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The Walking Dead's Lennie James on Morgan's Return and What it Means for Rick

Plus: Where did Morgan learn to fight?

Adam Bryant

[WARNING: The following story contains spoilers from Sunday's episode of The Walking Dead. Read at your own risk.]
Among the many major developments in Sunday's Season 5 finale of The Walking Dead was the return of fan-favorite character Morgan.

Although viewers have seen snippets of Morgan (Lennie James) throughout the season, none of those moments could possibly prepare us for what we saw in the finale. Morgan, who not long ago was a homicidal maniac reeling from the death of his wife and son, now seems to be a zen warrior who wants to preserve life at all costs.

Walking Dead finale recap: Did Rick get to stay in Alexandria?

Unfortunately, Morgan's old pal Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) is behaving much more like the Morgan of old. So, when Morgan arrives at Alexandria -- after rescuing Aaron (Ross Marquand) and Daryl (Norman Reedus) from a herd of walkers -- he was shocked to see Rick putting a bullet into the head of Alexandrian Pete (Corey Brill).
So, Will Rick's darkness give Morgan pause about re-teaming with Rick in Alexandria? And how did Morgan make the transition to the man he is now? (Hint: He didn't pick up those badass ninja skills on his own!) TVGuide.com chatted with James to get the answers to our burning questions.
Did you know all of Morgan's story in Season 5 from the beginning or did you only get it in small pieces like the audience did?
Lennie James:
[Executive producer] Scott Gimple had approached me at the start of Season 5, and we had a conversation about introducing Morgan back into the series. But due to other commitments, I couldn't commit and Scott wasn't able to tell the whole story he wanted to tell. So, in order to have as much of me as they could, he came up with the little bits that you saw in the credits and [decided to] introduce Morgan a bit more as he catches up with them in the season finale. So, now the story Scott wanted to tell in [Season] 5 we'll tell it more in [Season] 6.
Morgan is obviously in a much different mental state this season than when we last saw him. Will that be explained in Season 6?
As with the change we saw from the man in the pilot to the man in "Clear," there was, for want of a better word, an origin story to how Morgan had lost his mind. There is an origin story to the Morgan we meet in the season finale. I don't know which way it's going to be told, but I am pretty sure that origin story will in some way, shape or form will come to light in Season 6 and explain who this Morgan is.

Were you shocked to see how much Morgan has changed?
One of the things I've most enjoyed about playing Morgan is joining the dots. You meet Rick and Morgan in the first episode, but you follow Rick and every now and then you check in with Morgan and see where he is. So, my job is to show the journey between [the pilot] and "Clear" and make sure it's still the same man and fill in the gap for the audience. It was very much the same in [the finale]. Even though he's gone through a transition, you still have to believe he's the same man and that he still carries something of what was in "Clear" and what was in the first episode. I've enjoyed playing that particular game. Even though you didn't watch my journey, this is what happened to me.

Has Morgan always had those ninja skills?!
I can say that the skills you see him displaying in the finale, he's been taught.

Why do you think Morgan stuck his neck out for Aaron and Daryl? Was he hoping to find help in his own journey or was he just trying to be a good person?
I have to believe that Morgan has done this before and that he is not lying or hiding anything at that particular moment in time. There's a moment where the three of them are in a kind of standoff, where they're almost checking each other out. It's like, "Are we going to go at it? Have I gotten friends out or have I gotten foes out?" As far as I'm concerned he saw two people in trouble and did what he needed to do to extradite them from the car. And when Daryl asks him why he did it, I have to believe that he's telling the truth when he says that all life is precious. I think that's a big statement as to the state of the man we now meet.

Morgan clearly displayed his beliefs when dealing with The Wolves. How do you think Morgan arrived at his new way of thinking?
It's partly because what he's gone through. It'll be very interesting to see how solid this new mindset is and how successful he'll be at sticking to it. That's going to be the test. I think it's still fresh-learnt behavior. But ultimately, when he could kill [The Wolves], he doesn't kill them and actually offers them the possibility of walking in a different direction. They don't take it, but that's their choice. Morgan's choice was to not kill them and give them the opportunity of life because where he is at this particular moment in time.

And clearly that's not where Rick is right now. What is Morgan's reaction when he sees Rick kill Pete in Alexandria?James: He's shocked. The only thought he has room for in that moment in time is that Rick has gone 180 degrees. Morgan is now standing where Rick was in "Clear," and Rick was standing where Morgan was. All I think Morgan has room for in that moment is shock and possibly the memory of who he was back then. He's needing an explanation for the situation he's just walked in on.

Do you think Morgan will try to pull Rick back towards his humanity, or is Morgan afraid that being around Rick might lead Morgan back to a dark place?
Both things are possible and are certainly going to be of concern to Morgan. When Aaron offers the invitation to come to Alexandria, Morgan says "No, I'm heading somewhere else." There is the possibility that when he arrives at Alexandria and sees Rick, he may have to decide how much of himself he can sacrifice in order to help his only friend. Rick is literally the only person left on the planet who knows who Morgan was and therefore might accept who Morgan is. He will do everything he can to help and protect Rick, but if that costs him himself, he may well continue on his journey and go where he was going.

And if Alexandria ends up going to war with The Wolves, it seems Morgan might know a thing or two about that group.
If the Wolves pose a threat, then Morgan would have to say, "I came across these guys and this is how we might have to deal with them." But Morghan has a particular ideology and maybe there's a reason why he didn't kill them when he had the chance. And maybe that reason might get in the way of how involved he can be in protecting Alexandria from The Wolves.
You said on Talking Dead, you're not sure why fans are so attached to Morgan. But what's your favorite thing about the character?
He just has so much humanity and he is so connected and affected by the world he is in. I think he, slightly differently to Rick, is a clear set of eyes on the world that we're in but also a very strong reminder of the world that is gone. That's what I like about him. Because of the losses he's had, we're constantly aware of who Morgan was each time we see who he is now.

So, can you tell us how much we'll be seeing of Morgan next season?
All I can say is it will be at least one episode to clarify and resolve his arrival in Alexandria. Beyond that, at the moment I'm not at liberty to say.

The Walking Dead returns for Season 6 this fall.