Fear the Walking Dead’s Mercedes Mason previews Ofelia’s Identity Struggles

Richard Foreman/AMC
Richard Foreman/AMC

Is it possible to feel alone even when you’re surrounded by people? That’s the conflict that will be facing Ofelia Salazar (Mercedes Mason) when Season 2 of AMC’s Fear the Walking Dead returns on Sunday, April 10 at 9 p.m. Not only was Ofelia’s world turned upside down in Season 1 after zombies started attacking Los Angeles, but her stable family life was turned on its head as well. She lost her mother Griselda (Patricia Reyes Spindola) in the finale, soon after discovering that her father Daniel (Rubén Blades) had been lying to her about his past in El Salvador, where he carried out torture operations for the Salvadoran government.

Fear the Walking Dead’s group of survivors fled camp and made their way to Victor Strand’s (Colman Domingo) luxurious yacht in the finale and will set sail on the open water in Season 2. The close quarters on the yacht will cause tensions in Ofelia’s life to heighten even more, since being on a ship “creates such a feeling of claustrophobia, when you can’t just get up and run,” says actress Mason. She recently spoke with The TV Junkies in an exclusive interview where she previews what lies ahead for Ofelia and her father, the dangers of being on the open water (other than floating zombies!) and new allies that Ofelia may come to rely on.

The TV Junkies: What was it like shooting on the boat this season? Were there any unique challenges that arose because of that?

Mercedes Mason: Just technical things like we’re shooting in Baha and it gets really windy, and I don’t think anybody anticipated quite how windy. We ended up doing a lot of ADR because it’s just so loud. Also in most of the episodes our hair is just whipping all over the place. Our poor hair people are constantly running around trying to tame our hair. Aside from that it’s so much fun because at this point we’ve all bonded, we hang out and drink together. So it’s like being paid to hang out with your friends and play.

TTVJ: What did it feel like to come back for shooting of Season 2, now that you all had a year under your belt of being part of this franchise and all that comes with it?

MM: It’s so much fun, especially when you think about how difficult it is to get a show picked up, get it launched and keep it on the air. It’s like winning the lottery. So for us, it’s like summer camp–you get to see your besties again and are off having fun together. We literally had one of those screaming fests when we all saw each other again. It’s nice that we all get along so it’s actually fun to work together and we’re constantly cracking each other up.

Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC
Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC

TTVJ: Ofelia learned some pretty shocking information about her father Daniel at the end of Season 1. How will that change their relationship for Season 2?

MM: Dramatically. She has lost her mother at the end of Season 1 who I think was her rock and they were very similar in that sense. She really thought she was going to be able to protect her parents, and when all this new information came out about her father she realizes she doesn’t know who he is at all. She starts having this feeling of ‘has my whole life been a lie?’ She’s doubting everything. She’s quite angry with him and doesn’t have a mom to turn to for comfort.

They’re really not in a good place when we see them again in Season 2. She’s keeping her distance. She’s trying to figure out where she stands with him and what it means in this new world, especially when she knows that half of her is him and what does that mean? Does she have that in her? Is that something that can help her, that strength or cruelty? She’s at this precipice of finding herself all over again.

TTVJ: With everyone being stuck on a boat that’s got to force these people to get to know one another a lot better. Outside of her father, if there anyone that Ofelia will be getting closer with this season?

MM: We’ve only shot half of the season so far, but she’s sort of like an adopted kid into this new family. She’s like an orphan in theory because she doesn’t have her mom and she’s turned against her father. I think she’s trying her hand at everything. She trusts Madison (Kim Dickens) a little bit more than her father would like. I know there’s going to be a little bit of a connection with Nick (Frank Dillane) because he shows his true side, and he’s very innocent in his own way and helps her out. She’s going to have a connection with Chris (Lorenzo James Henrie) because he also has experienced the loss of his mother. She’s reaching out, especially with Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey)–they are close in age and they are girls–you end up bonding naturally that way. She’s caught between these worlds of strangers, her father and not knowing who to turn to. It’s not really a good place.

TTVJ: We know the zombies can’t swim, so being out on the boat seems like a good place to be, but what dangers exist for them out on the open water?

MM: They can’t swim but they can wade, so if they happen to be in the water then the tide of the ocean will bring them near things. Obviously they don’t die, so they can be underneath the water, they can be on top of the water, so they are definitely still around. The really scary thing is though, with the infected we know exactly what they want–they want to kill and eat us. But with other humans we never know quite what their motives are, and when you have a luxury boat when the world is ending people are going to want to take that from you. The greatest danger we have is other people–people who want to take what we have and break us apart.

Richard Foreman/AMC
Richard Foreman/AMC

TTVJ: What’s Ofelia’s take on Victor Strand and is he someone she thinks they can trust?

MM: That’s a really good question because her father has made it very clear that he doesn’t trust Strand at all. Does she do the opposite of what her father wants because she’s angry at her father? Or is there some part of her that realizes that maybe her father is right and he’s not trustworthy? I think for now she’s keeping her distance.

The smart thing with Ofelia is, even though she’s quite naive and sheltered her whole life, is that it’s taught her to keep her eyes open and observe before she does the proverbial leap. I think that’s where she’s at with Strand right now. She’s watching and waiting for him to show his colors.

TTVJ: Being on a show like this, there’s always a possibility your character could be the next one to die. Do you worry about that, like when you get scripts or is just something you have accepted will probably happen one day?

MM: We are having so much fun and we don’t want to leave the show. None of us do. So of course it’s a fear. We don’t have the blueprint that The Walking Dead does. They sort of know when their character is going to go. We have no idea. It’s definitely in the back of our minds and you hope that if you do go that the writers love you enough to give you a really amazing death. I certainly have no intention of going any time soon. I’m going to be the longest lasting zombie ever if they kill me off. ‘There she is again! We can’t seem to kill that one because it’s following us around crying for some reason.’

TTVJ: The action definitely is picking up on the show so does that mean Ofelia will get to do more fighting?

MM: There’s definitely more fighting. I think the more Ofelia grows up, and the more she develops her own strength, she’s going to realize that weakness is not going to help you survive in this world. I think that’s going to take her some time to understand, but there’s going to be a moment–I can’t talk about it yet–where she actually comes to her father’s defense, even though she’s upset with him and hasn’t forgiven him, she comes to his defense when he needs it. I think she’s realizing little by little that her strength is paramount and really important to have because you don’t want to be the weakest link.


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Fear the Walking Dead Season 2 premieres Sunday, April 10 at 9 p.m. ET on AMC.