SPOILER ALERT: Read on only if you have already watched the Fear the Walking Dead season 4 premiere.
We knew that Lennie James’ Morgan would be making the move from The Walking Dead to Fear the Walking Dead in the companion series’ fourth season. What we didn’t know is that three of his TWD costars would be joining him — even if it was for only for a scene apiece. And we’ve got the scoop from the man who oversees both shows, Scott M. Gimple, on how it happened.
After the cold open and the new Fear credits sequence, we returned back to the trash heaps location previously occupied by Jadis and the Scavengers, and there was Morgan, alone. But not for long. Because then a parade of familiar faces made their way to try to convince Morgan to return with them.
First it was Jesus, who reminded the man he sparred with physically and philosophically in the past that “the reason we fought is to protect people. You care about people. You should be with them.” Then it was Carol, who begged the man she sparred with physically and philosophically in the past to “come back to the Kingdom. You helped me. You did. Let me help you.… You belong with people who care about you.”
But the best was saved for last, as the man whom Morgan met way back in the first ever episode of the series popped by to try his hand at it. That’s right, Rick Grimes and Andrew Lincoln just crossed over to Fear the Walking Dead. And it was a key moment as the former Deputy Sheriff used the opportunity to remind his old friend how Morgan had saved him way back when: “I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for you,” said Rick. “I was hurt. You brought me in. You didn’t have to.”
And now, Rick wanted to return the favor. “You are hurt,” Mr. Grimes continued. “Come back with me. Don’t wait this time. Don’t waste one more second of your life. You’re part of the world. I’m here now — a lot of people are here now — because you helped me right at the beginning.” When Morgan insisted he was no longer the same man, Rick had a simple reply: “You’ll end up with people one way or the other. You’re connected. You can hide, but you can’t run.” And then Morgan ran.
So how did this epic crossover extravaganza happen? Michael Satrazemis — who serves as TWD’s director of photography (while also directing several episodes) and was moving over to pull double-duty as directing producer on Fear — was tasked with filming the scenes, giving total familiarity between the TWD actors, the TWD director, and the TWD set… even though it was all being filmed for sister show Fear.
“It was super easy to shoot because this takes place after [the events of The Walking Dead season finale],” says Gimple. “So, Morgan winds up on a standing set of The Walking Dead, a set that Mikey knew very well, with actors he knew very well. And we did it before the end of Walking Dead because the productions of the series did overlap. So it was unbelievably easy.”
Gimple also notes that TWD stars Lincoln (Rick), Melissa McBride (Carol) and Tom Payne (Jesus) were more than happy to put an appearance in on the other show. “That trio has a great deal of love for Mr. Lennie James,” says Gimple. “So I think it was harder to not have more people do it because people want to come out and support Lennie James and tell a great story with Morgan. So that wasn’t one of the more difficult things on this show.”
Was there ever a thought of having even more Walking Dead stars make cameos? Gimple says that there was only so much time to devote to the cast from the mothership show before Morgan set out on his new adventure. “It was a bear, time-wise, that episode,” says Gimple. “We would’ve loved that to be another hour probably, but we attacked it from the start knowing that we had to tell a tight story. So, yeah, I’d love to have different Walking Dead characters on there, but there is a great deal of story to tell. It’s always been the problem I’ve had on Walking Dead, and now, Fear of the Walking Dead. I love these characters, and I want to portray every bit of their lives I can, but it’s a big ensemble.”
Gimple also stresses that the Rick, Carol, and Jesus cameos are more than a mere stunt and truly serve to propel Morgan’s story forward. “It was there simply because it has everything to do with Morgan’s story, and those exchanges he has in that scene really do affect him deeply and play out into the entire season of the show,” says Gimple. “The conversation that Rick and Morgan have is super-important to the whole season of Fear of the Walking Dead. It wasn’t just a goodbye, it was a seminal moment in Morgan’s life.”
Fear the Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC.