Daryl Mitchell, who plays Wendell on AMC’s Fear the Walking Dead, talks about his apocalypse-ready wheelchair, how his kids helped him land the part and the importance of vulnerability and representation.
Q: What interested you about joining Fear the Walking Dead?
A: I thought it would be an interesting challenge for me to do a show like this. I knew a lot of it would take place outside whereas a lot of other shows I’ve done took place inside. I thought it would be great to deal with all of the elements. A lot of times, people think those with disabilities are just stuck in a room and watching the ceiling, but we get out there and get it done. It was really important to me.
Q: What, specifically, stood out to you about Wendell? What was the audition process like?
A: My kids were so excited when they heard I was even considered for the show. They are walkers. [Laughs] The fun part was doing the audition with my daughter reading one side, my son reading another character and my other son filming with his phone. It took us about an hour because we were just laughing so much. They were really trying to act! I was like, “Look man. They want me, not you!” It was a family project and they were a part of the process.
As far as the character goes, it was the fact that this dude showed strength, he showed intelligence, he showed patience and tolerance. He’s got some wit, but he hides his fear with jokes. When he gets nervous, everything is funny. He was vulnerable without trying to look vulnerable, but I could see all the vulnerability in him because I’ve been there. A lot of times, people will ask actors if there is any relation between the characters and what you see in yourself. In this character, I could see me. Once I get in there, I’m the actor and the chair is an actor by itself. Whatever had to be done, I would have to modify something to make it work just like I do in real life. That’s Wendell. Wendell’s going to figure it out.
Q: In Episode 413, we see that Wendell’s wheelchair is armed with spikes! How awesome was that?
A: One day, we were getting ready to set it up and I had never seen it active. I was sitting in the chair and that thing went off. Boy, I think I stood up for like two seconds! [Laughs] I was like, “Look man, ya’ll have to alert me.” That thing just snaps out. Whew!
Q: What was it like working with Mo Collins to create the dynamic between Wendell and his sister, Sarah? How would you describe it?
A: I love her so much. From day one, we rode out on our way to the set and by the time we finished day one, we were inseparable. That camaraderie was instant. Mo and I had a thing called 50/50. We would shoot a scene and we would laugh after takes and say, “You know what? There’s a 50/50 chance that take won’t make it.” Don’t put us two clowns together.
The thing about the characters is [Sarah] knows we’re all we have. We don’t just say we’re brothers and sisters – we’re twins. We see no difference in race, age, nothing. We are one. When she fights, I fight. She’s seen me at my most vulnerable. She’s there. She’s my other half.
Q: When we first meet Wendell, he says the universe gave him a reason not to help people. What is that reason? How has his perspective changed?
A: That came from when he got injured. It lessened his ability to do certain things and he became limited. I think that’s a cry out from the pain or guilt that he carried after what has been done to him. In a way, I think he tries to blame God for what happened. It’s another way of saying, “God, why’d you do this to me?”
Q: How is this mysterious new antagonist we’ve been introduced to now challenging the idea of helping people in dire circumstances?
A: Wendell knows that no one will survive alone – whether you’re in a wheelchair or not… He understands the benefits he’s reaped from people helping. So, how is this woman going to come and hinder people’s ability to help? Wendell’s like, “I will take you out!”
Q: What was your biggest takeaway after wrapping?
A: They didn’t take any pity on me, which I loved. I do a couple of stunts. To do what I did was a stunt. Just me pushing alone is a stunt. I hope this opens up the eyes of the general public as well as Hollywood. People with disabilities are stronger than you think. They don’t want handouts. They just want a chance. It says a lot to put me in the apocalypse. This isn’t a project anymore. It’s a powerful movement.
Read an interview with Maggie Grace,who plays Althea.
Fear the Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9/8c. Click here to add a reminder to your calendar.
To get more exclusive interviews with the cast, join the Fear the Walking Dead Insiders Club.Read More