Interview: Karen David talks Grace’s Fear TWD debut

Fear the Walking Dead _ Season 5, Episode 2 - Photo Credit: Ryan Green/AMC
Fear the Walking Dead _ Season 5, Episode 2 - Photo Credit: Ryan Green/AMC /

Undead Walking had a chance to talk with Karen David about Grace’s debut on Fear the Walking Dead and the challenges of bringing her to life.

Karen David is a long way from Agrabah since joining the cast of Fear the Walking Dead. David, known to Once Upon a Time fans for her magically memorable role as Princess Jasmine, is more than a magic carpet ride away from the kinds of roles she usually plays as she brings Grace to life. I talked with David about the timing of Grace’s debut in “The Hurt That Will Happen” as Chernobyl wraps up, and the challenges that come with such a powerful and tragic character.

“The day has finally arrived! I’m so excited it’s not a secret anymore!” David gushed when we chatted on the phone recently. David has been very active on social media, sharing her excitement about joining the Fear the Walking Dead cast, but she has remained mum on who her character is and how she factors into the season 5 story – until now.

We talked about how the timing worked out perfectly with the series finale of HBO’s Chernobyl serving as a lead-up to Grace’s radioactive debut in 502. “When [Chernobyl] finally came out, and having researched it [to prepare for the role] it destroyed me. It literally destroyed my heart and my soul,” she said.

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When David reflects on the idea that what happened at Chernobyl is what Grace is dealing with, it’s even more gutting. “To be at the helm of that and try to chain the damage and to see that the damage has gone beyond her control, it’s soul-destroying. Especially because she feels heavily responsible for those choices. She’s trying to keep it very much together and now she’s focused on the toxic cleanup and trying to minimize the damage as much as she can.”

Grace reveals to Morgan that as the plant’s operations manager, it was her call to bring people in to keep the plant functional. “Grace’s heart is in the right place,” David notes. “Her instinct is that she has to call in everyone. It’s all hands on deck. We need to make sure that we can keep the plant running, to supply energy. But she learns very quickly that during the apocalypse there is so much more that you need. They didn’t have the resources they needed to run it.”

What makes the situation even more tragic is that in the aftermath of the meltdown Grace must deal with the removal and disposal of her friends and colleagues: “These are people she knows. She has known them for a long time. They’re friends. It’s devastating for her. It’s like a funeral happening before her eyes every time she sees them. And that’s the nightmare she’s living with and the guilt that she carries every second she’s awake. She’s desperately trying to fix this mess.”

In addition to the emotions of having to live with her decisions, David talked about how Grace’s own exposure to the radiation makes the task of protecting others even more urgent. “She’s been exposed to so much radiation that she could go at any moment. That’s what keeps her going. If she starts thinking about what happened and reflect on her choices, it’s like opening a can of worms for her…For Grace, it’s about trying to find a way to live with the choices she made. You have to find a way to carry on and to cope and to live and to survive.”

I asked her about the experience of working on Fear the Walking Dead.  David expressed on social media that she’s very new to the world of zombies and that she would help fans get through it. David recalled a moment when it all came together for her: “There was a moment at the crash site in 502 when she’s got all her equipment out and she’s trying to measure the levels of radiation. I remember standing there and looking around and thinking ‘Wow, there are no magic carpets here!’”

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Ultimately David expressed gratitude for this journey she is on with Grace as a larger part of the redemption arc that encompasses season 5. She is thrilled to be part of this cast, and she is eager to reveal more about her character: “I can’t wait for fans to see what happens next!”

I’ll have more from my interview with Karen David as we continue to learn more about Grace in upcoming episodes of Fear the Walking Dead.