Kim Dickens Finds the Bright Side of Fear The Walking Dead : Killing Zombies is Kinda, Ya Know, Fun

So here are two fun zombie facts from Kim Dickens as AMC's Fear the Walking Dead returns for its second season.

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First, there are days on set when everyone breaks for a meal and the walkers - actually, they aren't called walkers yet in Fear the Walking Dead - all join the rest of the cast and crew at the tables.

"So yes," says Dickens, "some days you'll have several tables full of zombies, eating and talking on their cell phones."

Second, there's something addictive about killing zombies. The ones in the show, not the ones on their cell phones.

"I found I really like it," says Dickens. "I don't know what that says about me, but I do."

Truth is, you have to take your pleasures where you find them on Fear the Walking Dead, which returns Sunday at 9 p.m. ET. Because things quickly turn dark and dangerous in the new season.

"The first season was a slow burn," says Dickens. "They really opened it up for the second."

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Fear, a companion piece and sort-of prequel to AMC's megahit The Walking Dead, dramatizes the opening days of the Zombie Apocalypse on the West Coast.

Rather than picking up the story with a small band of survivors, like the Walking Dead mothership, Fear details the days of disintegration.

By the sixth and final episode of the first season -- which, incidentally, is now available on a Blu-Ray set -- L.A. was figuratively reduced to ruins. A sweeping visual panorama in the first episode of the new season confirms that's now literally true.

Dickens plays Madison Clark, a high school guidance counselor who was having a hard enough time getting her life together before the zombies showed up.

She's living with Travis Manawa (Cliff Curtis), an English teacher, and they've been trying to blend their two families: Madison's teenage daughter Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey) and her heroin-addicted teenage son Nick (Frank Dillane), plus Travis's resentful son Chris (Lorenzo James Henrie).

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As things turn bad, fate throws them together with the family of Daniel Salazar (Ruben Blades). The first season ended with everyone scrambling to escape the zombies by boarding a yacht owned by the rich and mysterious Victor Strand (Colman Domingo) (above).

Zombies can't swim, right? Right?

The second season, which will run 15 episodes, presents its perplexed characters with many of the same questions that face their colleagues back East. Like how do you survive, and is any place safe, and whom if anyone can you trust.

The first season, says Dickens, set that table.

"You needed the buildup," she says. "If you wanted to play it honestly, you had to see Madison and the others wanting to believe things would somehow get back to normal, that the government would take care of this."

Remember, she says, outmaneuvering zombies isn't exactly a skillset these characters have honed.

"Being a guidance counselor is a significant profession," says Dickens. "I talked about this with [writer/co-creator] Dave Erickson. Madison is a teacher, really. Her instinct is to do something. She tries to help people. But now she's in a situation where you have to protect yourself and your family.

"You saw in the first season that she's a fighter and a survivor. That's what she'll need going forward, and we had to see her get to that point."

Dickens, 50, whose wide range of past work includes long runs in Sons of Anarchy, Deadwood and House of Cards, says she isn't bothered by intense roles.

"I had a couple of nightmares when the show started," she says. "They weren't about zombies. I guess it was something my subconscious had to work out in the night.

"But I don't tend to take things home with me. This is a show I really enjoy working on."

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She acknowledges that no character can be sure of living forever on a zombie show. But Madison has as good an immunity card as anyone, and Dickens says at this point she's "just hoping we get picked up for a third season."

That's a reasonably safe bet, since television viewers' appetite for zombies seems to remain robust.

Even if Dickens herself wasn't in the first wave.

"I hadn't seen much of The Walking Dead," she admits. "An episode here and there.

"And then when I got this show, I deliberately didn't watch it. My character wouldn't have known what the apocalypse looked like, so it was helpful not to have anything from that show in my head.

"We have a different tone. We're on a different journey. Even though a lot of the same people are working on both shows, and we share a lot of the same mythology, AMC encouraged our production to do its own thing."

That said, she's up for some crossover action if it ever happens.

"As far as I know, that's not planned right now," she says. "And I don't know how you'd do it. But it would be amazing. I'd love to see it."

She also has a couple of thoughts on why zombies seem to be so popular these days.

"They're a good metaphor for whatever society's fears are at the moment," she says. "They stand for whatever could happen in a situation where we couldn't take care of ourselves.

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"We kind of face our own zombies every day."

Or maybe it's not that psychological.

"Maybe," she says, "zombies are just cool."

[The two-disc Blu-Ray set for the first season of Fear the Walking Dead includes all six episodes plus character biographies and a broader look at the series.]