Fear the Walking Dead’s Jenna Elfman talked to The Natural Aristocrat about June and John Dorie’s passionate relationship and her on-screen chemistry with co-star Garret Dillahunt.
Acting Dedication: Elfman also discussed meeting a real life Head of Trauma in Austin, Texas to get fully immersed for the role of June.
The Natural Aristocrat [Nir Regev]: How does it feel to be at the center of every Fear the Walking Dead ‘shipping conversation on Twitter? I mean, the fans absolutely love the June/John Dorie relationship. They’re in love with John pretty much, how does that make you feel?
Jenna Elfman: I get it, I’m in love with John Dorie too! (smiles) June loves him and cherishes him. Garret [Dillahunt] and I get along great. Ever since we first met, it’s just been effortless, acting together. I really enjoy it. It’s one of those things you luck out with sometimes with an acting partner, you know? I think we have that.
Is it more captivating for you as an actress to be more of an unreliable character where you don’t know if June might walk away from one script to the next?
I get excited, I just love the storytelling and I trust what they’re going to do. They write fun stuff for me. I love what they’re writing for me, and I’m really really committed to it and enjoying doing it. I love the trajectory they have happening. I dig it a lot. I’m always very excited for the next script.
Do you prepare any differently as an actress from when you first came on Fear the Walking Dead as Laura?
Well, when I read the script I’m always just looking for “Where are the moments of change?” in the script. In every scene, which character is changing and how and what is the impetus of that change? And I really make sure I understand the storytelling in that way. The overall theme and the message. What are the characters’ agreements and what are their problems? And so forth.
I think, maybe now that June’s point of view is very clear and she’s very committed to what they’re doing, I guess I’m approaching this season slightly different. Really because June kind of has a new constitution for herself. But it’s all the same kind of script analysis and character analysis.
Did you visit nurses and doctors for acting research and inspiration?
I met with the Head of Trauma in Austin (Texas) and I had him walk me through. Obviously, there’s triage and trauma nurses and trauma doctors, there’s a clock ticking on life or death. It’s a different sort of mentality of the things you’re looking for. I wanted to know what am I paying attention to? The heart rate, the breathing, the pupils, the skin color, all the things.
If I do this, what would happen? If I do that what’s important to her in that moment with that particular injury? What is she thinking about? I just had him walk me through the whole thing. It was interesting because before he was the Head of Trauma, he was a battlefield surgeon, and so a lot of the stuff he was walking me through was very similar to this scenario that the characters find themselves in. It was very helpful.
You had an amazing line in Fear the Walking Dead’s Season 5 Premiere where you were treating a patient, ‘Well, I’ve never done this in a truck stop before! Only at a trauma center.’ Do you ever get to riff on the lines at all or do you read straight from the script?
No, it’s not me. If I have questions [on the script] I’ll contact the writers, I’ll sent them an e-mail and ask for clarification or something. But no, I don’t change the lines or anything. Unless I ask them to clear it up ahead of time.
What does it mean to you as an actress to get a spot on this show?
It was very thrilling for me, I really wanted to start a new chapter in my career. Something new. I’d done drama before but I’d never done anything like this. They just offered me the role like eleven days after I kind of reconciled myself to what I wanted to do next. So, it was perfect timing and openly accepted by me!
Your character has changed names the most on Fear the Walking Dead! How does that feel, do you ever get confused yourself?
(laughs) No, but I think it just shows sort of an evolution about trying to find yourself, and needing to heal. once again. Luckily, the John Dorie effect… (smiles) You’re able to kind of heal and become yourself. I think this season, we see this beautiful June in full bloom. A new version of herself but connected to her truth.
Be sure to check out The Natural Aristocrat’s interviews with Fear the Walking Dead cast members Austin Amelio (Dwight) and Colman Domingo (Victor Strand) during New York City’s Split Screens Festival at the IFC Center.