In its first season, AMC‘s “Fear The Walking Dead” broke new ground for the world established by Robert Kirkman and company’s hit Image Comics/Skybound Entertainment comic book and TV franchise. As Season 2 gets underway, “Fear” actor Lorenzo James Henrie is looking to break new ground of his own.
As Chris, the young, video-obsessed character at the heart of the show’s Manawa family, Henrie has plenty of teen angst and family drama to play with on screen. At the end of the show’s first year, Chris lost his mother Liza to the zombie plague just as he hoped he would be able to reunite her with his estranged father Travis. Now the father/son duo have to deal with the ugly new reality of life in the land of “The Walking Dead.”
With Season 1 of the series now out on home release and Season 2 airing new episodes in its predecessor’s Sunday night timeslot, CBR News caught up with Henrie about his experience with the secret-laden show’s launch, the psychological themes that drive the show, his hopes for Chris’ first zombie kill, his encounter with a comics legend and audition for a role in Marvel Studios and Sony Pictures’ upcoming “Spider-Man: Homecoming” film.
CBR News: “Fear The Walking” dead was surprising in Season 1 because it covered some ground that no one has ever seen from this world in comics or on TV. But the story of the zombie outbreak also came over a very fast and furious six-episode season. When you came onto the show, did they tell you the particulars of Chris’ whole journey — or did you discover it script by script?
Lorenzo Henrie: It was a happy medium of both. When I first got the job, they didn’t give me a full script until I was formally offered the role, and when I read that first script I could kind of tell what this story was going to entail. But after that, they did reveal to me specifically what was going to happen. At the same time, we didn’t know Elizabeth was going to die until midway through the season. They had everything locked and loaded, and they did tell me my story arc and where it was going. It was tough because it was so secretive.
But I think that there was nothing they wouldn’t tell you if you were uncomfortable with things. The writers were great at letting us know what we were getting ourselves into. If we feel uncomfortable with a scene or a story arc, they let us talk it out with them and give our perspective and take as actors. It’s one thing to write something on the page, but it’s another thing to have an actor do it and bring what they have to the table.
What do you feel that you brought to Chris? He’s the younger voice in the show, and things like his vlogging played into that. But also like Carl in the main series, your character is the guy they say “Just stay here” to, and then he goes and does what he wants anyway. Do you share that behavior in your DNA?
I think I could definitely relate to Chris. My father in real life has a lot of similar characteristics to Travis. My dad’s a man of good will who would do anything to fix a problem, and Travis is the same. He tries to fix every problem given to him. So I can easily picture my 16-year-old self in that situation and wanting to help my dad. But at the same time, when you’re 16 you don’t have the greatest foresight or circumspection like your father would. He’s got 20 years on you. So you kind of have to submit to that trust and love that a father would give you. Father/son stories are my favorite kind of story to play, because it relates so much to life. There’s human nature and philosophy in father/son stories, and Chris and Travis have such a great arc going into Season 2.
Of course, there’s a lot that will change for them as a result of Liza’s death. When you filmed that final scene of Season 1, did you know that you were coming back for another year, or did you try and play that as if it was the final end of this family’s story?
For actors, it’s the best thing to not worry about another season or a Season 2 pickup. In our real lives it’s what we want and what we hope for, but you really have to focus in the present and not worry. You have to trust that your present actions will pay off for the audience. We wanted to deliver in every big scene and every little scene and make the best first season possible. When we got news of Season 2 getting picked up? I mean, as an actor it’s unheard of to hear that before you even air. That doesn’t happen every day.
So where is Chris’ head at in Season 2 after the death of his mother? Obviously, his whole dream of a family reunited is now lost.
It leaves Chris in a very dark place, because the love of his life has been taken away from him, in his mom. It’s hard for any kid to rationalize that –Â especially when you’re trying to rationalize this whole world we’re living in on top of that. What are the new laws of this universe he’s living in? Is his relationship with his father enough to survive that? It’s going to be a journey of accepting his mom’s death and the person who had to take that life away. Obviously we want to see him heal and mend those things, but that’s what Season 2 is all about.
I was looking at some of the bios of the characters, and I realized that in that short first season, Chris has zero zombie kills yet. Are you excited to get into that sloppy special effects world of bashing out zombie brains this year?
[Laughs] I’m so stoked! I think the audience will be equally excited for if and when his first kills happen. I don’t want to give any spoilers.
Have you played that game of, “Could I, Lorenzo, actually survive the zombie apocalypse at all?”
Yeah. I would go to Costco and get all the food I need and toilet paper. [Laughs] And I’d stock up on ammo and communication devices to try and find my family. Maybe a few cars? Like a Hummer or something?
You might as well splurge. Overall, with a quick first season and the whole experience of being part of “The Walking Dead” a new thing for you, have you had a chance to experience fandom or do conventions yet?
Yeah. I’ve actually done a few cons, and those are the most fun things I’ve ever done. It’s great to see the interactions with fans. Some people just want to shake your hand and some have a million questions. It’s kind of like this big, crazy family. I never would have expected that a TV show would generate this much love and a whole community of people who would say, “Why did you do that?” or “What were you thinking in that moment?”
And are you at all interested or connected to the comic book world? With five billion superhero movies and shows, are there other parts you want to play in this space?
Oh yeah. There are two big ones. I love “The Flash” and would love to do anything on that show. And then recently I got to be friends with Stan Lee! We met at a con last year, and then we sat next to each other on the plane afterwords. Getting to know him and catch up with him has been so cool, and I’d love to be in the new Spider-Man reboot. I actually auditioned for a role. I don’t know if I’m allowed to say that, but I hope it can go further. [Laughs]
With Season 2 underway, has there been any big idea about how the zombie world is developing in the aftermath of the undead rising that gets you excited as a fan of “The Walking Dead” in general?
I think the main theme going into Season 2 is “Blood versus Bond.” Do you trust your family? Do you trust the people you’ve known your whole life? I love the psychological aspect of the show. In Season 1, the showrunners and the producers had a Hitchcockian theme going through each episode. It didn’t so much focus on the special effects but more with the psychological end. I think we need a good balance of the action but also bringing people through this story. What I love as an actor is being able to excite people through simple story and not leaning on all that CGI and modern technology.
“Fear The Walking Dead” season two airs 9 p.m. Sundays on AMC.
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