‘The Walking Dead’: Lennie James on Morgan’s Journey, Move to ‘Fear the Walking Dead’
The Walking Dead brings back its eighth season on Feb. 25, and fans already know that two beloved characters are on their way out. Poor Carl — oh, poor Carl — took a soon-to-be-fatal walker chomp in the midseason finale.
And then we learned that Lennie James’ Morgan Jones is the long-discussed character who will finally (if puzzlingly) be bridging the worlds of The Walking Dead and its younger sibling Fear the Walking Dead.
Still, James is a prominent presence in the TWD Season 8B teasers that AMC has released in recent weeks, suggesting that no matter when Morgan enters the Fear universe, his final (or perhaps not) days on TWD will be pithy ones.
We recently caught up with James (who charmingly still calls his new television home “Fear of the Walking Dead”) to get an idea of what’s about to go down. James couldn’t tell us outright how those timelines align—if Morgan makes his entry into the Fear storyline after his encounters with Rick but before he returned to Alexandria, or if Fear catches up to the Dead and Morgan’s finally had it with the AHK universe.
But a few of his remarks piqued our curiosity as to whether Morgan’s days among the Grimes gang aren’t completely in the rearview, whether that means his return to The Walking Dead or a progressive blurring of both shows’ worlds.
How did you find out you would be making the jump?
Lennie James: Basically how it happened is that [Fear executive producer] Scott Gimple invited me to his house and said, “I have a question to ask you.” He said, “How would you like to be on Fear the Walking Dead?” and to be absolutely honest, that’s the last thing I expected him to say.
So, it took me completely by surprise and I kind of had a brain freeze, really. Only two thoughts were going through my mind, one of which was, “I need to talk to my family about the whole possibility of it” and the other one was that it meant the possibility of leaving the group of people —or being separated for a bit—from the group of people I’d been working with for the last God knows how many years.
The primary question on fans’ minds is that timeframe. Anything for me? Or am I going to have to wait and see?
I know. It’s very, very tricky and it’s the question that everybody’s asking me and it was the question that, obviously, I had when it was all proposed to me. But, at this particular moment in time, I can’t answer that question.
I can safely say that, in a weird way, it is both a continuation of that battle that Morgan’s having with himself and with the people around him, and it is still part of his journey to finding some kind of inner peace—but it’s not necessarily told in a straight line. As is typical—or becoming typical—with The Walking Dead, it is not as straightforward as any explanation that I’m allowed to give you would necessarily seem.
So it is a continuation. The journey we’re gonna see Morgan on expands his character, but is still part of that battle that he’s having—with himself and the world around him and trying to figure out how best he can continue with the punishment that he’s been given, which is to keep living.
So, the silver lining for Morgan fans unhappy to see him leave The Walking Dead is that we will get a richer sense of the character?
I hope so. In a way, it’s part of the reason why I said yes to going on this particular journey, continuing this particular journey for Morgan. I did have real reservations, because I have a lot of love for Morgan as a character that I’ve created. I’m very protective of who he is as a character, but also of his legacy within the world of The Walking Dead.
I’ve been associated with Morgan now for going on eight years, on and off, and I’ve kind of got to a point where I think I pretty much know him. I can confidently say out loud I know at any one moment what Morgan is thinking and what he might be doing, and one of the things that attracted me to this new landscape of playing Morgan is the possibility of being surprised by him, of finding out new things about him and new possibilities and what happens to him when he encounters people who aren’t familiar to him in the way the people in the [Walking Dead] group have been.
We got some of that when Morgan went to the kingdom and Carol was there. But Carol knows Morgan’s history, so I’m really excited about this kind of blank new canvas that Scott and [new showrunners] Andrew [Chambliss] and Ian [Goldberg] over here at Fear have offered me. I’m really looking forward to exploring all the possibilities.
The Season 8B trailers show Morgan still very much in the thick of the All Out War battle. And I’ll be honest that I’m upset at the notion of Carol and Morgan not being part of each others’ worlds. I know you can’t tell me exactly what lies ahead for Walking Dead Morgan, but do we get some major Morgan in the remaining episodes? And is the Carol-Morgan farewell that seems to be looming going to destroy me?
[Laughs] Morgan’s journey, his story, hasn’t finished yet on The Walking Dead. You’ll see quite a bit of him in the next eight episodes—and you’ll see quite a bit of Morgan and Carol. I can promise you that.
The Walking Dead Season 8B premiere, Sunday, Feb. 25, 9/8c, AMC