Aisha Tyler has done practically everything in Hollywood: acting, voiceover work, hosting, directing, writing, and producing. She has been in the industry for over 25 years with several projects in her name. Aisha Tyler is also a fan of The Walking Dead and she as also appeared on AMC’s Talking Dead.
Last November, it was announced that Aisha Tyler will direct an episode of Fear The Walking Dead. It turned out that she directed the episode “J.D” and Aisha Tyler is here to break down directing this monumental episode in this exclusive interview.
You’ve been a fan of The Walking Dead for some time now, and this is now your first episode in the franchise that you directed. How excited were you when you first got the news?
Aisha: “Incredibly excited. I wish I could come up with some phrase that’s like spectacularly descriptive, but I was thrilled because it had been something I’ve been hoping to do for a long time. And I had had some meetings with AMC where we talked about the fact that I love the franchise. I would love the opportunity to direct, but I don’t know that I thought it was going to happen. So you’re kind of always just doing your work. I was off directing other stuff. And it was just a thrill when it came back around.”
Do you remember exactly where you were or what you were doing when you got the call that AMC wanted you to direct the episode?
Aisha: “That’s a really good question. I don’t. It’s all just blended into a beautiful golden memory. I do remember that I did a zoom call with the show runners Ian and Andrew, and that was great. We just hit it off. And a friend of mine and I were texting and I got the email from my management team and I was like, “I got the job!” I do remember that. I just remember that I was very excited.”
Knowing that Fear The Walking Dead was filmed during the pandemic, what were some challenges you had to endure as a director?
Aisha: “Well, the biggest issue right now for covid productions other than testing is a shorter shoot day. And so that’s just challenging. You just have less time to do the same amount of work. And that remains the challenge across this episode. But luckily, because the episode was essentially set over a single day, we could only shoot from sunup to sundown. And that natural kind of time limit meant that we had to work really effectively and efficiently, which we did. So it was exhilarating. You’re always rushing when you’re directing. Every day is just a sprint. But it was beautiful and enjoyable and we were able to get done.”
This episode is a tribute to John Dorie Jr. I thought that the eulogy scene was beautiful from the way it was shot and with the way Jenna Elfman delivered her lines. What are the conversations like between you and Jenna when it came to crafting that scene?
Aisha: “We had a really good conversation before we started shooting the episode about how she felt about it as an actor and what was her character was going through. And, you know, this was really June’s first real moment where she allowed herself to mourn John. She just been on this kind of mad sprint to redeem herself and really driven by grief and by anger at the world about herself. And this was her opportunity to say goodbye. So we really wanted to make sure that we honored that moment for her because it was a really transformational one for June. And I think also on a larger level with Dwight and Sherry. John and June’s relationship represented something really specific in their world, which is that it’s possible to find beauty and it’s possible to find love in a terrible state of affairs in the world around them. And so I really wanted to make sure that there was a lot of beauty in that scene and a lot of love and that it wasn’t just sad because it was all of our opportunities to both say goodbye to a character that we all really love and also to celebrate the beauty of that relationship.”
Were there any scenes that you directed for this episode that you felt like you wanted to put yourself in any of the character’s shoes, whether it was June, Dwight, Sherry or John Sr?
Aisha: “Not really. When you’re directing, you get to be in everybody’s shoes all the time. That’s really the nature of being a director. You’re kind of inside all of it all the time. And that’s why I love directing because I really get to care for everybody on set and think about every every character and their experience and their journey. And I get to put my feet in the shoes of the fifth character, which is the audience. And I really get to be a part of things and thinking about how the audience will experience this episode and how they’ll connect with the characters. So that’s the coolest thing about being a director, is you get to play all the roles.”
Are there any past episodes of either The Walking Dead or Fear The Walking Dead that you wish you had the chance to direct?
Aisha: “Well, my favorite episode of The Walking Dead and there are a lot of really good ones, is ‘Clear.’ It’s the episode where we find Morgan again. And I love that episode of television as one of my favorite episodes of television period because it’s so incredibly layered and emotional and it really focuses on what grief and loss do to a person. And Lenny James is just such an extraordinary actor. And I just remember crying through the whole episode because it was just so beautiful and so painful and it was so tender. And seeing Rick and Morgan together again was so wonderful. But it wasn’t the reunion we all expected them to have as fans. And just to see the shell around Morgan kind of crack a little bit of him, connect with human beings again after all that time suffering alone was just such a beautiful episode.”