Fear the Walking Dead: Lennie James on Morgan’s Things Left to Do Before “The End” (Exclusive)
Is "the beginning" the end for Morgan Jones? "I don't die," the staff-wielding warrior said over on The Walking Dead. "I just see it. Again and again." Death has followed Morgan to Fear the Walking Dead, where the villainous Virginia (Colby Minifie) shot him point-blank and left him to be torn apart by walkers to end the Season 5 finale. Morgan urged his followers to "just live," and those would have been his last words were he not rescued by Dakota (Zoe Colletti), Virginia's defector daughter, who left behind a note: "You don't know me, but I heard your message. You need to do the same. You still have things left to do."
In Season 6, Morgan thought that meant reuniting his fractured family of survivors split up by Virginia and fostering a safe place for Grace (Karen David) and her unborn child.
No longer "Clear" Morgan, a blood-thirsty killer driven mad by the death of his walker wife-eaten son Duane (Adrian Kali Turner), or "All Life Is Precious" Morgan, who was trained by his aikido mentor Eastman (John Carroll Lynch) to be a pacifistic philosopher, he became a morally gray Morgan when he killed ax-wielding bounty hunter Emile (Demetrius Grosse) to start the season in "The End Is the Beginning."
He kept Emile's ax and a mystery key that made Morgan the target of an underground cult of believers behind "the end is the beginning," a recurring slogan we first saw spray-painted on the side of a beached submarine. It's the philosophy of murderer mortician Teddy (John Glover), an escaped serial killer who plans to use the key to launch a missile and end everything — everything except Alicia Clark (Alycia Debnam-Carey), Morgan's friend who Teddy locked away in a bunker to be the "beginning" and rebuild the new world.
Morgan saw more death this season: Dakota gunned down his best friend John Dorie (Garret Dillahunt) before revealing she saved Morgan so he would kill Virginia — his "things left to do" — and Morgan delivered Grace's stillborn daughter, Athena, who absorbed a lethal amount of radiation from her mother.
In the penultimate episode of the season, "USS Pennsylvania," Morgan and his crew of survivors must make their way through the walker-filled nuclear submarine to stop "the beginning" from destroying the future he's been fighting to build. Breaking off with Victor Strand (Colman Domingo), Morgan is nearly eaten by walkers and fails to stop Teddy and Riley (Nick Stahl) from firing off a missile loaded with ten warheads. It's the beginning of the end.
Below, James takes a deep dive into "USS Pennsylvania," telling ComicBook about Morgan's things left to do, whether the beginning is really the end for Morgan Jones, and the chances of Morgan surviving Fear for a reunion with Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) elsewhere in the Walking Dead Universe:
All Life Is Precious
CB: Let's start at the beginning of the episode when Morgan is weighing whether to pick up the ax he prayed he would never need again. He wants to honor John Dorie's dying wish for the killing to stop, but Morgan might have to kill to find peace. What is Morgan's thought process there in the opening?
LJ: It's about how he's going to accept and deal with what he perceives to be a failure. And the episode to a certain extent begins and ends with a failure. And the first one is, is that they failed to keep the peace. And I think that when Morgan steps outside, that's what he's accepting: that he has to walk away from the place that he was trying to build. And the second failure is the understanding that if there's going to be any future, he may have to kill for it.prevnext
Bury Me Here
CB: Speaking of keeping the peace and having to kill for the future: this episode recalls The Walking Dead Season 7 episode "Bury Me Here," where Morgan realizes that violence will be necessary against the Saviors. After his protégé Benjamin dies and Morgan strangles Richard to death, that episode ends with Morgan sharpening his stick and looking behind him so Clear Morgan doesn't catch up to him. Does Morgan still fear slipping back into that version of himself?
LJ: He does, but he's in a slightly different place now, Morgan, in the sense that I think Grace has had a profound effect on him. I also think that being a leader, it's taken Morgan a while, but Morgan accepting his position as a leader has had a profound effect on him. I think that he is much more self-aware than he was at the end of "Bury Me Here." I think he is in a position where he's aware of Clear Morgan. I think it has a lot to do with [adapting the look of] the bounty hunter [Emile] because I think it's a way of him going, "When I put this on, I am this man for this reason." And then, "Until I get to the point where I take it off, and I'm back to being Morgan." So I think he's in a slightly different place, but I do very much see the parallels.
I think the difference in "Bury Me Here" is that, to a greater or lesser extent, Morgan has never been there before. And now he has. He's experienced the Clear Morgan, and he's experienced the Morgan who decides that he needs to kill in order to save the people that he cares about. And for that Morgan to be haunted, I don't think he's haunted in the same way.prevnext
Things Left to Do
CB: Let's talk about Dakota's note and Morgan's "things left to do." In "The Door," she tells Morgan that killing Virginia is "that thing that you have to do," and how "it's the only reason that you're still here." Now it seems Morgan's interpreted that to mean that he has to die on a suicide mission in the submarine to save everyone, but Strand says Dakota wanted Morgan to kill her mother. What does it mean that Morgan is so willing to repeatedly risk his life this episode, and what does he really believe?
LJ: I don't believe that Morgan thinks he has to die. I just think he believes that he doesn't want to take the risk of anybody else dying. I think it's in direct relation to the loss of Grace's child and how he witnessed that. I think he's at a stage where he just doesn't want to feel that anymore. He's lost John Dorie. He's lost, at this particular moment in time, his closest friend. And with the death of Grace's child to a greater or lesser extent, she represented a future. She represented a wish of a future. She represented a risk that Morgan took by opening himself up to feeling the way he feels about Grace. He opened all of those things up, and they were taken away from him, and he just can't afford anything more to be taken away from him. It's not that Morgan has a death wish. It's just that if anybody [is going to do it]… it's an act of protection. It's not an act of sacrifice, really. It's that he believes that if anyone can do it, he can. He wants to come out the other end. He just doesn't want to risk anybody else.prevnext
Morgan and Strand as Polar Opposites
CB: Morgan is selfless in how he's willing to die to save everyone. Strand is selfish in how he's willing to let Morgan die so he can save everyone and prove himself to Alicia. Just before that happens, Morgan tells Strand he proved whatever he had to prove. How surprising is it for Morgan that Strand throws him to the wolves — or in this case, the walkers?
LJ: "Surprise" is an interesting word because Strand is only being Strand. I mean, it's only surprising in the sense that, 'Oh my God, you're doing it again,' as opposed to, 'Oh my God, you're doing this.' I mean, it's very in keeping with who Victor Strand is. It's just a brilliant trick that Victor Strand plays and Colman manifests so fantastically, is he engenders a need in those people who come close to him, that they hope for something better, even if they are very rarely surprised by what they get. And I think that's the situation with Morgan.
Although I do think that those two men have a lot in common, in the sense that they are basically driven by their kind of internal moral compass, really. I mean, both of them are dictated by a belief that they have in themselves, that the choices they make are the right choices. Victor very much believes that despite his choice that has been perceived by other people to be selfish, they are the right choices because they've kept him alive. Morgan believes that despite the fact that he might not always get the result that he wants, his actions are the actions of someone who's trying to do the best for not just himself, but the people around him. So they are both men operating on their instincts. It's just that their instincts are polar opposites.prevnext
Directing the Dead
CB: I thought it was interesting that Strand pulls a Sanjay on Morgan when he sacrifices him, which is similar to what we saw in 602, the episode you directed. Are you looking to get back behind the camera on more episodes of Fear? And have you had any conversations about possibly returning to The Walking Dead as a director?
LJ: I haven't had any conversations about returning to The Walking Dead as a director. When I did 602, that was the first time I'd kind of been behind the camera. I still have a lot to learn, and work out when it is possible for me to try and do it again, which is something I very much want to do. Not least to see what I learned the first time around.prevnext
I Don't Die
CB: On The Walking Dead, Morgan said, "I don't die, I just see it." You've previously said that Morgan believes this to be his curse. And now on Fear, Teddy tells Morgan, "I'm leading everyone to their end, and you're doing the same thing." Morgan says he's been leading these people from one dead end to another. With the warheads about to bring on the end, is Teddy right? And does Morgan still feel like he's cursed to outlive everyone he cares about?
LJ: That's a really good question. I don't actually know the answer to that question. I'm not sure that it's a question that Morgan has asked himself. I can make something up, but the honest answer is I think that Morgan had genuinely believed that living was a curse for him. Again, I think that, that's part of the reason why he left Virginia and left Rick and left that particular group. I think in the interim between meeting with Althea and John Dorie, to the point now, where Teddy is saying the two of them have something in common, they're both leading their groups to their deaths. That's not Morgan's intention. So I don't think that that's what he believes. And I think that he has gradually allowed himself to believe in a future that isn't just about him living out his curse. And I think that John Dorie has been a large part of that, and I think that Grace has been a huge part of that.prevnext
Torn Apart by Teeth or Bullets
CB: Morgan has a few close calls with walkers in this episode. Is it possible he's hiding a zombie bite that we haven't seen yet?
LJ: Anything is possible, but he does say to — I think it's Victor at one point — that he was inches away to being one of those. And he was so close to it that he believes he knows how they think. And so, maybe there's something going on, but maybe there's just not, and it's just the memories that Morgan has from when he was that close to death [in the Season 6 premiere, 'The End is the Beginning'].prevnext
CB: Walk us through why Morgan lets Teddy and Riley escape. What is Morgan thinking as he stares at that key in the final moments of the episode?
LJ: I think as far as the people he lets walk away, he doesn't care about Teddy anymore. Teddy can carry on. The bombs are in the air, ten warheads are about to land somewhere, and it may well be about to land right on top of them. In that moment, what good is it to Morgan to drive his stick through Teddy's head? It gives Teddy what he wants. And I just think as far as Morgan's concerned, there are ... in that particular moment, there is so much more he would rather be doing than killing Teddy or killing Victor. He needs to figure out what he's possibly going to do with the last few minutes of his life.prevnext
CB: A missile is in the air, and Althea is off looking for Isabelle in her helicopter. Tell us, Lennie: what are the chances that a CRM helicopter swoops in and flies Morgan away to safety in the Rick Grimes movies?
LJ: I couldn't possibly answer that question. It sounds nice, though (laughs). I'd quite like to see that episode, but I couldn't possibly comment on that. What I can say is that there's one more episode to go in this season, and anything can happen in that episode, as we've shown throughout this season.prevnext
Days Gone Bye
CB: Morgan's often been a man of extremes. He's been the Clear Morgan we've talked about, the red-seeing killer. He's been "All Life is Precious" Morgan, a peaceful warrior. And then in this season, he was in the middle as a kind of more morally gray Morgan. How has it been for you as an actor to play this character who keeps evolving, and who has been reinvented with multiple rebirths over a decade-plus and across two shows now?
LJ: It's been staggering. If somebody had told me when we first got started kind of — oh my God, it's 11 years ago — that this would be the journey, I would have said that, "You're absolutely crazy. That is impossible." It's been an absolute trip, and it constantly takes me by surprise. It constantly presents options for me and opportunities for me as an actor that I never could have imagined or envisaged really. When I first came to America, I was used to playing a character for six, maybe eight episodes, and that was a full series where I was from. That's a full season, from where I was from. So still to be playing a character that still surprises me, still challenges me and still interests me is a real testament to the storytellers in this universe. And it's staggering, and I'm genuinely kind of ... It's not something I've kind of just been holding onto, because it's a gig, it's just… Each time I open a script, I'm interested to see what next is being asked of Morgan. And like I said, I'm as surprised as anybody to be still in that position. It's a rare gift that I've been given, to be able to navigate this particular man's journey.prevnext
The End is the Beginning
CB: What can you tell us about next week's Season 6 finale?
LJ: The season finale is another one of the episodes that I think this season that we've earned the right to tell the story in the way that we tell the story in Season 6, because of the brave way we've decided to tell stories in our episodes this season. I think it's an episode that all happens on a held breath, and it's smart, it's brave, it's challenging. It's emotionally engaging. I think it's exciting. I think it's revealing, and I think it's a really good finale for this particular season.
Fear the Walking Dead airs its Season 6 finale, "The Beginning," on Sunday, June 13, at 9/8c on AMC. Follow the author @CameronBonomolo on Twitter for all things The Walking Dead Universe.prev