Hold onto your hats, folks – Fear the Walking Dead is back for a new series on AMC, and there’s lots to get excited about.
In an intriguing development, the show’s fourth season features a crossover with its ‘parent’ series, as an established character from The Walking Dead joins cast.
Morgan Jones (Lennie James) - now a troubled drifter trying to put the loss of his wife and son behind him - is the character who made the move between shows in last week’s premiere.
Fear the Walking Dead was a long way behind the timeline of The Walking Dead, so we know that some time – maybe years – has passed in the lives of Madison, Nick and Alicia Clark when Morgan meets them.
It’s still yet to be revealed what happened to the Clarks and co – the last time we saw Nick and Madison Clark, they had been forced into desperate measures to escape Proctor John and his gang of bikers. Nick detonated explosives that destroyed the Gonzales Dam – and it wasn’t entirely clear who had got away with their lives.
We now know that the Clarks and their companion Victor Strand managed to escape the devastation and have somehow made it to a survivors’ camp in Texas, and that Luciana has managed to join them.
How they got there, just how much time has passed, and whether their experiences are beginning to weigh heavily upon them remains to be seen.
We were anxious to find out, so it was exciting to be invited to the FTWD set just outside Austin, Texas to catch up with some of the main cast, and find out a little more about what we can expect when the two shows’ worlds collide.
We asked Lennie James how he had been approached to cross over from The Walking Dead, and what his reaction had been when asked.
(Journalists with Alycia Debnam-Carey)
"At the beginning of every season we have a sit-down with (Executive Producer) Scott Gimble on the other show. He tells you what the arc of the season is going to be, and what your character’s arc is going to be – and mostly you don’t listen to anything he’s saying, because you just want to know whether or not you’re going to die!
"He talked about his new role overseeing both shows – and then he said: ‘How would you like to continue the story of Morgan in Fear the Walking Dead?’ And my head just started ringing, actually – and again, he started talking and I wasn’t listening!"
Lennie stresses that it was put to him as a choice, and that if he had said no, the producers would have gone in a different direction. “I’m very protective of Morgan as a character, very protective of his role in the Walking Dead legacy – and was it right for him? Is he the right guy to be doing this crossover circus thing? All of those things, I had to have a serious conversation with myself about – (but) in the end, it’s a unique opportunity.”
(Journalists with Garret Dillahunt)
He’s joined in the new series by Garret Dillahunt, playing a character called John that Morgan stumbles into as he makes his way across the country. The two begin to travel together.
Dillahunt – best known for his appearances in the series Deadwood and the film 12 Years A Slave – confesses to having been a fan of the Walking Dead universe and lobbying for the role of Negan in the parent series.
“I was never really close (to getting the part) or anything, I was just messing with them really. I couldn’t have done it anyway… but it started a relationship,” he explains. “When this (role) came up, I think he remembered me and sort of wrote it with me in mind… and it was an easy sell!”
Asked for some insight into his character, he says of John: “He’s got cowboy tendencies – he IS a real cowboy even, he likes his six guns, is good with them. He’s looking for somebody, and I think he’s a little despondent about his chances of finding her, but he’s hopeful. He’s a capable dude.”
I put it to him that the character seems to have a surprising lightness about him. “I think so. I think there’s some hope in him. There’s definitely some humour. He might have the perfect psychology for this kind of disaster. Capable, and with a dose of humour!”
What everyone seems to agree on is that all the changes in season four – new cast members, new showrunners in Andrew Chambliss and Ian Goldberg, the new location and crew members – are providing an excitement and freshness to the show – and the crossover with The Walking Dead is a major part of that.
"It was really cool – as a fan of all of this too, I thought ‘great!’”, says Debnam-Carey. “We’re still playing by the rules of this show… (but) it’s really exciting that we get to explore and experiment with that, and have a little bit more freedom."
They all agree that it would be kind of fun to cross over the other way and join The Walking Dead, too – and Dillahunt seemed particularly keen for his character to make the switch.
"Oh, yeah! I’m hoping to be so good that that is a desired thing," he says. “I’m hoping they’ll ask me, ‘Will you please go over and kill Negan? And I’ll say ‘sure!’"
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