Though he hasn’t always been on screen, Lennie James has played one of the longest-running characters in The Walking Dead franchise, and now he’s ready to explore more of what makes Morgan tick in season 5 of Fear the Walking Dead. For a character who has been tussling with the undead since before Rick Grimes was, Morgan is in many ways the unsung survivor of the series. And his story has been filled with more twists and turns than many would have expected for a guy who was introduced in the series premiere but didn’t show back up again until several seasons later.
That’s part of what makes Morgan work — well, that and the fact that he’s doing what he can to preserve human life in a world that no longer considers it precious. That principle has taken Morgan from one show to the other, becoming the ostensible lead in the ever-changing Fear cast, and providing the series with a newfound sense of hope as it pushes forward into season 5. But while Morgan and his fellow survivors are working to help those in need, James is looking forward to the series exploring more of Morgan’s personal challenges in the episodes ahead.
James discussed his character’s surprising longevity and his newfound role in Fear the Walking Dead during a recent set visit attended by Screen Rant. During the discussion, James expressed some incredulity that he’s still playing a character nearly a decade after he was introduced (with time off for a few season, of course), but he also thinks that continuing to play Morgan will give him an opportunity to really explore what motivates him and keeps him going, despite having lost so much.
“When I think about [Morgan’s] journey it is almost unimaginable. In all honesty, when I did the pilot, if you said to me that nine years later I'd be sat in a tent in Texas still talking about this f**king character I'd be going ‘Are you out of your mind?’ I think his influence in the franchise is slightly disproportionate to who he is, on one level. The first five years of this franchise, I did three episodes. They just happened to be flagpole episodes, so a lot of the legwork was carried by the other characters who were there day in, day out.
Being there, he's run the gamut, really. He's been challenged on every front of loss: of losing himself, of losing people that he loves, of building friendships, of losing friendships, of wanting to be on his own and not being on his own, losing his mind... As an actor? Couldn't have asked for more. Literally couldn't have asked for more, and then I did.
I think, in the coming series, one of the things that interested me when we were talking about coming over to Fear and one of the things that we're going to explore is about it's not necessarily the external things that challenge Morgan. Through a greater or lesser extent, he's figured that out, unless somebody really surprises him and sneaks up around the corner and takes him out, he pretty much attunes to this kind of world.
Famous last words; I'll read the next script and it'll be like ‘Oh right, that's how he dies.’ For me it's internal things that will challenge him, about just how optimistic can you be in this world, and just how realistic is it to take on the role of leader? He's been a good soldier, and at times a confidant, but he's not really stuck his head up and been the one who has to come up with the answers. Those things are the things that I'm looking forward to exploring, the kind of internal dialogue with this particular fellow, rather than the focus on the outside.”
The series is just a few days away from returning, and what’s been seen already will offer plenty of external challenges for Morgan and the other survivors. But that stuff is a necessary part of building anticipation through short, two-minute trailers. With any luck, the series will follow through on James’s hopes for his character and the audience will discover something new about Morgan in the process.
Fear the Walking Dead season 5 premieres Sunday, June 2 @9pm on AMC.