Austin Amelio, who plays Dwight on AMC’s Fear the Walking Dead, talks about transitioning to the show and exploring new aspects of his character — like allowing him to smile.
Q: What was it like moving from The Walking Dead to FEAR?
A: It’s a little easier this time because I was well aware of the world and what this work needed. I wasn’t coming in with cold feet. I know how tough the show is. I got welcomed by Mike Satrazemis and Lennie James. They’re family, so it wasn’t a completely new world. I also got to go back to my hometown in Austin, which is pretty special. I started off acting here and the full circle has happened. It was really a special transition, more than anything. I love creating down here. The entrance that I have is like a bucket list entrance: It was really dreamy and very Texan.
Q: What was it like being directed by Colman Domingo and exploring some new notes in your character?
A: It was interesting because smiling was very foreign to me [on this show.] [Laughs] I was like, “Are you sure I get to crack half a smile? This feels very wrong.” That’s the joy in taking a character on a longer journey and seeing the different notes. There’s more than just serious and depressed Dwight. There’s a lot in this character. It was fun and surprising. It still felt very strange to show a little bit of joy and laughter, but it was nice and refreshing.
Q: The last time we saw Dwight, he was banished by Daryl. Where would you say he is, coming into this series?
A: When we first see him, he’s at a very desperate spot. It’s probably the darkest spot he’s ever been in. He’s obsessive, trying to find the love of his life and it’s not happening. He comes to this realization that maybe she just didn’t want him to find her in the first place. That’s really heartbreaking. He’s been on such a long journey trying to find her. I talked to the producers Andrew [Chambliss] and Ian [Goldberg] about wanting to see him at his darkest moment and it came through. It was hard doing it, but it was also where I saw the character.
A: In this world, it’s really alarming to relate to somebody and to also have faith in someone saying they’re going to help you and really meaning it. Right off the bat, I think he relates to John Dorie. John shares that story with him and that’s important in this world. Someone else has fallen that far down the ladder and has survived and made good from it.
Q: What about Morgan forgiving Dwight so quickly as well?
A: I think it’s a testament to where these people are when Dwight meets them. It further proves that maybe he can fall in line with them. Morgan doesn’t even let Dwight get a word out. Dwight is so hung up on the past, so to see someone who came from the same history as him allows Dwight to accept that he can press the refresh button a tad. He can halfway push it down.
Q: Morgan and Dwight have actually never said a word to each other on The Walking Dead…
A: Yeah, they haven’t! We played it as surreal as it was. It was strange to see Lennie James down here in Austin, Texas and have us in the same scene. That’s what we used.
Q: The group has devoted their life to helping others this season. Is that a mission Dwight can get behind?
A: It absolutely is. It involves a lot of trust. Even on The Walking Dead, Dwight was already on this path. He wanted to get rid of Negan and put some good back in the world. To come across people who are actually doing it is enticing to him. Along with finding Sherry, one of his main objectives was getting rid of evil and making the world a better place. Now, he’s with a group of people who are so gung-ho about it. It’s something that he wants to grab onto – and he can.
Fear the Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9/8c.
Read an interview with Rubén Blades, who plays Daniel Salazar.
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