The Walking Dead season 6: Lennie James on 'joining the dots' of Morgan's backstory
He’s perhaps the biggest enigma on The Walking Dead. There have been three big episodes over five seasons that focused on the character of Morgan, and every single one has featured a very different take on the man who lost his wife and son to the zombie apocalypse. So who is Morgan now as we head into season 6 of the show (which premieres Oct. 11)? And what might we learn about his past that got him to where — and whom — he is today? We spoke to actor Lennie James in his trailer on set to get some guidance.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You’ve worked mostly with Andrew Lincoln over the years, and then a little bit here and there with some of the other actors in the episodes you’ve popped in, but now for the first time you’re really fully integrated with the entire cast. What that’s been like?
LENNIE JAMES: Well, it’s still happening. I’m still in the middle of it. Even though I’m here now, it’s still a drip, drip feeling of meeting people. So I’ve still got a lot of people to have my first onscreen conversations with and first chats and all of that. It’s still very much present and it’s very much something I’m really looking forward to.
Let’s talk about the big Morgan-Rick dynamic now because when we left off he finds Rick in this horrifying position. So, what does that say to Morgan, and what does Morgan take from that, and what does that mean for these two moving forward that we’re going to see in season 6?
I think Morgan’s biggest fear about Rick is that Rick is where Morgan used to be. I mean that’s obvious, really, and he knows that mindset, and he knows that world, and he knows what that kind of does to you, and what it potentially could do to Rick, but also what it could do to the people around him.
It’s very much an exploration of, where are you? What’s going on? And Morgan is in a different place than when we last saw him in season 3. One of the things that’s really important in the dynamic between Rick and Morgan is Rick is the last person on earth who knows who Morgan is. And despite Rick’s long relationship with the group and all the people there, Morgan is the guy who knew him at the beginning. So, they have a bond — whether they like it or not — and they have to figure that out and that’s kind of what happens through certainly the first part of season 6.
We’ve had three big episodes of Morgan and it’s been a different Morgan every single time. So, what Morgan are we going to see now? Talk to me a little bit about the character and where he’s at as we go into season 6 now.
One of the brilliant things of playing him is joining the dots. So, linking the guy you saw who was three weeks ahead of Rick in the pilot, and then the guy who had lost his mind in “Clear” in season 3, and linking those guys and making sure that not just that you play who he is in the situation, but who he used to be in carrying that along with him.
So the thing I had to do in the finale of season 5 was make sure that despite the fact that he’s quite obviously gone through a transformation again, that he’s still the guy he was in “Clear” even though he’s trying not to be, and is also still the guy he was in the first episode, but obviously has moved on. So, that’s the beauty of kind of playing that character and linking them together. And he has gone through a transformation. It’s the transformation that the viewers will find out some or none about in season 6.
What does Morgan make of Alexandria?
On one level for Morgan, reconnecting with Rick is going to be really hard, and it’s going to be really difficult, and is going to be a large chunk of their finding out about each other in season 6. For me, one of the other big things about Morgan is that right from the beginning he’s only ever been in a group of two at the most. It was him and his son, and obviously as fans of the show know, between season 3 at least and where we are now — he’s spent a huge amount of time on his own. This is the first time he’s going to be part of a group.
All the things that the group went through Morgan is kind of going through. On top of that, he doesn’t know whether or not he’s right for the place. It might be sensory overload for him and he’s been to the darkest corner of his psyche, and he’s fought his way out, and he’s not sure whether being amongst these people is a good thing or if it will force him back into the corner.
Some characters have these certain weapons that they’re known for, like the way Daryl has his crossbow. Morgan’s got his stick. How do you like having the stick as your weapon of choice?
I love my stick. They’re never going to take my stick away from me. They’ll have to pry it from my cold, dead hands. I love it, and it’s beautiful weapon to gain expertise in. One of the things I love most about my job is the learning of new skills, and certainly taking on the stick has kind of given me a real kind of focus and interest, but also it’s very much in keeping with who Morgan is now. And yes, it’s a weapon, but on one level it is the most passive weapon of the armory that the group has, and that is both interesting and deliberate.
Should Morgan have killed those two guys from the Wolves? He had an opportunity to kill them, he didn’t, and they seem to still be wreaking some havoc. Should he have killed them, Lennie?
That’s not for me to decide. The fact of the matter is he didn’t, and we’re going to have to deal with those consequences, if there are consequences.
For more Walking Dead intel, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.
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