The next interview in our countdown to Fear the Walking Dead is with Elizabeth Rodriguez (Liza) and Lorenzo James Henrie (Chris). Liza is Travis Manawa’s ex-wife, and Chris is their son. Navigating a new family situation and a new career path is enough of a challenge. Setting it against a zombie apocalypse brings it to another level.
What are you able to share about your characters?
Lorenzo James Henrie: I play Christopher Manawa. I am the son of Liza and Travis Manawa. My character is a 16-year-old. He is a sophomore in high school and he is a very resentful and wounded kid because his father and his mother had a divorce. So he is stuck between two worlds. Does he have a father to look up to? And he wants to become his own man. You put that in the backdrop of the zombie apocalypse. Will he follow his father? Will he follow his mother? Will he become his own man? The kid is trying to become his own man.
Elizabeth Rodriguez: I play Liza. I’m not a Manawa anymore. I am his mother, Chris’ mother. So [Travis and Liza], we would be his first family. We had children at an early age and I put my medical school dreams on the back burner to be a part of this family. Cut to 12 years later, I decide that the relationship is over. I’m not a victim [that was left by her husband]. I am very protective of Chris. Also I have empathy for Travis because he is now part of a family that has children that have some problems. As a parent, I think she can empathize, but she is very protective when he does give his word to his son that he shows up. So that is the only hiccup in what is going on right now. I try to be the mediator between Chris and Travis.
Ultimately, my character is sort of burning the candles at both ends. She goes back to school to be a nurse because she knows she can’t be a single mother, work and go to medical school. It ends up playing a very important part in the story because of my nursing experience, where I have to then jump in before I’m prepared and get quickly prepared to help out. I end up having more information than some of the characters that were there at the beginning. They have more information as to what is going on in the world, the new world we live in. We all end up under the same roof, [and that] brings its own complications. There is not a lot of time to deal with complications. It’s about figuring things out, making plans as to how we are going to get out of this, and what is this?
Did either of you read The Walking Dead comics or watch the TV show to prepare for this show?
Rodriguez: No. It’s mostly a very complicated family drama. Apocalypse can be anything. You could be in an earthquake. You could be in [Hurricane] Katrina. You could be in 9/11. You could be in a world of terrorists and it just happens. That can be the backdrop that creates the trauma on needing to survive and figure out what the rules are. The fact that they walk is what makes it a genre [story]. I didn’t need to read them.
Henrie: It’s so different. It completely stands on its own.
Rodriguez: It wouldn’t matter what we’re doing because we don’t know the rules. You are just living in this world while [Rick] is in his coma [in Atlanta]. These particular people were caught in those weeks and figuring out what in the hell is it that is different about out world. Is this something that is going to be cured with penicillin, or are they going to figure something out for this? It’s about figuring out who we continue to be and who everyone else is. We don’t know anything.
It sounds like you really explored a lot of angles with each of your characters and have a solid backstory. How did you get ready to play these roles?
Rodriguez: Our producing director, Adam Davidson, met up with us before the principal day of photography. We spent an entire day in a conference room, really talking about figuring out our backstory so it’s just in our conscience. He’s incredible at asking these questions where we all brought in perspectives based on our lives and our experiences.
Henrie: I’m a big story guy so I love breaking down characters, and finding their internal and external philosophical arcs. I love the character flaws. The hero’s journey is following that character flaw. So I really get into the different layers of the character, where the stories are going, the backdrop, and the history of the birth of it.
Rodriguez: Along the way though, things change. The writing changes in television more than in films. You can’t be stuck to this idea of what you bring in because there are other people that have ideas and a bigger scope of it. It becomes about how we all interplay with each other and the energies of everyone involved.
The makeup and special effects on these shows is quite impressive. Can you tell us about seeing your first walker?
Rodriguez: Because it is so traumatic, I tend to go for full-on clown. I sort of invaded the person’s space and I was like “Oh my god, I want to kiss you” (laughing) because it was so absurd.
Henrie: I was walking around the corner, and she was making out with a guy, and I was like, “Oh, Elizabeth, what are you doing?” (Laughing)
Rodriguez: It became like a little bit like Shaun of the Dead. That’s where I go. It could really traumatize you, so I take it to the other side of clowniness.
Henrie: I really appreciated the art of it.
Rodriguez: It’s incredible.
Photo by RHS Photo. Courtesy of AMC Global.