EXCLUSIVE: How The Walking Dead Is Used To Help Real PTSD Sufferers

Lennie James reveals how his character helps real victims...

Lennie James The Walking Dead

Next week sees the release of The Walking Dead season 8 on Blu-ray in the US and WhatCulture got the opportunity to talk to increasingly important star Lennie James (who plays Morgan Jones) who now has the auspicious title of official Fear The Walking Dead cross-over poster boy.

With that show in its midseason break and The Walking Dead season 8's home release giving fans an opportunity to relive the tumultuous series that saw the end of Carl and Negan's defeat, we spoke to James about his character.

During the course of the conversation, the actor's portrait of Morgan's PTSD came into focus and James offered an exclusive revelation from his preparation for the role, which he's not the biggest fan of talking about it seems...

WhatCulture: What sort of preparation went into portraying Morgan's PTSD? I know that's got to be a challenge...LJ: It is a challenge.... I tell you, talking about your process... I saw something that Paul Bettany said the other day... I read it, I think I was on a plane... He said acting is a bit like sex: it's absolutely fantastic fun to do, but it's slightly embarrassing to talk about!

An interesting way to put it, certainly!

Anyway, James did talk about how he prepared to get behind Morgan's PTSD, and revealed an incredible fact about that experience...

"I'm aware that Morgan is going through PTSD. I'm aware that he is trying to figure out whether he is going to be a PTSD survivor or a PTSD victim and I studied that in the way you'd imagine. I didn't sit down with PTSD victims because I think that would be odd and too much to ask of them. But anything that I could find that was written, I would explore. I did speak to a few people who work with PTSD sufferers and asked what they knew and what they do to get people on the way to recovery.I haven't actually said this before... I bumped into some counsellors who I had spoken to in Atlanta - actually at an Atlanta United football game of all places - and it was somebody that I'd met before and... the counsellor who works with military vets had said to me that he actually uses The Walking Dead as part of his material in helping PTSD sufferers.And that a couple of the episodes that he uses are ones in which Morgan is particularly prominent. And the reason he uses them is because one of the things PTSD sufferers have to deal with is finding some kind of realisation that it's okay to feel frightened without feeling that it means that you're in danger or that you need to fight or run. That you need to attack or hide. And that it's okay to be frightened, that it's okay to let those feelings loose in your body without feeling that you are in actual danger or that something imminent is going to harm you.The way that they do that is by showing them things like The Walking Dead in a controlled environment where they can stop it and where they can talk about it. And it seemed like a very kind of gratifying and satisfying circle it had gone in, because I was asking them for help and they were using what I was doing in order to help real people with that condition."

How interesting that counsellors were using The Walking Dead - and Morgan as a character - as a means to help their patients. That is really something for the show to take away as a positive.

Read more of our interview with Lennie James soon. The Walking Dead Season 8 is out on Blu-Ray and DVD on August 21st.

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