- Warning: There are spoilers ahead for “Fear TWD” season seven, episode two.
- Lennie James discusses Sunday’s episode and “TWD” ending with its 11th season.
- If Morgan knew Rick needed help that it would likely be tough for him to stay put in Texas.
Trapped in a submarine after nuclear warheads dropped throughout Texas on the season six finale, Sunday’s “Fear TWD” picks up with Morgan, Grace, and Baby Mo a few months later and they’re in dire straights.
They’re running low on food and any supply run in the radiation-filled wasteland is turning up fruitless.
After trying to escape in a makeshift vehicle, a run-in with some unsavory survivors sends the trio back to the sub sans food by the episode’s end. Thankfully, they find a hidden treasure trove of formula, oatmeal, and more rations to tide them over for the time being.
Lennie James, who plays Morgan in “TWD” universe, says it’s unlikely they’ll stay there for the entire season when they don’t know if the rest of their friends survived the blasts.
“He can’t sit on the sub and build a life with Grace until he’s sure that the people who he feels responsible for and that he loves are OK,” James told Insider recently over
. “I know his first mission is to find the group and find out where they are and how they are.”
Though James has been on “Fear the Walking Dead” since season four, he’s one of the few actors to appear on both “The Walking Dead” and “Fear.”
In fact, he’s currently the sole survivor in “TWD” universe who’s still alive from the show’s pilot (other than Rick Grimes, of course, who is out there somewhere in the great big zombie apocalypse).
Insider spoke with James via Zoom recently to chat Sunday’s episode, the final season of “TWD,” whether or not he could appear back on that show before it ends (it sounds like anything’s possible), his thoughts on Victor Strand referring to himself as Morgan on the season six finale (he said Morgan would, ultimately, take it as a compliment), and much more.
Lennie James was surprised to learn “TWD” was ending. He says ‘nobody expected it to be the success it was.’
Insider: With the final season of “TWD,” I’ve been trying to speak with as many people from the series. I had to speak with you because you’re the only person left alive — that we know of — from the pilot. So to kick things off, this is what I’ve been asking everyone I speak with. Where were you when you learned this would be the final season of “The Walking Dead” and what was your reaction to learning that news?
James: I was here in Austin shooting or about to shoot on ‘Fear’ and I got a phone call and [“TWD” chief] Scott [M. Gimple] told me what was happening, which was good of him not leaving it for some of us to kind of find out after the press and public had, which was cool.
My reaction was one of surprise, but only surprise because I hadn’t expected that to be called in the way that it had just been called. It felt like with Angela at the helm that it had taken on another gear and felt like there was gas left in the tank. But, on the other side of it, I was happy for everybody involved that they got a nice run at how they wanted to end it and that they got to be in charge of it.
It’s one of the things that I think is a testament to that show because nobody expected it to be the success it was. Nobody, when we were first shooting that pilot, no one had confidence in it — that it would be what it turned out to be. I think genuinely people would have been happy because of how fantastic those first six episodes were. Everybody would have been happy and proud of the work that they put in those six episodes.
When it became the biggest television show in the world, it wasn’t always given the credit that it deserved for performances and writing and stunts and special effects and just how every week they were churning out high quality drama. I think it’s fitting that it gets to choose how it says goodbye and I think that that made sense to me and I was kind of happy for them and kind of excited about seeing how they were going to end it all.
You’re making me a little emotional, a little misty-eyed, the way that you’re speaking about it. Since you are the only person right now in “The Walking Dead” universe who was on the series pilot, when you heard this news, did you think, “Oh, they may want to have me back” at all for the final season? Would you want to be back at all?
I did have that conversation, yes. But that’s about as much as I can. [James laughs]
OK. Well, I’m glad that they’re at least having that conversation with you because it would’ve felt weird otherwise.
Morgan leaves Grace alone with baby Mo because he needs her to figure out what her relationship will be to that child and because she can’t be the only one exposing herself to the harmful radiation.
Let’s talk about “Fear.” Morgan and Grace are not in a great situation at the start of season seven, logistically. Grace is also not in a great place mentally after losing her child. Morgan and Grace are taking turns to look for supplies and food.
Is Morgan concerned or worried about leaving Grace alone with a baby for six hours after she lost her own? Does that cross his mind at all? Grace seems to be counting down the minutes on the clock until Morgan returns.
It’s a particular navigation that is happening at the beginning of [season seven, episode two]. Both of them are grieving. But Grace’s loss and grief is more immediate and Morgan has to — as much as he wanted to be father to Athena, it’s not his child. And, as much as he wants to be husband and partner to Grace, they’re not yet.
Morgan is always a man who is driven by a mission. Right from when we first met him, even if it’s a mission that he couldn’t carry out, he had a mission. He was staying in Atlanta. He was staying where he was because he couldn’t leave with his son until he dealt with his wife.
That was his mission and [from] there on in, in every incarnation, every challenge that he’s come across. he has found his way through it and out of it and beyond it, by trying to pursue a mission. At this particular moment in time, their mission, whether they like it or not is baby Mo. It’s going to take the two of them and he’s aware that Grace is trying to avoid that mission.
He’s aware that they can’t necessarily survive and feels at that point they can’t survive and do what they’ve got to do inside this sub[marine] because food is running out. It can’t just be that she goes, and he stays. At the moment we meet them, they’re close to the point where he can’t allow that to be the dynamic. At some point, she’s going to have to be left alone with the child and he knows her enough — he wouldn’t be loving her, he wouldn’t be trying to plan a future with her if he thought that the child was genuinely in danger. As far as he’s concerned, she needs to figure out who she’s going to be to this child by being with this child and that’s what he tries to instigate.
James says it’s a ‘massive’ reveal that Victor calls identifies as his character, Morgan, in what he thinks are the final moments of his life on the season six finale. Morgan would take it as a compliment.
I have a few questions about Victor (Colman Domingo) from the season six finale.
What would Morgan have thought of Victor using his name and pretending that he was Morgan Jones in, what he believed to be, the final moments of his life before the warheads landed? And then, in contrast, what would Morgan make of Victor now? I’m curious, if this was you stuck in this impossible situation, would you be more like Morgan or more like Victor?
I’m so glad you’ve asked me that question because no one has yet, because it’s something that Morgan’s never gonna know because he’s not there. So he doesn’t know that Victor pretends to be him. I think it’s very telling of who Victor is to Morgan and who Morgan is to Victor.
I think it’s a massive reveal that Victor gives up and gives it to a stranger so they’re not aware of the importance of it. But [to] anybody who knows Victor and anybody who knows Morgan, it was a massive, massive moment. And I think that actually somewhere beyond the utter shock that Victor introduced himself as Morgan Jones, I think somewhere Morgan would take it as a compliment.
I think somewhere he goes, “When you were trying to be good, when you were trying to be righteous, when you were trying to be someone that you thought would be the most presentable version of yourself, you named that version Morgan.” And there’s no other way that he could take it [then] kind of as a compliment.
The fact that it’s Victor, you know it’s about him using it for his own ends and so Morgan would be angry and insulted by it. But at some point of it, he would have to take that as a compliment. And, I think that as far as, what it says about their relationship kind of going forward, I think it’s at the heart of why they appear to stand on opposite sides and I think it’s a lot to do with who each thinks the other is. In both cases they get it right, but they equally get it wrong and I think that’s at the heart of their story going forward.
Now that Morgan and Grace have some food, his mission is to find the rest of the group and know if they’re OK.
Grace and Morgan find a stash of food on the submarine at the end of Sunday’s episode.
You, Grace, and baby Mo are back in the submarine for now, but do you think Morgan is going to try and make another escape plan for the future? Or may he try and find out if more of the people from their group survived? I know that they just found a bunch of powdered milk and other food to buy them some time, but can they really live in this sub forever? What can you tease for Morgan this season?
I think Morgan still feels a responsibility to the people that were part of his group and he needs to know that they’re OK. It might be that they’re OK and they can stay where they are. It might be that they are not OK and he needs to help them and may bring them back to the sub now that they’ve found that food under the floor. It may be that they’re OK and where they are is better than where he is and they might have — he might have to move.
Alycia Debnam-Carey shadowed James while he directed ‘Fear TWD’ to help train for her directorial debut
Alycia Debnam-Carey directs her first episode of “Fear TWD” this season. She’s been on the show since season one.
Alycia Debnam-Carey is directing an episode this season. You’ve directed an episode. Colman Domingo has directed an episode. Did you guys give her any advice or were you there to watch her in action or I don’t, I don’t know if she’s done it yet. I know you guys have a little bit left to film.
Yeah, we talked some. Alycia’s been talking about directing for a season or two and is finally putting it in motion and that’s very exciting. She knows that myself and Colman have done it before and she sought advice and knowledge from both myself and Colman, but also from Mikey [Satrazamis] who’s a fantastic mentor.
Actually, while I was directing an episode, for a part of it, Alycia was on set with me, shadowing. I’ve directed, now, three episodes of the show so I’m kind of at the newer end of it than Colman and Mikey. She came in and shadowed me for a little bit because I’m closer to being a novice to just figure out how she’s going to do it.
But Alycia’s smart. She’s a committed and dedicated and smart actress and she’ll be a committed and dedicated and smart director. I have no doubt whatsoever.
James says it would ‘be very hard’ to hold Morgan in place if he knew Rick was in trouble out in the world somewhere.
Morgan filled Rick in on the walker apocalypse after he awoke from a coma on “TWD” pilot. Here they are on season eight.
I know Morgan’s on “Fear the Walking Dead” now, but does Morgan ever think about everyone he left in Alexandria on “TWD” and how they’re doing? If Morgan knew that Rick was missing for years and is probably somewhere out in the world trying to return to his family, do you think that that would serve as a catalyst for Morgan to get out of Texas?
Someone asked me this before, and it’s a short and sweet answer.
It’d be difficult for him to go now because he has the responsibility and commitment to Grace and the baby. But if he heard that Rick was in trouble and that he was somewhere out in the world and needed help I think it’d be very hard to hold Morgan in place. He would have to set things in motion and I’ll be very surprised if he didn’t head in that direction.
Yeah. Well, I sure hope to see you guys back in action at some point in the future, whether it’s in these movies or wherever. I know you can’t say anything about it. I know anyone can’t say anything about it.
James says he’s proud of of ‘Fear’ season seven and the team who had the challenge of creating an ‘apocalypse on top of an apocalypse.’
Is there anything else that I haven’t asked you about “Fear” or what you’re excited for this season that you want to share before I let you go?
I think the scale on which we’re telling the story this season has gone up a notch and that’s a real kind of testament to the storytellers and to Andrew [Chambliss] and Ian [Goldberg], our showrunners. But also, they [gave] us a huge challenge at the end of season six. They actually dropped the bombs because we didn’t stop Teddy from pressing the button. The world has changed.
That was a massive challenge to every single department of our cast and crew. It presented challenges to everybody. And if I’m proud of season seven — and I am proud of season seven — one of the things I’m most proud of is the opportunity for our fans to see the real fantastic work that the different departments have done, whether it’s hair and makeup, whether it’s costume, whether it’s practical effects, whether it’s the special effects, makeup, whether it’s the set design, production design. Every single department was challenged by creating this apocalypse on top of an apocalypse.
We really stepped up. We painted the sky. That’s not an easy thing to do in 10 days each episode, basically shooting a movie with stunts and walkers and all that we already cram into our episodes. We rose to the challenge and I’m really excited for the fans to see what we did.
You can follow along with our “TWD” universe coverage here. This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.