***The following interview contains spoilers for 7.03***
When we last left them, June, played by Jenna Elfman and her father-in-law, John Dorie Sr. (Keith Carradine), had gone underground into the bunker left by Teddy (John Glover) to get away from the nuclear blast. This week’s episode sees the characters having to learn to live together and make decisions as one. Things, however, don’t go quite as expected when after John uses the radio, some dangerous people start trying to get into the bunker. To make matters worse, John, who is an alcoholic, is going through withdrawal and starts hallucinating Teddy’s murder victim, who it always haunted him he was never able to find.
The bunker in which the two filmed the episode, was based on a real-life bunker and was made out of real school buses Elfman told Jamie Ruby of SciFi Vision in an exclusive interview, and it made for a great claustrophobic scene. “They didn't chop off the end of the school bus and have it be open or anything for crew; we had to actually go through the door of the school bus to go in and out. So, it was super stuffy and claustrophobic and encroaching in that way, which, as an actor, you're like, ‘Yes, this is good!’ You'll take all the help you can get environmentally. So, that was awesome. I think our production designer did such a great job making use of that.”
At first, June is adamant to stay in the bunker, because she doesn’t know how to live without John Dorie Jr. (Garret Dillahunt). According to the actress, he gave her the strength she needed. “I think through her relationship with John Dorie, she found her stability. She found she was able to calm herself enough from her trauma to find her own personal purpose again, which is helping other people, which was her purpose before the apocalypse…When she doesn't have anyone to help her, when she's not connecting with others, that’s when she starts to feel the effects of the trauma…So, I think that it was through her relationship with John Dorie Jr. that sort of healed that within her, and now John's gone.”
By the end of the episode, the bunker is gone, and it puts June and John Dorie Sr. in a new place, with Strand (Colman Domingo) in his tower. That puts June on alert. The actress teased that June is biding her time gathering intel. “I think she's in hypervigilant observation [mode]. She's been building skills over all these seasons, whether it's learning to fish, learning to shoot…She's accumulating these abilities. So, I think politics is kind of the next thing that she's going to be learning about, and observing what Victor is doing in this tower and how [it works].”
During the interview, the actress talked more about filming tonight’s all-new episode, June’s relationship with her father-in-law, and more. Be sure to read the full transcript below and watch Fear the Walking Dead
Sundays on AMC and AMC+SCIFI VISION: Can you talk a bit about filming the episode in, I guess it looks like school buses? Was it claustrophobic feeling filming in there? Because it definitely felt like it watching it, at any rate.
I'm so glad it felt like it watching it; that was a definite intention. They were actual school buses on the stage, based off of an actual bunker that was formed out of school buses. I don't know what country it was in or where, but that was the inspiration; something like this really actually does exist in the world. And they didn't chop off the end of the school bus and have it be open or anything for crew; we had to actually go through the door of the school bus to go in and out. So, it was super stuffy and claustrophobic and encroaching in that way, which, as an actor, you're like, “Yes, this is good!” You'll take all the help you can get environmentally. So, that was awesome. I think our production designer did such a great job making use of that. Definitely. Now, you only did a tiny bit in this episode, but I'm going to guess you might also have more later, I don’t know, but I was curious if you could talk about working in the hazmat suits, because I know that Lennie (James) and Karen (David) did not enjoy that very much. [laughs]
I only had a couple scenes where I was in the hazmat suit, and thank God, it was on stage in a climate-controlled environment. Even so, I was dripping inside those things, because they really [do not] let any air in; they do it for real. They duct tape the gloves inside the sleeves. There's like literally no air anywhere. I was in an air-conditioned stage. I can't imagine what everybody else went through having to film outside in the Texas humidity and heat in those things. I wouldn't have survived. I mean, they had like cooling vests inside and ice packs that plug into this cooling thing that blows inside your hazmat suit to air condition you inside [but] I didn't have to do that, because I was inside.
It makes me think though, too, about staying in the bunker. I kind of assumed at the beginning, before I had seen the episode, I would think not having to run away from walkers and having enough food would not be a bad situation. You’d maybe get a little stir crazy after a while, but, I don't know, I kind of thought maybe the characters would get to think of it like a little vacation in there for a little bit.
Yeah, well, you can see, at the beginning of the episode, there's some smiles, and they're making the best of it, but the thing starts collapsing on them, and there're bad people out there. Then, when they start to actually go to explore, they have to get out. Then the whole thing really collapses on them. It's not stable; it's falling apart, so they can't really stay in there much longer.
True. So, did you, and maybe you and Keith talked about it, I don't know, but I was just curious if for some of the scenes you repeat like the good nights, whatever, over and over again, did you do anything to try to make them different, or to make them stand out? Or did you not really think about that? I just was curious.
You know what, I don't remember in the script it being the repetitive thing. I think they built that in in the editing.
Probably. Okay, I was just curious; I figured that you might have just filmed it as long sequences, and they broke it up. Can you talk about how kind of John Dorie Jr. changed her? June was always about running, and granted, now she says she doesn't know how to live without John, but it's completely the opposite. You know what I mean? She doesn't want to get away from from people and everything. Can you kind of talk a little bit kind of about that and how he's affected her in that way?
Yeah, I think through her relationship with John Dorie, she found her stability. She found she was able to calm herself enough from her trauma to find her own personal purpose again, which is helping other people, which was her purpose before the apocalypse and why she's a trauma nurse, and that became her North Star. When she doesn't have anyone to help her, when she's not connecting with others, that’s when she starts to feel the effects of the trauma, and [when] she can be connected to others and help them, that pulls her out of it. So, I think that it was through her relationship with John Dorie Jr. that sort of healed that within her, and now John's gone. It was like she lost John, and then a nuclear bomb [went off]. That sets her back a little bit, because John Dorie Sr. connects her to John Dorie, but he's not John Dorie, and she doesn't know if there is anyone even alive to help.
And that was part of my next question. Obviously, she says it's because she doesn't know how to live without him, but I wondered that some of it was just because she kind of needs somebody to take care of, to fix, to keep her kind of grounded?
Yeah, I think it's her feeling that sense of purpose, like if you can help another person in the world, you're adding value to the world; you're making meaning with other people, that gives you a position of sanity. If you're doing nothing in the world, or not connecting to people, that kind of violates natural law amongst human beings, and I think that's when she starts to feel the craziness of her trauma. This is obviously thinking back, but can you talk about filming the walker death of John Dorie Jr., just because that was such an emotional scene. Can you talk about that?
Yeah, I was supposed to film it in March 2020, and then the pandemic hit. So, I had a seven-month quarantine, wondering when I was going to be going back to work to film that scene. So, that scene had been sitting in my mind for seven months, and I was like, “Oh my God, how am I going to play that?” All I could think about the entire beginning of the pandemic was, “How do you play that scene?”
It's the worst of her nightmares but also a reality she knew she'd have to face one day. I mean, she's no dummy; you have to have like, proper estimation of living in this apocalypse. Every single day, you could lose the person you love. So, I think it's a scenario that's run through her head many times, but as with any extreme situation in our life, you can run through it in your head as many times as you want, and when it actually happens, you never react the way you think you're going to.
So, instead of playing it in some obvious [way], like, “Oh, my God, he's dead!”, I was just trying to walk myself through June's thought process, which is, this beautiful man had to die alone, floating in the water all by himself. I wasn't there. He wasn't in my arms. I couldn't help him. I had all the medical things ready to go. The idea of getting to someone too late when you're ready is horrible, but also, I wanted it to be romantic. I wanted that scene to have an element of romance to it, even if it was about death. I wanted it to be intimate and sweet. You know, before she puts him down, this is her last opportunity to be with him, and…that intimacy and that tenderness of this beautiful, sweet soul, who was taken in such a wrong way and that had to die alone for all the people he's helped and all the beauty he brought to the world. It was just so heartbreaking. That when I was thinking it through, just this sense of tenderness and intimacy kept washing over me. I don't know, I just felt like I wanted to care for him and give him that sweet regard that he deserved. And, you know, how long had he been turned? Is there any part of him still in there that will be able to perceive my love and my care and my awareness for him? I think all those thoughts are what kind of [went through her head] in that hyper-myopic moment.
You talked how you had to wait so long over the pandemic. How hard is it as an actor to not talk about things?
Oh, my gosh, I knew about that death since like, September 2019. Is that right?...I can't even remember. Anyway, that was a long time. I was actually surprised it stayed confidential that long. I was very grateful, because it was such a big deal for it to not be diluted by being leaked. I thought that was really important. I'm really glad no one leaked it.
Yeah, I am too. They've leaked quite a few things with this show. [laughs]
I know. I know.
Can you talk a bit about maybe how she felt at the beginning of the episode, when John first kind of, I don’t want to necessarily say, “betrayed her trust,” but when he first went out and didn't listen, because she didn't know - at least I'm under the impression she did not know at the beginning - he was alcoholic, and that was why he kind of went out and didn't listen. Can you talk about that, like, what did she think about it?
Well, I think it becomes like her perfect little scenario that she's bought into to stabilize her, and it [is] suddenly ripped out from underneath her. I've now got a guy who's going through DTs; I've got danger, people up above, and my sanctuary is cracking and starting to break, all at the same time, and that starts throwing her into her panic again, and she can't quite glaze over what she's feeling anymore. It's all starting to happen all at the same time. I don't know if you really have an answer for this, but I was thinking about the end scene, when Victor (Colman Domingo) comes in…I guess I expected her first maybe to say something to Victor. So, I'm curious. Was that more like, “it's not in my business,” or more like, “I want to see how John reacts?” I'm kind of curious what your thoughts on that?
I think June is in hypervigilant observation mode to figure out what is going on in this tower and how she is going to manage this situation. She is gathering intel.
I called the showrunners, because I was like, “Okay, we find her in the tower. John Dorie has been out for days. How much does June know about what Victor is doing in this tower? Have I just been locked in this room, and I don't know anything? Do I know some things? Do I know how many people are in the tower? Do I know who's in the tower? What does June know?” So, she does know a little bit about what's going on. She's seen some of the dynamic going on, and I think that she doesn't have a choice. She's not going to get thrown out into that craziness; she's no dummy. She has a history with Victor.
So, I think she's in hypervigilant observation [mode]. She's been building skills over all these seasons, whether it's learning to fish, learning to shoot, holding her own position on her integrity and killing Ginny (Colby Minifie), no matter what John Dorie wanted, or Morgan (Lennie James) said the rules were. She's accumulating these abilities. So, I think politics is kind of the next thing that she's going to be learning about, and observing what Victor is doing in this tower and how [it works].
So, obviously, we have a pandemic, but not the kind on the show, but if what happened on the show happened in real life, who from the show would you want to take with you if they were a real person to help you survive, and how do you think that you would do on the outside in a zombie apocalypse?
Well, that's a fun question. Let me think for a moment. I mean, if John Dorie wasn't dead, probably John Dory Jr., because he's ace, but if I had to pick another one, probably Morgan, because Morgan has the qualities that I personally admire as well, and so does did John Dorie Jr. I think that probably those characters align most with my own personal life values.
Is there someone that you would like to have more scenes with if you could?
Well, I love I love working with Lennie so much. He's just so brilliant, as an artist, and I'm always passionate about always growing and learning and developing myself artistically and getting better at everything. So, I think I would just love to act even more with Lennie in my fantasies, because I just think it's such an enhancing experience. Whenever I'm working with Lennie I ask a lot of questions, because I like learning from him.
Is there a lot when you're working with the special effects and stuff, does it gross you out?
No, no, it's all very clinical. It's always safety oriented. You know, you have to do half of a motion, and then “Okay, freeze. Okay, switch out the little rubber nubby knife. Okay, now, here's the real one. Now the plastic. Okay, now do that. Okay, now hold. Okay, now give me the nubby. Okay, now you go all the way onto the head.” It's so clinical, and then they pour the blood, but then it's like the walkers are sitting there with half their face hanging off and blood coming [out], and then they're on the phone with their girlfriend, trying to put the cigarette through the skull teeth. “Yeah, baby. So, I think I'm going to travel on Monday,” you know? So, [laughs]
it's more humorous than scary.