- Warning: There are massive spoilers ahead for "Fear TWD," season 6 episode 12, "In Dreams."
- Karen David speaks with Insider about the unexpected, heart-wrenching twist at the episode's end.
- "There are so many that have gone through this sadly, including my family and some of my dear friends," David said.
- Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.
Season six, episode 12 of "Fear the Walking Dead" ended on a heartbreaking reveal.
After making it seem like a pregnant Grace (Karen David) would be killed off the show, the episode's final minutes took an unexpected turn.
One of the series' most gutting endings to date, airing on Mother's Day, Grace gave birth to a stillborn baby girl, Athena. A defeated Morgan (Lennie James), who tried to revive the infant, told the grieving mother, "I don't understand."
The entire episode Grace slowly accepted that she was going to die in order for her daughter to live and bring hope to their fractured group of survivors. Instead, Sunday's episode closed with Grace cradling Athena in her arms, concluding that the dream-like reverie she was in and out of as she laid unconscious all episode weren't her final moments, but those of her daughter.
"When I read the script, I cried. I was taking deep breaths," David told Insider by phone Monday. "I was so deeply moved by it because of personal experiences through family and friends."
When filming halted on "Fear" in March 2020 due to the pandemic, it gave David the opportunity to do further research to ensure she was handling this delicate storyline with care. David sought out forums and organizations and spoke with family and friends who opened up about their own loss with the actress.
"I really wanted to infuse their experiences their feelings and their grieving processes, I wanted to infuse all of that into Grace's experience," David said of the preparation that went into bringing Sunday's episode to screen.
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David shared with Insider how Athena's death will affect Grace and her relationships moving forward on the "TWD" spinoff. And, just because Grace is still alive, right now, David hints that Grace may not be out of harm's way yet.
'Fear TWD' showrunners sat David down to tell her Grace would lose her baby. The pandemic gave her extra time to further prepare for the episode's emotional turn.
Kirsten Acuna: I've seen you speaking with so many of the fans over the past few days. Was this the most difficult episode of 'Fear' or maybe of television you've ever made?
Karen David: It was definitely an emotionally challenging episode to make, for all of us. We knew how emotionally challenging this episode would be for Grace [and] for everyone involved, but I was in the best of hands, the safest of hands. I love my TV family and they are so wonderful each and every day on any episode.
With this particular episode, everyone knowing what was to come for my character, Grace, every day – even now in the lead up to filming, and whilst we were filming, I'd get these random hugs from crew and they'd be cheering Grace and I on. I just felt so incredibly loved. I felt so supported. I felt so elevated by everyone's positive energy. That really, really helps because it was a tough one, but something that I'm so proud of to be touching on very important subjects. There are so many that have gone through this sadly, including my family and some of my dear friends.
Acuna: You hit on so many things that I want to come back to. Were you crying, reading this script? Because I was crying throughout this episode for different reasons.
David: When I first got the script, [showrunners] Ian [Goldberg] and Andrew [Chambliss] had sat me down. This is pre-pandemic. When they were telling me of what was to come and even just hearing it from them, I had to take deep breaths. We always knew that Grace was in a very dangerous situation with her own health, having been exposed to so much radiation that a pregnancy on top of that would pose not only a risk to her own life, but also possibly to her baby's life. I think that just added to the gravity and the severity of her situation. [With 'Fear' unable to film], I had this extended gift of time, so to speak, to really delve into my preparation and how I was going to tackle this.
When I read the script, I cried, I was taking deep breaths. I was so deeply moved by it because of personal experiences through family and friends. I also thought, 'Wow, this is such a gift of an episode,' which is such an honor for me to tell Grace's story. As an actor, you can only hope and pray that you bring as much heart and soul and empathy and compassion and authenticity to a character's truth and to the storyline. This excited me, but it also petrified me at the same time.
Friends and family entrusted David with their own personal experiences of loss to help bring Grace's story to life.
Acuna: When you sat down with Ian and Andrew, did you think that this episode was going to be your swan song – the end for Grace – or did they lay out how this was going to play out?
David: Ian and Andrew laid out everything really clearly for me. It's the nature of our universe. Anyone's time could be up, but especially with Grace. She came into this family where everyone knew that her clock was ticking. For Grace, back in season five, it was about trying to put things back together, for herself, but also to make up for the choices and decisions that she made in the past that she deeply regretted and which affected the people that she cared about and love, including, her baby daddy, Matthew. She didn't want a repeat of what happened in the past to happen to Morgan, [and] to the group that she's come to know and love. It was always about trying to get as much said because she did not know when heaven's doors would be calling upon her.
By seeing her relationship grow with Morgan and the group, they've encouraged her and certainly played a huge role in allowing herself to open up and to dare to hope and have given her a sort of a renewed sense of purpose moving forward. When she finds out she's pregnant, that really changes everything. I think it's, for lack of a better word, a saving grace, for her because she's found a reason to live and she knows, like everyone else, how important her child is and what this child represents to the group, to the future – this huge sense of hope. It just makes it all the more devastating in the end when she loses her daughter.
Acuna: Miscarriages and stillborn children are not a topic that is usually handled often on television. When this idea was presented to you, what was some of the preparation that you did? You had mentioned that this is something that other people in your life around you have experienced. Did you lean on those people?
David: Yes. Sadly, stillborn deaths and infancy loss, miscarriages, are increasingly common amongst many families and talking to my family and to my dear friends, who are so, so incredibly supportive and courageous to open up their hearts to talk about their experiences. Everyone's experience is very different. Everyone's grieving process is different. When I was doing research, I logged onto many forums and groups and organizations where they posted videos from different families who bravely shared their experiences. I had to press pause. It was so heart-wrenching and affected me so deeply. I knew it more than ever after hearing all their stories and my family's and friends that I needed to handle this with the utmost sensitivity and with respect and dignity.
I really wanted to infuse their experiences their feelings, their grieving processes, I wanted to infuse all of that into Grace's experience. Hats off to [writer] Nazrin Choudhury, Ian, and Andrew who penned this so beautifully and poignantly and with such immense care. I'm just really proud of this universe. Aesthetically, stylistically, this is an episode we've never done before, and certainly storyline-wise to bring awareness to these important subjects, which many families have been through I think, if anything, to show them love and support and that they are seen.
David wasn't positive if Athena died because of the radiation or other trauma. Grace could still be affected by the radiation.
Acuna: Is Grace still affected by the radiation? Did Athena absorb it? I'm not sure if you know.
David: There's always room for speculation. Grace has been exposed to a lot of radiation. The baby, I don't know.* For me, personally, the baby had to have been affected by not only the radiation exposure, but also, in the apocalypse, we don't have all the facilities and everything that we have now with the hospitals, and the equipment, and the care, and the expertise. Being set against the apocalyptic backdrop is one thing. But [Morgan and Grace] were in a car explosion, which we later find out as Grace is trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together.
This baby's been through a lot, along with Grace. I don't necessarily think Grace is out of the woods yet. I don't know. What I do know is that, she, like any parent who has experienced the loss of a child, it's something you never get over. You can only hope and pray that each day might possibly give some breathing space, to feel some sense of normality, but it doesn't. It is a cross that she is going to have to bear for the rest of her days. She's going to go through the seven stages of grief now, and I can only hope that she comes out of this with some kind of solace or peace, but it's a big ask at this point.
As 'Fear' continues, we'll see how the loss of Athena affects Grace and all of her relationships moving forward, including Morgan.
David: It will affect everything in her life, her relationships with everyone, including Morgan. This is something that she has to go through and she will have to go through on her own. Just thinking about it, my heart just breaks so much for her. Again, I'm just really proud that we're talking about these important subjects, postnatal depression, as well. It was a big episode and the last scene was a really tough one for all of us, but I love this TV family so much. This experience that we all went through together, throughout this whole episode, is something that will stay very dear to my heart. It brought us all closer.
*Coshowrunner Ian Goldberg confirmed on the a behind-the-scenes feature on AMC+ that Athena died due to radiation.
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity and length."Fear TWD" airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC. You can follow along with our "TWD" universe coverage here.
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