‘Fear the Walking Dead’: Lennie James breaks down the season premiere
SPOILER ALERT: Read on only if you have already watched the season 4 premiere of Fear the Walking Dead.
Who knew Morgan Jones was such a Flock of Seagulls fan? How else to explain why he ran, he ran so far away on Sunday’s Fear the Walking Dead premiere. And I mean sooooooooo far. Like Virginia to Texas far. But there he was finally forced to stop and stay awhile. The character crossing over from The Walking Dead to FearTWD eventually met up with two new potential allies, John and Althea. After escaping a few dicey situations, the trio decided to help someone seeking aid in the middle of the road.
Good news! It was Alicia Clark. Bad news! It was a trap as Alicia, Frank, Luciana, and Strand then surrounded Morgan and team before the episode came to a close, setting up a potential old school vs. new school situation moving forward. We spoke to the man at the middle of the action, Lennie James, about Morgan’s big crossover episode, The Walking Dead stars that secretly crossed over with him, and what to expect coming up next. (Also make sure to read our interview with the new Fear showrunners as well as franchise overseer Scott M. Gimple’s comments about getting Rick, Carol, and Jesus to make an appearance on Fear the Walking Dead.)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: We knew Morgan was crossing over. What we didn’t know was that Rick, Carol, and Jesus would be crossing over with him, if only for a scene each. Still, how much fun was that? I’m guessing for you, with the other Walking Dead cast and the Walking Dead crew on the Walking Dead location in the Heaps, it probably just felt like shooting some bonus Walking Dead scenes, as opposed to scenes for Fear, right?
LENNIE JAMES: It really did and it really didn’t because it was also shrouded in secrecy. And it was a weird one to have something shrouded in secrecy that is kind of being kept secret from the vast majority of the cast and crew of The Walking Dead. So there were a lot of crew members on that who weren’t our permanent crew members, who were day players. So it was kind of like a covert mission in the middle of The Walking Dead, which is used to holding its own covert mission. So it was a slightly odd undertaking, but it was a lot of fun.
Yeah, I’m used to you guys hiding stuff from me, not hiding stuff from each other.
Yeah, it did feel like a bit of a family squabble. But you know, like I said, it was a lot of fun. It was weird. People came over to visit just to see what was going on.
It’s interesting how Rick says, “You can hide, but you can’t run,” and then that’s exactly what Morgan does — literally by running 1,000 miles or so southwest. What’s his plan here? Where or what is he running to at that point? Or is he just running away?
I don’t think he’s running to anything. If he’s running to anything, what he’s running towards is just solitude. And he’s just gonna keep going. I think if he’s got any plan whatsoever, it’s that he has to put distance between himself and this collection of people that he has come to care about. And in order to protect them and in order to protect himself I think he has to put distance. So it’s much more that he’s running, walking, driving, away.
That very first scene, Garret Dillahunt’s John is talking into the woods, because he hears something. He hopes it’s a person, and then he shoots the walker that you’re about to kill, and he sees you and asks “What’s your story?” What do you think Morgan’s intent is there before John sees him? Is it to take out the walker to protect this guy, but without being noticed and then go on his way? What do you think happens if John doesn’t pull that trigger?
If John doesn’t pull the trigger, he kills the walker and he keeps on walking. And even after John takes out the walker, Morgan says his intention very clearly. He says, “I’m just passing through.” And it’s his intention to just pass through. And I think it’s a kind of a part of a pattern that Morgan may have done along the way. Like when he tries to leave the medicine and bandages for the man injured in the back of the jeep. This is what he does. He will help people who need help, but his intention is forward motion, is to keep on going. And it’s literally his intention meeting up against John Dorie’s intention that holds him there much longer than he means to be held up.
So it’s like, go help people, but build no relationships whatsoever?
In a way, yes. Go. Keep walking forward. If you come across people, and you can do something to help them, help them. But don’t get involved with them. Don’t join up with them. Don’t bond with them. Don’t care about them too much.
And John is just the opposite. He’s a Chatty Cathy here. He’s clearly been lonely and he’s looking for someone to connect with. And then you come across Althea, played by Maggie Grace, who wants Morgan to tell his story on camera. These two must be quite a nuisance to Morgan at first, I imagine.
It’s exactly the opposite of what he’s looking for. I do have to say that both Maggie and Garret have been given fantastic characters to inhabit and do amazing jobs in bringing them to life. It was a wonderful and really kind of comforting experience crossing from one to the other and having a lot of my early filming with those guys in order to get my feet on the ground. Because we were all arriving new in this environment and we kind of looked after each other. So that was absolutely glorious.
But in their relationships with Morgan — John Dorie being so open and friendly in the middle of this apocalypse just annoys the hell out of Morgan. And if that wasn’t bad enough, then you have Althea, who wants to sit him down and shove a camera in his face and ask him the most personal questions. Yeah, he could do without both of them. But they do have a way about them.
I can’t think of anyone Morgan would less rather talk to than a journalist, and I say that as a journalist myself. Is that how you feel talking to me, Lennie? Is that what it’s like when we chat?
You know what? I couldn’t possibly comment. No, not necessarily. But there have been moments, Dalton, I’m not gonna lie.
You guys are filming the back half of the season now. We spoke on set when you were filming your first episode and it was obviously a bit weird for you in that you were playing the same character but in a different place with a different cast and a mostly different crew, and you hadn’t even really worked much with the main cast yet. How long did it take you to get comfortable or are you still getting comfortable?
Well, part of the story of this first season is, in part, about Morgan’s uncomfortability. So that’s still part of my working day. We’re a lot more situated now than we were when we last spoke, and we’re forming ourselves into a family, both in front of the camera and behind the camera, and all of that is going really well. Because it was such a big change for all of us with the relocating of the show and the integrating of new cast members with existing cast members. Bringing together a new crew. It’s still getting settled, but we’re having a lot of fun getting it done.
It’s interesting how you say Morgan’s sort of uncomfortable through the first half of that season that you filmed, because we see at the end of this first episode when they’re gonna get out of the SWAT vehicle and he says to John Dorie, “You know, I don’t kill.” And we’ve seen him say that on The Walking Dead and it proved to not be so sustainable. So how sustainable is that here for Morgan on Fear the Walking Dead?
He’s had a long time in between walking and running away from Virginia and arriving in Texas. It’s a good few months that he has crossed a lot of land and as far as we know, certainly at this stage, he hasn’t killed anybody in between. And he arrives in Texas as a man who is still determined to live by that creed and you’ll just have to watch and see to see how long that lasts. Or whether it does or it doesn’t.
We have this confrontation in the road at the end of the episode. What can you say about what is coming up for Morgan?
I think one of the things that’s fantastic about that reveal and that confrontation at the end of the premiere episode is that although you think you know those existing characters of Strand and Luciana and Alicia and Nick, you might not know them nearly as well as you think you do, and they too have gone through certain things since the last time you saw them. And that’s gonna be revealed over the coming episodes and over this season. Everybody’s gone through a slight transformation. All the people you think you know, you may well not have known them as well as you think you do.
Also make sure to read our premiere interview with the new Fear showrunners as well as franchise overseer Scott M. Gimple’s comments about getting Rick, Carol, and Jesus to make an appearance on Fear the Walking Dead.
Fear the Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC.