The soothing hum of the television is providing an important service during these strange and scary times. New episodes of Homeland and Westworld, not to mention bizarre new smash-hits like Tiger King, are offering a comforting form of distraction and escape during lockdown.
This is also the case for the brilliantly gripping Lennie James-created drama Save Me, the second season of which, Save Me Too, arrived earlier this month. James writes and stars in the gritty London-set crime drama in which he plays Nelly Rowe, a father who is desperately searching for his missing daughter Jody.
“I’m glad if anyone’s using Save Me Too as a distraction [from coronavirus], and if anybody’s using it as a way to get through all of this madness then I’m glad we’ve provided it,” James tells NME from Austin, Texas, where he’d been filming the latest season of Fear The Walking Dead (in which he stars as badass survivor Morgan Jones) before production was halted.
As well as Save Me Too, James also gave us some insight into the forthcoming new season of FTWD, while also reflecting on his past work in The Walking Dead and Snatch — the Guy Ritchie crime caper celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.
How proud are you of Save Me Too?
“I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was really chuffed. There was a certain amount of pressure on us second time around because of how well-received the first season was, but we managed to keep the influences of that at bay. [Executive producers] Simon Heath and Jess Sykes kept me focused on the story I always intended to tell regardless of the part of the Save Me story that was already out there.”
Are you planning a third season?
“I’m being asked that question a lot at the moment, and I’ll give you the honest answer: I do have some ideas for a third [season]. I haven’t had the big crux idea: I don’t know how anybody else does it, but for me there’s a moment where you can have the outline or bones of an idea, but there’s one part of the idea that just clicks and makes everything join together. I haven’t had that idea yet. If I do, then there will be a third season. If I don’t, then there won’t be.”
The Walking Dead franchise has been halted by lockdown – can you give us an update on spin-off Fear The Walking Dead?
“They’ve taken a really bold and brave swing at the way we’re telling the story this season. There was a bit more of a sense of the story being told as an anthology, and the episodes being more self-contained. It seemed to me to be very brave, and seemed to be working fantastically. The scripts and storytelling this year is at another level, and it was very exciting to see what they were doing. Hopefully we get to have a chance to finish as much of the season as they were hoping for, because I think the stories that they’re trying to tell and the way they’re trying to tell them is really exciting. I’d love to see the results of that.”
Morgan was left in a sticky situation after being shot and left for dead in the Fear season five finale. What’s going to happen to him?
“I couldn’t possibly comment! He is a survivor, but in this universe, as it’s been proven over and over again on both The Walking Dead and Fear…, anybody’s time can be called. There have been a number of characters that people have said ‘oh, that character can’t die, they’ll be there forever’ and then they’ve gone. Rick and Carl are good examples of that. Nothing’s guaranteed, but maybe Morgan’s time is up — maybe it isn’t. Hopefully we’ll get to see the new season of Fear… and see how that plays out.”
It’s been two years since you crossed over from The Walking Dead to Fear. Do you miss it?
“There are certain times of the year when I miss The Walking Dead, because I got into the [production] routine of the year: basically, everyone heads back to Atlanta or Georgia come April and everybody heads home come November, just before Thanksgiving. That was my pattern for a good number of years, so around those times of year when I know that everybody’s heading to Atlanta, I have a pang where I kinda miss everybody and remember how much fun it was being in everybody’s company. But I’m in contact with quite a few of the people I was closest to while I was filming there.”
Have you built up similar relationships with the cast of Fear…?
“I’m lucky because there’s an amazing cast and crew that I’ve been embarking on a whole new routine with on Fear: they actually operate on the opposite half of the year, so we start in November and finish in June. So yeah, I do miss [The Walking Dead]. I particularly miss it when I hear from my mates who are still on the show, and I just remember the good times we had. I also really miss Atlanta. I fell in love with that city, and I made friends there who had nothing to do with the show. Might I ever be invited back to The Walking Dead? Maybe: the ghost of Morgan! [laughs].”
One of your first big roles was in Snatch, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year…
“I was aware of the anniversary, yeah! Partly because both Jason Flemyng and Stevie G [Stephen Graham] are in Save Me, and we speak regularly on WhatsApp. It’s one of those weird ones: I was stopped by someone in the street before the lockdown who was talking about Snatch, and I said: ‘That’s 20 years ago!?’ And this was a guy who was maybe two years old when the film came out, but had watched it in the last few years as if it was a new film. And that happens over and over again, and I suppose it’s a real testimony to Snatch’s success. Every generation watches it as if it was made for them, and it’s stood the test of time. It’s one of those projects where I made friends for life, such as Stevie G, Jason and Robbie Gee. So fond memories, it was a good gig for me as well.”