Kim Dickens was present for this year’s SXSW earlier this month, and we had a chance to interview the veteran actress. Most recently appearing in the new movie The Highwaymen, Dickens spoke with us about her part in the Netflix original, as well as some of her other key roles on shows like Deadwood and Fear the Walking Dead.
Read on for the complete The Highwaymen interview.
Every time I see you, you’re playing a role that’s very different from others you’ve played before. You’re very diverse with the roles that you choose. Do you seek out these kinds of unique and interesting movie roles, or do the opportunities just happen to come your way?
Related: Highwaymen Trailer: Costner & Harrelson Go After Bonnie & Clyde
Kim Dickens: Well, I wouldn’t say I seek them out. A lot of times, people are asking me, ‘What do you want to do next?’ Basically, my answer is, ‘I don’t know.’ The parts usually find me, I feel like. I certainly read everything, and I audition and go for things, but I just find that the right role and I usually come together. It feels meant to be sometimes, because sometimes I don’t even realize the way I connect to a part until I’m working on it and realizes it sort of mirrors something I’ve experienced, or it’s similar to something I’ve experienced. So, it’s sort of just a weird kismet kind of thing.
So with The Highwaymen, when this opportunity came up, what was it about this movie that appealed to you?
Kim Dickens: Well, I worked with John Lee Hancock, the director, on The Blind Side. So, when he’s doing this movie, he suggested me for the part, and I read for it. It’s a smaller part, but the timing was great, I love John Lee Hancock, and the script was incredible. It was a fascinating story I had never known anything about. Also, the opportunity to play Kevin Costner’s wife was such a fun opportunity, such a fun gig.
How was the on-screen chemistry was between you and Mr. Costner?
Kim Dickens: They say it’s good. You know, you sort of have to sell a lot in those scenes with the wife, when he’s at home, and then he goes off to risk his life, trying to capture Bonnie and Clyde. You have to sell a lot in those scenes, and it does rely on a certain amount of chemistry. The scenes were well-written and they were layered in their own way, so that helps us, but I think we had good chemistry.
How familiar were you with the true story of Bonnie and Clyde before taking on this movie?
Kim Dickens: Well, you know, I’m very familiar with the original film from 1967. I had seen that of course several times. My grandfather used to tell me the story of when he was a kid living in southern Alabama, he had actually saw the first tour of the vehicle – the “death car” with all the bullet holes in it. So, I had always heard that story, but I was not familiar with this side of the story, which was from the perspective of the actual detective who was able to kill them after a two-year spree. That to me was fascinating, so I did a little research from that point, and watched some documentaries.
I was going to ask what went into researching this role.
Kim Dickens: Yeah, I like watching the documentaries. It really filled out the story. I did a lot of online research about Frank Hamer and his wife Gladys. They had a very colorful past themselves. She was a bit of a tough cookie. She helped him in a gun fight!
This isn’t your first period piece, with Deadwood being an obvious example of another you’ve done, but with this movie being set in the 1930’s, what was it like time traveling to this particular era?
Kim Dickens: It was great. I had never done the ’30s, so it was fun. I was driving a 1932 Henry Ford, and I was driving that in the scenes and it was really fun. The costumes were beautiful.
What would you say your favorite things are about your character?
Kim Dickens: What I love about this character is that she’s such a strong woman, but there’s some humor to her. You can see how much she and Frank love each other, and you can see how afraid she is for him to go out and become sort of a target now for Bonnie and Clyde. But there’s not one moment where she will have him worry about her, or that she would stop him from doing that. I just love that she loves him enough to let him go.
You’ve done a lot of movies, as well as a lot of TV shows as well. Do you have a particular preference for which one you enjoy more?
Kim Dickens: I enjoy them both, especially more so with television now, the golden age of television. Since I’ve started doing Deadwood, and the television I’ve done since then is so nuanced and thick and layered, and it’s just as rewarding as a beautiful film.
Speaking of Deadwood, it’s been reported there’s a movie coming out, with most of the cast returning. I just wanted you to confirm you’ll be reprising your role as well?
Kim Dickens: I’m gonna be there. Joanie Stubbs is in it, she’s in the whole thing. A lot of us are back.
What’s it like returning to a role you haven’t played for so long?
Kim Dickens: Well, for this role in particular, because for all of the cast, it was such a beloved experience working with David Milch and the rest of the cast. Walking around on these sets with these costumes. Telling these stories was something we all missed for so long, and it was prematurely cancelled and left with a cliffhanger. So, we’d all wanted to do it for so long, and there’d been teases all along. Then there’d be a rumor it wasn’t happening at all. Then, all of a sudden, it comes to life again. When were all given our dates and held, and given our offers, it was hard to believe. Every one of us, even the costume designer Janie Bryant, were asking, ‘Can you really believe we’re back?’ It’s like a gift, a gift to all of us. There were people crying at the table reads. On a daily basis, we were moved, and we were grateful.
On Fear the Walking Dead, where I really enjoyed you as Madison Clark, it was a little in the air about the fate of your character. It seems she is definitely dead, but we didn’t see a body, and fans love to speculate. Can you confirm – is Madison dead?
Kim Dickens:: As far as I know, she’s dead! It was the part I’m most proud of. Helping build that show from the beginning, across three different countries, that character was something I felt I had grown my whole career to get to play. I’m so proud of it, and it ended too soon for what I wanted, but there were a lot of changes over there creatively. I can’t imagine they would want to revisit Madison, but she was a great character. I’m so proud of it.
I was going to ask what your favorite role was, but it sounds like you just answered that.
Kim Dickens: I am really proud of Madison Clark. I mean, to be kicking ass on a daily basis like that, as a female lead of a show, it was a dream role. It was so beautifully written, I thought. It was complex. She was terribly flawed – it was great. I also love Joanie Stubbs from Deadwood, and I love Detective Rhonda Boney from Gone Girl. That was a personal favorite too.
Sometimes on The Walking Dead, they do sometimes bring in dead characters for special appearances in cameo roles. Would this be something you’d be open to if the opportunity presented itself?
Kim Dickens: We would have to sit down and talk about it, but I love the character, I love the fans, and like I said, I was so proud of the show. So, I would never say no, without discussing it and seeing what they were talking about.
It’s a shame they wrote you off so close to when Frank Dillane departed the series as well. It would have been interesting to see how Madison would have reacted to the loss of Nick.
Kim Dickens: Well, that does seem to be a disservice. I mean, I’m no writer, and I don’t profess to have that talent, but I really feel so much of what was about that show was between mother and son and that struggle of how to really be a good parent. And there was a lot of back and forth with those characters. So, for the audience to not get to see Madison grieve that death, it hurts to not have that moment.
It does just seem like the end of an era for the Walking Dead universe. They’ve not only gotten rid of major characters on the main series, but Fear the Walking Dead killed off Madison and Nick as well. Times are certainly changing.
Kim Dickens: Things change, and that’s the nature of this show. The characters don’t always make it.
Other than the upcoming Deadwood movie, is there anything else on your schedule fans can expect to see you next?
Kim Dickens: I have a pilot at Showtime we’re waiting on the official word for. If that doesn’t go, then it’s just on to the next. We just finished shooting Deadwood in December. Right now, I’m having a break, and I’m having a really good time.
You can catch Kim in the new Netflix original movie The Highwaymen, which is now available to stream on the service as of March 29.