Cliff Curtis, who plays Travis Manawa on AMC’s Fear the Walking Dead, talks about raising teenagers during an apocalypse and whether splitting the group up in Episode 2 was a good idea.
Q: Travis is quite the optimist. Do you think that’s a pro or a con in this world?
A: I love that he’s an optimist. I think it’s important to humanity. When things are going wrong, you need someone who insists everything’s going to be okay, we’re going to pull together and we’re going to work it out.
Q: What do you believe your character’s greatest strength is? And weakness?
A: He’s an idealist coupled with being an optimist. He has this idea of how things should be. He believes in community, structure and things that give him the freedom to live a relatively simple life. It’s a strength, but it can also become a weakness. When things start falling apart and all of his ideals are challenged, it’s just a matter of how long it will take to realize that all of his ideals can’t apply to the situation.
Q: What does Travis bring to the family dynamic? Which is harder for him: surviving an apocalypse or trying to raise teenagers?
A: [Laughs] That’s a great question because surviving an apocalypse is pretty straightforward, but teenagers are infinitely complex. He’s got three teenagers – one of his own who’s estranged. Oh boy, it’s a ride.
Q: L.A. traffic is bad enough – and even worse when people are rioting and trying to flee town. What was it like to film the scenes where you’re driving through all of that? Did it feel super realistic?
A: Traffic in L.A… well that’s a part of living in L.A. In this situation, production staged all of that and it did feel super realistic. I really like that because you can imagine normal traffic in L.A. and then all of a sudden, it’s gridlock. How crazy would that be?
Q: Being that your character is a teacher, what do you think are the best items to hoard from a school when you’re trying to survive an outbreak? What would be the first thing you grabbed?
A: My favorite book. While everybody is trying to grab guns, what I love about Travis is it’s not what you’re going to kill with, it’s what you’re going to live with. Keeping a sane mind, clear thinking and a strong heart is an attribute. His last name, Manawa, actually means “heart.”
Q: In Episode 2, Travis advises Madison to go to the desert without him. Is splitting up ever a good idea in scenarios like these? What does it say about his character?
A: It’s not a good idea in this situation to separate, but he’s got two families, so it’s a Sophie’s choice. He wants to have a blended family made of his past and present. He sees them as the same thing, so there’s a big conflict. Does he go with his family and leave his son behind? Is that the right thing to do? How do you choose? He wants to bring everyone.
Q: Fans have their own methods for trying to predict what is going to happen on a show. What do the actors do? Did you have a guess for where Season 1 would go? How far off the mark were you in the end?
A: You never know! We’re not making it up when we say, “We have no idea.” We’re not trying to be clever. We honestly don’t know. [Laughs] It’s all a part of being a part of a genre like this. No one should know because every danger is potentially the last one you’ll face and that’s the premise of the show.
Q: If you had to be stuck with only one other character from the show in an apocalypse, who would it be and why?
A: Oh, that’s tough! That is crazy! Ain’t gonna happen. Travis is a family guy, so it doesn’t work for him and we’re together on that one. [Laughs] Go with the whole family or not at all.
Q: Do you personally feel like you’re better prepared for the apocalypse now? What practical lessons has this role taught you?
A: Be professional, show up to work on time and be nice to the media. [Laughs] No, that’s not practical for the apocalypse. I’m from New Zealand and we got a whole way of life, but if it went down in L.A., I don’t know. That would be a tough one.
Read an interview with Kim Dickens, who plays Madison Clark.
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