In a post-apocalyptic world, being a survivor is not always a good thing, particularly for those attempting to outlast a zombie-geddon. Mishel Prada knows all too well about weathering that flesh-eating storm after being cast as a lead in the “Fear the Walking Dead” companion web series “Passage” where she portrays Gabi, one of the last hopes for humanity.
We recently sat down with Prada to discuss Emmy praise, her surprise casting, and immersing herself into the physicality of the role.
TrunkSpace: First we just have to say that it is extremely cool to see a genre series like “Passage” get recognized by the Emmy folks.
Prada: I know. It is really cool. I think the coolest part about it is that it’s part of this new media that’s coming out. I feel like new media is like this new generation’s rap music. People are like, “What is that rap music?” and then it ends up actually changing the game. I think new media and the online market, online web series and magazines, is the future. There’s an interesting change that is happening. It’s really cool to be a part of that.
TrunkSpace: Did you put more pressure on yourself as an actor stepping into something like “Passage” where you’re basically being folded into this massive universe/franchise that already has a huge fanbase?
Prada: I didn’t even know what I was getting into. (Laughter) I auditioned for it not knowing what it was at all and then didn’t realize what it was until the fitting. And then I didn’t realize that I was meant to be one of the leads of it until I got the script. (Laughter)
TrunkSpace: Wow. That’s a pleasant surprise!
Prada: I was like, “Oh, me and Kelsey are carrying this whole thing? Awesome!”
TrunkSpace: Discovering unexpectedly that you’re a lead in a high profile gig related to “The Walking Dead” seems like it might bring on a sudden panic attack. (Laughter)
Prada: (Laughter) Yeah, but it’s also exciting because as an actor, it’s fun to get to just dig into these stories. In addition to obviously being part of this big franchise, Lauren Signorino and Mike Zunic did an incredible job of writing a story that I felt really connected to. On set Kelsey and I really felt strongly about that, which was women coming together, doing their damn thing, and just surviving. In addition to being part of the franchise, it was this beautiful icing on the cake to get to also be part of telling stories that I think are very poignant for this time.
TrunkSpace: And from what we learned in talking with Kelsey, you guys got to do your own stunts as well, which must have made for some post-apocalyptic fun?
Prada: 100 percent. We had stunt people, but you kind of just get so deep into the characters that it almost doesn’t make sense to let somebody else take the fall or to feel the pain or whatever it is. In the moment, it was really just all-immersive. And then afterward, Kelsey and I went and had a margarita and we were sitting there just going, “Well, what was that?” (Laughter) We were all bruised and we went and had a spa day.
TrunkSpace: Much of the series looks claustrophobic. Did the shoot itself have that feel?
Prada: It wasn’t claustrophobic in the sense that you feel trapped, but it was definitely close quarters. The smoke and the dust and everything was very real. In between takes, we were having to wear these breathing masks. Just trying to also stay in it, which is the biggest thing because a lot of times an actor, you can kind of step away from the environment, but there’s also a beauty to sitting in the uncomfortableness of it because that is reality for the character. So there was a sense of making sure that you’re still honoring that.
TrunkSpace: Humans are always scarier than the zombies in “The Walking Dead” universe, but was it kind of weird to see the zombies standing near the crafty table in-between takes sipping a latte or whatever? (Laughter)
Prada: (Laughter) The makeup is amazing. The effects department does a really great job. They cast these characters with these really beautiful, interesting faces so that they kind of accentuate the angles. Yeah, it is a really cool thing to be a part of and see.
TrunkSpace: What’s amazing is that a lot of times these companion shorts/web series can sometimes feel like they’re shot on the cheap and not fully immersed in the umbrella of the universe, but with “Passage,” it seemed like they pulled no punches to make it look and feel just like what fans of “The Walking Dead” or “Fear the Walking Dead” have grown accustom to.
Prada: Yeah, the cinematography was incredible. They did a really great job. I remember seeing a lot of the stills and just thinking how beautiful it looked. We weren’t really wearing a lot of makeup and it wasn’t really about the women looking beautiful or looking poised. A lot of it was just about whatever the action was that was going on and the beauty of the sets, which was really cool.
TrunkSpace: When you learned that you would be one of the leads in “Passage,” did it feel like it could open more doors in your career?
Prada: As with anything in life, it’s always good to just experience what you’re experiencing right at the moment. I suppose that is the luxury of not knowing what the future is with the project. All that you know is just that moment and all of us could kind of take a lesson in that… just to really focus on what’s in front of you and whatever you’re feeling and tend to that.
TrunkSpace: Since it aired, have you felt the reach of “The Walking Dead” fanbase?
Prada: Yeah, the fanbase has been really cool. I have a friend that’s on “The Walking Dead,” Alanna Masterson. I’ve seen what has happened with her being on the show. It never really occurred to me when we were shooting it that it would be something that would carry over in that way.
I think what’s cool about “Fear the Walking Dead” is that it really embraces a lot of diversity with the way the Latin community looks at death in a different way. Whereas, in Mexico and most of Latin American, death is celebrated. It is feared to some extent, but it’s just a transition. There’s a compassion in a way.
TrunkSpace: It’s almost more of an acceptance of death and not fighting against it.
Prada: Exactly, and having to live with that death as opposed to being able to bury it away and forget about it.
TrunkSpace: Earlier in our conversation you mentioned that it is cool to be a part of this new media generation. Do you think the various platforms that are now available to viewers has enabled content creators to take a more creative approach to storytelling and tell the story they want to tell?
Prada: Oh yeah, 100 percent. That’s why it’s so incredible that there is this place that just eliminates the excuses of, “Oh well, a studio’s not giving me money so…” Even if you only have an iPhone, you can tell a story and put it up, and people might resonate with it.
Watch “Passage” here.