In the shared world of The Walking Dead and its companion series, there is no one quite like Victor Strand. With sharp wits and a cunning, chameleon-like nature, words are Strand's greatest weapons. Although as smooth and suave as they come, Strand faces new obstacles that will challenge and maybe even change him in the third season of Fear The Walking Dead, premiering Sunday, June 4th on AMC, and I recently had the great pleasure of catching up with actor Colman Domingo to discuss the next chapter for his endlessly intriguing character.
Congratulations on an amazing start to season 3. Strand has been my favorite character ever since we were introduced to him in the quarantine cage late in season 1. There’s really nobody else quite like Strand in The Walking Dead universe. Do you relish bringing that uniqueness to this world?
Colman Domingo: Thank you so much. I am beyond delighted playing such a multifaceted character such as Victor Strand. He keeps opening up like an onion to me, he keeps surprising me. The writing team is always throwing me things that make me think, Oh, that’s even more curious and sly and interesting. And of course, I have some input in the way that it’s played. We’re having a great time with him. I love the fact that there’s a character that you can’t read so quickly, and I think that is also his power. He’s constantly shape-shifting in a way, and that’s so rich and delicious for an actor to play.
Yeah, Strand’s greatest weapons are his words. He doesn’t even need a gun sometimes because his wits are so sharp and he’s able to talk his way out of danger and into a position of power. He is very much like a chameleon who is able to adapt to this apocalyptic world.
Colman Domingo: Just the other day on set, I noticed that every other character had a weapon on them and Strand didn’t. And I thought, Wait a minute, how can I not have a weapon? [Laughs] I thought that was very interesting, because Strand’s way with words is his strongest weapon. And it’s very interesting that he can battle that way. I don’t think that he’s a pacifist in any way, but he knows that there’s a stronger way to battle some of the things coming at him in this new world with the mind.
That says a lot, too. He knows how to reason with people. He knows that everyone has something that they need, and it’s not always something tangible. They need to be told something, they need to believe that they have power and strength, or that they have urgency in their lives. That’s the way he’s always operated. Even though he was in a holding cell when you first saw him, he still had his mind, and his mind is a very, very dangerous thing.
Especially in a time of such panic. When you can keep your wits about you like Strand does, it can go a long way.
Colman Domingo: Absolutely, and I also have a bit of Strand in myself, because I get very calm when shit hits the fan. [Laughs] I can become the calm of the storm because I feel like, Instead of getting panicky, let’s figure our way out and keep emotion out of the equation.
When Strand and Madison have been together in the past, you make such a great, dynamic duo because Madison can be more impulsive and she’s always looking to protect her children, and Strand can say, "Hey, maybe we should try this instead or have a drink or something.”
Colman Domingo: She’s pulsing off of emotion and need, the extraordinary need to take care of her family. And Victor Strand, because he is a loner, he can go, "Wait a minute, let’s reassess this, or let’s take a breath, let’s have a cocktail, we need to rest.” He’s much more pragmatic and practical, he doesn’t let his emotions drive him.
The vibe I’ve gotten from season 3 so far is that it seems like this is Strand’s road to redemption in a lot of ways. He’s off on his own again, separate from Madison and her group, and he’s still grieving Thomas [Abigail]. It almost seems like he’s trying to ultimately be a better person. Does it seem like Strand is going on a new path now?
Colman Domingo: I think so. It’s interesting, because he lost so much in season 2, and he was sort of deconstructing. All the things that he valued have no value anymore. All the plans that he had were destroyed. So there is a rebuilding, sort of like a phoenix coming out of the ashes in a way. He’s going step by step.
I love that Victor Strand always plays his cards very close to his chest. The fact that he finally lets loose that he actually speaks Spanish fluently is pretty interesting to me as well. He only used it when it was necessary. He’s always assessing the situation, and in season 1 and season 2 when he didn’t reveal that, it was to keep some control.
The beauty of Victor Strand is that you never truly understand him, and it seems like there’s a sense of discovery playing him as much as there is watching him.
Colman Domingo: Yeah, a character as strong as Victor Strand, if you ask him a question, he’ll actually tell you. So the next thing you know he’s playing the piano—but you never know unless you ask him.
He’s kind of like a James Bond of the apocalypse. He’s a Swiss army knife, but he doesn’t show all of his skills unless they’re applicable in the moment.
Colman Domingo: He’s one of those human beings who gets off on people doubting him: I love when you doubt me, I love when you think a certain way about me. Because then I’m going to surprise you. You won’t see it coming, ever. Just when you think I’m someone who can do some dastardly things, I’m going to do something genuinely kind, and it’s going to throw you, and I’ll maintain the power. You never know when I’m coming.
Strand is the true apex predator of the living dead apocalypse in a lot of ways, but it will be interesting to see him in a new environment in season 3 where he’ll have to be humble to survive.
Colman Domingo: It’s almost an uncomfortable reveal. When he is vulnerable, he doesn’t really love it. It doesn’t feel good to him, but he knows it’s that human part of him. I think that bothers him. Sometimes he’s a softy and it really bugs him [laughs].
He seems to fear emotions more than the living dead, and that’s what has made Strand’s grieving over Thomas so fascinating to watch, because he’s realizing that he really did love Thomas.
Colman Domingo: That has been a huge journey for him. I think possibly even when they were in a relationship he wouldn’t know if he would use the word love. It started out as a very unusual relationship, almost like an obligation, a meeting of the minds: “you can do something for me, I can do something for you.” He probably even looked at it as a currency—I see exactly what you want. I believe that Victor Strand didn’t know that he loved Thomas Abigail until possibly the minute before he had to put him down. That was surprising to him that he had the capacity to care about someone so much that he wouldn’t want them to turn. That’s been a process for him, understanding that he did love.
Did Victor Strand ever think that he would be a father or an uncle or anything like that? I don’t think so. I think that he was always a self-made loner, and now he has more responsibilities, including this amazing relationship with Madison’s character. It defies many conventions of a relationship, but in many ways they’re forming this bond. There is something there that is deeper than marriage. It’s such a deep friendship, it’s something else, without judgment of anything, of any nature, being able to really lift up the entire spirit of another human being, and it’s rare.
Before I let you go, is there anything you’re excited the most about for fans to experience in the third season, and do you have any upcoming projects that you’d like to let your fans know about?
Colman Domingo: I’m very excited about this new season because I think this season is going to be our very best. Our characters have now had to figure out ways to truly survive and understand where they are in the world. There is no going back.
I have a bunch of things going on. I’m also a playwright and a director, and I just signed on to direct my first feature film called City on Fire, and it’s about the 1985 MOVE conflict in Philadelphia. I just sold a television series to a really wonderful network that will be out there soon, it’s something I’ll executive produce and wrote the pilot for. I’m constantly creating more work behind the scenes, which I’m excited to do. I also have a few films that will be coming out probably next year. There’s a bunch of things happening.
Fear The Walking Dead Season 3 premieres with back-to-back new episodes on Sunday, June 4th at 9:00pm ET on AMC. Keep an eye on Daily Dead for more coverage of the series and interviews with the cast.