“The Walking Dead” actor Lennie James recently admitted to Hawaii fans he was the last person on the planet to find out his character Morgan Jones would appear on “Fear the Walking Dead.”
James, 52, shared with the Comic Con Honolulu audience that he did not petition for his character Morgan to transition to AMC’s spinoff show.
“What crossover?” James joked.
Following the “The Walking Dead” season eight finale, Morgan and his bo staff take an epic journey from Georgia to Texas in the season four premiere of “Fear the Walking Dead.” With his transition, both series are united in the same zombie universe.
We first met Morgan in “The Walking Dead” pilot episode “Days Gone By.” Yet, eight seasons later, we only get to know Morgan a tad bit more in season three, episode 12 of “Clear” and season five finale of “Conquer.” Morgan gets plenty of screen time in “Fear the Walking Dead.”
“It was a way of exploring the character on a speed and on a level that isn’t possible on ‘The Walking Dead,’ because there are so many characters,” James said. “It was an opportunity to get a little more Morgan focused in a way that could happen on ‘The Walking Dead,’ but it would’ve just taken a lot longer.”
Morgan eventually dies from a walker bite in the comic series. The show is known to diverge from the comics, but Morgan’s transition to the new show might just extend his lifespan.
“‘Fear’ was a way of exploring [him] a little bit more before he finishes,” James said.
Still, no character is really safe in a zombie apocalypse. After all, they’re surrounded by hungry, flesh-eating walkers and sociopaths who are willing to murder fellow human beings to survive.
It’s no secret “The Walking Dead” tends to kill off fan-favorite characters, so actors usually get nervous whenever they sit down with “The Walking Dead” showrunner Scott Gimple at the start of every new season to discuss their characters’ fate on the show.
“While he talks for 40 minutes, you’re not listening to a word of it,” James said. “Because all you’re waiting to find out is: Do you live or do you die?”
Here are some excerpts from the Aug. 5 Q&A panel with Lennie James at Comic Con Honolulu.
Watch the video for the full interview.
QUESTION: How have you enjoyed being on the Islands so far?
ANSWER: I’ve loved it. I was saying to someone earlier: Is there anyone who has come to Hawaii and gone, “Eh, it’s alright. I can take it or leave it. Too many pineapples.”
Q: Talk a little bit about the transition that is happening between moving between the two shows. How much of a difference is it? It is two completely different production crews. Is it like leaving one family and going to another?
A: I was trying to describe it to someone today, because they said, “Which one do you prefer?” And I said, “It’s a bit like comparing your girlfriend to your mum.” It’s really not a fair comparison. I’ve been associated with “The Walking Dead” now for nearly 10 years, but I’ve been on “Fear” for seven months. It’s new, but I’m enjoying them both. We’re trying to tell good stories in two different places and trying to bring the universes together.
Q: Does that hint that we might be seeing some crossover at some point?
A: You know, anything is possible. But also, anybody who knows anything about “The Walking Dead” knows there’s only so much I can say out loud in a venue like this without risking my life and career. Anything is possible at the moment, but that’s mostly in the head of Scott Gimple and Ian [Goldberg] and Andrew [Chambliss], so I can’t really comment.
Q: It does have to be interesting to be on a show, where spoilers are so huge. How is that living with sometimes you’ve already filmed everything and for months you’ll have to sit on the information. Do you have a pal where you go, “OK, don’t tell anybody, but …”
A: I have a really good friend Sanjay in Atlanta and I can tell him anything, because he doesn’t watch the show. His wife watches the show, but he doesn’t watch the show. In fact, he calls the show, “That vampire show.” And I say, “Sanjay, it’s not a vampire show.” And he goes, “Yeah, but it is.” And I go, “No, it’s not.” And he goes, “Yeah, but it is.” So I can tell him everything and he just doesn’t care, really. But the hardest thing is not being able to tell friends and family.
Q: Americans are terrible at doing accents. I mean if you ask us to do British, Cockney or anything, I mean, we do not come off. You can watch Tom Cruise or any of those to get an example, but both yourself and Andrew Lincoln do a fantastic job of doing American accent. So what kind of stress does that put on you you know when you’re learning your lines and stuff and also since there’s so many Americans on the cast trying to, you know, blend in with. Do you kind of stay in American accent when you’re on the scenes or do you bounce back and forth?
A: When I first came to the States to do show called “Jericho,” I wouldn’t stay in in the American accent so I had a kind of thing of once I crossed the line so once they call “action” I’m American and the rest of the time I was English and I did that right up until I came on to “The Walking Dead” as a regular in season six and working with Andy he stayed in the accent almost on the moment he gets off the plane in Atlanta he’s in the American accent with everybody except his wife and kids so just to keep the continuity of it. I did the same, so I thought this year I’m gonna try it the way that Andy does it and I have to say it’s really helpful.
Q: I just wanted to ask you when you played the “Clear” version of Morgan, the insane version of Morgan where do you draw from in order to portray that on film?
A: I don’t learn lines. I read the script and I read the script, and if there’s anything I am frequently saying to the writers of both shows both on “Fear” and on “The Walking Dead” it is “You guys wrote this, I’m just trying to play it,” and that’s what I do and if you break down what Morgan’s gone through on “Clear” and just remove it from the zombie apocalypse and just have it on as a regular guy’s life.
He’s a man who defined himself by who he was married to and who he was the father of, and he loses both of those to a certain extent because of his own doing. Because he didn’t end his wife’s suffering, his wife turned out to kill his son and he’s lost both of those things — that would drive anybody crazy.
And, so for me, was only about the degree in which we take him down that road, but those emotions are understandable regardless of the situation so I just played what was real and what was human and what made sense to me and that’s what I tried to do with all of my characters.
Q: If there is a cure, do you know what might be in it?
A: What might be in the cure? I don’t know. Honey, maybe? A spoonful of sugar? I don’t know. I’m sure if there is a cure, they’ll come up with something.
“Fear the Walking Dead” returns Sunday, Aug. 12 on AMC. Visit amc.com/shows/fear-the-walking-dead for more information.