Things were not looking good for our band of survivors at the end of Season 1. A nuclear strike had just been launched when Murphy separated himself from the group.Â Need a brief Season 1 refresher? You’re in luck.
As Season 2 starts, there are a lot of unanswered questions. How will the group survive the nuclear strike (you know they have to, otherwise the show would be over)? When and how will the group reunite? Is the goal still to get Murphy to California?
I’m particularly interested in what’s going to happen with Pisay Pao‘s Cassandra. In the Season 1 finale, Murphy bit her, which stopped her from dying and seemed to turn her into some kind of kick-ass zombie hybrid. I talked to Pisay right after Comic-Con earlier this year about the evolution of her character, what to expect from her this season now that she’s a hybrid and the new dynamic of the group.
TV GOODNESS: When you got the script for the Season 1 finaleÂ and you saw what was in store for Cassandra, how did you react to that and were you excited to see where that would lead?
Pisay Pao: “That particular script was, honestly, a dream come true. I donâ€™t know about anybody else, but I was a bit frustrated with Cassandra and her storyline. I wasnâ€™t certain as to what her role in the group was. Donâ€™t get me wrong, I was elated and happy to be there, on this cast and crew and to be a working actor. But from an acting perspective, from the perspective of character work, up until episode 12, 13 I was frustrated and uncertain about Cassandraâ€™s arc, her story, where it was going.
I remember sitting down and talking to my acting coach and she asked me what I wanted to happen. I had said, â€˜I know I donâ€™t get to choose whether Cassandra lives or dies, but whatâ€™s important for me is that she goes out fighting,â€™ because she is a fighter. Sheâ€™s very willful, sheâ€™s very strong. To see they had written her as coming back and essentially saving the group and taking down these huge zombies â€“ talking about it, Iâ€™m getting chills â€“ it was like the universe, the writing God Karl Schaefer, had heard me, like he was a fly on the wall [during] that conversation. I donâ€™t know what the timeline was exactly, but a couple of weeks later I got that script and it was like Christmas, Iâ€™ll be honest. It was amazing.”
TV GOODNESS: Your character was definitely interesting in Season 1 in that we didnâ€™t know a lot about her at first. As we discovered her backstory, we could see that she was trying to come to terms with some things. But I agree with you. Iâ€™m happy that you got to do such great things in the finale. What does this mean for Cassandra in Season 2 now that sheâ€™s a human/zombie hybrid? How is she different than the Cassandra we knew from Season 1?
Pisay: “So different. A lot of people have been asking, â€˜Are we going to get to know her a little bit more? Is she going to open up a little bit more?â€™ I think we are going to get to know her more, but maybe not in the way that people expect.
I think that the big question about Cassandra in Season 2 is not so much knowing what her history is and what her backstory is prior to meeting Tobias and prior to the apocalypse, but really the question for Cassandra is where is she going? What is she capable of? What do zombie hybrids do? What do they eat? Do they sleep? All these questions were things that I thought about going into Season 2. So we will get to see Cassandra in a really different light, but Iâ€™m excited about it.”
TV GOODNESS: We didnâ€™t see Cassandra leave the medical facility with the group. Is there anything you can tell me about if sheâ€™s going to meet up with them later? Is she still Team California or have her priorities changed now that sheâ€™s changed?
Pisay: “I love that — â€˜Team California.â€™ Everybody asks [the cast] that. Everybody asks if the mission is still California. I was doing interviews with Anastasia [Barranova, at Comic Con] and Anastasia said, â€˜Yes. Absolutely.â€™ And I had to interject and say, â€˜Well, not everybodyâ€™s objective is California.â€™ That makes Season 2 even more interesting because in Season 1, of course, that was the storyline, that was the arc. Weâ€™re all going to California.
This season the big thing is tension and conflict because weâ€™re all not on the same page and we also have some new characters coming in who have their own objectives. We are going to be trying to get to California, but thereâ€™s a lot of conflict along the way.”
TV GOODNESS: As there should be. Can you say how and when Cassandra reunites with the group or is that something you donâ€™t want to spoil?
Pisay: “I will say this: weâ€™re not going to keep people hanging. I know that Episode  hits the ground running. We pick up exactly where we left off and I think everyoneâ€™s questions are gonna be answered fairly quickly.”
TV GOODNESS: Thatâ€™s one of the things I love about the show. I donâ€™t feel like Z Nation keeps us hanging for too long. We get answers pretty quickly and if some things are hinted at, itâ€™s in a way where weâ€™re happy to go along for the ride and wait for the reveal. So, thatâ€™s exciting.
Pisay: “Yeah. It is exciting. Weâ€™re just trying to provide something different because, obviously, The Walking Dead is out there. They do a great job, but weâ€™ve gotta provide something different as well. So, I love that aspect of Season 2. I love the aspect that weâ€™re just so action-packed, so much is going on. There are things we might leave up in the air like Cassandra and 10Kâ€™s relationship. But there are other things we get to right away, things I think the fans will be really happy about.”
TV GOODNESS: Iâ€™m glad youâ€™re telling me thereâ€™s no time jump. I like that we get right back into it to see how that gets resolved. Can you tease anything about the nuclear strike that was coming at the end of Season 1?
Pisay: “[Redacted]. Letâ€™s just say, weâ€™re gonna see a lot of different types of zombies.”
TV GOODNESS: I know you have to be so careful about how you answer some of the more spoilery questions.
Pisay: “Yeah. [Laughs]. If I could tell you everything, I would. Itâ€™s so exciting and itâ€™s so fun, too.”
TV GOODNESS: I understand, but I like going along for the ride with the audience so I understand that you want to keep some surprises for when we all watch it together.
Pisay: “And we will. Weâ€™re still gonna do the full Twitter thing. Iâ€™d be surprised if we didnâ€™t, but I will be tweeting as episodes air, so we will literally and figuratively be watching together.”
TV GOODNESS: Good. And I know youâ€™re very creative outside of acting. Iâ€™m sure youâ€™re very busy with Z Nation right now, but what else have you been up to recently?
Pisay: “We shoot 5 days a week, 12 hour days for 6 or 7 months straight. Some of the cast and even the crew members for longer than that. So, I stay creative by cooking. I love food. I cook what Nat Zang has said is the best chicken heâ€™s ever had, so thatâ€™s good.
At Comic-Con I decided to wear a white dress with blood spattered all over it. I watched a lot of blood splattering go on clothing and things on the show, but I had never done that myself. Luckily, I used to be in fashion design before I got into this and Iâ€™ve done arts and crafts forever, so nothing else, no furniture, was harmed in the making of that dress. Those are the kind of things I like to do on the side.”
TV GOODNESS: Good. Iâ€™m really excited about Season 2. I canâ€™t wait to see what you guys have in store for us and, specifically, whatâ€™s coming up for your character.
Pisay: “Yes. And like I said, itâ€™s going to happen fast and youâ€™re gonna see it right away. We wonâ€™t keep anybody waiting.”
Edited for space and content.
Season 2 synopsis, from Syfy:
Season 2 picks up mere moments after the nukes launch and itâ€™s every man for him or herself when the team splits up and tries to outrun the impending blast. Meanwhile, in the Arctic, Citizen Z finds himself battling thawed zombies and unable to communicate with the team.
In a desperate attempt to help them out on their quest to get to California and the CDC, Citizen Z issues an on air bounty for Murphy. Suddenly everyone wants a piece of â€œThe Murphy,â€ including a mysterious and deadly bounty hunter, Vasquez.
This season, the team will encounter new zombie varieties â€“ including â€œBlastersâ€ (mutated by radioactive fallout) and â€œPhytosâ€ (a zombie and plant hybrid) â€“ face off against a cartel, discover the existence of â€œZ-Weed,â€ witness a birth and moreâ€¦
Season 2 of Z Nation premieres Friday, September 11th at 10/9c on Syfy.
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