In a world overrun with the dead, Lennie James' Morgan has refused to give up hope on the living.
The character's long, complicated journey goes back to the earliest days of The Walking Dead, and has continued on its companion series, Fear the Walking Dead. While he's endured the worst that the apocalypse has to offer, and paid for it accordingly, he's managed to reform himself as a determined optimist with an ironclad ideology.
Ahead of an advance screening of this week's Fear the Walking Dead episode, "The Hurt That Will Happen," at the ATX Television Festival, James spoke with SYFY WIRE about what he believes drives his character, and the kind of future he's hoping to help build.
"The philosophy in this season, that we’re going to go out and help people, it isn’t this kind of schmaltzy, huggy, let’s all be nice to each other because we’re really the Teletubbies," James began. "It’s coming from a place of how seriously they regret the things that they’ve done. They feel like they have to make up for what they’ve done before, and Morgan has a lot to make up for."
Specifically, James cites Morgan's appearance in "Clear" during The Walking Dead's third season, when he'd become unhinged after the loss of his son, Duane.
"He killed both the living and the dead — and not in particularly nice ways. He’s got to make up for that. Things he did while he stood at the side of Rick [Andrew Lincoln], he’s got to make up for that. So it’s about putting something good into the world, and it’s also about the next stage. We’ve figured out how we survive. We’ve got this far. We know to walk amongst the dead, we know how much time we’ve got before a horde gets to us. The next thing is how do we live? What are we going to be paying forward? I think that’s his impetus."
Part of that impetus comes from his relationship with Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey) and how much of his old self he sees in her.
"One description you could have of him is that he’s a reluctant leader, and he’s a guy who’s been maneuvered into this position because of his life experience," James said. "So you have a reluctant leader who has recognized who should be the leader, and he’s helping her to realize that she’s the future of this group. Part of his role at this particular moment is to 'Skywalker' her and get her to realize her full potential and what she’s capable of."
You can catch Season 5 of Fear the Walking Dead every Sunday night on AMC.