The Walking Dead: Lennie James on the season 8 scene you won't forget
First he was killing anything that moved. Then he got locked up and refused to kill at all. Now? Well, that’s the big question heading into season 8 for Morgan after he strangled Richard. He’s put on the Kingdom armor and appears ready for the war with Negan, but can his psyche handle it? We spoke to Lennie James to get his take on the matter, as well as to gather some intel on what to expect coming up, especially in that fighting scene we saw between Morgan and Jesus in the season 8 trailer.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Why don’t we just start by talking about where Morgan’s head is as we move into season 8. Obviously, he was trying not to kill anyone, then he did, and now war is here, so how does he handle that?
LENNIE JAMES: Well, how he handles it is pretty much the story of season 8, really. We are going to war, and that is something which is unavoidable. He’s involved in a major internal battle about how hard or how firmly he holds onto his belief that all life is precious. And much more than that, he’s resolved to either go back to being someone who doesn’t kill or to go forward as someone who does.
I remember chatting with you last season, and you talking about how he’s scared to go back to that killing place because he knows he’s good at killing people and if he goes back to that place, is he able to stop himself? Is that kind of the thing we’re going to see him battling internally?
I think that one of the things, I really am enjoying being back on the show as a regular as opposed to popping in and popping out as I did before, which I also enjoyed because I really enjoyed the kind of effort and the challenge of reintroducing Morgan in his various different states to the audience. One of the things I’ve really enjoyed in playing him kind of step by step is showing the audience the minutiae of the struggle, and how the getting from one version of himself to the other version of himself isn’t done in a single bound.
So yes, I think that the things he’s going to be battling with are much more complicated because before his journey was of a man who had kind of lost everything and had nothing. Now, he has made connections. He has made connections at the Kingdom. He has made connections with Carol. He has made connections with Alexandria. He still has his connections to Rick, and all of those things are going to complicate his journey and make the decisions that he makes harder.
It’s interesting how you talk about the different connections he’s made because I was going to ask you, does he consider himself an Alexandrian or a member of the Kingdom at this point? Or neither?
That’s a good question, and a really good example of it was my reticence to put on the armor of the Kingdom. There was a point in the story where it was going to come earlier, and I spoke to [showrunner Scott M. Gimple], and we moved it because I thought it was too early for Morgan to make a statement that I am this. If you put on the armor of the Kingdom, you are of the Kingdom, so the fact that in the end he doesn’t put on that armor until the death of Benjamin, I thought was much more poignant and much more important. So it’s taken a long time to answer a question that I don’t have an answer to, really.
The reason why I don’t know is because I don’t think Morgan knows. I don’t think him putting on the armor makes him of the Kingdom and not of Alexandria. This journey in season 8 for Morgan of where he feels he belongs is one of the big questions that will be answered in this season.
He really hasn’t had a true home in a long, long time.
Yeah, when you think about it, from the moment we first met Morgan a hundred episodes ago, he stayed behind when Rick left for Atlanta because that’s where his wife was, so he and his son stayed there and made that place home. After that, home was Duane, and then he lost Duane. So this man has been kind of homeless for the entirety of our story, and having lost Duane, he went in search of Rick because Rick was the only person left on the planet that Morgan knew who knew him. So he went in search of that home, and that didn’t quite work out, and he found himself the Kingdom. And it remains to be seen whether or not it works out at the Kingdom or if it’s going to work out someplace else.
We see in the trailer for season 8 a sparring session between Morgan and Jesus. What can you say about that and duking it out with Tom Payne there?
All I can say is it was a huge amount of fun to play around with Tom in that particular scene. I really can’t say much about anything about even hinting at where that scene comes and what it is, what it foreshadows, or what it’s in preparation for, but yeah, that’s pretty much all I can say except for it’s not going to be a moment that’s going to be easily forgotten.
How would you say that season 8 is different from season 7?
The major difference is season 7 was the preparation for war, and season 8 is war, and that’s the kind of major difference with all that comes along with it. In season 8, every scene seems to be played out against the backdrop of an ongoing battle or the moments between one battle and the next battle. It’s a roller coaster. The storytelling is slightly different. We’re not taking you by the hand and showing you every single step now. The audience is going to have to work a little harder as far as story is concerned because the nature of war is that you don’t want your enemy to know what you’re up to, and in certain circumstances, the audience are not going to find out what the plan is until the plan is in action.
The first three episodes, I don’t think they take much of a breath. I mean, it just keeps going, and we settle down a little bit later, and it’s going to be brutal and there are going to be causalities. The battles aren’t always necessarily in the direction that is expected, and the consequences of those will be far-reaching.
For more Walking Dead scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.
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AMC's zombie thriller, based on the classic comic book serial created by Robert Kirkman.