Lennie James, who plays Morgan on AMC’s Fear the Walking Dead, talks about merging two apocalyptic worlds, how violence affects his character and Morgan in a new environment.
Q: Coming from The Walking Dead, what felt different in this world? What felt the same?
A: I had six days between finishing the finale of The Walking Dead and starting the first episode of Fear the Walking Dead. That wasn’t nearly enough time to let go of one and pick up the other – and I was glad that Morgan was there with me… I was just holding on to Morgan and continuing to walk with him until I found my feet and relocated myself.
Q: The beginning of the episode features some familiar faces begging Morgan to come back. What’s that like for Morgan to hear?
A: It’s a double-edged sword. Jesus, Rick and Carol come to Morgan to try to talk him back. It’s a testament to what he means to them and what they mean to him. Each of them are different manifestations of how Morgan has come to count for something in their lives. It’s about the bonds that have been built and that’s really important for Morgan, but it’s also an example of what he potentially has to lose if he hangs around. He’s just gone through a horrible war where he ended up reaching into a man’s belly and pulling his entrails out. That’s what he’s had to go through to protect these people he loves. As much as them coming to him is a measure of how much he matters to them, it’s because they matter to him that he feels he has to leave.
Q: No matter how many times he tried to leave, Morgan keeps running into John. Can you ever truly be alone in this world?
A: [Laughs] One of the things I enjoyed most about being on Fear is Morgan’s growing relationship with John and me getting to work with Garret Dillahunt. He’s an actor I’ve admired for a long time. I remember the first time I had a conversation about him was with a friend of mine about Deadwood and we were arguing about whether Garret plays two characters on the show or if they were two different actors – and I was right about him playing two characters. I’ve been a big fan of his since then, so getting to work with him was a real joy. Their relationship is one that John decides they will have whether Morgan likes it or not. That first scene where John is just talking to the dark, I love that scene. It was a beautiful start to Season 4 and a beautiful introduction of Morgan in this new environment and a fantastic way to introduce John, who I think will become a fan favorite.
Q: John is quick to call Morgan his friend and even risks his life for him early on. Is John naive or is Morgan just too protective of himself?
A: Morgan is living by the philosophy that all life is precious and John seems to be the manifestation of that. John opens his heart to almost everybody he meets. He’s always trying to meet people with an open hand and say, “Hey, we don’t have to hurt each other. We don’t have to stay together either. We can go our separate ways, but this exchange doesn’t have to end with one of us hurt or dead.” He is a disarming character. I think one of the things he can bring to Morgan is to allow Morgan to risk opening his heart a little more.
Q: Morgan says, “I lose people and then I lose myself.” What did you make of that line?
A: By the time we see Morgan in Fear, he’s a good few months past the war and he’s away from Virginia. He’s spent a long time on his own. He knows of what he speaks. I love that line. It works for people who don’t know the history of Morgan, but for the people who do know his history – right back to the beginning with the loss of his son and wife and what happens in “Clear” and his relationship with Rick and what he’s had to do – all of his history is included in these phrases… It’s a man who knows himself and he’s telling the truth. That is what happens to him. He loses people and he loses his mind. It’s been a struggle for him to get back to himself and it’s what he’s trying to protect without a gun and with just a stick and a knife.
Q: John reveals a new term for walkers: “the passed.” Is this haunting for Morgan?
A: I think it’s a testament to the world. That was another moment I liked in the script. It was almost a moment of levity where Morgan lets his guard down before he even realizes it. It’s the first uncensored moment for him where he just goes, “We call them walkers where I’m from.” He almost doesn’t know he’s said it until he says it… it’s the first time he’s joined the conversation between these three people and has been present. It’s his first step towards being in this version of the world.
Q: Morgan runs into a walker who turns out to be the injured man he’d left alone earlier. What was it like for him to come face-to-face with that?
A: They had a tiny exchange, but even in that tiny exchange, that guy’s life mattered to Morgan. It was of relevance and it cost Morgan because even though it was a fleeting moment, maybe the guy would be alive if Morgan had handled it differently. It’s a thing for him to be mindful of. Even the slightest interactions can have massive impact.
A: I’m looking forward to seeing another side of Morgan. To see who he can be here and no longer as a friend of Rick. He’s among people who don’t know his history. Who he decides to be or who he’s allowed to be in this group of people – I’m really looking forward to finding that out.
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