Since it stopped dragging its feet and set sail across zombie-infested waters, AMC’s The Walking Dead spin-off/ prequel Fear the Walking Dead has become one of the most engaging character dramas on TV. Leaving crossbows and samurai swords behind, the saga dwells on characters still making their way in the new world, still adjusting to very new rules governing trust, humanity, and forgiveness. Among the most captivating and intimidating is the elusive Victor Strand, the shadow in a suit who, luckily, owned a yacht.
As the second season has unfolded, Strand’s already tough exterior hardened as the S.S. Abigail endured sea pirates, until it softened when he reunited with his beloved, Thomas (Dougray Scott). But it was all-too brief, and as Thomas risked becoming a flesh-eating walker, Strand put a bullet into his lover’s head even after he promised he’d join him in death.
Was it a mercy kill? Was it cowardice? If you ask Broadway veteran Colman Domingo, who plays Strand and appears in Nate Parker’s gritty historical drama The Birth of a Nation, there’s absolutely no question.
“It was a mercy kill,” Domingo told Inverse in a phone interview. “Even looking at the genesis of their relationship, where they talk about the bonds of obligation at the bar, I think that struck a chord with both of them. That’s how they proceeded in their relationship, whether it was business or romantic. It was a deeper connection than love. It was obligation.”
As Fear the Walking Dead approaches the midpoint of its vastly improved Season 2, Domingo spoke with Inverse about zombies, secrets, and how there’s more to Victor Strand than we think.
Simply put, what’s going to happen next? Strand brought them to this safe house, and the guy who runs things is gone. What can we expect?
There’ll be a couple big surprises. You can expect these survivors in this fractured world, they have gone places they cannot even imagine themselves to go the week before. Where we are in the season, it’s probably a week and a half out in the end of the world. People will draw a line from where characters were in Season 1 to the end of the mid-season finale and say, “Wow, that is a huge transition,” every single one of the characters.
One of the most fascinating revelations was Strand’s sexuality. Why did Strand keep that to himself? Not that it matters in the apocalypse, but Strand likes to keep these survivors at arm’s length. Why?
The funny thing is, I don’t even think it’s a secret. The circumstances where we met Victor Strand was in a holding cell. [It has] nothing to do with his sexuality, whether you’re straight or gay. I wouldn’t even say it’s clever, I think the writing was just dealing with circumstances and there were no circumstances to reveal he had a same sex relationship at all. It wasn’t necessary to plot. I don’t even see that it’s a reveal in a way. I’m like, “Well, that’s another aspect you get to learn about Victor Strand,” but that’s not all that he is. It’s important for me to make people never just say, “Oh, we figured him out.” No, he’s got a lot going on and that’s just one other added part of his personality.
What’s that like as an actor, to tow the line as a guy who keeps certain things guarded and other things plain as day?
As an actor, you investigate moment to moment. You don’t plan on having secrets. Characters do have secrets, but you’re not playing secrets. You’re not playing them trying to hide something from someone. I think Victor Strand was very clear about his words and choices and would reveal information when it was necessary. I don’t think he’s the most forthcoming, unless it’s something you need to know, you know what I mean? That also keeps him at a position of power, until it’s stripped away.
Do you think Strand is resourceful enough to live to see a possible The Walking Dead cross-over? Would you ever want to be a part of that?
I think Strand is a cat that has nine lives, and I think he will continue. At least I hope he will continue to live. Whether or not [these shows] will cross-over, I think our shows are companions. We’re something that supports this universe but not really about crossing over. We’re trying to define ourselves on our own merits, and our own story lines. If it happens, that’ll be cool, but if not, it’s okay too, because I think they’ll be two stand alone series.
You were also in The Birth of a Nation which got rave reviews out of Sundance. What did it mean for you to be a part of a clearly resonant, clearly powerful movie?
Certain things in this world, you question if it merits the buzz it’s getting. I think The Birth of a Nation is one of those films. It’s a film that’s about our tragic, complex past with American slavery. I think what’s special about this is that [director Nate Parker] humanizes every one of the characters and all the relationships and all the actions and complications. Not only slaves, but slave masters, about the system, period. I think that is something audiences are going to embrace and be challenged by because we do need to tell more narratives about our history so we can continue to try to find ways of moving forward with our racial unrest in this country.
How different is your character in The Birth of a Nation, Hark Turner, different than Victor Strand? Are they similar in any way?
Couldn’t be more different. The strangest thing, I was filming at the same time. I was going back and forth between Savannah, Georgia and Vancouver shooting. One minute I’m oppressed in a plantation in Savannah, and then within 48 hours, I’m playing a millionaire. More than anything, I think the similarities, both are really an examination of humankind and our existence and who we are in our humanity. There’s a through line there.
Will Strand and the others return to the Abigail now that the safe house could be compromised?
I’m sure there’s a great possibility they’re trying to re-navigate where they are in the world, not only literally in the world but with each other, with themselves. Their moral compasses are shifting quickly. Everyone’s trying to get their bearings constantly. The possibility of them going back to the Abigail is definitely on the table, and the possibility of hitting land is [too]. Everyone’s just trying to figure out which way. I think as the show progresses, it does have rawness and the richness of people having desperation and not knowing what is the true north. I think that’s something we’re going to play with. Hopefully. I’m looking forward to season three.
Fear the Walking Dead airs Sunday nights on AMC. This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.