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Lennie James Talks Morgan’s Surprising Career Change

[WARNING: The following contains MAJOR spoilers for Fear The Walking Dead Season 8 Episode 1, “Remember What They Took From You.”]

Well, seven years was bound to change a person… but yikes.

In Fear The Walking Dead’s final season premiere, we learned that Morgan (Lennie James) failed in his mission to free his adoptive daughter from the villainous PADRE. After that, he… started working for the bad guys, and he spent the time-jump handing over children to serve as part of PADRE’s mysterious force. Say it ain’t so, Mo-Mo!

In our disbelief, we talked with James about his reaction to learning Morgan would become a Collector, whether Morgan’s new role has any connections to his traumatic past, and what it was like to film that waterlogged walker fight scene in the swamp.

Lauren “Lo” Smith/AMC

What did you think when you learned Morgan was going to become a Collector?

Lennie James: That was part of a conversation I had with the showrunners about ‘if we’re going to do this seven years, we have to make the seven years matter. We have to, through all of the characters, show some shift.’ I don’t know about you, but I’d put good money on it that seven years ago, you were a slightly different individual than you are now. I know I was. In the world of the Walking Dead Universe, seven years is a long time. Although it goes quickly when you’re looking back on it, for Morgan, it has signaled fundamental change in the fact that he is doing something that the Morgan we knew seven years ago would never do. Again, I think most people would put really good money on the fact that Morgan would need a really, really, really good reason to become a Collector. And in that premiere episode, we learn exactly what that reason is.

I was curious as to how trauma from Duane might factor into it, too. Does Morgan blaming himself for his son’s death have anything to do with him taking children to what he perceives as safety?

It’s typical of Morgan that he will do this thing that he finds abhorrent, but he tries to find a moral center to it. He tries to find some good that he can do in this terrible thing that he is doing, so he will only take kids whose parents give them up. He won’t snatch them. He won’t harm anyone in the taking of them; it has to be voluntary. That is fundamental to who Morgan is. At the heart of it is, I think, Morgan walks with Jenny (Keisha Tillis) and Duane (Adrian Kali Turner) every day of his life. I think he carries them with him always. That’s why, despite his love for Grace (Karen David), he still wears his wedding ring around his neck. Despite taking on the responsibility of raising another child and sticking to a promise he made to keep her safe, the way he chooses to do that is to put her somewhere where he isn’t. I think that has a lot to do with how he protects himself from the people that he loves.

Lennie James as Morgan Jones in Fear the Walking Dead

Lauren “Lo” Smith/AMC

I was also really intrigued by that brief glimpse we got of Madison and Morgan trying to escape PADRE before the time jump. Are we going to get any more flashbacks to that pre-time-jump period or the escape, or is what we learned this episode what we’re going to learn or see?

It’s really not down to me to say, either way! Expect all things, because this season is going to have all things. What I can say is that, as always with the guys, the storytelling isn’t necessarily completely linear.

What was it like filming that waterlogged walker fight?

It was very wet. For the most part, the swamp that we shot in, we built. It was a staggering piece of set design and engineering. The base of the waterway was lined, and it was fresh water, and everything was done to keep us safe, but the one thing it wasn’t was warm. We were shooting, in parts, in the middle of the night. In fact, we actually shot at one point when it was quite warm, and then we had to do some pick-ups later on in shooting, and at that point it was very cold. I’m not sure which one I preferred, because they were both very wet. It tested everyone. That’s the most important thing for me; it tested us, the actors; it tested the set designers; it tested the stunt team; it tested the stunt performers; it tested us all. I think we rose to it to the point where there were moments when it was close to being fun.

Lennie James as Morgan Jones in Fear the Walking Dead

Lauren “Lo” Smith/AMC

What are you most excited for fans to see in these final episodes?

I would have to say a large chunk of it is the relationship that is built and comes to pass between Madison (Kim Dickens) and Morgan, or ‘M&M,’ as I call them. I think it’s a complicated interaction between these two strong characters with powerful histories and where they end up. I’m proud of how complicated it is, I’m proud of how challenging it is, I’m proud of how nuanced it is. I’m proud of where they end up.

Fear The Walking Dead Season 8, Sundays, 9/8c, AMC

This story originally appeared on TV Insider

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