Ofelia Salazar is not on the menu. Despite the vulnerability suggested by her seemingly interminable compassion for others (a “vulnerability” given the end of days scenario Fear the Walking Dead has its characters battling), Ofelia has grit—the type of grit that is invaluable during tough times a zombie apocalypse. In other words, she’s a survivor.
“I would absolutely want Ofelia by my side if zombies take over,” says Mercedes Mason of her character. “She’s loyal, kind, intelligent and she can wield a weapon like a pro. In a world where trust is a big commodity… Ofelia is one of the most trustworthy characters I’ve seen.”
Neither supernatural storylines or playing an armed badass are new to the Swedish-born actress. Her first two major television gigs include the short-lived ABC drama 666 Park Avenue, in which a possessed Manhattan apartment complex is the narrative catalyst and a role on Fox’s The Finder (the now defunct spin-off of the network’s popular Bones series) as the ambitious Deputy U.S. Marshal, Isabel Zambada.
Mason got her start in front of a camera as a model (she signed with Ford Models as a teenager, shortly after moving to the Chicago area from Sweden), and has steadily been building up her resume since One Life to Live—the legendary soap opera—gave the actress her first big break back in 2005. Between the previously mentioned shows, an award-winning feature film (Three Veils) and a stack of memorable guest spots on popular series, such as Entourage, The Closer, Chuck, Californication and Anger Management, the actress has earned herself a captivated fan base. Now, with Fear the Walking Dead reaching cult status, audiences simply can’t get enough of Mason.
A show favorite, Mason exudes a kind tranquility as Ofelia, while Ofelia’s saintly aura has viewers of AMC’s Sunday night rating grabber rooting loyally for the character. For most, this means holding out hope that something will come along and trigger the character’s internal panic button, so that her guts can finally take hold, and Ofelia’s survival against zombies feels a little more certain. Should you be one of these fans, prepare yourself. According to Mason, that “something” is about to present itself.
“Ofelia has been slow to harden—she had such a vast distance to cover. When we initially meet her, she’s a meek daddy’s girl mouse. Then she loses her mother, gets shot by her crush, and loses all trust in her father. Situations like that are bound to toughen a person up, and Ofelia is no exception,” explains the actress. “Post the Season 2 midway mark, we’ll really see her come into her own because she’ll have no other choice. There will be a final straw for her that will change her dynamic with herself and how she views the world. It’ll be tragic for her, but it’ll be the catalyst that creates great strength in her, as well. We’ll see a much different Ofelia after that.”
So, it seems Ofelia is primed to shed her old skin (quite literally from the looks of the trailer for this weekend’s mid-season finale), and we’re beyond eager to see what the new Ofelia has in store for us.
Below, we mix things up with Mason and talk a little Fear The Walking Dead (sphinx-like spoilers included) and a whole lot of fashion.
With Season 2 of Fear The Walking Dead about to hit its midway mark, do you feel like you’re at the point where you know your character inside out, or is Ofelia still evolving for you?
I think I know and understand Ofelia for the most part. She and I share many qualities and likenesses, like our devotion to our families and our penchant to seek the kinder approach, even in the face of evil.
Sounds like there’s a “but” in there…
However, some of her actions puzzle me. She has a tendency to remain a quiet observer, while I couldn’t remain quiet if you paid me. Her taste in men is less than appealing considering one of them shot her! (Laughing.) But in all seriousness, I understand Ofelia’s way of thinking. Obviously, the longer I play her and keep her a part of me, the better I’ll understand her… but I’m pretty confident that I’ve come a long way with grasping her as a person, thus far.
Since Season 1, it feels like all the characters have hardened a bit. Ofelia, though, has been slower to change. Why do you think that is?
We have to remember that all of our characters are still very new to this apocalyptic world, so they’ll continue changing, as they understand their new world better. Ofelia will shed her meek ways in no time.
Aside from your character, who else on the show would you want by your side should you happen to find yourself on the run from zombies?
Another character I’d be confident taking on zombies with is Nick Clark. Granted, I’d have to keep him away from any heroin we may stumble upon, but he’s shown himself to be resourceful. He’s always able to decipher a situation appropriately and come up with a solution. I think [he and Ofelia] make a strong group dynamic. He’s trustworthy. So is Alicia Clark. I’d want another badass chick by my side, as well.
Speaking of Alicia, there’s been some fan buzz about the potential of a budding relationship between her and Ofelia. Can audiences expect your character to find romance this season with Alicia or someone else?
I think it’s beautiful that the fans want a relationship between Ofelia and Alicia. However, the girls have developed a friendship that hints at a sisterly type bond, so I doubt they’d ever have anything romantic come of it. Nick has been kind and helpful to Ofelia, so perhaps something could come of that in the future. But at the moment, I think both of them are more keen on surviving, than finding love. Then again, you never know what feelings may arise when the world is at the precipice of destruction. All that being said, we also haven’t discovered much about Ofelia’s past as of yet. It’s quite possible that she had someone special before the zombies took over. Only time will tell.
Now you have us hooked! The mid-season finale is here and drama is at a high. On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being outrageous), how would you rate the suspense level of the finale episode?
The mid mark episode is incredible! High intensity and lots of action. I think fans will be surprised to say the least. We certainly were when we read the episode. I don’t know what number to allot to it because a 10, to me, would suggest the ridiculous…like aliens coming down and saving us all (laughing), so I suppose I’ll give it a solid 9 because I know our fans will be shocked! There’s tragedy and resolution and everything in between. Tune in… you won’t be disappointed!
Can you give us a teaser summary of what audiences can expect from the second half of Season 2?
Our families will struggle to remain united. Family and friendship bonds will be tested. Loss will be had. New understandings will commence.
So cryptic! More specifically, based on developments over this season so far, what (or who) can we expect to be fueling the action in Ofelia’s life come the mid-season premiere?
I would say [it’s] more of a “what” type situation that fuels Ofelia in the second half of Season 2. Something will happen that will forever change her as a person. She won’t be able to remain the same. This situation will either be the cause of her new found strength or push her to crumble.
Fear the Walking Dead continues to build on top of its already strong fan base, what’s it been like dealing with the show’s mass success. Are you able to walk around, and go shopping for example, or do you get bombarded by fans?
We are so lucky to have such an incredible fan base! They are the most loving, supportive and positive group I’ve ever had the fortune of meeting. I’ve been recognized more as of late, but I still have lots of people who stop me on the street, and then when they discover that I play Ofelia Salazar, refuse to believe me. “That’s not you! No way! Wait, really? [they pause and think about it] No way!” It cracks me up every time.
Since shopping has already been brought up, let’s move on to fashion. Your red carpet style is impeccable! What’s your secret?
First off, thank you! What a lovely compliment. Did we just become best friends? Complimenting my sense of style is all it takes apparently. (Laughing.) I’m lucky that I’ve been able to work with some great stylists. Season 1, I worked with Kyle Kagamida and now in season 2, I’m with Micah McDonald and Wayman D.B. I’ve also been fashion obsessed since I started modeling. I interned at W Magazine under Joe Zee’s tutelage, when I first graduated from school. So, I’ve learned a lot along the way.
Ummm, you interned under Joe Zee? That’s pretty incredible! No wonder you have such fantastic fashion sense! Using three adjectives or less, how would you describe your red carpet style?
I’d describe my red carpet looks as “tomboy sophistication,” but at home, it’s jeans, t-shirts and one signature piece… like a great coat or a cool necklace.
You once said in an interview, that if you were not an actress, you would likely work in the fashion industry. What draws you to this world?
I honestly have no idea what draws me to fashion. But the appeal has been strong in me since I was young. I’d always raid my mother’s closet and play dress-up. I’d put outfits together for my friends at school. In college, I’d buy Vogue instead of alcohol… hence, I never gained the freshman 15. All I know is fashion is important to me. I think one of the reasons Parisian women are so appealing to me is because they have an impeccable sense of style. I find that so attractive. I hope I’m lucky enough to indulge in fashion until I’m old and grey.
People can sometimes end up with something of a “uniform” in their closet. Do you have an outfit like this, something quintessentially “you?”
I don’t have a proverbial “uniform,” if you will because my fashion tastes are mercurial—solely based on the position of the moon during the summer solstice. I kid, I kid. But seriously, my fashion likes are based on where I travel, who I meet and what I see in films. Inspiration is everywhere.
For example, after my trip to Türkiye, I found myself loving colorful flats and lots of scarves. I saw a film a few years back called Jeune & Jolie, in which I gawked at the beautiful lead actress, Marine Vacth and her simple, yet youthful sense of style. I found myself buying similar items whenever I was out. So I get inspired randomly and constantly.
Excellent choice of inspiration, Marine Vacth is stunning in that film. What about your red carpet style, do you have a particular “look” you gravitate towards?
It’s going to sound silly, but I like styles that suit my body and make me feel pretty. That could lean towards the masculine at times and hyper feminine at other times. If you look at my past red carpets… there’s no through line, really. I like what I like at the moment, and I go with my gut. I usually know what I’m going to wear, as soon as I put it on. There’s an immediate attraction. It’s like falling in love. It’s a rush. Perhaps that’s why I love fashion so much? I’m a rush-obsessed love addict. (Laughing.) You may notice, I mostly crack myself up.
Keep the jokes coming! What item in your closet would you never want to part with?
That’s a Sophie’s Choice question! How dare you sir?! I have a fun little game I play when I travel. Instead of buying little trinkets and souvenirs, I like to buy one incredible fashion item. So over the years, I’ve accrued quite the collection of coats, shoes, purses and jewelry that I couldn’t dream of parting with. They represent my travels and a timeline of my fashion progression, as I’ve grown up. I’ve been traveling since I was 13-years-old due to modeling, so my collection definitely has some silly childlike pieces that make me laugh. But, they’re mine, and you can’t have them. So stop asking me to get rid of them!
Okay, how about this: What item in your closet might have already overstayed its welcome?
On the flip side, I don’t hold on to a lot of fashion that doesn’t hold value. I have a rule where I go through my closet twice per year. Whatever items haven’t been worn in over a year or fail to illicit excitement will be donated. It’s like fashion Hunger Games in my closet. Let’s just say I’ll never be accused of being a pack rat.
Any particular summer trends you’re excited about this season?
I try not to become a victim to trends, but there are a couple I’m enjoying. The 1970s throwback of the high-waisted jeans and natural hair is great. I also love the crisp white button down shirts. Some of the other trends are not my cup of tea… like the ankle length flare fringe jeans. They make me cringe.
Definitely don’t think you’re the only one who feels that way. What are some of your favourite labels?
I genuinely can’t answer this because it would take me hours. (Laughing.) There are so many. Off the top of my head, I love Johnathon Simhkai because I’ve worn his designs a lot lately. I also love Alexander Wang and Rodarte. Obviously, the classics like Chanel and Oscar de la Renta are always swoon worthy.
Great picks! What style trait do you find most attractive in people?
I know this is going to sound cheesy, but the old adage is true: confidence is the best accessory. It can make any outfit look expensive and chic and cool. Kate Moss could make a paper bag look amazing because she oozes cool confidence. It’s the best advice for fashion. Wear it like it was given to you by the Queen herself.
Last question: Who is your style icon?
One of my style icons is Katherine Hepburn, due to her sexy masculine stylings. My current style crush is Alexa Chung. There’s a reason they call her Kate Moss 2.0. She has impeccable style and is always effortlessly cool. I want to break into her house and raid her closets so badly. Don’t tell her though… she may think I’m weird.