In an EXCLUSIVE interview with Lennie James, the ‘Walking Dead’ crossover star tells HollywoodLife how he reacted when he learned Morgan would be switching shows.
Lennie James, 52, portrays fan-favorite Morgan on The Walking Dead, and is one of the few remaining cast members that began their journey on the show in season one. Now, both Lennie and Morgan are making history by crossing over into Fear the Walking Dead, a spinoff of the original. As the series undergoes a major time jump for Morgan’s arrival, HollywoodLife spoke to Lennie about his transition from show to show. We asked Lennie how he felt when EP/showunner, Scott Gimple, broke the news to him about Morgan’s switch and even asked him to share his opinion on one of the biggest theories surrounding Fear‘s Madison.
Morgan will arrive on Fear The Walking Dead the fourth season premieres on Sunday, April 15 at 10:10pm ET. The season premiere immediately follows The Walking Dead‘s season eight finale, which begins at 9pm ET. The crossover event is not just a first for the Walking Dead franchise, but also something that’s been speculated by fans for years. While Lennie was tight lipped about the specifics of Morgan’s transition in HollywoodLife‘s EXCLUSIVE interview, it was very clear that he was excited about the move. Check out our full interview with Lennie below!
What were your thoughts when they said, ‘We’re gonna bring Morgan to “Fear The Walking Dead”?’
“That wasn’t exactly how they phrased it, it would have been a completely different conversation. Scott [Gimple] asked me how I would feel about continuing to tell Morgan’s story over at ‘Fear the Walking Dead’, and at that first meeting I didn’t really — well, I know — I didn’t have any questions. I couldn’t actually at that particular point formulate any kind of thoughts or make any sensible questions come out of my mouth really. Scott suggested it, he tried to explain things about it, but as I remember it my head just started ringing and after a bit I just said to him listen, I’m gonna go home, ’cause I had gone to Scott’s place to have this meeting, and hopefully over the drive all this will settle down and I’ll have some questions for you. I’m sure I’m gonna have loads of questions! But actually, the first time when they suggested it to me it was so not what I was expecting. It was so not the conversation I thought I was driving to Scott’s house to have that it literally rendered me kind of speechless for a bit and I had to take a 50-minute drive back to my apartment to figure out what I actually thought about it.”
And what did you actually think about it?
“The first thing was that if I said yes to it, it meant that I was going to be absent from ‘The Walking Dead’ and that was a big deal in itself. So, that was the first thought I had. And then the next thoughts over the next month, six weeks, maybe two months as we figured out what it would all entail were, it needed to be right for the character. I didn’t want it just to be a gimmick that was to have people interested and talking about for a couple of months, but then actually have no real benefit to the character. So, first and foremost, it had to be right for Morgan — and I’m very protective of Morgan and his legacy on this show. And then it needed to be right for me as an actor. Did I want to keep playing Morgan? Did I want to still be associated with this world? Did I want to still be spending however many months of the year, seven months of year for how ever many years, not in my home? So there were, you know, was it right for my family? So all of those things needed to be considered, and ultimately this is a very rare opportunity. I couldn’t think of another actor who had been offered what I was being offered. So, ultimately it was a challenge I felt I was up for and didn’t want to turn down.”
Does Morgan leave Rick and the group behind on a good note, or is it sort of like he just vanishes? How does that come into play?
“I like the idea of him just vanishing. Of him just being there and then he clicks his fingers and all of a sudden he opens his eyes and he’s in Austin, Texas surrounded by the cast of ‘Fear the Walking Dead’. That would be a cool way of doing it and no one would guess it. But I can’t actually tell you how Morgan leaves, one, and how and when Morgan joins the other in any great detail and that kind of includes on what note Morgan leaves or is no longer in ‘The Walking Dead’. I think I can say that how, the tone in which Morgan leaves and his relationship with Rick and the folk back in Alexandria, the Kingdom and Hilltop is not necessarily obvious. That’s what I can say. It’s not necessarily one that you would ultimately… I’m not sure it’s one you’d easily guess.’
Obviously walking from Alexandria, Virginia to Austin, Texas is not an overnight thing. Are we going to explore what Morgan encounters over that time?
“The distance and the time taken between Virginia and Austin is explored in the telling of Morgan’s story in ‘Fear the Walking Dead’. It’s so difficult because everything is a clue to something else! I’ll have to apologize for not being able to answer your questions, but I am trying!”
How does Morgan’s arrival affect Madison and her family? And what sort of impact does her group have on Morgan?
“I think there is a particular state of mind that Morgan is in when he comes across the folk from ‘Fear’, when he comes across Strand and the Clark family and everybody back there in Austin. The impact that Morgan has on Madison and Alicia and Nick and Strand and Luciana and the others is, again, it’s not as immediate as people might expect. Just because of how they come across each other, it’s a bit more a slow burn.”
I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but there are a lot of fan theories that Madison is somehow related to Daryl Dixon or Rick Grimes because she’s from Alabama and such a bad ass. Any thoughts on that?
“This, genuinely, this is the first time I’ve ever heard that particular theory. Yeah, I’ve never heard it. I’ve heard other theories about Madison and who she might be or who she might evolve into being, but I’ve not heard of any blood tie to either Rick or Daryl. I think it’d be quite good fun if she was a kissing cousin of Daryl. That would be interesting, I could see that causing some sparks and putting the cat amongst the pigeons! Genuinely I’ve never heard that theory before, but if I had to vote for one I’d quite like to see how confusing it could get if she was related to Daryl.”
Is there a chance that Morgan will return to ‘The Walking Dead’?
“Somebody asked Andy [Lincoln] this question, so I am gonna go with his answer because it seems to be a safe answer because it’s already kind of out there. As Andy says, I don’t think the story between, about the relationship between Rick and Morgan, is over yet.”
Do you think it’s possible for ‘Fear’ and ‘TWD’ to collide into one show?
“Is it possible? Yes. Is it probable? I would have to vote no on that one. I don’t see the point in that. I think it’s more likely that the universe would expand more rather than reduce itself back down to just one show. But that’s only me speaking as Lennie, that’s not me speaking with any knowledge because they only give me as much as I’m allowed to have and that’s above my pay grade.”