- Van Redin, Ryan Green/AMC
- Warning: There are spoilers ahead for season five, episode 14 of “Fear the Walking Dead,” “Today and Tomorrow.”
- Insider spoke with Sydney Freeland, the director of Sunday’s episode to discuss the most difficult moment to bring together, filming a walker death underwater, and the connection we thought Ginny’s group shared with the helicopter group who took Rick Grimes on “The Walking Dead.”
- Freeland said she also re-watched a few episodes of “TWD,” including the pilot to see how her episode fit within the context of Morgan’s ongoing story.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Sunday’s episode of “Fear the Walking Dead” shows more of Ginny’s mystery horse gang. If you thought a larger connection between her group and the helicopter people was about to occur, you weren’t the only one thinking that.
“I thought that they were somehow tied together with the helicopter pilot,” Sydney Freeland, who directed Sunday’s episode, told Insider of the horse group.
Of course, we didn’t see Althea’s helicopter pilot friend Isabelle again and that’s not what it turned out to be at all.
Freeland spoke with Insider about her helicopter pilot theory, bringing an underwater walker death to life, and why you may want to go and rewatch the pilot of “The Walking Dead” all over again.
Freeland revisited the previous seasons of “Fear” along with “The Walking Dead” pilot to prep for her episode which sees Morgan recount memories of his wife, Jenny, and son, Duane.
Kirsten Acuna; How did you get involved with “Fear The Walking Dead,” and when did you learn that you would be directing an episode?
Sydney Freeland: I met with Andrew [Chambliss] and Ian [Goldberg], the showrunners, about a year ago, and the meeting went well. I loved what they were trying to do with the show, and they offered me an episode, and it worked out pretty well.
Acuna: How familiar were you with the “Walking Dead” universe? Have you read the comics, and have you been keeping up with the show?
Freeland: Relatively familiar. I went through the first seasons of “Fear,” and then obviously the last two. I guess the comic book just wrapped up. Technically, I kind of feel like I know how this whole story could end. But, mostly I’ve been working, so I don’t really have a lot of time to watch TV.
Acuna: At the beginning of Sunday’s episode we see Morgan talk about his family. Did you go back and watch the pilot for “The Walking Dead” or anything with Lennie James?
- Gene Page/AMC
Freeland: I did, yes! I watched the very first episode. I’d seen it before in the past, so watching it again with the context of my episode, it definitely has this greater weight to it. Lennie is a fantastic actor. He brought so much to that performance.
Acuna: Did you speak with Lennie James about the continuity with the “The Walking Dead” at all, and mentioning Jenny and then Duane?
Freeland: I think we may have touched on it briefly, but we didn’t have like an in-depth conversation about it.
Acuna: Was the pilot the only episode that you went back to? There’s another episode in season three, “Clear,” where Morgan had reappeared. On Sunday’s episode of “Fear” he briefly mentions losing his mind a little bit after losing Duane.
- Gene Page/AMC
Freeland: Yeah. I’m trying to think which episode it was. I know I went back and I re-watched the episode when he gets his staff. I think it’s season six*, because that was another important moment, and in [Sunday’s] episode, to open up, was the staff is broken and it gets repaired and we have this moment where he gets it back and it’s been restored. So I went back and revisited that episode. That was also, I felt, a big moment for him.
*[Editor’s note: Freeland was referencing season six, episode four, “Here’s Not Here,” where Morgan learns Aikido from Eastman and gets his Bo staff.]
Freeland thought Isabelle, the helicopter pilot from earlier this season, was going to tie in to her episode.
- Ryan Green/AMC
Acuna: What you were told about this mystery horse gang of Ginny [Colby Minifie] and the settlers, to bring them to life?
Freeland: Oh, well that’s funny, because I thought the helicopter pilot [Isabelle]… I was convinced the helicopter pilot was going to tie in to my episode at some point, or that Colby… I thought that they were somehow tied together with the helicopter pilot. So I was like, “I know it’s all going to come together. It’s all going to come together.” And it didn’t. So that kind of left me going… I think it sort of opened up a bigger, broader world in a good way.
Acuna: I was waiting for that the entire episode because Althea mentions she that she thinks Ginny’s people may be working with the helicopter people. They both mention something about a bigger, better world and working towards the future.
Freeland: Yeah, that’s her, that’s that little grain that she latches onto initially to motivate her to go break into this complex, which is a crazy thing to do, but that’s the grain, and then obviously we find out later on that they’re not like them at all, and then I thought, Maggie Grace gave this great performance. She sort of realized like, “Oh sh–, this is… I brought Morgan in here and put him in very, very serious danger. What I thought this was, isn’t that at all.”
How they filmed the walker death in the pool
Acuna: One of the more interesting walker deaths that we’ve seen in a while occurs on your episode, and it’s when Morgan is killing the zombie underwater that’s attacking Al. I was hoping you could tell me a little bit about what went into filming that and whether or not that was difficult to capture.
Freeland: Yeah, well, underwater stuff is always tricky, because when you’re filming it, it’s always tough to establish geography. One of the things we did from a technical standpoint is we put these water filtration hoses in the background, so we could get a general orientation of where we were. Additionally, I remember we had several conversations about the fact that walkers don’t breathe air, therefore they wouldn’t have air in their lungs, and so this walker sort of, went and passed out, basically falls on top of her like a dead weight, and they sink to the bottom. So we really tried to sort of play with that concept, of this alive, dead weight that sort of drags Al down to the bottom.
Freeland: We have a great set coordinator. They put together a really nice sequence, and I remembered it was actually kind of tough to shoot, because our walker actor/stunt person had to wear this lead vest, a weighted vest, that would just essentially sink them down to the bottom. So we could only do it like 20, 30 seconds at a time. So we had to shoot that sequence in little bits and pieces. I haven’t seen the final product, but it was a lot of fun to shoot. I think my favorite personal memory was, we shot in this big nine-foot-deep pool and it was pristine going into the shoot. By the end of the shoot day I took a picture and the whole thing was just blood red.
Acuna: That was a very cool contrast. You said that you were shooting within 20-second intervals sometimes. Do you remember how long that shoot took you to do the walker in the water?
Freeland: I think we had about half a day. It was definitely a lot of pre-visualization. We had storyboards going into it, so we definitely had a game plan going into filming it.
Daniel and Grace singing was one of the most challenging parts of the episode to get just right.
Acuna: Was the underwater walker the most challenging part of the episode for you to film?
Freeland: I think, just from a logistical standpoint, we have the big sort of sequences, where Colby comes back with the tanker truck, and she’s got the horses. There’s one shot where I think we’ve got like seven or eight horses, a tanker truck and gates opening, and people ducking into corners and everything. That was a big one to shoot. I think just making sure we have time to shoot a lot of the performances, especially the stuff between Al and Morgan, but also Ruben [Blades] and Karen [David] as well. You know the scene where we did The Traveling Wilburys and Ruben sings, but can’t sing [in the episode]. He’s actually an amazing singer.
That was another scene that you really wanted to have the time for. Karen and Ruben’s scene in the abandoned bar, where they have the little duet, because there was such a nice quiet moment, and that was one that we definitely wanted to have the time to sort of let the actors try stuff and get multiple performances, and I thought the two of them had a fantastic chemistry, and it was a lot of fun to shoot.
Acuna: Yeah, that was an unexpected sweet moment. That’s really the both of them singing, right?
Freeland: It is, yes, and Karen was amazing. She’s actually a fantastically gifted singer. Karen and Ruben, I know, practiced this little duet. So it appears improvised, but they actually put a lot of practice into it.
Acuna: How long did it take you to film them singing that duet? How many takes was it?
Freeland: I think we did it in like four or five takes, and I just remember watching it in two shots and I thought it played so beautifully wide, and they have such great chemistry together. Yeah, we actually didn’t do a lot of takes for it.
What viewers should take away from Sunday’s episode
- Van Redin/AMC
Acuna: What do you want viewers to take away from this episode? Something I thought about after watching was, we start out with Morgan in this episode discussing two people who he loved, his family, and we end the episode with him believing he may be losing someone else who’s close to him.
Freeland: Yeah, well, I know what happens, but I can’t say what happens.
Acuna: Of course.
Freeland: I think one of the goals with the episode was, there are these nice still moments between the characters, and we have these sort of brief sections of the walker and Karen and so on and so forth. I think one thing we also had to try to sort of lean into was some of the suspense. So there’s a scene where Morgan breaks into an apartment, and there may or may not be a walker inside. That was something that I talked with my cinematographer, Jala [Trautmann], about was kind of using a little bit of Hitchcock references, and we really tried to play up the suspense a little bit more. Hopefully, audience members get a little more of that suspenseful nature in the dustup.
Freeland is working on another show right now that debuts this fall on ABC.
- ABC/Virginia Sherwood
Acuna: What else are you working on outside of “Fear the Walking Dead?” What else is next for you?
Freeland: Right now I’m actually shooting in New Jersey.
Acuna: That’s where I’m from!
Freeland: Oh no way. Yeah, we’re shooting in Secaucus. It’s a new show for ABC called “Emergence.” It actually comes out in a couple of weeks.
Acuna: Yeah, they’re going to be at New York Comic Con. Are you going to be there?
Freeland: I will actually be shooting during Comic Con.
There are two more episodes of “Fear the Walking Dead’s” fifth season. It airs Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on AMC.
You can follow along with our “Walking Dead” coverage here.