lennie james

AMC’s ‘The Walking Dead’ is losing a series regular to spin off series ‘Fear the Walking Dead.’ Lennie James is officially moving to the sister series, in which he will continue to play Morgan Jones. The announcement was made Sunday when James was a surprise guest on ‘Talking Dead.’

‘Walking Dead’ showrunner Scott M. Gimple made a statement read by ‘Talking Dead’ host Chris Hardwick that said:

“Morgan’s arc in ‘The Walking Dead’ Season Eight positioned him for the story on ‘Fear the Walking Dead.’ It was also important to see ‘Fear’s’ world and characters through new, yet familiar eyes.”

James begins filming ‘Fear’ today, with his scenes to be streamed live via the show’s social media accounts. Morgan was the first person Rick (Andrew Lincoln) encountered after waking up from his coma in the show’s pilot, and the character officially wrapped production on the Atlanta-set ‘Walking Dead’ days ago and appeared on ‘Talking Dead’ via satellite from Austin, Texas, where the show is moving its production. James said:

“From the very first moment the whole suggestion of Morgan going over to ‘Fear the Walking Dead,’ the hardest part of that, from beginning to now, has been leaving ‘The Walking Dead.’ Leaving that cast, leaving that crew. I’ve said my goodbyes to the cast and I’ve said my goodbyes to the crew… That show stands or falls on the back of that crew. And I’m going to miss them very much.”

James’ addition to the less popular series comes during a major reset for its upcoming fourth season. Showrunner Dave Erickson, who developed the series with ‘Walking Dead’ creator Robert Kirkman, exited the show after the Season Three finale. Andrew Chambliss and Ian Goldberg (‘Once Upon a Time’) will take over as showrunners for Season Four, with ‘Walking Dead’ boss Gimple joining as an executive producer. ‘Fear’ also strengthened its cast, with stars Garret Dillahunt and Jenna Elfman coming onboard as series regulars. Details on their characters are being kept under wraps.

Morgan’s move to ‘Fear’ comes as the character continues to struggle with his role in the new world. James guest-starred in ‘The Walking Dead’ Seasons One and Three before recurring in Season Five and being promoted to series regular in Season Six. When he was introduced, the character was grieving the loss of his wife, Jenny, and son, Duane, who were both killed in the outbreak. During recent seasons, fans have seen Morgan struggle with whether killing other survivors to ensure his own was something he could live with.

Though ‘Fear the Walking Dead,’ has not become a breakout hit like the ‘The Walking Dead,’ it still performs well for AMC. The series hit a string of series lows in its third season but remains one of the top shows on cable, and AMC’s number 2 overall, with an average of 5.3 million total viewers and 3 million among adults 18-49 with three days of delayed viewing.