Fear the Walking Dead's Season 4 midseason finale killed off Madison Clark (Kim Dickens), the closest thing the ensemble show had to a lead character. It was a shocking death in a half-season that already had a hugely surprising death when Madison's son Nick (Frank Dillane) died in the season's third episode. Their deaths confirmed that the reboot the show has gone through in Season 4 is more than a different look and some new characters. It's an entirely different show under new showrunners Ian Goldberg and Andrew Chambliss and executive producer Scott Gimple, who have made the show more like The Walking Dead than creator Dave Erickson previously allowed it to be.
Fans were sad to see Madison killed, and Kim Dickens is sorry to go too. Madison changed a lot between Season 3 and 4, becoming a kinder, softer version of herself, and then she died, depriving the Deadwood alum the opportunity to really get into the western aspect of Season 4 with cowboy John Dorie, played by another Deadwood alum, Garret Dillahunt. In an interview with TV Guide, Dickens expressed that she's proud of the character and her heroic, self-sacrificing death and understands the decision to write Madison off, but she's disappointed that Madison's story is over.
If you're grieving Madison's death, know that Kim Dickens is right there with you. Check out everything she had to say about leaving the show and Madison's unfortunate demise.
Some people are saying since they didn't see the body that Madison might still be alive. Can you confirm that she is in fact deceased?
Kim Dickens: Yeah, Madison's dead.
So how are you feeling today, now that it's out there?
Dickens: It's sort of a relief since I've had to carry this secret. I found out a month before we went into production on Season 4, so it's been — gosh, it's been like eight months. It's a long time to carry it around. I'm proud of the final episode, and I'm glad people know now and that I can talk about it. I feel okay. I had to work through it, obviously, but I feel good.
You're satisfied with how the death played out on the show?
Dickens: You know, when I went in and met with the showrunners and the producer and they told me the changes they saw and the arc they wanted to play out and that the first half of the season would end with Madison's demise, it was written. It's ultimately up to the producers and the writers. It was a shock and a huge disappointment to me. But it was already laid out. I felt like Madison had more story to tell and more road to travel. She could have gone in crazy directions. She could have become a villain. I was ready to do anything to go further and deeper with her. So was I satisfied with the story? I thought her demise was a beautiful sacrificial moment, but I would have envisioned a different death. I thought the episode in that moment was beautiful. I did. But it surprised me that that's the way it happened.
What was the conversation like when you found out it was going to happen?
Dickens: I can't get into details like that. It's a pretty intimate relationship once you're in the day-to-day of it. But basically they brought me in to tell me how the story was going that season and I, of course, expressed my sadness about that and my surprise and shock and we had a few other conversations where I laid out my concerns for the character and they took things to heart. Within the story they wanted to tell, they took those into consideration. And together we came up with this goodbye.
I read another interview where you said you were proud to get to play the protagonist on a genre show who was a woman who wasn't in her 20s or 30s, and [yesterday] the critic Mo Ryan picked up on that interview and was tweeting about how disappointing it is to see how often women are killed off on genre shows. She cited a Vox report from a couple of years ago about how women die on TV at a disproportionate rate, and how women over 40 within that group are overrepresented in that. Not to call anyone out, but do you think writers and producers should be more aware of context like this while they're planning character deaths?
Dickens: I can't really comment on their creative process. I'm not a writer. And I'm not a producer of the show. I'm an actor. And all I know is I'm drawn to characters that resonate with me and relationships that feel validating to me about my experience in the world. I think it's up to artists to represent that, and to push the envelope when they can, and to be courageous and bold in their storytelling, but I can only speak on my behalf. This character was an amazing character, and I think the writers made a bold decision. I certainly think there was more story to tell with this character and I'm so proud of this character. I felt like my whole career led me to it. But that said, in this genre, as I've been made aware — and everyone's been made aware — no one's safe. And that's the way you truthfully can tell the story within the genre. People would be at the risk of an untimely death. I certainly can't speak for [the writers], and I know they had this set for the character of Madison going in. They're coming in and making the show different and reinventing it. I can't really get political and say anything about that... I don't think it means you're beholden to anything and that your creativity should be stifled, or that you should be immune to the truthful telling of the story. So it's complicated. I definitely appreciate the passion around it, and I believe in that, too.
What did everyone do for you on your last day?
Dickens: The last day was a night shoot where I shot the opening sequence with Maggie [Grace], so that was sort of fun. I really felt like then I was getting the character of Madison back, at least that fun, unhinged, dirty, filthy, difficult part of her that was so fun to play.
Yeah, it was like the old Madison again.
Dickens: Yeah, we had the old Madison back for a minute. And parts of Madison we hadn't necessarily seen before, too. So that was really fun to play on my final day. But we'd all been together for five or six months and sort of saying our goodbyes and commiserating together and having a good time together and having sad times together. So we'd been going through it. It wasn't a big, melodramatic moment in the end.
Did you get a gift or a cake or anything?
Dickens: AMC treated the original gang to a beautiful, intimate dinner with just the cast for Frank and myself. It was very small, just for the purposes of us saying our goodbyes to each other. And that ended up being one of those long, great nights that you'll always remember. And we spent a lot of time together off-set anyway all season, with our new cast members as well. We all had great times together.
What's next for you?
Dickens: I'm taking a little break right now, which is very restorative and very fun, and then it looks like all signs are leading toward doing the Deadwood movie finally. So hopefully that keeps going forward. They're trying to lock us all down, and it's looking good. I can't say anything officially, that's not my place, but the stagecoach wheels are turning.
Do you think you're going to keep watching the show?
Dickens: You know, I might take a break from it for a minute. I'm so close with the cast, and I'm sure I'll tune in, but it's been the longest job loss I've had, like finding out and then working through it and then finally wrapping and the doing the press for it. I need to take a break from it. But maybe by August I'll be ready to tune in again.
Fear the Walking Dead returns Sunday, Aug. 12 at 9/8c on AMC.