Fear The Walking Dead's Lennie James On The 'Ridiculous' Journey Of Playing Morgan For 13 Years

Lennie James as Morgan in Fear the Walking Dead Season 8
(Image credit: AMC)

Fear the Walking Dead has officially kicked off its eighth and final season in the 2023 TV schedule with the premiere that revealed the new status quo after the seven-year time jump that had been previewed. The premiere took the show into what could be a new era, despite only a limited number of episodes left. It also delivered some twists for Morgan, who has appeared across the Walking Dead franchise going back to the beginning of the original series. Actor Lennie James opened up about playing the character for over a decade, and why it’s “utterly ridiculous.”

Season 8 (with new episodes premiering on AMC and available streaming) in 2023 marks 13 years since Lennie James debuted as Morgan jones on The Walking Dead, and he has already been credited in more than 100 episodes of the franchise without being killed off. When he spoke with CinemaBlend earlier this year at SCAD TVfest in Atlanta, I asked the star about his experience playing Morgan’s unlikely survival story going back to the original show in 2010. He shared: 

Honestly? Utterly ridiculous. You couldn't make it up. You couldn't. If someone had said at the beginning on the first day – because you have to understand, when I did the first episode, that was all I was promised. That was all I signed up for. I didn't sign up for, 'I'll be coming back in two seasons' time.' It was 'We're doing this one episode. We can promise you nothing more.' So I went off on my life. That was just a gig I did. I had a huge amount of fun. It was a bucket list tick, because I got to work with Frank Darabont, and that was the end of it.

As fans of The Walking Dead will remember, Morgan did indeed appear in the series premiere with no indication that he’d return after fulfilling his purpose of sending Rick to the next stage of his zombie apocalypse journey. He popped back up for a single episode of Season 3, made a few contributions in Season 5, and then started a longer run in Season 6. Frank Darabont developed the series, but was only on board as showrunner for the first season, so Lennie James only had one episode to work with him. The star continued addressing Morgan originally only having one episode:

So if you would say to me at that point [that] Morgan would end up where he is now, I would have said, 'You're mad. You're crazy. You don't know what you're talking about. That's impossible.' 'There's gonna be a spinoff show, and you're gonna join it in Season 4? It's not going to happen.' So I constantly pinch myself, remind myself of how lucky I am, but also don't forget just how ridiculous the journey of Morgan has been in my life.

Back in Season 1 (which we rank as the best of the whole series), there was no way that anybody could know that The Walking Dead would be so massive for AMC that it would expand to not only one spinoff, but several! Morgan didn’t make his Fear the Walking Dead debut until 2018, and has been a direct connection between the parent series and its first spinoff. Between that and how long Morgan has lasted without being killed off, he’s truly one of a kind in this franchise. 

Of course, there’s no saying what the future holds for Morgan in the eighth and final season of Fear the Walking Dead, and his streak of not being killed off despite – to quote Lennie James – ”ridiculous” odds against him could come to an end. For now, we can only wait, see, and hope that the future isn’t quite as bleak as it seemed in ways after the seven-year time jump. 

Keep tuning in to AMC on Sundays at 9 p.m. ET for new episodes of Fear the Walking Dead, and revisit earlier seasons of Lennie James as Morgan Jones with The Walking Dead’s spinoff available streaming with a Hulu subscription. Also, keep up on the upcoming Walking Dead TV shows and movies with our guide!

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. CinemaBlend's resident expert and interviewer for One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and a variety of other primetime television. Will not time travel and can cite multiple TV shows to explain why. She does, however, want to believe that she can sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation (and author bios).