[WARNING: The following contains MAJOR spoilers for Fear The Walking Dead Season 8 Episode 2, “Blue Jay.”]
Did Fear The Walking Dead really just do that?
We were as shocked and horrified as June (Jenna Elfman) when soldiers allowed Dwight (Austin Amelio) and Sherry’s (Christine Evangelista) son to be bitten in order to force June to continue PADRE’s experiments on curing the walker virus. Furthermore, June’s pain isn’t just psychological; she’s now lost a finger, too, in retribution for her years spent cutting off Collectors’ fingers (and, perhaps in the spirit of Daryl’s walker-ear necklace, putting those digits in a jar).
We chatted with Elfman about that jaw-dropping episode ending, how much more devastation June can take, and what the deal was with that jar of fingers.
First, we have to talk about the end of that episode. I could hardly believe it. What was going through your head when you read that script?
Jenna Elfman: Gratitude, number one. Because I went, “This is going to be a lot of fun, and to be able to transform a character in this way is going to be delightful, as an artist,” and then knowing that I’m going to have to map all of this out. There’s a lot there. I was really grateful, and I thought it was very intriguing how a woman could survive on her own and go through all of that, and yet there’s still this string of how she can help. That’s all she’s got. If she cuts fingers off so they can’t do that to anyone else, that’s still her way of helping, because that’s June’s north star. How can she help?
It felt really fun to find the strength through the pain, but the [episode’s] end — she’s already fled PADRE because the pain and the trauma was too much, and now we’re straight back in it. It’s like a triple-down. Double-down, triple-down, quadruple-down. I just went, “She’s in shock.” When Shrike goes to cut the finger off, and after seeing the child get bitten in front of her, in front of the parents, it’s just so much for a person to take in. June couldn’t speak. She’s in shock — trauma shock.
I spoke with Lennie a week ago, and he talked about really “making the time jump matter.” What conversations did you have about where June would be once seven years had passed?
It was really asking how she’s been surviving. What’s been her sustenance, and what was her mindset? And for me as an actress, to be able to survive on your own physically, you transform. You have to have the physical strength to do what you need to do to have the necessities that you need to have to keep going.
I got to Savannah a couple weeks early and worked with the director, and I would do different things. There was an actual train set, so I went to that location and sat in that train and used my imagination. I had to build the history; we hadn’t seen those seven years. I had to get it in my body and use my imagination and put a history there, of what those years with PADRE were. I would go sit in that train, and I would sort of walk through imaginary incidents and built a history for myself. Different things like that, that you do as an actor to prepare, and lots and lots of Zoom calls and meetings with the director and rehearsing with the director on weekends, and asking those many, many questions. It’s not that they weren’t giving information — it was just finding what the relevant information was for me.
I wanted to ask about June’s jar of fingers. That’s such a deliberate choice, her keeping them instead of throwing them away. Why is she doing that?
You know, I think there’s a few reasons. [Laughs] I also like to leave things open for the audience. The audience needs room to participate, and I think the finger jar is a fun one. There’s a certain accomplishment of conquering. I think there’s a keeping track of numbers. I think it’s like trophies. I think there’s a few things to it. But I also think there’s some darker things from her trauma that that would lead to. I’ll let the audience fill that in.
I’m concerned for everyone all the time on this show, but I’m especially concerned for June. She’s lost her daughter, she lost her husband, she lost John Sr., now she’s lost her finger. How much more can she take?
Well, I don’t want to give anything away… There’s more trauma to come, but while the trauma is happening, there’s interesting connections happening at the same time that are sort of helping process the trauma. While the trauma is happening, there are little miracles coming in, and there are these swirling, empowering processes. It’s this constant dance of trauma and the road to recovery through it.
What can you preview for the rest of 8A? What can fans expect in these next few episodes?
Wow. There’s these new relationships that are going to be happening and new dimensions of love and loss with different pairings of people that you don’t expect. Having characters come together with these new angles of their sorrows sort of reveals more about each other in ways we haven’t explored before. There’s a lot of adventure. There’s a lot of heartbreak and a lot of things that are catalysts of change for these characters. There’s a lot of layers, and fans are going to have a lot to get to unpack. There’s a lot of layers.
Fear The Walking Dead, Sundays, 9/8c, AMC