Way back in the beginning of The Walking Dead, that show faced a lot of criticism over the fact that — for a while, anyway — it only seemed to have one or two black characters at any given time, and those black characters were the the ones that the show kept killing off. It felt, to some, like The Walking Dead was rotating token black characters.
That show has since remedied that issue. Black characters continue to die on The Walking Dead, but that’s because the percentage of black characters on the show now is so high that killing black actors off is practically unavoidable. In fact, The Walking Dead has really done a good job of diversifying its cast over the course of the series.
Meanwhile, Fear the Walking Dead also boasts a fairly diverse cast. About half the cast is non-white. However, there is a troubling pattern on the show, so far, through two episodes. (SPOILERS) The last three characters on the show who have died and turned into zombies? They’ve all been black. More disconcerting, perhaps, is that — until Colman Domingo shows up on the series — they have been the only black characters on the sow with any notable screen time.
I probably don’t have to tell you that Twitter took issue.
That looks bad. It looks even worse when you consider that The Walking Dead faced the exact same criticisms. You’d think that Fear the Walking Dead would learn from its mistakes.
Howevever, showrunner Dave Erickson — in an interview with The Holllywood Reporter — defended the polarizing deaths. Basically, he says that it wasn’t planned, but he didn’t tweak the script at all to deal with the issue, either.
Once the story was set, it was the story. Once the story is playing out in a specific way, that’s the line that you want to follow. It wasn’t as though we were writing those characters and then casting those characters with an intention of, “This is going to be the death scene for this episode.” For that episode, it was about how it would reflect on the characters themselves and how things would play out over the course of the season. I realize it’s clearly become an issue and it’s something we are mindful of. But ultimately it’s trying to tell the story the best way we can and cast the best people we can. I wouldn’t want to go back and recast a character just to avoid … if it doesn’t feel true to the character or the relationship — the relationship with Alicia and Matt or Calvin and Nick — it’s really about the reality of the world that we’re trying to inhabit and trying to have the best actors portray those parts. When you’re dealing with a show where you have a cast that is as diverse as ours is, it’s inevitable that characters of color are going to get bit and are going to turn or die. If you look at the larger scope of this season, what people will see is that there is parity. We want to tell the story in the best way we can and want the best actors to play those parts. It would have been a mistake to go with Anglo actors for those particular roles because I don’t think that’s honest to the world of the show.
I mean, yes, sure. We can understand that he wanted to get the best actors for the particular roles, and that it was coincidence that those particular characters were the first to die off. On the other hand, given the franchise’s history, perhaps they should’ve altered the casting so that the only three black characters on the series didn’t die off in succession, if only to avoid the very concerns for which Erickson is now having to answer.