Exclusive: Lennie James Talks Blade Runner 2049 & The Walking Dead

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Exclusive: Lennie James Talks Blade Runner 2049 & The Walking Dead
Posted by Wilson Morales

October 9, 2017

Currently in theaters from Warner Bros. Pictures and Alcon Entertainment is Blade Runner 2049, the long-awaited sci-fi sequel to 1982’s Blade Runner.

Directed by Denis Villeneuve, the film returns Harrison Ford as Rick Deckard, along with Ryan Gosling, Ana de Armas, Sylvia Hoeks, Robin Wright, Mackenzie Davis, Carla Juri, Lennie James, with Dave Bautista and Jared Leto.

The film is written by Hampton Fancher and Michael Green and succeeds the initial story by Fancher and David Peoples based on Philip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Thirty years after the events of the first film, a new blade runner, LAPD Officer K (Ryan Gosling), unearths a long-buried secret that has the potential to plunge what’s left of society into chaos. K’s discovery leads him on a quest to find Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a former blade runner who has been missing for 30 years.

For Lennie James, who plays a man named Mister Cotton and oversees hundreds of children in a camp of sorts, it’s his first role on a major film since he appeared in the James Brown biopic Get On Up. Best known for his role as Morgan Jones on the long-running AMC series, The Walking Dead, James’ other film credits include Columbiana with Zoe Saldana, Lockout with Guy Pearce and Guy Ritchie’s Snatch.

Blackfilm.com spoke exclusively with James about his role in Blade Runner 2049 and being on The Walking Dead for its 100th episode.

How would you best describe your character?

Lennie James: I play a man who used to be a teacher and he is now not so much. He is a man of elastic moles. He is very much a creature of his environment. He has seen affected by his environment and he is effecting his environment in this world where humanity, who’s human and who’s not human and the very nature of humanity is being questioned. He’s someone who pushes the boundaries.

Would you consider him a Fagan or a Pharaoh?

LJ: I don’t know. I think there is a deliberateness about Fagan that I don’t think is there in Carter on how the world has affected him and how he thinks and has affected the choices that he makes; and has changed his perception of not only of himself but of others really. I wouldn’t put that judgement on him either way. That’s for other to decide.

Where you a fan of the original film?

LJ: I saw the original film when it came out. It’s one of my favorite films of all-time. I was just talking to someone about this and said that it’s one of two films where after the night I saw the original film, I went back to see it again. It’s one of my absolute favorites and when I heard that they were doing another Blade Runner, I was a little bit worried. That worry didn’t last very long after I read the script and after I spoke with Denis.

What did Denis expect out of your character?

LJ: One of the things I loved about working with Denis is how open he was to collaborating and how much he wasn’t looking to decide for himself. He wasn’t someone who said “I have this image of this character and I need you to fit this image of this character.” He was very open to any ideas I had about the character and he would take it onboard and run with it. The most important thing about working with Denis was that I actually got to work with him. We actually molded the character together, structured the character together, and in the evenings after we filmed all day, he would email me or phone me and say, “Tomorrow I think we should try this with the character. Could you rest of this idea? Tomorrow let’s just see where it goes.” That was exciting to be around and also working with Rya, who was open to that. It sounds patronizing, but he is a proper actor. He is a movie star but when you are there on set with him, he’s an actor’s actor. He’s there. He’s present. He’s with you and you’re working on the scenes together. He’s not off making it singular. He takes a real responsibility for the whole scene and that was great.

It was very focused for me because I had a short space of time between filming The Walking Dead to be involved in it. I literally left the set of The Walking Dead and landed in Budapest the next day and was filming the day after that for 12 or 13 days. Then got back on a plane to fly back to Atlanta to be on the set of The Walking Dead the day after. It was intense. It was very focused but it was a huge amount of fun.

Talking about The Walking Dead, what should be expect from Morgan this season and what keeps him alive?

LJ: That’s a very interesting question. I think that question will be partly answered in this upcoming season. As it’s mention in the trailer, he finds himself in the middle of a war. He’s a man who was chosen and would prefer not to kill. He’s being forced and having being forced to take a life and being forced to take other lives for the protection of people he cares about, but also tries to find his way back to solitude in a way and hopefully find his way back to a place of peace. What keeps him alive is a belief that on one level living is a punishment, and other level that he is here trying to convince the world that they can exist without necessarily killing each other.

How exciting it that you have been on the show since the beginning?

LJ: The first episode of the new season is the 100th episode and I was there on the first episode. If you had said to me then that I would be there on the 100th, I would have laughed you out of the room; but the fact that it’s still there is amazing. The show itself has grown and found its audience and found its way of telling its stories and has stood the test of time.

There was another film you had done, Double Play, that recently played at the Urbanworld Film Festival. How was it working with director Ernest Dickerson?

LJ: It’s always fun working with Ernest. Double Play was my third or fourth time being directed by Ernest. We did the series Low Winter Sun together. We did The Walking Dead together and we did that series a couple of times and now Double Play. Ernest, pretty much, is the coolest dude on the planet and what he doesn’t know about filmmaking, nobody knows. He was a master cinematographer and he’s become a master director. I enjoy working with him because I live brevity on the set. I don’t like to talk about things too much. I like to do them. I like to find out what we got by doing doing them. Ernest is a soft spoken quiet man who doesn’t use any more than it’s absolutely necessary. I love him for that and I love working for him. I love being on Curacao with Ernest and the cast and crew and making that film.

“Black Out 2022” Anime Short

“2036: Nexus Dawn” Short

“2048: Nowhere to Run” Short

Clip – Bigger Than You

Featurette – Time To Live

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