I’m curious, when he picks up the flier and sees the evacuation zone, he just takes off on his own. That’s not something we see from children usually.
Nicolas Cantu: That also definitely comes from the way that his parents raised him. At five years old, he’s able to pick up that map and go immediately into survival mode; it’s a problem-solving mindset. That definitely comes from the way his parents taught him. You get to see some of that in the flashback of episode 5, of them taking turns in teaching Elton everything they want to show him. At five years old, he’s learned a lot already, and he’s ready to put it to use at such a young age.
Considering last week’s tease with the post-credits scene, you get the idea that the Civic Republic is working towards a zombie cure. Will we see that factor into Elton’s research?
Nicolas Cantu: I’m not sure. We’re gonna have to see that in the future of the show. Elton’s definitely learning a lot about nature and the systems of the world. And I think at the CRM, they’re more focused on tackling the problem of the cure. Elton, he’s just focused on documenting the world as he knows it, and finishing the manuscript for his mom. So, even though they have separate goals, it would be be interesting to see if they combine in a way like that.
About that manuscript, can you tell us what it’s really about?
Nicolas Cantu: The manuscript belongs to Elton’s mother, and it was a piece on nature and all the systems. She left it incomplete, because the night the sky fell, she was brutally murdered. Her manuscript was left incomplete, and Elton has just had it for all this time. In order to keep the memory of his mother alive, he goes out into the apocalypse to finish it and write down what he sees in the world. But in a way, he’s also showing his mom what the world is like when he’s writing that manuscript. There’s a bunch about how animals interacted with the world before, and then Elton could be writing about hordes of walkers he saw and their behavior in this new world. He’s just documenting what he sees on this journey, as a piece of the majesty of nature.
Each of the four main characters has had a big moment surviving this apocalypse. For you, it was fixing the rotor on the boat, which also tied into Elton’s claustrophobia. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Nicolas Cantu: Yeah, that was a very interesting scene to shoot. We had it in two setups: we had the one where I was going underneath the boat when we were on the shore, and then we built a second boat somewhere else on the lot that we had in order to film the stuff under there. That was a really difficult problem to tackle. In the show, you have the aspect of fighting with the exterior demons of these undead walkers that are roaming the earth. And then you have characters that fight their inner demons, and this was a moment where Elton was really pushing past his trauma to help the group and prove to them that he’s still on their side.
He had that scare when Hope heard the conversation with him and Felix about turning them around, and they kind of grew a distrust for him. So, this was a big moment for him to prove his worth to the group – and also prove his worth to himself, to get over that fear of claustrophobia. He tackled it, he went through it, and he came out that that boat a better man, I would say.
Elton is quite open, generally speaking, but he kept the claustrophobia close to the chest. Will we learn any more secrets about his past that affect the present?
Nicolas Cantu: Yeah, Elton is very open with people, because he just wants to share what he’s learned and pass on the knowledge that his parents gave him. I mean, he and Hope had a conversation about the end of the world in episode 2. I think Elton will get a lot more opportunities to show that side of him, with the deeper things that he’s held off. Because even though he’s so open, everybody’s got secrets, and everybody’s got something they don’t want to let out. So, throughout the season, we’re definitely gonna see all the characters explore those darker parts of themselves.
What can you tease about the rest of the season, either in terms of the overarching story or about Elton specifically? Because at the end of this episode, there is a tease of a another unknown man there.
Nicolas Cantu: Right. With Elton, I can say that this whole time, he’s been following the wind. But later in the season, we’re gonna see what happens when he doesn’t like where it takes him. I can say that.
Everyone has their own uniform, so to speak, but we haven’t seen Elton’s in action yet. Is that something we will see, with zombies trying to bite you?
Nicolas Cantu: Oh, that’s actually a very interesting point you bring up. Because they have always said that it’s bite-proof, but I don’t remember filming a scene where I get bitten in the arm or something. But it’s gone through a lot. These characters have run through a bunch of dangerous situations. We had that big blaze of glory, and the suit look better than ever coming out of there. But unfortunately, we don’t have any scenes displaying the zombie-proof technology. Maybe in season two, we’ll see something like that.
That’s also a good point. This has been billed as a two-season show, and you’re already halfway through season 1. Do you worry about that limiting Elton’s growth, or do you think that works perfectly for him and his group?
Nicolas Cantu: That’s a very interesting question. When you go into a universe like The Walking Dead, the previous shows have been super duper long. We got six seasons of Fear and 10 seasons of the main show. And so, when we’re coming out here with two seasons, I think our show is more about displaying a story from start to finish. We’ve got it all planned out, we’re just here to tell the story, and we know where it ends. It’s a different storytelling approach.
As for whether it’s limiting for the characters? I’m not sure, because I think Elton had a lot of growth in season 1. I have no idea what happens in season two, so I guess I’m gonna be along for the ride. I’ll have to see just like everybody else.
Is there something that you specifically want to see happen with Elton, whether it’s in this season or the next?
Nicolas Cantu: Just as a guy coming into the Walking Dead universe, I want to kill more walkers. I don’t know, I just like the stuns of the show. I would love to have more Walker kills, that’d be super duper fun. I hope Elton warms up to the idea of dispatching empties sometime soon.
He’s quite passive when it comes to the walkers. He wants to study them, but not necessarily kill them.
Nicolas Cantu: Well, there’s two sides to that, of course. There is the pacifist and docile nature of Elton as a character, so that might restrict him from wanting to dispatch empties. But there’s also the fact that everybody in the colony took a self-defense class with Felix, and one of the main things that he taught was that avoidance is key. So, whenever he does get into a little bit of a scramble with an empty, he’s usually just trying to get away as fast as possible because that’s what he’s been taught. So, there’s kind of two aspects: the pacifist nature of Elton, and also the survival strategy of lowering risk by by removing yourself from the threat.
You mentioned the word “empties,” and it stuck out to me that eventually the other shows ended up adopting the term “walkers.” Is that something we could see happen in World Beyond? Maybe Elton could come up with the phrase, or interact with another Walking Dead character?
Nicolas Cantu: Perhaps. The thing about The Walking Dead universe is that it’s so huge. The whole world was affected by the virus, so we’ve heard tons of different names for the walkers. Maybe Elton could come up with that name. We already have “empties,” we’ve heard “dumdums,” we’ve heard so many different names. But if we were eventually to say “walker,” I think it would bring us home. But I think these threats will always be empties to our characters, just because the way that they interact from inside the Walls is different to other survivors who have been there the entire time.
Their vocabulary would change based on what their experiences are with them. The kids inside of the Walls only know them as these dead people that are walking around, so they know that they’re empties. But with survivors out there, they get to see them firsthand. They’re like, “Oh, that’s a walker, because it’s just shambling over there.” They give it a name based on its action, but for the people inside of the Walls, it’s more based on the idea of zombies as a whole.
Considering that everyone spent 10 years or more in the university training to fight in the apocalypse, it seems they’re still not necessarily trained well enough. Do you think that will affect them for the rest of the season?
Nicolas Cantu: I mean, it’s definitely a learning curve going from reading about battle strategies in a book to actually putting them to use. Maybe as our characters spend more time out there, they’ll become more accustomed to dispatching walkers, and they might be cleaner with the job. There’s some dirty, rough kills in the show. As they spend more time outside, I think they’ll become more accustomed to combat and get a little bit better.