This post contains spoilers for Fear the Walking Dead Season 4, Episode 5, “Laura.”[hhmc]
When Fear the Walking Dead Season 4 premiered last month, it featured a curious shot: a strange man reading a book titled Love Story. When Morgan showed up, we began to learn his story: his name was John Dorie, and hed met a woman named Laura. Theyd fallen in love, but gotten separated—and now he was on a tireless mission to find her.
On Sunday night, after weeks of learning their story in dribs and drabs, viewers got to see the entire relationship unfold in a flashback episode simply titled “Laura”—although as it turns out, the womans real name is likely Naomi. And according to Jenna Elfman, who plays Naomi, the themes of their journey will have a lasting impact on this season, and the series as a whole.
“I think ultimately where the show will start going is love,” Elfman said. “Love within family, love between two people, and love within humanity.” The series is also exploring the question of carrying emotional baggage, versus letting it go—something Morgan certainly knows a lot about. Indeed, Sundays Fear the Walking Dead echoed a memorable Walking Dead episode that put Morgan at its center: Season 6s “Heres Not Here,” in which the future pacifist met Eastman (John Carroll Lynch), who pulled him out of his madness and taught him that all life is precious. Much like that installment, Elfman said, Sundays Fear was “one of those two-hander, intimate, key story establishing episodes.”
It might have been a surprise to see Elfman in such a serious context—falling in love with John before stealing away from him, leaving behind only a note written in Scrabble tiles. Most viewers likely know the actress best from her starring role in the sitcom Dharma & Greg, which won her a Golden Globe and three Emmy nominations. But her casting also reflects changes made by newly-installed showrunners Andrew Chambliss and Ian Goldberg, who have been experimenting all season with new cinematographers, editors, cast members, and stylistic choices. When executive producer Scott Gimple described the shows reinvention to Elfman, she realized it was precisely the kind of project shed been craving.
“I wanted to be able to actually lean into the human condition with storytelling,” Elfman said, “I love comedy. . . and I wanted a new chapter in my creative journey.” The idea of walking into an already-established series, rather than launching a new one, was also appealing, one that would allow the actress to “start exploring deeper human stories.”
Any new project comes with a learning curve, but Fear gave Elfman even more to juggle than usual: she had to navigate stunt work and zombie-infested setpieces as well as an emotional storyline. Then again, that stunt work was also particularly gratifying—especially since it gave her an opportunity to put her classical dance training to use. And while she tended to leave the set each day a little beaten up, that, too, was its own thrill: “We have amazing stunt coordinators, and they make it so safe so that I can do my own stunts for the most part—but it doesn't mean that I dont walk away [with] bruises and some unexpected little surface cuts,” Elfman said. “There's just been a lot of physical experiences that I've had—which, secretly, I'm sitting there going, This is so fun!”
Its unclear whether Naomi is alive in the shows present-day timeline. Though John has been told that she didnt make it out of the baseball diamond where Madison and her family have been living, we also havent seen a body just yet. Either way, as Elfman said, her character will continue to play a role on the show. Naomi, she pointed out, has a tendency to run; her first move upon awakening in Johns cabin was attempting to steal Johns truck. “Why is her first instinct run?” Elfman said. “Thats going to come out and be explained.”
The show will also continue to highlight the appealing, if somewhat quirky chemistry between Elfman and Garret Dillahunt, who plays John. Off-screen, Elfman said, she and her co-star have become fast friends: “I cant speak more highly of him,” Elfman said of Dillahunt. “Hes spectacular to watch; hes spectacular to act with. I 100 percent trust him as a scene partner and as a friend. . . I adore him, I respect him, I appreciate him. I think hes just wonderful.” The feeling, were guessing, is mutual—and since we have yet to see a zombified Naomi, weve still got our fingers crossed that their characters find their way back to each other again.
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