Cliff Curtis was one of Fear The Walking Dead's main characters from the very start of the series, so why was Travis killed off so suddenly? Although the modern incarnation of Fear The Walking Dead acts as a companion piece to the main show, it was originally devised as a prequel, exploring the early days of the zombie outbreak before civilization and society had crumbled completely. Fear The Walking Dead's main cast took the form of a blended family, with Madison (Kim Dickens) and Travis (Cliff Curtis) attempting to survive along with their children from previous relationships, Alicia, Nick and Chris.
Curtis portrayed Travis throughout the first two seasons of Fear The Walking Dead, during which time his character evolved from someone who sought to avoid conflict and maintain the moral status quo, into a stronger and more decisive figure. Travis goes from struggling to kill even the undead to taking on multiple walkers with his bare hands and beating to death those responsible for murdering his son. Despite being a perfect example of The Walking Dead's ethos that hardship triggers growth, Travis was killed off almost as soon as his character started to stabilize. In the second episode of Fear The Walking Dead season 3, Travis is shot while riding in a helicopter and selflessly abandons ship to avoid reanimating and endangering his loved ones.
While Travis' death delivered in terms of emotional impact and shock value, it also felt extremely sudden and was an unceremonious exit for such a pivotal character, leaving some fans disappointed. From a narrative standpoint, Travis' sacrifice opened the door for Fear The Walking Dead to go all-in on Madison's character, with Kim Dickens taking over as sole lead and rapidly becoming the spinoff's fascinating focal point. However, Fear The Walking Dead showrunner, Dave Erickson, confirmed that earlier scripts for season 3 planned for Travis to stick around much longer.
It seems incredibly likely that Curtis' exit was motivated by his casting in a small, little-known cinematic project - James Cameron's upcoming quartet of Avatar sequels. The Fear The Walking Dead actor is set to play Tonowari, the leader of a coastline tribe of Na'vi, in all four of the new Avatar movies and this gig would've undoubtedly interfered with his commitments in the zombie apocalypse. Curtis' casting become public knowledge in May 2017, with early production on Avatar 2 slated for August of the same year. Fear The Walking Dead season 3 wrapped filming in mid-July 2017 (as confirmed by Dickens' Twitter account) and this would've left Curtis very little time to prepare for his demanding motion-capture role in Avatar.
With this in mind, Travis' sudden demise makes a lot more sense. Staying on through to the end of Fear The Walking Dead season 3 and moving straight into Avatar 2 would've made for an incredibly tight schedule and allowed little room for delays and other surprises. Instead, the safer bet was to kill Travis off early, especially since he certainly wouldn't have been available to return for season 4 and would've needed to die at some point in season 3 anyway.
Although Curtis' upcoming trip to Pandora may have forced Fear The Walking Dead into altering its plans somewhat, producers and fellow cast members surely wouldn't have begrudged the actor an opportunity to join one of the most ambitious, successful and popular movie franchises of all time.
Fear The Walking Dead season 5 continues with "Ner Tamid" September 1st on AMC.