because that was a really big action scene this this week.

I mean, we basically just rode in the back of a pickup, but it was going about a half a mile an hour, you know, pretending to kill zombies.

Garett DillahuntOkay, but it was it was a real truck then. I didn't know if it was partially filmed against green screen or if all of it was real or what.

No, there were a lot of people on the bridge, the same bridge that we were on in “Laura” in season four when I was introduced. It was that same bridge. There were a lot of stunt walkers, a lot of extras walkers. You know, I guess the normal logistics of making sure no one gets hurt.

There was one incident where I kicked the stunt girl off the hood over like through a piece of door that I would later be floating on, and that was fine, but that's really all her. I just push her with my leg, and she goes over the edge onto a big stack of pads that were floating on the river. That was kind of fun, but it certainly was nowhere near the gnarliest stuff we've ever done on the show.

No, definitely not. Obviously, you didn't have as much as a lot of the actors, but you still got the walker makeup in this episode. How long did that take, and how was that?

I didn't have much, because I’d probably just turned seconds before June finds me. So, really, it was just some pale foundation and some stage blood, and I believe that the eyes are digitally generated. So, I didn’t even have to wear contacts. So, career walkers or walkers that are much older in the timeline of the show, you know, they're kind of rotting. They got a lot of flesh hanging off of them, or they're wearing a rubber mask. Compared to them, I got off pretty light. It felt like any other day for me, except being wet. [laughs]

I also wanted to ask you about that water scene; I'm curious. I really thought the scene after you were shot like they're kind of showing up through the water and everything, that was shot really beautifully. Was that in a tank though? I'm not sure how and I'm just curious kind of how they filmed that.

Yeah. The river we were shooting over is actually quite murky and quite fast, and it's probably not deep enough. So, those were shot in a pool with like, you know, dressing, black plastic and river rock on the bottom. I really enjoy water work. I had to do it for Terminator as well. And we got stunt divers down there protecting us, and I had compressed air to breathe, so I could stay down there a long time.

And I think it is; it's quite beautiful. I thought Mikey Satrazemis did a great job directing that episode, and it was shot really well.

Obviously, with this you can't talk specifics, but if you could tease about it, John makes a point of saying to Dakota more than once that the death should mean something. Can you maybe tease a bit about kind of just how his death will affect the characters in their actions moving forward?

Garett DillahuntI'm probably the worst person to ask, because they haven't really kept me apprised of what they're going to do after I'm gone, and I haven't seen any further [ahead], but I can imagine that it's going to affect June a lot, and I'm sure there'll be some kind of reckoning with Virginia, but that's more of a showrunner question. I think I'm probably the least informed about where it's going to go, but I will say, I hope people stick with it, and I'm confident it's going to go somewhere entertaining.

Yeah, yeah, the second episode is pretty crazy, too.

…I'm just kind of curious in your last scenes after you were shot. Is there anywhere that you kind of drew inspiration from? Some of it was really dark, like, what did you draw from of yourself? Or did you just take everything from the script? Is there anything that you pulled from to get into that mindset?

I'm sure there is. I don't know if it's the kind of thing that you want to share with everybody, but it's also not the kind of actor I am. I don't really believe in a sort of dual reality, you know, thinking about your dead cat or something, because you have to cry. I prefer to just work with my imagination and to try to inhabit the character as best I can and react as you would in certain situations.

I think at this point, I've got to play the guy for three years, which is significant, a significant portion of my life. So, I feel like I know him pretty well, and he's just pretty comfy on me. So, it really wasn't too difficult.

You know, at this point, we're pretty professional in a way. You know what I mean? And I'm not saying that like a smartass remark…You kind of know what you need to do to give the audience [what they need]. I don't think acting should be damaging to your psyche. I think you should be able to go home at the end of the day. I've never been much for, you know, figuratively cutting myself, because the role demands pain. I'd rather play pretend.

Yeah, definitely better to do that.

This is just sort of a silly question, but obviously you've been a lot around the walkers and all the gross effects the whole time. Is there any that you've been around that actually grossed you out or freaked you out a little bit throughout the show? They obviously can look pretty realistic.

I mean, disappointingly, I guess I'll say, "Not really," but, you know, we're with them every day. We see them on their cell phones between takes, and you see them smoking cigarettes or having lunch. It's funny sometimes. It makes you laugh, but it doesn't really gross me out anymore.

But that said, sometimes when you see the finished episode, you're like, "Eww."

It's pretty gross when the car (in 6.08) sort of can't get traction on the walker wrapped around the axel. That's just a gross thought, but we've had that fake stage blood in our mouths too many times. So, we know it tastes kind of sweet. [laughs]

Did you get to take anything from the set once it was over?

Did I get to? [laughs]

Garett DillahuntDid they give you anything? Or did you take anything? [laughs]

Yeah, no one ever says, "Hey, take something from set, sure.” I have some souvenirs. I mean, I have my hat; I got my John Dorie hat.

Of course.

They made a real nice sort of shadowbox of some pretend story pistols with some Scrabble letters in between. That was very nice. It was a nice memento.

I was not surprised by the exit. I was not against it. I hope the fans don't hold it against the show. It's just where the story took us, and it was good news for all. I think it's going to really spawn a lot of good stories down the road.

I also want to ask, I know a lot of times the actors talk about when they leave the show and kind of that happens, although I guess probably you guys may not have had a going away party or whatever like they usually do, because of COVID. I'm not sure, but can you kind of talk about your last day on set? Was it sad for you? Was it hard? Or was it more exciting to move on to something else?

Even if you're looking forward to something, when something ends, it's sad. Look, I love these people. I love this crew, this cast. The show runners are the sweetest people. I started a relationship with Scott Gimple back from when we were in a sort of Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) discussion, so we we've kind of known each other for some years now. As welcome as the change might be, it's still bittersweet anytime an experience ends, especially one [where] I had such a great character to play.

In this one, you know, we didn't get to finish the episode. We were shooting this episode when the COVID shutdown happened, and we weren't finished. So, I thought I'd be going through all this stuff in March of 2020, saying goodbye, having my farewell dinner with my friends, and we didn't get to do that. In fact, the scene that was left to shoot was me washing up on the beach with June, getting buried, and all that stuff. So, we had to wait until, I guess, October, whenever it was, to finish the show. So, it was a very long, protracted goodbye that was hard at times, because it was the first thing I did back on set after COVID lockdown.

So, it was so exciting to be back working again, but then you sort of realize, “Oh, my gosh, I'm only here for two days to finish up, and then I'm done for good.” All those other plans you had were put on hold, just like everything else was.

So, I think everyone is relieved. I'm sure Jenna is to not have to keep this secret anymore and let this get out there. Let it happen. Let everyone heal and get over it. Let the story move on to where it's going to go. I'm excited for that, for them. You know, I really can't speak highly enough about this group of people, and I don't just mean the actors, who I love, but this crew is just indefatigable, giving, and generous, and I'll really miss them, and I look forward to seeing them on whatever other stuff we might run into each other on.

Well, it's a really great episode, quite a roller coast on your emotions though. I know, I was so shocked when when Dakota shot him. I'm like, “No!” And then it's like, well, he's alive. He’s okay, maybe - but not so much in the end.

Garett DillahuntAnyway, it does, I think, really move the story along in a good way. And I think the episode was, like I said, a lot of those things were shot really beautifully, even you kind of reaching out and touching June’s arm when you're already a walker.

They shot it in slow mo there, which makes it a lot softer, and it almost feels like, “Oh, is there a bit of John left in there? Is he fighting his walker demons, or is he just trying to eat her?” but I thought Jenna was great in that scene in that moment, and it's one of those things that's really hard to do, but it's ultimately an act of mercy and love.

It was definitely sad though. I rewatched the scene before the interview. I cried both times I watched it. I found it very emotional.

It definitely was sad. We wanted it to be sad, that's for sure. It would be terrible if everyone was celebrating my death. [laughs]

[laughs] Yeah, that would be bad.

But the fans are amazing, and I'm so happy that I've gotten to meet so many of them, and I look forward to meeting more of them on the circuit. You know, in life as we do other things, I've got a lot of projects popping off this year. I think it's going to be my best year ever, and I'm so grateful to The Walking Dead world and to you guys. You've all been so nice to me and so welcoming. I cherished my time on the show.

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