Interview: Showrunners talk Fear TWD 502’s timing with HBO’s Chernobyl

Lennie James as Morgan Jones - Fear the Walking Dead _ Season 5, Episode 2 - Photo Credit: Ryan Green/AMC
Lennie James as Morgan Jones - Fear the Walking Dead _ Season 5, Episode 2 - Photo Credit: Ryan Green/AMC /

Fear the Walking Dead showrunners Ian Goldberg and Andrew Chambliss talk about finding out that episode 502 would air after the Chernobyl finale.

Of all the times for Fear the Walking Dead to tackle the idea of nuclear disasters in the apocalypse, it’s especially fitting that the showrunners chose season 5. Quite unbeknownst to the showrunners and writers, HBO was planning to air a series about the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl and it just so happened the the HBO miniseries wrapped up the Monday before “The Hurt That Will Happen.” We had a chance to talk to showrunners Andrew Chambliss and Ian Goldberg about the happy coincidence.

Fear the Walking Dead episode 502 introduced a new character, Grace (Karen David), while also debuting a brand new threat in the apocalypse: Nuclear walkers. Unlike regular walkers that kill you if you allow them to bite you, nuclear walkers can kill you via close proximity alone. They are the workers from the nearby nuclear power plant and they were exposed and later killed by radiation after the reactor melted down.

Now Grace is on a mission to find the walkers, who were her friends and colleagues, and round them up before they can cause more damage. Tragically, it was Grace who was responsible for calling them into work in the first place, condemning them, and thanks to her own exposure she is living on borrowed time as she tries to make things right.

In a recent interview with Chambliss and Goldberg I asked when they found out that the first two episodes of Fear the Walking Dead season 5 would sandwich the Chernobyl finale.

“We actually had no idea we’d be airing alongside Chernobyl until very recently,” Chambliss said. “But it is an arena that we’d wanted to explore since season four. There’s just so much to mine there. On a strictly survival level, the idea of a nuclear plant melting down in the post- apocalyptic world presents tremendous challenges for survivors, and also creates some frightening and dangerous side effects in the walkers that are contaminated, as we see in this episode.”

While the idea of dealing with nuclear walkers was intriguing, fitting Grace’s story into a season built around redemption and atonement was the larger theme. “But for us, it all centered around the character of Grace and exploring what it meant to have the responsibility of that kind of catastrophic meltdown on your shoulders,” Goldberg added. “The lives lost, the dangers created… How do you go on knowing that you played a role in it all? Is there a path toward redemption? And in Grace’s case, knowing that she’s living on borrowed time because of her own exposure to the radiation — what do you do with the time you have left?”

HBO’s Chernobyl series was terrifying because it was the story of something that actually happened. Watching Soviet officials send men inside the reactor, knowing they were condemning them to their deaths, was downright haunting.

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With Grace, her guilt comes in making the call to not only staff the plant but to bring workers’ families inside to keep them safe in the early days of the apocalypse. It wasn’t until time started to pass that they realized that help wasn’t coming and they were stuck in a dire situation.

Fans will learn more about Grace and her mission as Fear the Walking Dead continues.