Season 7 of The Walking Dead started off with a bang – or a series of brutal thumps – that left fans yearning for the cannibals and one-eyed politician types that their favourite zombie-slayers had faced before. It didn’t get much better from there, as the characters in the show spent several episodes as prisoners, drifters or supplicants under the tyrannical thumb of Negan.
Carol and Morgan were off entreating a king, Rick and the Alexandrians were trying valiantly not to be murdered, Maggie and Sasha were negotiating with a fool and Daryl was locked in a cell listening to a deceptively jaunty tune on repeat. I still can’t get it out of my head.
Despite being disheartening, the scattering of Rick’s core group is nothing new to the characters on The Walking Dead, having been separated many times after some disaster or another. However, it seems the temporary breaking of the fellowship haunted the cast more than anyone else.
Lennie James, who plays fan-favourite and one of the original survivors, Morgan Jones, spoke to NME about the difficulty of filming, and how it felt to be apart from most of the rest of the cast for so long:
“Horrible, just horrible – I swear to God, horrible [laughs]. But it was the same for everybody. Everyone’s had more time off this season than they’ve ever had, but it’s horrible. I hated it, and I complained about it – and I’m not a complainer – every day, like: “How you doing Lennie?” I hate it! “You want tea or coffee?” I hate it! It was horrible, because you just didn’t see anybody.
And because we filmed The Kingdom in a completely different area to where they were filming Alexandria, the Hilltop, or the Saviors, it meant that no one was close to each other. When we starting filming the first episode, there was a moment where everybody sort of came together – and then everybody split up. I didn’t see Andy for six weeks because we weren’t filming in the same place. We live kind of close to each other [in Atlanta], but we weren’t either filming at the same places or at the same times, and in the end the only time I did see him was when we were both on a plane back to London to see our families. I hated it, it was horrible.
If you speak to anyone from The Walking Dead cast – and if you say this on another job, it’s a lie – then you know that everyone just gets on, and that you want to hang out and be around one other. But they were filming stupid hours, and because you have so much time off – there was one point where I had three episodes off – I just went off to see my kids. What could I do in Atlanta for that amount of time – and I love Atlanta – so I would leave town, as everyone else did [when they weren’t shooting]. I hated it. I said to Scott: “I see what you’re doing, I respect what you’re doing, but don’t ever do this to me again because I hate it.” I just didn’t see people.
And then there’s whole bunches of people that you meet at the wrap party who you’ve never met before! You’re like, “Who are you and what are you doing on my show?” There were just loads of people going: “Hi, I’m such and such and I play…” I don’t know you, go away! Where’s my mates? It was horrible, I hated it – meeting people at a wrap party and they don’t even look like themselves. It’s just stupid.”
Since James seems to feel similarly to how the audience felt while watching, hopefully that means the group’s cohesive actions at the end of the mid-season finale will stick. At least until the next tragedy. After all, James also dropped some hints about a possible turncoat hiding within Rick’s ranks in the coming episodes.
“There are some people who go to the dark side who are going to take you by surprise, and there are some people who are going to come over to the light – and that’s all a matter of perspective… As with this show, nothing’s going to move in a straight line. But one of the things that’s inevitable is that we’re heading to war.”
Read the full interview at NME.com.