2017 is a packed year for Lennie James. In addition to returning to the virtual world as Lord Straxx in Destiny 2, James was hard at work filming season eight of The Walking Dead and Blade Runner 2049 simultaneously. During a filming hiatus for The Walking Dead, James jumped on a plane and headed off to Budapest, where he “hit the ground running” and shot his scenes in the Blade Runner sequel for 13 days. Right after that, he was back on a plane and on his way to Atlanta to film TWD the next day.
Thanks to technological innovation, Lennie James said it’s sometimes difficult to tell the difference between being on a TV or film set since they use “mostly the same things.” But when it came to Blade Runner 2049, he said locations and sets distinguished it from the competition.
“It was a real movie set,” James said. “An old school, large scale, circus coming to town movie set.”
James recalled being “completely blown away” by Blade Runner when he first saw it and called out Rutger Hauer’s Roy Batty as his favorite part of the original. Calling him “his guy,” he spoke about his love for Hauer’s performance, especially “the final line and how he finished in that film.”
Despite, or perhaps because of, his love for the first film, Lennie James was worried when he first heard a sequel was in development.
“In all honesty, when I heard they were doing a remake, I was one of those people who totally said out loud, ‘are you sure, is that absolutely necessary?’”
Reading the script made a “huge difference” in his opinion and the opportunity to work with director Denis Villeneuve was like icing on the cake.
“He’s a proper director,” said James. “You’re on this huge machine, this huge world, and he’s having to navigate so many things but he takes the time to work with the actors.”
Describing the director as “incredibly collaborative,” Lennie James said Villeneuve is open to receiving ideas about the world or characters and integrating them into the movie. When it comes to James’ character, Mister Cotton, he said they worked to “make him more of a victim of his environment” as well as “give him a bit more history and sense of place than was initially in the script.”
“He’s an incredibly confident director without being arrogant or feeling like his opinion is the only one that counts.”
Blade Runner 2049 hits theaters on the sixth, but only a few weeks later on October 22nd, Lennie James will return to the small screen as Morgan in The Walking Dead. Although he hasn’t been a part of every season, the character, who first debuted in the pilot, has become a pivotal part of the show.
“I can honestly say when we were filming the first episode that if someone said ‘you’ll still be doing this in 100 episodes,’ I would have laughed and said that’s not even close to being possible.”
It seems James isn’t upset that he was wrong all those years ago as the show’s audience continues to grow year-after-year. He said the fact that fans and all the cast/crew are still passionate about the project “is a real testament A) to the show that we’re putting out but also to the source material that Robert Kirkman has provided us.”
When we spoke Tuesday morning, James still hadn’t seen the new Blade Runner but was planning on going to a screening that night. He said he has avoided reading reviews, listening to reports or even watching the trailer in case it ruins his experience as a fan.
“I’ve almost literally buried my head in the sand to avoid the talk of Blade Runner.”
If any of you were hoping to see Lennie James land a spot in the Marvel Cinematic Universe anytime soon, it seems like he might be interested in an opportunity. Talking about his love of Star Trek and Star Wars in his youth, he admitted to being a “very big Marvel geek when I was a kid.”