Onscreen siblings poised to be Next Big Things

Alycia Debnam-Carey(right) with co-star Frank Dillane.
Alycia Debnam-Carey (right) with co-star Frank Dillane.

When you star in a series about zombies, your onscreen clothing options narrow down very quickly given that survival tends to trump sartorial concerns. So the Fear The Walking Dead cast are probably happy to be at their primped-up, photo-ready best at the international press junket in Los Angeles.

But Frank Dillane, who plays 19-year-old junkie Nick Clark, stands out - sporting the same stringy, dishevelled hair, he looks as though he merely slapped on a blazer and walked straight off the set of the TV show, a companion title to the popular The Walking Dead.

Asked if he was channelling his character and Dillane, 24, says: "I don't know. I always find it very difficult to distinguish character from actor.

"Michelangelo used to look at a rock and he could see women in the rock and all he had to do was chip away the s**t and then there was this woman fully formed.

"I have any number of people inside of me - all I have to do is chip away the other stuff."

If I die, I just want a good death, make it dramatic.

ALYCIA DEBNAM- CAREY (right, with co-star Frank Dillane) on the kind of death she wants on Fear The Walking Dead

  • In a zombie apocalypse

  • ''I think I'd be okay. I say that with such confidence rightnowin the comfort of the Four Seasons Hotel. I'm good at being stealthyand hiding. I feel like I'd be swift on my toes and wouldn't be easily caught by a zombie.''

    Alycia Debnam-Carey

  • ''I'm not a very good fighter. I'm quite good at being hit. I'd write some good poetry (to lull the beasts).''

    Frank Dillane

  • ''There would be the extremes ofme having a major emotional breakdown and then getting it together and kicking some butt and then another major breakdown like every other minute. It'd be one extreme and the other.''

    Elizabeth Rodriguez

  • ''I would scream and probably faint (and then) I'd wakeup frommyfainting spell. I would nag an infected to death.''

    Mercedes Mason

  • ''I think I would do pretty well. I grew up in Arizona in the desert. I grew up with a lot of uncles and family memberswholike to go gun shooting on the weekends, and wenthunting and shot stuff like clay pigeons. I would try to survive, get as much ammunition and water as I can.''

    Lorenzo James Henrie

He says he does not know what it means to prep as an actor. "If there is (a formula for preparation), I'm still working mine out. I just take my time and try and tap into Nick's subconscious and lend myself to him and empathise with him."

He and another young Fear The Walking Dead co-star Alycia Debnam-Carey, who plays his screen sister, are poised to be the Next Big Things.

What helps them to stay grounded is partly the fact they are both coming into this from the outside: Dillane, who had played Tom Riddle in the blockbuster fantasy Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince (2009), is English; Debnam-Carey, who stars in the post-apocalyptic drama The 100 (2014 to present), is Australian.

Recalling her first night in Los Angeles in a tiny apartment with no food in the fridge and no working lights, Debnam-Carey, 22, says: "This industry is so fickle. So much luck is involved, so much hard work, you just have to go with it."

Dillane is more hard-hitting in his takedown: "England doesn't have a Hollywood. You don't have this impending spectacle-machine that could vacuum you up into fame and fortune...

"You don't get that in England. If you're going to be an actor, you have to do theatre, you do s***ty plays, you have to pay your dues. It's certainly given me a work ethic that's put me in good stead."

They also have family in the industry who have their backs. Dillane's father Stephen is a well-regarded prolific actor whose credits include fantasy hit Game Of Thrones (2011 to present) and his mother Naomi Wirthner is an actor-director.

It was his mother who got him into drama school. Dillane says of his father: "He doesn't give me advice in the sense of 'Do this, don't do that.' He runs such a deep river inside me anyway. My whole relationship to acting has been through him, primarily.

"He's given me an ethic, a sense that what you are doing is important because it's very easy to make it not important."

Debnam-Carey knew when she was eight that acting was what she wanted to do.

While her mother is a television writer, she says: "She's just always been very careful with what she shares with me. She wants me to find it out for myself. She's always allowed me to find my own path and I'm very lucky my family has always been there to guide and support me in whatever way I need."

But one need not have parents in the TV business to know that time is always ticking for the characters in Fear The Walking Dead, given the earlier show's cavalier disregard for the survival of key characters.

This does not seem to concern Dillane, who says: "C'est la vie", or "that's life" in French.

Debnam-Carey is just as prepared as he is. She says: "If I die, I just want a good death, make it dramatic. I feel like we have a little bit of time.

"The first season was only six episodes, but you're right, there seems to be a little bit of a theme at the moment, killing off main characters, so no one's really safe."

Boon Chan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 19, 2015, with the headline 'Onscreen siblings poised to be Next Big Things'. Print Edition | Subscribe