By Dalton Ross
February 13, 2016 at 02:06 PM EST
Gene Page/AMC
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Everyone is focusing on the philosophical and physical battle between Morgan and Carol. Even Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman talked about it with us recently. But according to Lennie James, folks may not be paying enough attention to the history between Morgan and Rick.

We consider them to be old friends, but the facts of their previous encounters may say otherwise. We spoke to James in advance of Sunday’s midseason premiere about Morgan, whether recent events will change his pacifist approach, and his combative relationships with Carol and Rick.

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ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Now that the Wolf guy that Morgan fought to keep alive has escaped with Denise as his hostage, is that going to cause Morgan to once again re-examine his views on how best to protect human life?

LENNIE JAMES: I think that the path that Morgan is trying to walk is going to be tested. I think if you are going to have any kind of position in this new world order you are going to have to fight for it, as we’ve seen with the group, and to a certain extent as we’ve seen with each of the groups that we’ve come across. Everybody’s fighting for their position. Everybody’s fighting for the stake that they’re putting in the ground and saying “this is how I’m going to survive,” and I don’t think Morgan is going to be any different to that really.

It’s one of the things that I’m enjoying that [showrunner Scott M. Gimple] and the writers are doing. There was a huge expectation for Morgan when he came back, and everybody had written their version of what it was going to be like when Morgan came back. And Scott and the writers have made a really brave choice. They have moved him to a position, and are going to march him forward from there and explore who he is, who he was, and who he’s going to be almost all at the same time, so it’s exciting.

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So how does he bridge this gap with Carol now, because she is clearly not having what he is all about?

There is a journey to go between Carol and Morgan, and I don’t think it’s by any accident that they are the two people who are coming into conflict. Based on one level they are the big uber changelings of the series. From where they started off, there’s the meek, put-upon battered housewife and the honest family man, to the transformations that they have gone through and where they find themselves. They are two good people to tell and to highlight the vision that is thrown up in this particular world. Can you survive in this world without killing, and is survival in this world simply about staying alive, or is survival in this world about how you live?

Those are, in the most broadest terms, the big themes and the big arguments that certainly will go down between Carol and Morgan, and Morgan and the group, and Morgan and Rick, and those are the things that they’re going to be dealing with and exploring.

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The Rick thing is pretty fascinating because if these two characters had encountered each other around this time without any sort of past shared history they’d most likely be at odds. They do have that shared history, but they’re completely on opposite sides in terms of their philosophy. Now that they’ve had some time to feel each other out and realize, okay, we’re not exactly on the same page here in terms of how we think we need to move going forward, are they still wrestling with the question of: Can we coexist?

The short answer is yes and the long answer is yes in that, yes, absolutely they are going to be wrestling with that. One of the things I enjoy most being in the show is the fact that it doesn’t forget its history. It doesn’t forget the history of its themes. It doesn’t forget the history of the characters. I mean, it’s a weird one that I’ve kind of discovered coming back to the show is that the sense of Rick and Morgan’s relationship — in the sense that people see them as, you know, old friends and that their history has somehow been almost been like blood brothers — is not entirely true to the facts.

You know, the first time the two of them met, Morgan stuck a gun in Rick’s face. The second time they met, Morgan tried to kill Rick on more than one occasion, and the only time they have had a kind of peaceful coming together has been in the last time they met, and that was highlighted by the fact that Rick had just put a bullet in somebody’s head.

So their relationship is a little bit more tumultuous than people remember it being. They’ve kind of always at some point in their relationship been at odds, and this is a kind of continuation of that. Whether or not they can continue down the road and coexist together, we’ll have to wait and see.

AMC's zombie thriller, based on the classic comic book serial created by Robert Kirkman.
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