Exclusive: Keith Carradine Talks Fear the Walking Dead

Keith CarradineIn tonight’s episode of Fear the Walking Dead on AMC, June (Jenna Elfman) splits off from the group when she meets a man who may have information on the doomsday cult and their threat. She, however, is surprised to discover that the man is John Dorie Sr., played by Keith Carradine, John (Garret Dillahunt)’s father, and he may have a connection to the group and its leader.

Carradine recently talked to SciFi Vision in an exclusive interview about his work on the Fear the Walking Dead, playing opposite Elfman, being directed by Aisha Tyler, and a bit about working with Benedict Cumberbatch on his upcoming film, The Power of the Dog, and more.

***Note there are spoilers for 613, “J.D.,” in the following interview. Please watch the episode before reading.***

SCI-FI VISION:   Can you talk about how you first got involved in the show? Were you offered the role? Did you audition? And did you actually know what specifically it was for?

Keith Carradine KEITH CARRADINE:
I was offered. It was kind of a typical show business, the way these things work, because they had an idea for this character. Somebody thought of me, and they spoke to my agent, and then my agent mentioned it to my manager, and they mentioned it to me. Then, I had a conversation with Ian [Goldberg] and Andrew [Chambliss], the [showrunners], and then, here we are.

But you knew what role on the show it was for and everything? Because I know a lot of times they seem to not tell people the truth or give them fake sides.

No, I knew who the character was going to be. And having worked with Garret Dillahunt a couple of times, I'm familiar with his work. I just think he's one of the great actors that we have. Then, when I became familiar with what he was doing in the show, I became even more excited. Then, of course, I learned that I was not actually going to get to play any scenes with Garret. So, that was certainly disappointing, but, it gave me a lot to work with, just seeing what he done and knowing him a little bit as an actor anyway.

I assume then you didn't talk to him either, since he wasn't there.

No, Garret and I did not speak about what I was going to do. We didn't speak about what I'd seen him do. We haven't spoken since I took this job, but I'm sure he's enjoying the fact that I'm the one that they cast, because we do have a bit of a history. You know, the first time we worked together, he killed me. That was the end of my of my role on Deadwood thanks to Garrett. Then, of course, he played my daughter Martha's husband on Raising Hope for a number of seasons. I did one episode of that, so I got to work with him again there. He's just such a wonderful, versatile actor; there doesn't seem to be anything he can't do. I've seen him in the other things that he's done. I mean, my gosh, his turn in No Country for Old Men, you know? I mean, he's just as good as it gets.

Did you try to emulate him at all, or, or anything like that, or he just kind of make it your own completely?

Well, I did make it my own. I think in regards to there being any kind of paternal genetic through-line between his character and mine, I think that the writers saw in me what they thought they needed that would echo what Garret had done. Whatever I bring to what I'm doing, and whatever I've been bringing to this life as an actor that I've had for fifty years now, they seemed to feel that my sensibility and my energy and whatever lies beneath the surface when I'm working, they thought that that fit with what Garret had brought to the show. So, I pretty much left it at that.

Other than the script and other than thinking of him, was there anywhere else you were inspired by for the character as you portrayed him? Anybody you thought about at all?

Well, mean, you know, it's interesting, because having been brought back into this, which, after all, this is now a Western genre. The show has taken on the patina of the West, because it's Texas; it's West. There are a lot of sort of parallels between a classic Western, in the fact that this is post apocalypse. The modern conveniences that we all have taken for granted, they're now the exception rather than the norm, and if you look at the old Westerns, well, that was that world. These conveniences hadn't been invented yet. So, there are a lot of parallels in that regard that I felt comfortable coming back into this genre.

In terms of John's persona itself, the law man that he is, well, there are echoes of a number of characters that I've played over my career in the different Westerns that I've done. I've played lawmen before, obviously playing Hickock on Deadwood. I think that sense of self sufficiency, of self reliance, that is so much a part of the Western ethos. I think that's something that I understand really well, and I think that the writers understand that. I think that aspect of John Dorie Sr.’s character comes through in the way they've written it and in the choices that I've made in terms of how I performed what they've written.

Can you talk about working with Jenna Elfman? You two are really good together.

Jenna Elfman is one of the best actress I've ever stood opposite. She is a powerhouse, and the fact that she has come to this show and that she brings the weight to this character that she has, the depth of feeling, it's a profoundly dramatic role. Jenna Elfman is one of the great accomplished comedians who's ever worked. The fact that she did Dharma and Greg to a turn and that she can come into this show and do the kind of work that she's doing here, well, that says it all for me. And to be able to stand opposite her and play scenes with her, it's just the best.

You know, tennis players will tell you that they're never better than when they're hitting the ball over to someone who can absolutely hurdle it back at them at 100 miles an hour, and that's what I felt like working with Jenna. This is a person on the opposite side of the net who's gonna fire it back, and that makes for really, really powerful storytelling.

The other person I want to talk to you about acting with, and I know, obviously, you can't give any spoilers, but I have to assume knowing that your character knows Teddy, that you got to work with John Glover too. Can you talk about that at all?

Well, you know, John was on set. We didn't have anything to do face to face in this episode, but there were things that he was doing, so he and I were actually able to hang out a little bit and chat. I got a feeling for his energy and kind of John's nature, and I was able to see some of what he was doing as an actor. So, that was helpful. He is scary. I think the audience is gonna find him really, really unnerving. He's just a wonderful actor, and what everyone hoped he would bring to that role, he brought to it. And, you know, if there is an actual face to face between Dorie Sr. and Teddy, I think the audience will be will enjoy that.

Yeah, I'm excited to see the confrontation. I assume there will be one and hope that will be one, but I know you can't say anything.

So, can you talk about your favorite moment or scene from the episode this week?

Keith CarradineWell, all of the stuff that I got to do with Jenna. The nature of our relationship is such that as we discover who we are to one another, every one of those scenes reveals more about that. That adds to a sense of history and a sense of my character's understanding of who she is and her characters understanding of who I am. Every one of those scenes that we got to play together had that kind of energy to it, and was immensely satisfying.

Then, being directed by Aisha Tyler, she brought so much to what we were doing, added immeasurably to the choices I was making and gave me a couple great ideas. I mean, when you work with a director like Aisha, who is such a wonderful actor herself - I love being directed by actors, because they have that actors’ thought process. You know, “Did you think of this when you were looking at this script? Did you think of this when you were in that moment? What about this?” She brought a lot of that to me. So, there are a number of moments like that that I quite enjoyed, because of Aisha’s guidance and because of being able to play them opposite Jenna.

I can't get more specific without without spoiling what might be revealed for the audience, so I want to be very careful in that regard, but the stuff that I got to do with Jenna, particularly early on when we first meet each other and we first have that confrontation, and we're feeling each other out. I mean, she's a badass. I mean, that character, June, she's fierce, and as John Dorie Sr. who thinks he's a guy that can handle himself, and he's been used to doing that for a long time, when he's faced with a woman of her measure, I think it takes him back a bit, and that was really fun to play.

I enjoyed when he locked her in the store room or whatever it was.


I guess she should have known better.

But that speaks to the kind of purity of her spirit, doesn’t it?


You know, the fact that she's not going to be guarded in that way.

So, I was going to ask, but you've done a lot of Westerns and stuff before, though, so I assume you've done this before, not necessarily for this show, but have you gotten weapon training and things like that in the past?

Oh, yeah. Yeah, I’ve worked with a lot of weaponry. I mean, I've done a lot of Westerns, so I've worked with six shooters a lot. I studied with Thell Reed when I was working on my technique for a quick draw when I was playing Hickock. He's one of the masters in the business.

And the very first film I ever did, I played a gunslinger, and I challenged Kirk Douglas to a gunfight in the middle of a street. He and Johnny Cash were playing these old gunslingers, and I was this punk kid who care to town. So, that was my first experience with handling a single action Colt, and I've handled a lot of that stuff over the years.

This was an interesting challenge on this one, because my chief sidearm when you first meet me is a sawed off Winchester. It's probably a 4570 Winchester, or it might have been a 3030 caliber Winchester; I can't remember now, but it's an echo back to the Steve McQueen side arm that he used in his old television series Wanted Dead or Alive. If you ever see an old episode of that show, that was what he wore on his hip. So, I was really tickled when I realized that that was the choice that they had made for John Dorie Sr. I thought that that was a wonderful echo of kind of the history of the genre.

I guess that’s good, because you're all set already coming in. You don't have to worry about that.

So, you got to work, at least in this episode, with a walker. Can you talk about just kind of the practical effects and working with the walker under the car and the guts and all that?

I have to say, when I read that in the script, I thought, “Oh, gosh, that's really disgusting.” Then, I saw how they presented that, the special effects department, the art department, and the stunt double who got under there. She was under there for a long time. My hat was off to her. I mean, what they did - and I laughed at the time, because I said, “Okay, so this is my official initiation into the world of gore that is Fear the Walking Dead, or that can be Fear the Walking Dead.” There's plenty of that that takes place in this post apocalyptic world where you've got these zombies walking around, and it's a fairly disgusting atmosphere. Anyway, that was particularly visceral, I mean, you know, having her intestines wound out around the drive shaft and blood and guts and stuff are splattering everywhere - And then we broke for lunch.

[laughs] Yeah, well, if you if you're on a show like this, you want to get to do that.

Absolutely. I thought, “Okay, I’ve done that now.” Been there; done that. I'm sure there's more of that in store for me.

Well, I know you can't give me any specifics, but is there something you can tease?

What I can tease is that we’ve got two more episodes before the end of the season, and by the time you get to the end of Episode 16, the audience, their minds are going to be blown. I mean, the way this thing climaxes, it's something else. I cannot wait for the reaction that we're going to get from from the devoted fandom of Fear the Walking Dead. I mean, where this thing goes, where this thing ends up at the end of Episode 16, let me tell you, you're in for it.

Yeah, everybody keeps saying it's crazy, but we don't know what it is.

No, it's crazy, and when you see what it is, you'll realize “Oh, okay, that's crazy.”

Now, if I could talk about something else a second, I wondered if you would just talk a tiny bit about working on
The Big Bang Theory, because that's where I first saw you, and I really enjoyed that role.

Keith CarradineOh, yeah, that was a fun part. I mean, obviously, I've played fathers a number of times, but to be able to play Penny (Kaley Cuoco)’s dad on that particular show, you know, with those people, it was the best of the best. It doesn't get better than [Chuck] Lorre’s work and everything that those kids did. From the first time I worked on the show, until the last time in their final season, it was such a pleasure. I had done that before; I did a sitcom where I played the father of the bachelor, father of five boys, it was called Complete Savages. We did twenty episodes of that for ABC, and that was, again, three cameras with a live audience. So, that particular way of working, it has a great appeal to me. And I've done a lot of theater, so I like working in front of a crowd, but playing that role on that show, that was a treat. [It was] obviously a very different father figure from the one that I'm playing now.

[laughs] Yeah, quite. Is there any other project you have coming up you want to promote?

I did work with Jane Campion before I started on this show. I [worked on] her new film, which is called The Power of the Dog. It's with Benedict Cumberbatch and Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons. I'm looking forward to seeing [that]. We shot that down in New Zealand.

Okay, and just really quickly, now that you said that, can you talk about working with Benedict Cumberbatch?

Working with Benedict, I didn't have a whole lot to do with him, but I can tell you that when we played what we had to play, he was in character and never broke. He's a powerful actor. We didn't really get to know one another, because it wasn't the kind of a circumstance where you sit around and chat, and I don't think he does that. When he's in character, I think he kind of keeps to himself, but he's a heck of an actor, and I'm looking forward to seeing that film.

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