10 Things You Never Knew About 'Fear the Walking Dead' Star Lennie James
Lennie James is a familiar face from British and American TV — you might know him as Morgan Jones from The Walking Dead and Fear the Walking Dead, DCI Tony Gates from the first season of Line of Duty, or Nelly Rowe from Save Me, a show he created and wrote. He's also appeared in movies including Guy Ritchie's Snatch and Blade Runner 2049.
With Fear the Walking Dead returning to AMC Sunday at 9pm EST, let's take the opportunity to get to know this talented and accomplished actor a little better.
1. His childhood nickname was "Bunting."
It's a reference to the old-timey nursery rhyme Cry Baby Bunting. "My older brother Kester didn't like it when I cried as a baby, so that's what he used to call me," James told the Daily Express in 2015.
2. He never knew his father.
"I have no memory of my father and, genuinely, have never really felt the absence of him," James told the RTS. "I might be deluding myself. I might, you know, sit down in the psychiatrist’s chair and they'll make everything about the absence of my dad. But I have not consciously or, I think, subconsciously — although how would I know? — spent a huge amount of time in any way, shape or form, missing him."
3. After his mother Phyllis died when he was 10, he and his brother were taken into the British foster care system.
They were later raised by foster parents in south London. "I think losing my mum has had an effect on every single aspect of my life, and it's bound to have an effect on the way that I tell stories, and the type of stories I tell. But I don't know exactly how," James told The Guardian last year.
James is now an ambassador for Barnardo's, a long-running British charity that cares for vulnerable children. “I was lucky to become an actor — if children have a stable and loving experience while in care, and then get the right support when they leave the system, they can go on to achieve and have fulfilling lives," he says on the charity's website. "I passionately believe this, which is why I am looking forward to highlighting and supporting the work of Barnardo’s. My [charity] fund is named after my mother Phyllis and my foster mother Pam. In different ways they both gave me life."
4. He didn't dream of becoming an actor while he was growing up.
"Like all boys, certainly of my generation, I wanted to play football [soccer]," James told The Independent in 2018. "But I couldn't because my brother was better than me so I went and played rugby."
5. But he was bitten by the acting bug as a teenager.
"I went to an all boys' comprehensive school in south London," he told the Radio Times last year. "Sport was God and to get on any team gave you status, focus, purpose. But I got into acting, after I followed a girl into an audition. I hung around because I got a part in the play and I kept doing it because I liked the people I was knocking around with. After my first play, one of the directors asked if I'd act again. I was 16 and it was like being picked for the team."
6. He wrote his first play at age 17 on a bet.
As James recalled during his recent appearance on The Late Late Show with James Corden, the play went on to win a prize and get published as part of an anthology book of new plays.
7. His bravest moment was helping to prevent a fellow student from being expelled from his drama school.
"That involved being taken in front of the head [principal] and threatening to boycott a big event for the Lord Mayor, even though the head said it would mean they would throw me out," he told the Daily Express.
8. His favorite ever TV show is Hill Street Blues.
"I think it's the show that is to television what Pele was to football or Muhammad Ali was to boxing," he told Slate in 2012. "All the great shows owe a lot to Hill Street Blues."
9. He definitely doesn't consider himself to be a "celebrity."
"I think it's the antithesis of what an actor should be," he told Spotlight a few years ago. "If I shoved myself out there, that would make it harder for me to do that for an audience. I don't buy into the notion that because I'm on TV, it gives a right for everyone to know about my life, it doesn't. It just gives you a right to my life on the television, not a right to my personal life. It's not healthy for my kids and it’s annoying for my wife."
He added: "You can know me for who I am through my work, it doesn't help anyone to know what type of underpants I'm wearing, what I'm drinking or who I'm married to. My job is to make you believe in the characters."
10. And finally, we have him to thank for Line of Duty's incredibly tense, single-take interrogation scenes.
According to executive producer Simon Heath, it was James in season one "who said we should do it in one go," and this set the benchmark for subsequent seasons.
You can watch James’ season of Line of Duty now on AMC+.
Do you have a favorite Lennie James role beside the ones we’ve mentioned?