Lennie James Interview: Fear The Walking Dead
We speak to Lennie James about Fear the Walking Dead season 7 and where Morgan's story will take him as the season nears its conclusion.
All of the characters of The Walking Dead franchise have been through hugely trying circumstances, and Morgan Jones (Lennie James) on Fear the Walking Dead has dealt with as much as anyone. With Fear the Walking Dead nearing the end of season 7 and headed into season 8, Morgan has also changed a great deal since viewers first met him. Thanks to the simmering war with the tower and Victor Strand (Coleman Domingo), Morgan is headed for a major crescendo himself.
In Fear the Walking Dead’s latest episode “The Raft”, Morgan continues to look after baby Mo and provide some mentoring oversight to Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey) as the conflict with Strand reaches another level. With Fear the Walking Dead season 7 concluding on June 5, Morgan’s role in that story is sure to be significant over the season’s last few episodes.
Screen Rant spoke to Lennie James on Morgan’s role in Fear the Walking Dead season 7, where his story on the show has taken him, and where he’s headed as season 7 nears its end.
Screen Rant: Where is Morgan is at this point in season 7 of Fear the Walking Dead, and what viewers can expect going forward into the end of the season for Morgan?
Lennie James: I think on the back half of season 7, Morgan’s focus is split, I suppose, between his commitment and desire to find some place safe not just for the group, but more importantly, for Grace and baby Mo and his newfound responsibility for that part of his family. And I think it’s split between that on one level and helping Alicia become the leader that he believes her to be.
What can you share, without giving too much away, about their connection and their relationship at this point in the season and how it relates to how season 7 will be wrapping up?
Lennie James: I think that Morgan and Alicia have walked side-by-side for a very long time. They started off not necessarily as enemies, but in an area where they didn’t really have the trust and the bond that they have now, and it’s something that has grown to be an important relationship between the two of them, and in the end of season 7, we’re seeing that take a new turn, as it were, that will have a lasting effect on both of them, let’s just say that.
With this episode specifically, what were some of your favorite moments or scenes to film as far as how they relate to Morgan’s arc with his role as a leader and as you said of sort of passing the torch and mentoring Alicia?
Lennie James: I think we did a lot of walking and talking in this episode, and it was hot, I remember that. But it’s a lot of fun hanging out with Alicia. Although sometimes the stories we are telling are deep and dark and emotional, around it, we managed to have a lot of fun and keep our energies up.
What goes on between Morgan and Alicia in this episode is, in places, quite delicate. It’s not kind of full on, it’s investing in their histories, both their shared history and their separated history, and a lot of it comes to bear in this episode. Figuring that out with Alycia and being true to our characters while we interact with each other, they were just really good days at work.
What can you say, without spoilers, about how Morgan’s arc is going to play out in regards to the tower and the conflict brewing for him in all of that?
Lennie James: Without giving spoilers? That’s quite a difficult one! What I can say is that Morgan will be fully engaged in the battle that’s kind of, what I call, the family squabble that turns into a war between Morgan and Alicia leading on one side and Strand leading the other side, that Morgan will be fully engaged in that, and in some places, behave in ways that he hasn’t shown that he was capable of doing and really go full-out to protect those people that he cares about, even though, to a certain extent, he may well be going up against certain people that he cares about.
Have to stay as vague as possible there!
Looking again at the rest of this season collectively, you mentioned your relationship with Alicia in this episode and some of your favorite moments in it. With having to work around the pandemic as you were doing this season, what made that different in the experience of season 7?
Lennie James: I’ll tell you what genuinely I loved about it. At the end of season 6, we set ourselves a massive challenge, because we drop the bombs. And that was huge, and then we had to change our landscape, we had to change our world again, and it was like we were up against two apocalypses, because there was the apocalypse that created the Walkers, and now we’ve dropped a bomb and we’re in a post-apocalyptic, nuclear world, as well, and we were shooting that in a worldwide pandemic.
That’s a lot by any standard, and it presented a massive challenge for our creative team. Not just the actors and the writers and the directors but our set designers, our costume designers, our make-up designers and the practical visual effects groups, the post-production people. Everybody had to up their game, everybody had to rise to the challenge, no one came into season 7 without something new to do, some new to achieve.
What was fantastic wasn’t just how fantastically they rose to that challenge and took it on, but the way in which they did it. The kind of grace and commitment and hard work and humor and generosity in which they did it, I just thought was fantastic. I was proud of us, our family, both in front of the camera and behind it.
With where Morgan is now on the show, what do you think the biggest way is that he’s changed from when you started on Fear the Walking Dead as Morgan to where he is now in season 7?
Lennie James: Well, he’s older. I think the biggest change in Morgan now is that almost for the first time, he has taken a real risk on the future. He is invested wholly on the future. To have a child in the apocalypse, to take on the responsibility of fathering a child in the apocalypse is about the biggest gamble you can make on the future, and he’s done that.
To allow himself to fall in love is a huge investment on the future, and those were both things that symbolize what has been the defining moment in Morgan’s life was losing his wife and his son and the manner in which he lost them both. He’s been grieving them and mourning them for most of the time that we’ve known him. To allow himself to move past that and move past it in the sense of opening himself up to the possibility of someone else to love and someone else to father is massive.
When we were talking about making that transition, I wasn’t absolutely sure it was something that was possible for Morgan, but I’m proud of the way we’ve navigated it.
Definitely, he’s really come a long way. With this episode and the remainder of season 7, what do you think, as far as Morgan’s arc in season 7, is the most standout aspect of it that fans of the show will really latch onto and notice with Morgan’s leadership and mentoring Alicia? What do you think is the biggest component of his arc in season 7?
Lennie James: I think one of the hugest things that I think kind of took the fans by surprise was in the episode when Morgan comes to the tower and it’s kind of Whodunit, ‘Who poisoned Strand?’, and the revelation in that episode I think was for most people a genuine surprise, and was a real line in the sand. And it ties back to a lot of what I was just saying, because it was all to do with the commitment that Morgan has made to Grace and baby Mo and it was all to do with his desire to keep his family safe.
Check out our previous Fear The Walking Dead interviews with Jenna Elfman & Keith Carradine, as well as with Alycia Debnam-Carey, Alexa Nisenson & Omid Abtahi.