Colman Domingo talks Fear TWD season 4 and his upcoming directorial debut

By: Seth Komito
By: Seth Komito /

 In part 1 of our two-part talk with Colman Domingo, the actor talks Fear the Walking Dead. We discussed on and off-screen relationships, as well as Colman sitting in the director’s chair.

Colman Domingo plays the deliciously complicated Victor Strand on AMC’s Fear the Walking Dead. While Strand feels he owes a debt to Madison, he still always has one foot out the door. At the start of the series Strand dealt with the loss of one love and is now dealing with the potential for new love.

We recently had the opportunity to speak with Colman about his character and how he’s been able to influence him. We also discussed Frank Dillane’s departure, Garret Dillahunt’s addition, and what we can expect from his directorial debut later this season.

Hidden Remote: Victor Strand is one of the better characters in either series. Watching his development as a fan has been great. What has your experience been as the actor? 

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Colman Domingo: It’s been incredible. From the moment that I received Strand’s first monologue I had a take on it. I felt that he was a very mysterious, elevated, complex character. The more that I gave to it, the more that they started to write and lean towards that. For a character not to show all his card. To always have a plan B, C, and D (laugh). For him not to reveal so much of his heart until it’s necessary, until the world is fighting for him to deconstruct and then rebuild.

I think that’s been interesting to play. We keep dancing with Victor Strand in that way. I think the more that he is not so on the nose about how he feels about certain things the better it is. I know that as an actor I sort of fight for that as well. To make sure we aren’t making him overtly aware of what he’s doing. There’s more subtext and subtlety, and often he’s acting out of impulse. The way that he operates in the world and the way that he believes that it should happen out of necessity. Then he takes a step back and realizes what exactly he’s been doing, ya know?

HR: I think that’s something that’s been consistent with that character. You mentioned in other interviews that the actors on the show are able to influence the way their characters are handled. Specifically in Strand’s relationship with Cole, how much pushback did you give with the way that situation was originally written?

Sebastian Sozzi as Cole, Colman Domingo as Victor Strand – Fear the Walking Dead _ Season 4, Episode 4 – Photo Credit: Richard Foreman, Jr/AMC
Sebastian Sozzi as Cole, Colman Domingo as Victor Strand – Fear the Walking Dead _ Season 4, Episode 4 – Photo Credit: Richard Foreman, Jr/AMC /

CD: Oh I pushed back a lot. Because it didn’t make sense to me, for a character like Victor Strand to immediately fall into a romantic feeling. Especially after all that he’s been through. When someone is just coming at him with terms like “I like you” and “I want to spend time with you.” I think Victor Strand has evolved so far beyond that. He knows that, especially in this apocalypse, if you want to engage in that relationship with Victor Strand you need to know everything he’s made of and capable of. So I thought in that moment it would be more useful if it was more of a test for Cole. I knew the outcome of the scene but I thought in getting to that, we weren’t going through all of the complexities that I thought would make it even more juicy.

Ultimately, I think that Victor Strand is trying to come from a good place. I feel like he’d reveal the possible monster he could be to Cole, to save Cole. To save Cole from himself and to protect his feelings. Because I think that Victor already assessed for himself that Cole couldn’t handle him. He was basically like you can’t handle me and I know you can’t, so let me just send you on your way to protect yourself.

HR: But at the same time it felt like Strand was hoping deep down that Cole would pass the test. 

CD: Absolutely, he was setting that test like: “can you handle all this? This is what I’m capable of, and if you can, then hey, maybe we can try it. I mean it is the apocalypse, maybe we can work it out.” But I also feel like he has such a strong bond with Madison. In a way I feel like he thinks, in an apocalyptic way, that he’s sort of married to Madison. I think he thinks “I’m good” it’s not romantic but it’s something deeper than that.

HR: So the biggest thing that has happened thus far this season has been the loss of Frank Dillane’s character, Nick. What is it like being on a show where people are going to come and go since death is right around the corner?

CD: Horrible. It’s horrible. (laugh) You know, I think no one knows truly what they sign up for when it comes to being part of an ensemble like this. Because ultimately you become close, you become comrades and you respect each other so much. But you do know the nature of the show is that some survive and some will not. So the comings and goings and I think, especially in the last season, we lost so many of our principal characters and it’s whittling down (laugh).

Colman Domingo
By: Seth Komito /

I think it’s always, at least the writers try, it’s always about compelling story telling and moving the other characters forward. So by having a death like Nick to come in episode 3, that was also a shock to us. I knew that Frank wanted to move on to do other things but I really thought we had him fully for the whole season. So it was devastating and it does feel like an absolute loss for me as a human being because I enjoy working with Frank so much. He’s one of my best friends so the idea that I wouldn’t go to set every day and spend time with him was devastating, to all of us. So I think there’s that fine line on shows like this where if you’re watching Victor Strand deal with the grief of Nick, you’re also watching Colman deal with loss of Frank.

HR: Right, and I’ve seen interviews with actors from The Walking Dead where they mentioned that as well. I guess it does help the show to have that come across on-screen.

CD: It is an interesting and difficult journey where you have to pick up the pieces constantly. You’re living in that world for 6 months where it’s not just acting. You’re living in a world where people are coming and going. It’s almost like, ok can I get attached to these new characters? Will they be here? And it’s also, as you can imagine, what Victor Strand is experiencing. I don’t know how close I can get to John Dorie will he stick around?

HR: And I do appreciate that you mentioned John Dorie because that’s where we were headed next. Garrett Dillahunt has been amazing and has been an instant fan favorite.

CD: And then of course another fan favorite, shoots John Dorie. (laugh)

HR: Right.

CD: So you’re kind of mad at Alicia right now. (haha)

HR: Of course, so the fans are worried about John but, with that said, when you have some characters leave but you have new characters coming in, does that help at all?

CD: It does because then you’re building these new relationships and forging these new bonds. So you’re really dealing with the essence of life. People going and people coming at the same time. The birth of a new relationship and mourning the death of another at the exact same time. I think we’re definitely doing that and trying to find ways to come together as a company. I’m sort of the social chairman of the company so I immediately try to bring everybody together and go get some good Austin barbecue.

I come from the theater, and I think the most important thing we have to do as company members is to come together. Not just come together at work but eat together, visit together, have a drink together and really build to become family because that’s the nature of the show. I’m sure anyone can tell how much Kim Dickens and I enjoy each other. You can just tell. There’s some things you can’t act and that’s chemistry.

Kim Dickens as Madison Clark, Alycia Debnam-Carey as Alicia Clark, Colman Domingo as Victor Strand – Fear the Walking Dead _ Season 2, Episode 15 – Photo Credit: Peter Iovino/AMC
Kim Dickens as Madison Clark, Alycia Debnam-Carey as Alicia Clark, Colman Domingo as Victor Strand – Fear the Walking Dead _ Season 2, Episode 15 – Photo Credit: Peter Iovino/AMC /

HR: You’re going to be directing episode 12, or you already did I should say. 

CD: I did, I just sent in my director’s cut.

HR: Awesome. What was that experience like? Was there anything surprising that came up during the process?

CD: I’ve been directing in theater for over 25 years so I was really sort of translating everything I knew from helming musicals and plays, to television. It’s just a slight adaptation of that. You know I shadowed Andrew Bernstein at the end of last season. I was also in those episodes so I was constantly learning while I was working and that’s the way I’ve learned anything of value in this business is by doing it. So the whole first half of the season I was watching directors who I believed were extremely capable and some directors who had some minor short comings and I’d hope to learn from all. You sort of learn from that and then you apply everything.

I had Michael Satrazemis, our producing director, sort of being my major cheerleader. He came on set a couple of times and Scott Gimple would come in as well. So I had the support of every single person. I was truly blessed. From my writer Kalinda Vazquez to the cast, everyone wanted me to succeed. So with that energy all I had to do was be a great facilitator of inspiration, (laugh) and hopefully good humor, to make our days. A lot of things were set up for me to do well. Everyone set me up to do well, especially my 1st AD and my DP.

The things that surprised me? I know that I’m an efficient actor and I try to be an efficient director and you have to be more efficient than you can even imagine. Especially on a show like ours because basically you’re directing a multi-million dollar film in 8 days. (laugh) You know with stunts, with visual effects and great character stories. So you really have to manage a lot and you have to be very clear about how you’re managing your time.

I know what actors need so immediately when you call cut you’re going to the actors. You cheer them on in some way. You go to your DP, you go to your 1st AD, you have to be so present and that’s the thing that I think maybe surprised me. I know that’s something I enjoy, but how present you have to be is exhausting in a good way. Because for 14 hours in that day you are on, every single moment.

HR: How was this episode chosen to be the one you’d direct?

CD: They chose it for me. They worked up the schedule where I didn’t have to be in prep while I was shooting. Everything was set up for me to win. The show-runners made sure that the episode before I wasn’t in so I could prep properly. Prep is your key to directing anything. Making sure that every decision is made and made clear so that on the day [of] if anything shifts at least you have a plan.

Next: Fear TWD recap: Just in Case

HR: And can we look forward to you putting your stamp on the episode in any way?

CD: Oh yeah absolutely. I think this season we’re very much in the mode of shooting it in a Western style. Very much Spaghetti Western and you’ll definitely see some iconic Sergio Leone shots that I knew I wanted to use as inspiration. Me and my DP, Adam, found them, beautifully. So I think people will look at that, and I think that even as a playwright I deal with sort of magical realism and sort of fairytale. This episode has a sort of fairytale aspect to it. I’m always looking for the beauty in the darkness so I think that we have lush landscapes that will contradict all of the darkness that people are in.

HR: If we weren’t already excited we are definitely excited now.

You can catch Colman Domingo on Sunday nights at 9/8 Eastern on AMC’s Fear the Walking Dead. Stay tuned for part 2 of our interview with Colman.