Just like its counterpart The Walking Dead, spinoff series Fear The Walking Dead has found itself at the centre of a race debate. The zombie apocalypse drama has faced criticism for killing off most of the black characters on the show however creator Dave Erickson says it has been essential for the storyline.
Spoiler alert! In the two episodes that have aired since the show debuted on AMC in August, viewers have seen two black characters with speaking roles meet their end – Nick's drug dealer Calvin died during the premiere, while matriarch Madison killed her school headteacher Art in the following episode. The future is also looking bleak for Alicia's boyfriend Matt, who is showing the flu-like symptoms of the virus and has a bite wound.
Noticing the characters have been African-American, fans took to Twitter to express their outrage over what they perceive to be a race issue with the record-breaking series. Defending the deaths in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Erickson said: "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'."
Watch the trailer for Fear The Walking Dead episode 2:
The issue of race has long been a topic of debate in regards to the original series, The Walking Dead, which has been slammed for killing off the few black characters that have been cast each season. Among the most notable black character deaths on the show are T-Dog in season three, Bob in season five, Noah in season five and Tyreese also in season five. Erickson admits that while the creative team are "mindful" of the issue, they are ultimately focused on telling a well-written story.
The producer explained: "I realise 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 colour are going to get bit and are going to turn or die... We want to tell the story in the best way we can and want the best actors to play those parts."
Fear The Walking Dead debuted to monster numbers in the US on 23 August with 10.1 million viewers, making it the highest debut in cable TV history. Viewers in the UK will be able to watch episode two of the six-part series, So Close, Yet So Far, on 7 September.