The Walking Dead has seen a few familiar faces return recently in hallucination form, but on Sunday’s installment, another long lost character came back — and this time in real flesh and blood. [SPOILER ALERT: Read on only if you have already watched Sunday’s episode of The Walking Dead.]
Last time we saw the character of Morgan, he was trying to work up the guts to shoot his zombified wife from the window of his house. He couldn’t do it. That was way back in the pilot episode of The Walking Dead. Now — 30 episodes and two-and-a-half years later — Morgan returned, and it seems his decision not to kill his walker wife had grave consequences (she later bit and turned their son). The result: madness. When Rick realized it was the man that first helped him after the outbreak shooting at them from a rooftop, he tried his best to get his old friend to join them, but Morgan (who stabbed Rick before finally recognizing his ally) was too far gone and sent the group on their way without him (but with some of his ample supplies of guns and ammunition). Entertainment Weekly spoke with the man behind Morgan — British actor Lennie James — about playing crazy, the joy of explaining Morgan’s unseen story, and when we might be seeing the character again. (Click through both pages to read the entire interview and see more exclusive photos from the episode.)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So after you appeared in the very first episode of The Walking Dead, what was the dialogue like then about you possibly coming back at some point?
LENNIE JAMES: The initial dialogue was very straightforward really. The source material they had was the graphic novels, and what was said was that in the graphic novels Morgan comes back, so there is every possibility — and that was about as much as what was said. And I knew going in when I shot the pilot that I’m there on the pilot and dependent on how it goes, at some point there is the possibility of the character coming back.
Were there any other points in the past like last season where you were close to coming back but didn’t?
There were. It was a very weird thing and to a certain extent it kind of took everybody by surprise. As an actor, I had a really good time doing the pilot and it was a lot of fun, but the fans’ reaction to Morgan almost had a double effect on the show and on the journey of the character in the sense that there was such a huge reaction to him. Every job I’ve done since The Walking Dead somebody in an interview would ask, “Are you coming back to The Walking Dead?” And in a weird way, that gave faith to the writers and producers that bringing back Morgan would be something that the fans would appreciate. But on the other level, it made it that you couldn’t just bring him back for something so-so. When you brought him back, it had to be the right time and it had to be something juicy. And I think that to a certain extent may have stretched out the time they had in their minds to being him back — or encouraged them that they could stretch out the time to bring him back to keep people interested. But I think this episode feels like the right time for Morgan to be back, and it feels like the right way in which for him to come back.
What was it like trying to refamiliarize yourself with a character you played for only one episode over two years ago, but also one who is now so different from last time we saw him?
To be absolutely honest, that was the thing I was most looking forward to. That was the thing I was most excited about, was matching the guy up from the first episode to the guy who we see in episode 12 of season 3. And that’s a rare opportunity for an actor, when you have not seen him in between to come back. He could have shown up in a pink tutu with a dragon head and it couldn’t have been more exciting that bringing him back in the state he was in for this episode. That’s a rarity. That’s a joy. And I said to [exec producers] Glen Mazzara and Gale Anne Hurd that the thing I was most looking forward to was joining the dots and telling the story of the journey of Morgan that the audience hasn’t seen.
In that moment you first see him with the shoot-out on the street, and him coming down, him getting shot by Carl, and then the reveal — we were all just kind of jumping around going “This will work!” So that bit was far from something I saw as being difficult or tricky. It was the easy bit. In fact, shooting all of the episode was really easy. It’s easy to shoot good script and good storytelling. Before I had to get my head into the unseen journey of Morgan, the writers had to get their heads into the unseen journey of Morgan. They had to join the dots long before I did. So in a weird way, my job was done for me and I just got to show up and have as much fun as was humanly possible in Atlanta with my mate Andy.