Mercedes Mason, who plays Ofelia on AMC’s Fear the Walking Dead, talks about the battle between the Nation and the Ranch, playing an enemy of Madison’s family and what’s next for the second half of the season.
Q: What are your thoughts on Ofelia taking the truck and leaving the group behind at the hotel? What was her motivation?
A: It was safe, there was hot water, there was food, there was drink – I mean, Madison and Strand are literally downstairs getting drunk! So, Ofelia thought she had left her friends in a safe zone. She’s lost her mother and she’s lost her father. She’s an orphan with nobody else in the world and I think it’s that normal drive to seek out the last visage of family – and that’s her fiancée, Will. I don’t think she would have forgiven herself if she didn’t at least try to find him. I think she sneaks off with the truck because she knew they’d offer to come with her or stop her. She just needed to do that for herself. She was in mourning… You can imagine the amount of guilt and sadness that she’s feeling, especially because she’d kind of done the same thing to Will. She couldn’t marry him and she let him go on his own without truly saying goodbye. She needed that closure, whether she found him or not.
Q: The audience knows that Daniel is alive. Is she sure that he’s gone?
A: Nobody has told her otherwise. She literally saw her father burn in an estate. And it wasn’t a little kitchen fire! [Laughs] The whole place was ablaze and she didn’t think there was any chance he could survive, especially because he had sort of lost his mind at the end there. He was seeing her mother in visions and talking in circles. I don’t think she thought that he was even in the right mind to be able to escape and help himself. The last she knew, he was tied up in the basement. In her mind, she’s absolutely orphaned.
Q: We find out that Otto left Ofelia for dead, and Walker saved her life. Is she naive in trusting the Nation so quickly or does she respect them after they took her in from the desert?
A: During that [original] scene where Jeremiah Otto takes Ofelia and she’s asking him for a ride by the truck and he says there’s no place for brown people, after that he says, “The only thing I can use you for is a comfort girl.” In essence, all she’s good for is to lay on her back. And she spits at him. He’s an alcoholic, misogynistic, racist. It shows what kind of person he is and why she has such hatred for him. It shows such a huge dichotomy between him and Walker, who is a complete gentleman. Walker undresses her and could have taken advantage of her while he’s bathing her, but is nothing but a gentleman. To her, that shows allegiance to the Nation right away. Besides being indebted to Walker for saving her life, he’s always treated her kindly.
Q: What’s it like to act with Kim Dickens, Frank Dillane and Alycia Debnam-Carey as the opposition vs. allies?
A: I’m such a goofball. Between takes, I’m always joking around and I can’t be serious for too long or else I get stuck in my own head. So, the dynamic between us actors didn’t change but for Ofelia, it’s absolutely different. She doesn’t trust or even have any respect for Nick anymore once he joins the militia – the people who have treated the Nation horribly and who are aligned with Jeremiah Otto, her nemesis. Any warm and fuzzy feelings towards Nick are gone. I think she does still care for Alicia and does feel bad that she almost got Alicia killed inadvertently by leaving her at the hotel, which is why she reaches out and tells her to come with her. It’s her last visage of goodwill and she’s trying to warn her in a subtle way. With Madison, I think there are mixed feelings because Madison was supposed to take care of her. That’s one of the promises she made to Daniel Salazar, but Ofelia was never made a family member. She cared about her kids and that was that. Ofelia is well aware of that, so she doesn’t have any allegiance to her. One of the last things her father told her was not to trust these people and not to trust Madison. You know when somebody dies and every single word they’ve said becomes golden? I think she’s really holding onto that.
Q: Ofelia unknowingly poisons the ranch with anthrax. What do you think is going through her mind after she finds out what her mission really was?
A: It’s such a mixed bag. She’s really angry with Walker for lying to her because they’d told her it would be sleeping pills so that they could take over the ranch without bloodshed. That’s what she signed up for. As much as she’s changed and as much as she’s her father’s daughter, she still has a moral compass and wants to hold onto some semblance of humanity even though the world has fallen to sh—t. By the same token, she understands. This is what it takes to survive in this world, and that’s why she tells him to never lie to her again. She’s almost more upset that he lied as opposed to what happened, which was her inadvertently killing people. I think she understands why her father did what he did during the war. During wars and during the apocalypse, it’s you against the world. You have to do whatever you can to survive.
Q: Ofelia is able to stop Walker from killing Jake. Does she do that for Alicia?
A: It’s her own sense of morality. She has no idea of the allegiance between Jake and Alicia. That shows that Ofelia does still have a moral compass and she is her mother’s daughter. She didn’t want to see undue bloodshed.
Q: And what does it say about their dynamic that she’s able to keep Walker from doing that in that moment, although he has scalped people before?
A: He respects her opinion and listens to her. He could have easily just not turned around, but all it took was her saying his name and he knew exactly what she wanted. They do have a strong connection. I think it started with her feeling like she owes him a debt of gratitude for saving her life, but she realizes he’s strong, he’s intelligent, he’s loyal and protective. I think romantic feelings are there, too.
Q: What are you most excited about for the second half of the season?
A: I think the fans will really be excited about the fact that there are now two groups of people forced to live on the same plot of land. You could imagine the amount of tension and I think that’s going to either break the group or bring them together. That’s the exciting thing about the second half – seeing how things play out. And there are some big twists in the second half!
Read a Q&A with Alycia Debnam-Carey, who plays Alicia.
Watch full episodes of Fear the Walking Dead on amc.com and AMC apps for mobile, Fire TV, Xbox One, Apple TV, Roku and Chromecast.
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