Getting Morgan (Lennie James) back on The Walking Dead was a constant problem for AMC during its first few seasons. Despite being introduced in the series premiere ahead of most of the cast, Morgan didn’t become a main character until season 6.
After crossing paths with Rick (Andrew Lincoln) in The Walking Dead‘s first episode, it was quite some time before they met again after Rick left Atlanta. Rick encountered Morgan a second time in season 3’s “Clear” and found out that Morgan had lost his son, Duane. Two cameos in season 5 set up Morgan finding Alexandria and reuniting with Rick in the closing minutes of the season finale. Beginning in season 6, Morgan joined the group and became a permanent fixture of The Walking Dead universe. Following his exit from the main show after season 8, Morgan was moved to Fear the Walking Dead for its fourth season, where he has remained ever since as its lead character.
Years ago, having Morgan appear on The Walking Dead was a recurring challenge for the writers and producers. Lennie James has remarked in the past this his guest appearance in season 3 wasn’t the first time the show tried to bring him back. Apparently, there were other instances prior to “Clear” where Morgan could have showed up, but they didn’t work out due to “other work commitments” [via Yahoo TV]. James added that these problems persisted in season 5 when they were trying to work out his return. James called discussions to get Morgan back on The Walking Dead an “annual conversation”.
According to The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman, Lennie James’ availability wasn’t the only obstacle they encountered; Kirkman says that there were times before “Clear” when they wanted him around, but “story reasons” stood in the way [via EW]. Fortunately, all of these issues were swept aside for good at the end of season 5, which welcomed Morgan back and paved the way for him to have meaningful interactions and relationships with other Walking Dead characters outside of Rick Grimes in season 6 and beyond.
As interesting as it would have been to see what would have happened if Morgan was around for the conflict with the Governor or with Terminus, it seems that The Walking Dead ultimately didn’t wait too long to use him. He came around just in time for the battle with the Saviors, which turned into one of the most important periods in Morgan’s life. His association with the Kingdom, struggles with his pacifist lifestyle, and animosity toward the Saviors helped deliver quite a few of the show’s most memorable storylines. All things considered, making him a main character on The Walking Dead was a good move, and not just for the main series. Morgan Jones has consistently been tested by the events of Fear the Walking Dead, a show which had its story and main characters reshaped by Morgan’s presence and philosophy.