On Fear the Walking Dead, Zoey Merchant plays Mo, the now eight-year-old daughter of Morgan and Grace. In this Q&A with amc.com, she talks about feeling a strong connection to her character, mingling with walkers on set, and what she learned from Lennie James.
Q: What attracted you to this show? Was it the opportunity to play a character like Mo? Or did you just want to be part of The Walking Dead Universe?
A: I'd say the opportunity to play Mo attracted me to the show. I felt a strong connection to her and the opportunity to play a character like her was a dream. I feel like she's very strong and powerful, literally and figuratively. But mainly she’s very determined and she will do whatever her mind is set to. I feel like I can relate to Mo like that.
Q: Mo has lived most of her life on PADRE, so she believes the propaganda she's been told and doesn't know anything about her parents. How do you think she felt when she met Morgan and Grace in Episode 1 and learned who they were?
A: Well, I feel like Mo was definitely surprised and in shock when meeting Morgan and Grace, but she didn't really know what to think either. Before she was taken away, she started to have thoughts that she could potentially have a family.
Q: And how do you think she felt when she was taken away from them at the end of that episode? Do you think she was losing hope that she could have a family?
A: Yes. At the end of the episode when you see her riding off in the boat, she's looking back at her parents. I feel that at that moment she's kind of lost hope and she thinks she probably won't see them again, so she might not want to get her hopes up too high.
Q: Since she's so determined, do you think she feels there's a way she could find her way back to them?
A: Yeah, I think that's another way that she's determined. She will do what she sets her mind to, and I think she does want to see her parents again.
Q: Mo starts Episode 1 unable to kill carrion and she ends the episode putting one down with ease. Can you explain what changed for her during the episode?
A: I would say that Mo overcame her internal fears, the voices she was having in her head, because she had something truly worth fighting for: her family.
Q: In Episode 4, Mo seems more comfortable with the idea of having parents, even though it's still new to her. How do you think she felt when she called Grace and Morgan "Mom" and "Dad," and when she asked about the feeling of getting in trouble with her parents?
A: I think she was a little bit nervous about whether they would accept her. But like I said, family is a new and strange concept to her, so she was a little bit curious as well about what it felt like for someone to care. She actually had the same reaction as most kids would have seeing her parents kiss. She thought, "Eww," and she was grossed out, but I think she secretly liked it!
Q: Your character has to deal with walkers from the very beginning. What was that experience like for you? Was it scary at all?
A: So the first day that I was on set, I was nervous about what the walkers were gonna be like because it looks so realistic on TV. But when I got to set and I met the actors and saw the process, like how the makeup and all the clothing is done, I wasn't scared at all. I mean, it fascinated me. It was so cool!
Q: Mo is so brave. I'm thinking about Episode 3 when she takes action to find out what happened to Finch and when she puts herself in front of Daniel to make sure the prefects don't shoot him. Where do you think she gets her bravery from?
A: I definitely think Mo got her bravery from her dad, Morgan. He's just very, very fierce, and like Mo, he's determined as well.
Q: You got to have a lot of scenes with Lennie James. What was it like working with him? How were the two of you able to create that bond that comes through on screen?
A: Working with Lennie James was awesome and amazing. I learned so much from him — techniques in acting and ways to say things — during my time on Fear the Walking Dead. I felt like we had an immediate connection during the audition process, and I feel as if the bond continued to grow, just as you see our characters' bond grow throughout the episodes.
Q: You said you had an immediate connection from the audition process. When you were auditioning, did you read with him?
A: I auditioned. Then I believe I got a call back and then a chemistry read. The chemistry read is when I met Lennie, and I told my dad that I was so excited to meet him, and my dad was going crazy over him because he really likes the series. I watched a little bit of Season 7 last year and Lennie was awesome. He's an awesome actor and incredible with his skills.
Q: Did you watch Season 7 in preparation for your audition?
A: Before I went to Savannah, I attempted to watch Season 7. I think it was during the first episode I got jump scared because there was a walker and there were walker heads on the beach, and I was frightened. I was kind of scared to meet the walkers, but then it was pretty cool!
Q: Can you tell me about shooting the scene with Walker Duane, who we met in the very first episode of The Walking Dead, in Episode 4? I could really feel Mo's terror. What were the challenges of doing that whole sequence?
A: Well, first of all, I would say that the scene, it was just really emotional. I mean, I was screaming. I was terrified. And I knew this scene would be iconic for all the fans from The Walking Dead and Fear the Walking Dead because it all started in the very first episode when The Walking Dead started. Being a part of that scene, that was just insane and unbelievable.
Q: Is there anything else you'd like to say about your experience on the show or any of the other actors you got to work with?
A: Kim [Dickens] was another one of my set moms. I've seen her in other things as well. I guess my mom and dad were just trying to find more things to watch and they had a random show on. I don't remember what it was, but then she popped up and so we decided to watch it and it was really good. Kim was really nice, like really, really nice.
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