Speaking about her role on "Fear the Walking Dead," "Orange is the New Black" star Elizabeth Rodriguez offered new details about her character's relationship to Cliff Curtis' Travis, how her career and education will impact her family during the crisis, the gravitas of the subject matter and more during an interview with Entertainment Weekly.
"Liza is Travis' ex-wife," she explained. "They were together for about 12 years. They got together when they were young and ended up getting pregnant young. They decided to get married and she wanted to go to medical school, but had to put it on hold for her family, at which point years went by, as they do. I think there were things about Travis that maybe they grew up at the same time, but apart. They wanted different things, certain things didn't change, and so I decided to leave Travis about three years ago. So pretty much I'm the caretaker of my son, and in trying to make up for lost time I went back to school. But I can't really become a doctor, so I go to nursing school, which is very important to the story. Travis sees his kid on some weekends. I think we have a good relationship for the most part, but recently he's been caught up in Madison's children, because they're not all as perfect as my son. So there's that, that causes a little bit of -- I'm very protective of [our son] Chris."
"As a nursing student, in the coming episodes I end up finding that is what I can do," she continued. "I have to ultimately lie and tell people in the community that I am a nurse so they can trust me and have instincts to sort of kick in and do what I can, until a doctor shows up, and then she tells me to go with her and help more people. And I end up seeing things on a grander scale and discovering other things that the rest of the family doesn't know about. I end up leaving my family and becoming really fancy in this story."
When asked to describe the show, she responded, "I think it's about what happens immediately that causes people to come together, and human instinct to protect our closest, nearest, and dearest. And then having to make choices and try to understand really quickly and accept what the new reality is. The biggest, most exciting thing is we don't know the rules. So it's all in what we don't know. The bigger fear is in what are they? We sort of wrap our brains around accepting this thing, and then at rapid speeds the whole government and everything you think you know gets turned on its back within moments, if not days."
"It's survival mode," she added.
"I think the most exciting thing is that it's so different and so unique because the audiences know information -- the fans of 'The Walking Dead' have information that we don't," she divulged. "Our show happens before, so the characters have no idea about the 'Walking Dead' show, and so that will give it something at the tip of this like, 'Look out! That guy! How could you not see?' We don't have the rules. They know all the rules. They know how people change. We don't, so having an audience be, at least in these first six episodes, smarter than the characters, is an exciting thing for the fans, I hope."
Of the climate on set, she shared, "It impacted me before we started shooting. We sat down before principal day of photography and we spoke about the first couple episodes about the world, and we started getting deep into these conversations and I was really shocked, I was literally like, 'I'm really depressed right now, guys.' It brings things up -- you start thinking about 9/11 or Katrina, and you can't help but feel these things. Then on set something happened in the first couple of episodes that was massive, and it was hours and hours and I had to go home and literally shower and take that experience outside, like try to get to the other side as soon as possible before I went to bed, just because it's on you. And after hours of it you're just like, 'This is a lot going on.'"
Set in Los Angeles, the companion series tells the story of the zombie apocalypse from a different perspective from "The Walking Dead." The show, described as a "family drama," has a two season order.
Premiering August 23, "Fear the Walking Dead" was co-created by Robert Kirkman and Dave Erickson. The series stars Rodriguez, Curtis, Kim Dickens, Alycia Debnam-Carey, Mercedes Mason, Ruben Blades and more.