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‘Fear the Walking Dead’ star Lorenzo James Henrie on Season 2’s ‘crazy’ violence

Actor Lorenzo James Henrie has watched his character, Chris Manawa, embark on a very dark journey in Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead companion series, Fear the Walking Dead on AMC.

With the second half of season 2 premiering Sunday August 21 fans will follow the Los Angeles survivors deep into post-zombie-apocalypse Mexico. (Note: serious spoilers from seasons 1 and 2a are ahead, so proceed at your own caution.)

After spending much of the first half of season 2 on board a luxury yacht dubbed The Abigail, Henrie’s character Chris Manawa and his companions will remain land-bound for the rest of the season. In an exclusive interview with Digital Trends, Henrie explains what’s ahead for Fear the Walking Dead in season 2b, how the role has changed his life, his mentors on set, and more.

Digital Trends: What was it like to first step into this universe, especially having the huge success of The Walking Dead hanging over you?

Henrie: At first the cast was all a little worried because we were like, “Man, what if the fans of the mothership hate us?” But now, looking back on all the success that’s happened with the first season … we’re extremely grateful for the platform that The Walking Dead has set up for us. It brings to mind what Marvel is doing for all these spinoff characters in Agents of SHIELD and spinoffs on Netflix like Daredevil — Shane from The Walking Dead is the Punisher. The Walking Dead is a great platform not only for our show but for actors that are succeeding in so many other areas outside of the show. Look at Norman Reedus, who has his own show Ride with Norman Reedus on AMC. AMC and the producers have just been so great to us.

How has your life changed since Fear the Walking Dead hit television?

It’s a lot different. At my first Comic Con everyone was noticing Cliff (Curtis), Alycia (Debnam-Carey) and Kim (Dickens), but I wasn’t getting recognized. Now fast forward to season 2 and just about everywhere I go someone will see me for like five or ten seconds and be like, “You’re Chris from Fear the Walking Dead!” At Comic Con especially, everyone knew who we were. There was so much love this year because people could ask us questions related to the show, and it’s just been tracking so well with all of us.

Do people look at you differently after Chris went a bit Norman Bates this second season?

People really relate to the show, so it’s really cool seeing the fan interaction. My favorite moment is when people come up to me and say, “I really love you, but I really hate you.” That’s my favorite reaction — the love/hate relationship.

What was it like for you to explore Chris’ darker side?

It was a little tricky. We only get the episode scripts week by week, so I was seeing my character evolve week by week not knowing what sort of decision to make in a previous episode that makes sense in the next episode. It was something where the change happens gradually. It’s tough as actors not to know the end goals, but it was a good learning curve on how to really flex your muscles. I’m so grateful for working with Cliff Curtis because he’s been so great to teach me a lot. He’s a lot more experienced than me, so he’s like my mentor.

What’s in store for the second half of season 2 with exploring Mexico and getting off the yacht?

It’s actually a nice change of scenery. The Abigail was fun, but it was a little tricky shooting schedules because you have to turn the boat around to get different shots and it’s just a little harder to maneuver the crew. It was nice to get off the boat and get on land, but also exploring different things that we’re going to be running into. Going to this different place you meet a lot of new people, a new culture, and you’re going to see some characters. The land gives us more exploration.

My favorite moment is when people come up to me and say, ‘I really love you, but I really hate you.’

How are you guys upping the violence quotient in this show?

The violence side is definitely at a higher factor now. It’s just crazy. This episode coming this Sunday is very, very different from anything The Walking Dead franchise has ever done. It’s shot so beautifully, but also Frank (Dillane) gives such a good performance, and you’re going to be seeing a take on Mexican culture that really puts a twist on the show.

The Comic Con trailer showed a culture sacrificing humans to zombies.

Yeah. In Mexico there’s this thing called Día de Muertos. It’s the Day of the Dead and they basically worship and sacrifice through the dead. It’s also the inverse of what Christianity is with the dead. It’s really freaky stuff. And now there’s a whole culture that you’re going to be introduced to that really explores this. We have a great writer and producer on the show, Alan Page, that is actually from Mexico City and really has a good grasp on this. He’s really been able to get authenticity of the Mexican culture.

What can you tell us about Chris’ evolution going into the second half of this season?

If you look at it logically from the first season to the second season, it makes sense where Chris is because naturally a father would guide their son — like Madison has done with Nick, but Travis neglected his son the first season. He gave all the affection and love and help to Nick, and Chris never got that. Prior to that, his parents got divorced. Chris witnesses his dad kill his mom, and he had to adjust to this zombie apocalypse.

So you’re going to see the product of that in this second half. Chris did something good for once. He ran away. So you’re going to see a journey with his father and he becomes his own man, but he also teaches his dad a little something.

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People have this love-hate relationship with Chris because they understand what has happened to Chris psychologically. They’re seeing all these other bad ass characters in The Walking Dead and they’re like, “Man, just get over it!” But if you look at the psychology of what’s going on, it’s so hard to get over what has just happened in the course of like a few months.

What kind of camaraderie is there between your cast and The Walking Dead cast when you meet up at Comic Con or any fan events?

What is so special is these guys are so nice. No one’s a diva, no one’s dramatic. I’ve met pretty much every one of them. I see them at these events called Walker Stalkers. Every time we run into them, they’re like, “Oh man, we love to watch your show,” which is crazy cool. I got a chance to catch up with Chandler Riggs and Josh McDermott and there’s a lot of camaraderie. Everyone wants each other to succeed. They’re like the Godfather. They’re the Corleones. They’re the first, and we’re following their footsteps. But also our show is very different from them, and we’re at a point where we can say we’re a completely different show.

Fear the Walking Dead premieres Sunday, August 21 at 9 p.m. EST.