Fear the Walking Dead: Alycia Debnam-Carey on Tense Confrontation with Morgan, Madison Closure (Exclusive)

The actress also addresses that relentless fan theory that her character’s mother, Madison, is somehow still alive: “I think we all need to get some closure from this.”

The mid-season finale of “Fear the Walking Dead” continued this season’s theme of exploring the cast character by character with a deep dive into O.G. cast-member Alycia Debnam-Carey.

Alicia has been in many ways the heart of “Fear” since the beginning, beginning her journey as a teenager and navigating through more ups and downs than almost any other character in the “Walking Dead” universe.

Alycia Debnam-Carey connected with TooFab after the dramatic events of the latest episode to talk about the huge shift her character takes through the course of this single hour as she comes to a realization about herself, and stands firm against two of the biggest influences in her life.

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The biggest of those, and the most tense, came when she and Morgan (Lennie James) were reunited for the first time this season. Convinced that Morgan was dead, Alicia quickly found herself shifting from euphoric shock to uncertain horror as she learned what he’d just done.

The thrust of the episode was a recovery operation, with Alicia and Charlie (Alexa Nisenson) being tasked by Strand (Colman Domingo) to recover Virginia’s (Colby Minifie) kidnapped younger sister Dakota (Zoe Coletti).

Only the kidnapping didn’t go to plan, as Dakota escaped after the slaughter of all of Virginia’s rangers set to guard her caravan. It’s that slaughter that sits at the heart of Alicia’s horror as she realizes just how far Morgan was willing to go in his efforts to save everyone.

Not necessarily an angel herself, Alicia had just made a deal with Virginia to return Dakota for her and Charlie’s freedom. But Morgan slaughtered men and women just to secure this valuable asset. Not only did Dakota’s life mean very little to him, those other lives were forfeit.

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And by the end of the hour, thanks to the tragic story of a character and the mini-horror film atmosphere Debnam-Carey likened to “Pan’s Labyrinth” – we also see elements of “The Island of Dr. Moreau” in it — Alicia had even softened her own willingness to sell Dakota out.

The biggest difference for her, though is that for the first time in her life, she stood up to Morgan, going toe to toe with him to the point he actually backed down in the face of her. He wanted them to leverage Dakota to try and secure the rest of the group. Alicia, by this point, wanted to invite Dakota to join the group, saving her from Virginia, as well.

And she was ready to walk away from Morgan altogether in order to protect Dakota. Later, she was willing to go toe to toe with Strand for the same purpose. There was a monumental shift in Alicia this hour, which is looking to set up a pretty wild conclusion to this season as we’ll see if she continues to assert her own moral stand on those around her.

Debnam-Carey talked with TooFab about the episode, the morality theme of the season, as well as her character’s journey to this pivotal moment, what’s driving her now and teasing what’s to come in the “really, really messy” back half of the season.

She also addressed the rampant fan theory that her mother Madison (Kim Dickens) is still alive somewhere out there, after her character suggested going back to the stadium where Madison died (or did she?)

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What was it like stepping into what certainly looked and felt like a classic horror film for an episode?

Creepy for sure. It’s funny because it did really feel far more horror genre than what I’m usually used to. But I think what was really great is we have an amazing director, female director, Tawnia [McKiernan], who just elevated this to make it feel like it was that classic horror genre. I know she was really focused on that. And everything from the creepy sort of syringe and being bound to the table and the glass-eyed taxidermy animals.

But I also thought the way we did the taxidermy animal walkers, it really felt like almost a ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’-type horror. There was nothing really gory or grotesque, but it felt very macabre and almost whimsical, so I like that there was this balance within the episode of it looking quite– it felt very eerily creepy but it also had sort of like a kick-ass element to it.

The story of the “mad scientist” character at the heart of the episode, who accidentally killed his family with his creations while trying to protect them, seemed to have a huge impact on Alicia.

Definitely, I think it was a final piece of the puzzle that she’s been trying to come to terms with, which is how much of your morality and your own ethics and compassion you need to hold on to to make it possible to survive in this world. I think for Alicia, there’s always been this duality in her of wanting to play the game and needing to play the game, but also holding on to goodness and things that make it worth it.

With her own growth, she’s been taking little bits and pieces from the people that have been her mentors, in a way, and finally she’s become the mentor. And she’s choosing to at first, ‘Well, alright, I’ll play, I have to do what needs to be done to survive, and if that means using Dakota like a chess piece–‘

But at the same time I think now she’s realizing that the reason even why Charlie pulled the trigger on [Alicia’s brother] Nick is because she was so broken from the beginning. Alicia recognizes that in herself and that was her path when her mother died. So I think seeing Dakota be that person — being in a potential crossroads — it speaks to Alicia’s hope that she might be able to do something better than what her current mentors are trying to get her to do.

And so I think for the first time we’re seeing her go, no, I’m rejecting what Morgan wants and I’m gonna be the one who decides from here on out. So yeah, we’re starting to see her rise to the occasion and become the leader again, for herself.

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So would it be safe to say, with her change in trying to protect Dakota as well as Charlie, that Alicia is making it her mission to collect and maybe try to save all these broken girls?

Yes, I think that’s absolutely what it is. She is trying to save them what she went through. Throughout the series, I think it’s very interesting that Alicia has really been the only regular character of her age. We’ve either seen a lot of younger kids or a lot [of] older adults.

And so, Alicia’s been through this very unique metamorphosis. And to see her to try and collect, as you said, these sort of broken young girls is a chance for her to try and do her bit to make it better and to save them what she went through. Or to at least try and– She’s that person who knows what it was like. No one knows that better than her, so it makes sense.

Alicia mentioned going back to the stadium this week, and you know a lot of fans aren’t ready to admit she’s dead. Is Alicia in that camp, too, holding out hope that her mother’s alive?

For me I think it’s an opportunity for her to revisit, let go of it and have closure. I think it’s the one thing that’s been holding her back to becoming the person she needs to be going forward. And to being an autonomous figure. And to be a leader for these girls and leader of hope and a leader of possibility. For me, it is symbolic of that journey for her and not actually the hope that Madison is there.

So are you saying fans should seek that closure, too, and let this crazy theory go?

I’ve said it before, I think we all need to get some closure from this.

After all this time, with as much as Alicia has grown as a result of the loss of her family, it doesn’t seem it would even serve her story to bring Madison back at this point?

I totally agree, that’s been a big thing for me. I actually had a conversation with the writers when we came back about how that was something that I was thinking about quite a lot. That, for Alicia to move forward, I really want her to– you know, if we’re going to be doing this, it needs to be a separation from the past that is always being brought up. It needs to now have some closure and move forward for Alicia to become a whole human in who she is.

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You mentioned morality and ethics earlier, which seems to be a theme running throughout the season. We saw John and June split over their different moral grounds, just as Dwight and Sherry did the week before. This week, Alicia, Morgan and Strand were all on their own islands when it came to their moral compasses. So what’s the right stand to take?

I think you’re on to something, and it’s hard to answer right now just because I don’t think we’ll get a really full look at what each character’s real moral grounding is until we get to the end. But I do think there are gonna be surprises. There are really going to be some surprises about what character’s moral grounds we’re on.

You’ve known these characters for a few years now, are there things that surprised you coming up?

Yes, there are. There are. I think it will speak to Alicia’s– What’s been amazing about Alicia’s evolution is we’ve seen her go from sort of naive teenager to being an incredibly capable warrior–

You can call her a badass leader, I think she’s earned that.

She’s a f–king badass leader, that’s right! But also we’ve seen her in the midst of that sort of traumatized pacifist and we’ve also seen her have to overcome inner turmoil of anger and resentment and destruction. So what I think will be interesting going forward is to see how Alicia is able to, and if she is able to balance that duality.

What I’ve always said is Alicia is Madison’s daughter, and Madison was no angel. She was a ruthless and pragmatic and serious leader. And while she was fiercely protective, she was also willing to do a lot to make sure the people she was with were protected.

I do often say someone like Morgan is far more– not as ruthless when it comes to– he can be, but if I look at Madison, I feel like there was an element of, I don’t know, there was– All I’m saying is it’ll be interesting to see where Alicia is finding that duality.

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With Morgan slaughtering the Rangers and showing that emerging darkness, is it time for Alicia to step up and be his moral compass?

[after a long pause] …That’s what I’m saying. That’s, yeah, there are a lot of options where she can go. I think realizing that– Alicia’s been able to take a lot of different characteristics from her many mentors in her life and I think we’re finally going to see her bring those together.

Last week, June had an opportunity to kill Virginia. Would this newly centered Alicia have done it?

I think she wants to.

It’s been a relatively quiet setup to what’s sure to be a brutal confrontation between Virginia and your group. Can you tell us just how ugly it’s gonna get?

It gets pretty ugly, I’m not gonna lie. It gets really ugly, actually. I think it becomes– That’s a hard one, I don’t really know what to say. … I’ll tell you what, it gets really, really messy and the opportunity– I don’t know what to say.

Well, it definitely sounds like it’s going to hit the fan.

It’s gonna hit the fan, that’s true. It’s really gonna hit the fan.

“Fear the Walking Dead” is tentatively expected to return to AMC after the six bonus “Walking Dead” episodes air beginning February 28.

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